How to Make Twisted Cord

Twisted cord is very versatile. It can be used as a hanger for Chrismstas ornaments or necklaces. It can trim edges of pillows, sachets, or Christmas ornaments, as well as be the drawstring in little pouches (such as for a thimble case or a sachet) or ties on a flat needlebook. When you do them yourself, you can color-coordinate the cord to your project. It isn't hard to make, provided you go slowly at first until you learn the technique.

You may use 6-strand floss, pearl cotton, or metallic fibers. Other fibers may work, too. I haven't tried them.

Determine yardage needed by measuring all the edges to be trimmed with the cord and multiplying by 3. This allows some extra for "slop."

Select thickness of finished cord. For #12 pearl cotton:

Important note: a "strand" in this case is the full 6 strands of embroidery floss or pearl cotton as it comes off the skein. The thickness of the fibers you are using has an impact on the thickness of the finished cord.

If you are unsure or diameter is fairly critical, make a test section one foot long (cut 3-foot lengths).

Cut required number of strands to needed length and lay them out parallel to one another. Knot both ends of the group so strands stay together while you're establishing the twist.

Hook one end of the strands to something immoveable. I have a cup hook hidden up under one of my kitchen cabinets. If you don't already have a cup hook somewhere install one just for cording or set the cup hook in a piece of wood and place the wood in a vice. An alternative is to ask someone to help you. This person will hold a pencil or piece of dowel.

From the other end, begin twisting.

A hand-held or electric drill makes this job easy. Look for a mini-drill in your needlework or hobby store, made especially for twisting cording.

Alternative: use a pencil or a 8" piece of dowel rod. Insert the pencil between any number of strands, right at the knot. Pinch the strands just beyond the pencil and hold on tightly. With the other hand, "dial," as on an old rotary phone. (I learned the "dial" technique from one of my students. I asked her if she were an engineer. "Yes" was the reply. "Wait!" I said. "Don't tell me. Mechanical engineer, right?" "Yes, again," she told me. Pretty clever method and far better than the baton-twirling, hand-over-hand technique I had been using!)

As soon as the cord begins to kink up on itself (instead of staying straight), you know you've twisted too much; untwist some. With an electric drill, especially, you have to be careful not to overdo; use low speed.

Grab the cord at the midpoint and exert some tension on it while you hand your knotted end to your partner (or put it on the hook). If your cord is short, you can hold your knot in one hand and grab the center of the cord with the other. If the cord is long, your arms won't be long enough to do this and you'll definitely need a partner for this step.

I have seen some instructions say that you can slide a weight--such as a set of keys or a big fishing weight--down the cord, where it will find the center, and let that substitute for your pinching it there, but this never works for me.

At this point, the two knotted ends are together on the hook or being held by your partner. You have what was the midpoint. It is now a loop.

Working slowly and keeping tension on the cord, with your other hand pinch 1"-2" above the midpoint (the looped end), then releasing and allowing the cord to twist back on itself. With the first hand, pinch up a little farther and let go with the second hand. "Walk" your way toward the two knotted ends.

-Don't- just let go of the mid-point and let the cord twist on its own or you'll have a snarl and have to discard it.

When the cord has twisted on itself, knot the two knotted ends together to hold the twist in place.

You may wish to do a trial cord using inexpensive yarn or kitchen twine before making a cord of more expensive materials, particularly metallics.

Two-Color Cord

If you want to do a two-color cord, determine the finished length of cord you need (edge distance x 3) and divide this number in half. You will need strands of this length (edge distance x 1.5) of EACH of the two colors you are using. The number of strands of each color must be the same.

The -number of strands- in a two-color cord does not change, only the -length- of the stands.

Line up the strands, as above, separated by color. As above, knot one end of each of the two groups. Now tie the two un-knotted ends to each other. Now you have a length which is 3x the edge distance (less whatever was needed for that center knot!), with one half of it being one color and the other half being the second color.

Proceed as above to twist.

copyright 1996, 1999, Martha Beth Lewis

Needlework Home Page | Tips and Tricks | Home Page