© 2019 St. Martha's Guild, St. John Cantius Church, Chicago, IL

Cinctures

Who would have guessed that we would be making rope?

It all started when Father brought us a cincture that needed repair. They tend to wear out right at the the mid-point of the rope because when worn they are first folded in half and all of the stress is placed on that one spot.

The cincture that Father brought in was.....interesting. Kind of like a clothesline rope with a Chinese finger trap around it. There wasn't much we could do to save it and Father wondered if we could figure out how to make them. He told us the Franciscans (used to) have a great tradition of making cinctures so we figured there must be some info somewhere and gladly took on the task.

That's when one of our awesome research ladies showed up with this gem:

If your local library has this book, we highly recommend borrowing it and maybe setting aside a few hours to get lost looking at the beautiful possibilities. It can also be found online here

This book, along with some online videos of the Japanese method of braiding rope (Kumihimo), helped tremendously in figuring out the 'how to' of rope making. And once we figured that out we were well on our way toward refining the process to suit our needs.

But first we had to wrangle the thread.

We started this adventure using linen thread which is very unforgiving and downright mean at times. The skeins were absolutely beautiful and the rope they made was lovely in the end but it taught us that we needed to also invest in a swift and ball winder. These tools made the job manageable and what fun! 

We have since moved on to using silk which is not only much easier to work with it is stunningly beautiful at every stage of the process. 

Once we were able to subdue the thread we had to figure out length. Cinctures are usually 10', 12', or 14', but our priests prefer them to be a bit longer so we aimed for 16'-17'. In order to accomplish this length we had to first figure out how much thread makes one foot of rope. Turned out the math was nice and easy -- 18" of thread = 12" of rope.

We also had to figure out the proper thickness -- eight bunches of 33 threads. This meant we needed to measure out 25 1/2 feet of thread, times 33, times eight. That's a lot of thread.

But God always provides. Another lovely lady joined us right about that time and helped us figure out that we needed a warping board to measure the thread, and showed us how to use it. This was an amazing innovation to our process since up to this point we were literally stringing thread from one end of our house to the other. The cats enjoyed it (a bit too much) but we prefer the efficiency of the warping board.

Before I go further I have to stop and give a HUGE shout out to the SMG husbands and sons. They support our crazy notions by making us what we need especially when what we need doesn't exist or would cost crazy amounts of money. With this project for example:

Our very own warping board, the modified stool to braid the rope, and the shuttles needed to wind the measured thread. All made by SMG husbands. Thanks guys!

Back to the cinctures. 

Once the thread was all measured out and loaded onto the shuttles it was time to put them into action on our modified stool for braiding. In order to be sure there is a proper amount of even tension on all shuttles we tie each one onto one of the furniture tacks and feed the end into the center hole of the stool.

When the shuttles were all even and gathered in the center it was time to tie a weight to them to produce the counter-weight necessary to offset the thread and shuttles. It needed to be something that could  having varying weight since by the end of the braiding process the shuttles would be much lighter for the lack of thread. With this in mind I loaded up a little bag with marbles and it worked like a charm!

Next the actual braiding began. There are some things to keep in mind and paying attention to how you move the shuttles and where you are in the process is important but it becomes second nature and pretty soon the rhythm and the sound of the clacking wood become beautifully peaceful and meditative. 

We don't currently have any video of the braiding process but we will be making another silk cincture soon and will get some pictures and video added in when that happens.
Stay tuned.

The last piece of the cincture is the tassel. We have tried a number of interesting things in this department but most recently we have brought in yet another lovely and skilled member of the Guild to help quintuple crochet some beautiful tassels.
 

Tassels come in all shapes and sizes -- some more interesting than others. Here are a couple of versions to aspire to:
 

All in all making rope is a lot of fun especially when it is for the Greater Glory of God!