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Cordage goes by many names- string, thread, twine, rope, yarn. Cordage is the process of taking two or more lengths of fibers and twisting them individually in one direction and twisting them back on themselves in the opposite direction. In doing so, shorter and weaker fibres can be turned into lengths that are long and strong. Cordage is indigenous to all cultures. Its form mirrors the double helix twist of our dna and is in the twist of the yarn making up nearly every fabric we wear on our bodies or have in our homes. Cordage surrounds us and has made much of human progress possible. It is such a ubiquitous and fundamental form that we often don’t even recognize it all around us today. Humans have been making cordage for at least 60,000 years. A tool for making rope out of bone is our earliest indication of cordage. We might never know how long ago our earliest ancestors first made cordage. Textiles themselves are often first to disappear from the archeological record, being prone to rot and disintegration from sunlight. What was possible to humans before and after the invention of cordage is as revolutionary as other great advancements such as fire, stone and metal tools. Textile historian Elizabeth Wayland Barber called the development of cordage as the String Revolution.The ability to string a bow for hunting, make a net for fishing, lash together materials for transport or shelter, ease in fire making, and the development of plaiting and weaving, all allowed humans to thrive in ways and environments that would otherwise be unavailable. Cordage can be made by hand with no other tools. Dogbane has been the cordage fibre plant of choice traditionally for the peoples of Northern California, praised for its strength and luster. From thinner twines to larger ropes, dogbane and other plants depending on location, have been tended, harvested, and processed into nets, bags, mats, and lengths for tying or carrying world wide. The process takes time and the harvesting and tending to the plants takes intention and respect both for the process and the ecosystem. Much of what is prevalent around us nowadays is human made or waste products. The same principles of making can apply to leftover plastic bag and the many materials we find ourselves surrounded by today. The plants that are abundant in our gardens and roadsides will also readily make cordage without taxing potentially fragile environments. I encourage you to explore. You might find that your hands hold the memory of generations.

Orange necklace
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