Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Crafters' Way 88 - Chinese Knots

Here is this week's Messenger column.

Chinese Knotting

Chinese Knotting is a decorative art that can be traced back to prehistoric times. While the knots themselves haven’t survived the tools used to create them have. Like many of the ever-popular crafts knotting began with a practical purpose. It was used as a method of recording events, the size of the knot indicating the importance of event. Historical documents of Chinese rulers have been found that reference decorative knotting.

The art of knotting was passed down through generations over many thousands of years. During the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911) Chinese knotting became recognized as an art. As with many of the Asian Arts rigorous apprenticeships were taken under the tutelage of a master artisan. During this period knots were used to embellish clothes, belts, swords and the must have fashion accessory of the day; snuff bottles.

In 1912, the Republic of China began its’ Cultural Revolution. It is ironic that during this period the art of Chinese Knotting all but died out. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Chinese Knotting began a slow resurgence in Taiwan. The National Museum began a project to seek out elders who still had the skill to teach the younger generations. By the mid 1980’s Chinese Knotting was so popular that industries began producing clothing and gifts featuring knots.

The project discovered that the best age for beginning to learn knotting was 10 years. At this age the child could easily master the 14 basic knots. From these basic knots many different shapes can be created, butterflies, flowers, dragons, birds. These shaped knots are given as good luck charms at weddings and other important events. Seems like the knot has come full circle.

Feel inspired to try knotting? Here are a few tips. Chinese Knotting is typified by the use of 1 thread. The thickness of the cord will dictate the size of your knot. Don’t try using anything smaller than 2mm. Your knot will be very small and quite fiddly to create. There are too many websites with free instructions to list here. But if you are keen to have a go just ‘google’ Chinese Knotting. Have fun.

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