Saturday, 30 August 2014

Handfasting cords or ribbons and how to make them

Recently I was asked to embellish some handfasting cords by a good friend and civil celebrant Carole Renshaw - Sincere Moments- these cords were used in one of Carole's weddings last week and I believe they were a successful addition to the ceremony. I have to say I knew very little about handfasting until earlier this year when I had been asked advice on making some cords by another friend, so maybe handfasting is something that is going to be used more often in weddings over the next few years. With this in mind I thought I would share a few things I have already discovered about these cords.

Handfasting can be incorporated into any wedding ceremony and  involves the gentle wrapping of cords around the bride and grooms clasped hands and then tying a knot to symbolise the binding together of the couple and is where we get the term 'tying the knot'

One of the wonderful things about handfasting cords, ropes and ribbons is that as they are a personal addition to the wedding ceremony and as such there is no right or wrong way to make them,. In this post I plan to provide you with some guidelines.

The cord needs to be long enough to be wrapped around the hands and tied so probably no shorter than 1 metre in length.
Usually three cords of different colours are used, although again there doesn't seem to be any hard and fast rules about this either, you could just have one very long cord instead.
The colours can be chosen  to match the colour scheme of the wedding or can be used symbolically such as red for passion, love, pale blue for harmony, trust, unity, or green for nature, health, renewal etc.
Handfastings can be made using any material  as long as it can be wrapped and tied but usually are made with ribbon or cords these are often made by the bride, groom or other members of the wedding party.
If you are going to use ribbons it is probably best to weight them down with beads and or charms, especially if the ceremony is to be held outside as they could flutter about in a breeze which could make them hard to control, braiding them will also give them a bit more weight.
These are the cords I finished off for Carole.
Carole had bought these braids in metre lengths and asked me to add some beads to the ends.

And here I am showing Carole my handiwork!

I enjoyed working on these cords and I was itching to make some from scratch so today that is exactly what I have been doing and I thought I would share with you how, as I am sure they are something that could be easily made by any member of a wedding party, saying that I would be quite happy to make to order too!

How to make a ribbon handfasting braid
First of all I made a ring out of wire and then wrapped finer wire around to help stiffen and secure the ring - I could have just bought a large ring but I have plenty of wire to use in my work room

I then wrapped thin ribbon around the wire ring and secured with a knot

I then selected three coloured ribbons each cut to a length at least twice as long as I needed I didn't measure it exactly but I used approximately two outstretched arm lengths.
I then attached these ribbons to the ring making sure that this knot was placed over the smaller knot already made on the ring and leaving a tail with all three ribbons.

Now the fun begins, time to plait ...

I continue plaiting until I reached my preferred length and then attached by knotting in the same way as before and trimmed the ribbon tail to the match the first.

I could have stopped there but I am a bead jeweller and as such, I really felt that I should add some beads, so I cut two equal lengths of nylon coated wire and folded one through each ring and adding a bead before crimping into position

I then crimped a selection of beads onto both strands of wire and repeated to match at the other end

There you are - my first completed handfasting ribbon

.Having made this, I decided to make a cord. I had recently purchased a Kumihimo disk to braid cord and handfasting cords seem to be crying out to made using one, so I gave it a go. After going for soft pastel shades with the ribbon I opted to make my cord in more earthy colours - this worked well as the cord itself has more substance to it than the ribbons. I cut four lengths of cotton thong just over three times the length required, If I should make more of these I would actually cut four times the required length just for peace of mind.
I tied all the strands together in the centre and positioned them on the disk to start my braiding

 Every so often within 6 inches or so from each end I added a split ring - I won't go into detail about braiding using the disk, as if you have a disk you will already have instructions with it! I will, though, stress how important it is to keep turning your disk in the same direction!
here is the finished cord 

You can just pick out those split rings showing through the cord. what are they for? ....

...... adding charms to reflect the personalities of the bride and groom

there you have it my first two handfasting cords, hopefully I have inspired someone to have a go at making their own for their own wedding or given some confidence to a relative who has been asked to make one and who like my above mentioned friend earlier this year, had never heard of them. 
Happy making! 

P.S. If you would like me to make your handfasting cords, ribbons for you please do contact me and we can discuss your requirements

handmade by Angela Smith