The Sculpting of String

Michelangelo Madonna comparison
Michelangelo’s Madonnas

Around 1500, Michelangelo said “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Heidi Hornberger

I believe that every artist with a vision feels the same way.  We chip away the side of the stone block which traps the sculpture & presses its weight against her legs; We carve away the clump that sticks to the sculpture’s arm, and polish away the sludge that sticks to the sculpture’s cheek.  Slowly, we see the curve of her slipper peak out humbly from the bottom of the block.  With many gentle taps of the hammer, and a mastery of skill, we begin to see her dress loosely waving in the wind– or at least appearing to do so, although she’s made of stone.

Mother & Calf Humpback Whale Burl Base, by John Perry

We recently went to Seaside, Oregon– My daughter, my hubbie, and I.  In one of the stores, I admired the beautiful product of a man’s imaginative experiments.  In 1973, John Perry developed a durable resin compound out of which he can mold beautiful, smooth sculptures.  How many times do you suppose he had to change his resin recipe before coming upon the perfect one?  Another way to say this is– how much hammering & chiseling did he have to do before “unveiling” the veil of his Madonna?



Let’s look at some other amazing sculptures, while we’re on the topic:

Ron Mueck
Ron Mueck
He Chaozong
Sand Sculpture
Maria Gamundi
Photo: Sculpture:Anna Gillespie.To the Limit II-Bronze-71 x 135 x 10cm.2013
Anna Gillespie

I have been a fan of Mitsy Sleurs’ sculptures (see “Restless” below) ever since I saw this video.  (Visit her shop: ArtMind)  Mitsy Sleurs produces simple, endearing sculptures which illustrate different emotions.  I have chosen the feeling, “restless,” because that is how all sculptors feel when they are so close to “hew[ing] away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition,” but are not… quite… there yet.

Mini art feeling
ArtMind: Restless – Mitsy Sleurs

After all…  While my idea of my finished, sell-able Nareya Yarn  (a.k.a. “string sculpture”) is as beautiful and perfect as this:

David: Michelangelo


…in reality, it is in this stage:


In my post “My Spinning Wheel & My Life Thread,” I listed the following stages of my *string sculpting*:

  1. The Glued Prototype
  2. The Dyed Fabric Prototype
  3. The Dyed Yarn Prototype
  4. The [Ever So Tedious] Knit I-Cord Prototype
  5. The Sewn Felt Prototype
  6. The Double-Pom-Pom Spun Prototype

…Each prototype was better than the one before, or at least was a learning experience.  I’m chip, chip, chipping away at that big block of stone.

Here is stage 7: Double Two-Ply Yarn Prototype;

Step 1: Core-wrap the correct length of yarn. I use the pom-pom yarn as my guide; Here I have two stitches of green, measured against the two stitches of pom-pom yarn.
Step 2: Insert new color between core thread & old color.
Step 3: Trap the new color (here red) under the old color (here green).
Step 4: Holding old color (here green) down, wrap the new color (here red) around the opposite way so that it’s wrapped around the top of the old color (green).
Step 5: Continue wrapping end of new color (red) around. It is now wrapped around the old color (green) once.
Step 6: After wrapping the new color end (red) around the old color (green) and also the core thread, hold the red end tightly. You are now holding both the new & old color ends in your left hand.
Step 7: Resume core-spinning yarn tightly, wrapping around the ends of the two colors, and the core thread.
Step 8: Continue core-spinning.
Step 9: Continue core-spinning

I got the idea for that type of color-switch after watching Wool Wench‘s YouTube video on corespinning Cloud Coils.

On the left is regular core-spun red, white & green yarn (made in the way shown in the previous pictures). On the right is identically spun yarn, except that between the color changes I’ve added loops of core-yarn.
Step 10: After single plies are spun, ply them together. The colors should line up. As shown on the bobbins above, one of my single plies, I had also pulled extra core-thread out to be a loop, at the same time as I was changing colors.
Stage 11: Clip the loop of core thread (coming from one of the two plies).
Stage 12: Untangle core thread, then continue spinning.
Tie two plies together with loose strands.
Cut off excess length of the strands. Then wrap wool of a matching color around the join.
Step 13: Set two strands of two-ply yarn side by side, then tie them together with the white core thread that was hanging loose on the prior picture. Wrap the ends of the core thread around the join, then take some wool of the same color as the stitch & wrap it around the join, covering the core thread. Felt the join until it holds.
I wrapped wool around the two strands of yarn anywhere else that I wanted a stitch to end.
Continue wrapping around tightly, then needle-felt.
Continue joining in the same fashion. The end result is what I call “split stitches.” A following post will explain why I wanted to make split stitches.


Ta-da!!! Knit Nareya Split Yarn!
My pattern for Nareya Split Yarn










If someone else out there has any idea how to make split stitches with fewer steps, please let me know!  🙂

This is the very first successfully home-spun Nareya Mosaic Yarn.  I am very happy with this big step towards quality production of my yarn.

The big chunks have been knocked off of my block of marble.  I am eager to begin chipping away the flaws to expose the perfect and beautiful details “to reveal [the lovely apparition] to the other eyes as mine see it.”

For your viewing pleasure, below are some beautiful creations made by string “sculptors”.  Some are created with string, and others are created with fabric.  Each one is the final product of an idea which started as a block of marble & ended as a finely honed, beautifully chiseled work of art.  For these sculptures, “chiseling” took the form of transgressing and learning from multiple failed experiments to create something new; something different, and beautiful.

coiled yarn
Faroe Viking: Coiled Yarn; by Heidi
Old Sheep
Fireworks Wool Alpaca Locks Curls Tail Spun; by Olena Nebuchadnezzar
My Pixie Soul
Enchanted Forest; by Pixie Soul
Coils Hat: Treasure Goddess: Christine Long Derks
Sparkling Angelina Fiber Suncatcher: Ashley Martineau
Fabric Using Water Soluble Stabilizer: Linda Matthews
Sophie Gelfi : Amazonia
The Quilted Bead: Victoria Gertenbach
Dark Autumn Mixed Media Tyvek Beads: Carolyn Saxby
Stained Glass LXIX, detail
“Stained Glass” Melted Felt: Susan Lenz
Star Garden: Molly Jean Hobbit
Nuno Felted Green Spring Meadow Scarf: Magdalena Spiewak
New Ideas in Fusing Fabric: Margaret Beal
Ojo de Dios Wall Hanging – Fringe Fiesta: by Carole Murphy
Blue Sunburst Temari Ball: by Julie





  1. So enjoy the analogies, parallels, and photographs in your writings. You weave your words into a beautiful tale. After your multi-facceted journey, congratulations on arriving at this beautiful textured split yarn. Oh the possibilities!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s