Friday, September 28, 2012

The Derweesh Belt Mark I No.1

It took several hours of work, but I finally finished the first Derweesh Belt Mark I:

I put a lot of effort into keeping the rows consistent, and fortunately it paid off; it turned out very neat and tidy. I had some trouble at the end, specifically the central two spinal strands turned out to be a little shorter than the outer two. I'm really not sure how that happened, but it took a couple of tries to find a way to tie things off neatly. Here's the result:

Not exactly what I had planned, but not too bad. There's a little under 90 feet of paracord in there, and it's long enough to go around my 34-inch waist with around 3 or 4 inches to spare, making it just long enough for me. I wonder how much longer I could have made it without running out of paracord? I was using a 100 foot piece, if approximate and say that 90 feet was enough for 30 inches, of belt, then that would mean I had enough for about another two inches, three at the most. I actually consider myself lucky I didn't run out, as I was rather careless about measuring out the length at the beginning and I could easily have made the spine 4 or 5 inches longer.

I've also figured out a good way of using my Mark II pattern as a watch strap, just going to pick up the watch I want and I'll get started. I might have been wrong before about the Mark II being thicker than the Mark I pattern; it may have had more to do with the particular paracord I was using (the blue stuff I currently have seems to be more round than this black type, which is more "squashed") and how tight I was pulling it.

I'm also planning to get a longer strand and making myself a Slatt's belt; I've figured out a way to partially solve the issue of it starting at an angle, but I don't think 100 feet is long enough. Lastly, I want to get a two-prong buckle to try a Mark II weave with two rows of holes, which I think could work extremely well as it seems to work best with two spinal strands per loop, but four spine strands (meaning two loops per row) is too narrow for a man's belt. So with six spinal strands I can have three loops and two holes per row.

Sigh. So many plans and so little time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Manly Baking: Howdya Like THEM Apples?

I gotta be honest; it's hard to feel manly when you didn't have time to do any knitting because you were too busy baking a cake. Sigh. Anyway, it's a recipe called "Autumn apple cake" from "The easy cook cookbook" by BBC books. Here's a shot of the ingredients:

The recipe states "Ready in 15 minutes, plus 50 minutes in the oven". By this point I had already been working for maybe 20 minutes or more chopping and cutting. Of course the ingredients ask for chopped apples and dates and hazelnuts, so apparently it's not counting the time spent preparing the ingredients prior to actually mixing them. Anyway, I ended up with enough for two cake tins, so here's the finished articles:

They turned out OK, though I think the centre of the larger one was undercooked. I can see now why it's called an "autumn" apple cake.

Just a head's up: I don't recommend this book if you're new to cooking (like I am) as it tries to make recipes look easy by not describing the process in sufficient detail and combining multiple actions into a single "step", so for inexperienced cooks (like me) it's not so easy to follow in a step-by-step manner.

For example, here's a step from a different recipe:
"1. Put the biscuits in a plastic food bag and crush to crumbs with a rolling pin or the base of a pan. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the biscuit crumbs. Mix well. Tip into a 20cm-deep, loose-bottomed cake tin and press down firmly and evenly with the back of a spoon to make a thin layer. Chill while you make the filling."

Come on! That's at least 3 steps! Here's how I'd write it:
1. Put the biscuits in a plastic food bag and crush to crumbs with a rolling pin or the base of a pan.
2. Melt the butter in a large pan.
3. Add the biscuit crumbs to the butter and mix well.
4. Tip into a 20-cm deep, loose-bottomed cake tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to make a thin layer.
5. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
In fact, I might split step 4 into two steps, just to keep each step to a single action / sentence.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Manly Knitting IV: The Re-Return

I found another way of weaving a belt with holes, so I'm calling this the Derweesh Belt Mark II. Or something. Anyway, this one is faster to weave and has much better holes, though in my opinion it doesn't look as good, though perhaps when I've developed a little more consistancy it will look better. Right now I'm working with four spine strands, I believe it will work with as few as two, though it might be necessary to change the pattern for more than four.

1. Getting Started
As usual measure off the length and anchor the cords.

In this case I'm using four spinal cords. Notice how the middle loop is behind the two central spinal cords, and the outer spinal cords go into the belt from above.

2. The Crossover
Choose one of the weaving cords. This will be the leading side; always start each row with the cord on this side. If you switch leading sides halfway the pattern will be inconsistent. Take the cord and pass it over two of the spine strand and behind the other two.

Repeat with the other weaving cord.

Pull tight.

3. Looping Back
Take the cord on the leading side and pass it over two spinal cords, the back behind them.

Repeat on the other side.

Pull tight.

4. Infinite Loop
Keep going, repeating crossover and loop back rows as desired.

The final result looks something like this:

As you can see it has large holes along the middle. Because of the how the crossover step weaves through the centre, these holes aren't pulled tight the way they are in the "Mark I". Also I think the crossover strands are more sturdy for a belt. As you can see, the belt is a lot narrower than the Mark I, but it actually seems to be thicker for some reason. Personally I don't think it looks as good though.

In this case I didn't finish the belt because it's too narrow for the buckle. I'll have to keep an eye out for a smaller buckle or experiment with more spine strands. I had a quick go with the same pattern with two spine strands:

As you can see it worked about as well and is noticeably narrower. This might make a good watch strap if you can find a good buckle. Here's a slightly different pattern with six spine strands:

Note that this buckle is from a women's belt and is smaller than the average male belt buckle, so this six strand design would work reasonably well for a man's belt.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manly Knitting III: Vengeance

Here's a couple of adjustable-length bands I made with nothing but a single piece of paracord each - no buckles needed. The first uses the same pattern as my Derweesh Belt but without the loop-back step - the reason why I do this rather than use a regular sinnet is to get two lengths of cord at the end - and the second is a simple Cobra weave, just to show that it's quite easy to do with different patterns.

1. Getting Started
First measure off the spine - this should be about an inch or so less than the diameter of your wrist. Again I'm using carbiners to anchor the strands, in this case I used 4 spine strands.

Notice how one of the end goes in from above and the other comes out from below the carbiner.

2. The Weave
Like the "crossover" step from before, weave one working strand thorugh the spine strands, then the other so that they pass each other on opposite sides of the spine. Once you're done, pull tight. Notice that this time we went straight to the outside - in the Derweesh belt the first row starts with the working strands looping around the outer spine strands, but that isn't needed here.

3. The Loop
After you've woven two or three rows, remove the carbiner.

You'll have three loops that can be opened out.

Reattach the carbiner to the central loop.

Then pull the inner spine strands to draw the central loop tight, and pull the outer spine strands to get rid of the other two loops. You may have to adjust the spine and the anchor at the other end in order to keep similar tension in all spine strands.

Now continue weaving. Remember to pull the woven rows tightly towards the base as well as pulling tightly on the weaving strands.

4. Finishing Up
When you get near the end of the band, remove the second carbiner. You'll be left with two loops.

Keep weaving until the weaving strands finally pass through the two loops with no room for any more rows.

Now remove the first carbiner again and bring the two ends of the weaving strands back to the single loop at the start. Pull the ends through the loop. This might be difficult depending on how large the loop is. Bear in mind that it should be a tight fit, as the friction here is what holds the band closed.

Measure off a few inches of cord and cut the ends to the same length, melting the tips. Finally, tie the ends together with a simple  knot.

And you're done. There should be enough cord at the end to allow the band to be slipped over the hand, but the woven section should be short enough to allow the band to to be tightened to a comfortable fit.

The Cobra
This pretty much works the same way, but using the cobra weave and just two spinal strands.

You start off with a loop at one end and two at the other, but the two loops might to be too large to provide good tension.

So what you can do is remove the carbiner after completing two rows and, with a little shuffling, pull out the a loop from the first woven row and pull tight the original two loops to get rid of them.

Once you reach the end, pass the two working strands through the single hole from opposite directions.

Then pass them back through the first hole and tie a knot.

And you're done.

The nice thing about this kind of band is it's very easy to make; they don't need any buckles and are woven from a single length of cord, plus of course they are adjustable. The main disadvantage is obviously the hanging length of cord with the weight of the knot on the end, which could get annoying.

If you want to use this idea for a watch strap you should probably make sure the loop that the cord ends are pulled through is very tight, otherwise the weight of the watch could conceivably work the band open. Soaking the band after it's finished weaving might help, as this can shrink some types of paracord and so make it tighter.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Manly Knitting II: The Return

I've spent some time experimenting with different ideas, and I've figured out a way to solve the problem I had with my watch strap, namely that it was very difficult to push the watch buckle's prong through the strap to close the buckle. Basically, I've come up with a similar weave, but with "holes" for the belt buckle. I haven't seen this pattern in my internet searches, so I'm calling it the "Derweesh Belt" or "Derweesh Weave". Because what the hell, why not.

Here's the basic pattern. I used the buckle from a women's belt (this was originally meant as a gift) and a cheap carbiner to help keep the cords lined up. This is actually a slightly tricky pattern if you're new to weaving (not that I'm some sort of expert or anything), I would recommend starting with something simpler, like a regular sinnet or cobra stitch.

1. Getting Started
Start by anchoring the cord to the belt.

Measure off the desired length and loop the cord back. I like to loop the other end to a carbiner, as it can easily be slipped off later, and fix it with an elastic band or a knot.

Bring the two strands back to the buckle. Note that one strand comes out from under the buckle and the other goes in from above, this is very important. Just to be clear, I shall refer to the four strands that extend straight between the buckle and the carbiner as the spine or spine strands, and the two free strands as the weaving strands.

2. Loop Back
I call this step looping back. Weave each weaving strand around the two spine strands on it's side, then back out, as in the photo.

Now tighten: hold or anchor the spine strands and pull the woven loops towards the buckle while pulling the weaving strands to remove the slack. In general I think it's a good idea to pull the weaving strands tight in this step to help pull the two central spine strands apart.

3. The Crossover
Now comes the crossover. Take one of the weaving strands and weave it through the four spine strands, treating the two central strands as if they were one strand. Don't pull tight yet.

Now do the same with the other weaving strand, but cross the first weaving strand while passing the two central spine strands, as in the photo.

As you can see the weaving strands have now crossed sides. Pull the woven loops down to the belt again, but don't pull too tight on the weaving strands this time or else the 'holes' in the belt will be too tight and closing the buckle will be difficult.

4. Rinse and Repeat
Keep repeating the crossover and loop back steps until you reach the end of the belt. As you can see in the photo you have gaps in the center of the belt where it's possible to push through the prong of the buckle. You don't have to weave one-to-one; you could use two crossover rows for each loop back row, or two loop back rows to make a larger hole that's easier to push the prong through, whatever works for you.

5. Finish
When you reach the loops at the end of the spine, slide off the elastic band and carbiner, keep weaving until you pass the weaving strands through the cord for the final time, then cut the ends off, melt the tips, and... do something with them. I didn't actually finish this belt as I soon realised that the belt was too wide to fit through the buckle. I'll need to get a slightly larger buckle and try again, then I'll figure out the best way to handle the ends of the cord.

This pattern has a few advantages. The holes for the buckle are the obvious one; there's other patterns that can work with a regular belt buckle but this is slightly smaller than some of them, making it just small enough for a use as a watch strap or women's belt. It's faster to make than a Slatt Rescue belt, even though you have to pull a lot of cord with each row you weave (though less than a simpler sinnet pattern as each strand has half the length - I recommend wrapping the cords around small spools the make it easier to pass them through the spine when weaving). It's thinner and arguable neater or more elegant than a Slatt's belt. Finally, you only need to deal with cords ends at one side, making it a bit neater to finish off.

The're some disadvantages too. It's a little tricky to weave; I've been having trouble getting the tightness consistant which can make it look a little messy. The holes are still a little hard to get a buckle prong through; you might have to sharpen it a little with a metal file to make it easier (I imagine they will stretch a little with use though). It's wider that a four strand sinnet (which is why I misjudged the thickness and found the buckle was too small). Unravelling it is also slower than some weaves, although that's not really an issue for most people.

Hopefully I'll use the pattern to make a watch strap soon, in which case I will of course post pictures.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Manly knitting

I've finally found the time to experiment a bit with weaving paracord. I've found it quite fun to do; experimenting with new patterns is interesting, and weaving while watching TV is strangely satisfying - it feels more productive than just sitting and staring, but it's still relaxing. I'm painfully aware of how close the whole activity is to knitting though, so I'm calling it "manly knitting". Because it's all for the sake of manly survival in case I ever get into a spot of trouble while doing all the manly activities I read about but never actually get around to doing... I'm not really helping my case here, am I?

I recently lost my watch. It wasn't particularly expensive or anything, but it was pretty much the first watch I actually found comfortable to wear. The reason why it was comfortable was because the single-piece leather strap wrapped naturally around the wrist, in contrast to a typical leather strap that bends primarily at the pins where it attaches to the watch, thus pinching the wrist. Yes, leather isn't the only option, but unfortunately metal and plastic straps irritate me. I reasoned that a paracord strap might fit in a similar way to the one-piece leather strap, I figured it was worth a try anyway. I considered buying one, but I decided it would be more fun to try to make one. So I did:

I followed some instructions from the internet, but instead of the usual snap buckle I tried to make an adjustable strap that worked the same way as a normal watch strap. It was too thick and wide to fit through most watch buckles I could find. Luckily, a guy in a local watch repair shop had one that was big enough, in fact he was so nice that he refused to take any payment for it:

Unfortunately it turned out that the weave I was using was not terribly suitable for pushing a prong through. However, by filing the prong to a point it became do-able, though not convenient:

Of course, a belt stores a hell of a lot more rope than a watch strap. I found out about something called the "Slatt's Rescue Belt". I liked the fact that you didn't have to pre-measure it, you just weave until you run out of cord, and that you didn't need to pull the entire length of cord through every weave. It was actually MUCH slower going than the watch, partly because it had a natural tendency to twist the cord (strangely paracord doesn't handle twisting very well), so I had to continually work out the twists. The results were pretty good though:

As you can see the belt grows at an angle, meaning it doesn't extend straight from the buckle. I left the first few rows a little loose and tied a knot in the base of the first loop to try to alleviate the problem. It helped but didn't completely solve the issue. I think it's good enough to wear, but I'm not really sure because it wasn't long enough.

I started out with a 100 foot length of paracord. I cut about 3-4 feet off the end to act as the spine for the watch, so I should have had about 95+ feet of paracord. I have about a 34" inch waist, and the resulting belt fit with just about two rows spare. That's not enough to tuck it into a belt loop, meaning that it looks silly for me. Instead I gave it to someone slimmer than me, it seemed to be just long enough for him to use. Hope he doesn't gain any weight.

I need to try the belt again with a longer piece of paracord - I have a couple of ideas for how to solve the angle issue. I'm also planning to try a few things to solve the problem with the watch strap without sacrificing adjustability. Stay tuned.