Ply-split braiding has been found extensively in Rajasthan and Gujarat, North West India, where it has been used to make camel girths and animal regalia.
The essential materials needed for ply-split braiding are highly twisted, plied cords. These are commonly 4-ply cords, but 2- or 3-ply cords are occasionally used.
The traditional girths are made from goat hair yarn or sometimes cotton. Contemporary braid makers use a variety of yarns including, linen, hemp, silk, paper, or rayon, often using a four-hook cordwinder (visit supplier) to make the cords. Having made the cords, the ply-splitting process is very portable. A gripfid (visit supplier) is frequently used for splitting the cords and drawing a cord through the plies of one or more cords.
Being an ‘off loom’ technique, shapes may be made and combined to make more complex designs with the potential for making pieces from fine neckpieces, bracelets etc, through to larger vessels and sculptural works.
During the 1980s, Peter Collingwood travelled to India and collected and analysed braided artefacts, the techniques of which had never been documented before. His researches culminated in a book ‘The Techniques of Ply-Split Braiding’ published in 1998. His lectures, workshops and demonstrations in the UK, Europe and USA brought ply-splitting to a wider audience.
The technique has since been explored and developed in a number of directions. In 2001 the first Ply-Split Braiding Convention took place in Bampton, Oxfordshire; it was an international gathering of those interested in the technique and included an exhibition ‘Expanding the Girths’, which I helped to organize. Both traditional and contemporary work was on show and lectures, demonstrations and workshops were held.
Participants included Peter Collingwood, Ann Norman, Jennie Parry and me from UK, Errol Pires from India, Noemi Speiser from Switzerland, Linda Hendrickson, Kay Seimachi and James Pochert from USA, and Akiko Shimanuki and her students from Japan.
Since 2001 Ply-Split Braiding has been developed and taught worldwide and Braid Society Conferences have been held in Manchester UK, 2012, Tacoma USA, 2016 and Iga, Japan 2019 where teachers of Ply-Splitting have included, Marijke Dekkers, Netherlands, Julie Hedges, UK, Linda Hendrickson, USA, Errol Pires, India and Barbara Walker, USA.