Thursday, October 17, 2013

Authentic Pondo Stitch

I've been playing around and creating a few items with Pondo or African Circle stitch.  It was a complicated stitch and I found it difficult to understand the few diagrams that I'd seen, but finally someone posted an understandable tutorial and I learned the stitch.

I created a couple of designs, Pondo Ripple shown here on the left and Delft Blue Tile on the right.

It is a complicated and time consuming stitch requiring a round-about thread path and weaving back to the start of each row, but it is a very sturdy fabric and I love it's semmetry.  It is worked with two sizes of beads, with the smaller bead sitting snugly in the center of the row between each square of 4 larger beads.

Then someone posted a link to Susan Mandel's blog and I discovered that this beautiful, semmetric, complex weave isn't the authentic stitch used by the Mpondo people in Africa.  The stitch they use is more straightforward, usually attached to a cord or beaded rope as it is worked, and is worked with a double strand of waxed thread to hold it in place and make it every bit as sturdy as the stitch I had just learned, but it is less semmetrical.  The accent beads between each square of 4 beads don't snuggle into the center of the row, they ride between the top beads of each square.  The authentic stitch is woven with all the same size beads.
Here is a picture of what I've done so far on a bracelet.  Even with the time it took to make the 7 inch herringbone rope, this swatch has taken less time than just making a couple of seven inch rows of the modified Pondo stitch.

Another difference is that the authentic Pondo stitch is always worked horizontally.

Be sure to check out Susan's blog for more details of the difference between the authentic stitch and the modified stitch and how the stitch came to be modified.

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