A lucet is a tool used in cordmaking or braiding which is believed to date back to the Viking and Medieval periods, when it was used to create cords that were used on clothing, or to hang items from the belt. Lucet cord is square, strong, and slightly springy. It closely resembles knitted I-cord or the cord produced on a knitting spool. Lucet cord is formed by a series of loops, and will therefore unravel if cut. Unlike other braiding techniques such as kumihimo, finger-loop braiding or plaiting, where the threads are of a finite length, lucetted braids can be created without pre-measuring threads and so it is a technique suited for very long cords.
Archaeological finds and a literary description of lucets strongly suggest that its use declined after the 12th century, but was revived in the 17th century. Its use waned again in the early 19th century.
A modern lucet fork, like that pictured, is normally made of wood, with two prongs at one end and a handle on the other. It may also have a hole through which the cord can be pulled. Medieval lucets, in contrast, appear to be double-pronged, straight-sided implements, often made of bone. Some were shaped from hollowed bones, left tubular, presumably so that the cord could be drawn through the centre hole.
Creating lucet braids
The only materials necessary to lucet are a length of yarn and a lucet fork, also called a lucet or a chain fork. However, one can also use skewer-like sticks to pull the yarn over in addition to this. Lucets can be bought in shops as kits that are designed for children.
To cast on, the yarn is put through the hole in the lucet from the front, and the yarn in front of the lucet is wound around the prongs twice in a figure-of-eight. The two lower loops are then lifted over the two upper loops using either the fingers or a stick until they come over the horns, and the thread behind the lucet is pulled to tighten the knot. The process is then repeated, but this time only winding the yarn once around the prongs, as there is already a figure-of-eight on the fork. When the desired length is reached, the lucet can be cast off by carefully lifting the loops off the prongs, passing the remaining thread through them and pulling the knot tight. Any loose thread can be cut off with scissors or tied together to form a closed circle. The cord can be wrapped around the lucet handle as it grows.
Note that this is only one technique. There are many techniques used for making lucet, all of which produce slightly different cords. It is also possible to produce a two-coloured cord by using two strands of yarn.
- Pettersson, Kerstin (1968) En gotländsk kvinnas dräkt. Kring ett textilfynd från vikingatiden. TOR 12 pp. 174–200
- MacGregor, Arthur 1985. Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn: The Technology of Skeletal Materials since the Roman Period. (London: Croom Helm)
- Text from the leaflet included with a lucet kit by Flights of Fancy
- Groves, Sylvia 1966. The History of Needlework Tools and Accessories (Middlesex: Hamlyn Publishing)
- Oxford English Dictionary. See: Lucet obs.
- Graham-Campbell, James and Kidd, Dafydd 1980. The Vikings (London : British Museum Publications Limited.) Plate 25.