Network Cable Scarf
This scarf arose from my willingness to weave almost anything and my boyfriend’s interest in all things technological. He wondered if we could combine our skills to make a fashionable and functional network cable. This scarf achieves both goals, with an unexpected bonus. After handling and wearing the scarf, it developed into a collapsed weave, probably due to the lack of resiliency in the network cable wires.
After inspiration struck, the hunt was on. I scrounged warp yarns from my stash. The chestnut brown silk was a bargain-bin find from long ago. The green 5/2 cotton was left over from a previous project. My boyfriend gladly supplied the RJ45 cabling. The only yarn purchased for this project was a handpainted merino/possum blend, which I bought on eBay.
If you aren't familiar with wiring ethernet cables and don’t have a tech-head at your beck-and-call, you can find kits to make network cables at Radio Shack and computer-hardware stores. Cable kits are offered in a variety of lengths and types of heads. I recommend a kit with snagless heads or adding "boots" to make standard heads snagless. This prevents the delicate plastic connectors from getting damaged when the scarf is worn, and protects you from getting scratched.
Network cables are made up of pairs of wires twisted together to reduce electronic interference. I don’t know exactly how many twists per foot are needed. I found that twisting the fringe ends of the cables tightly was enough to carry the signal.
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- Four-shaft table loom or similar (You could also adapt this project to a rigid-heddle loom by using plain weave.)
- Wire Stripper and Crimping tool for RJ45 cabling
- Wire cutters
- Network cable tester (optional, but handy)
- 5/2 Perle Cotton from Silk City – Dark Green
- Sport-weight two-ply silk yarn – Chestnut Brown
- 6+ yards of RJ45 CAT5e cabling (for a redundantly wired scarf)
- 4 - RJ45 CAT5e heads
- 4 - RJ45 cable-head boots (to make the heads snagless)
Fingering-weight, hand-painted, 30% possum/70% merino yarn, about 18 wraps-per-inch, bought off eBay.
Similar yarns are available from:
12 ends per inch (epi)
Measure a three-yard warp to make a single scarf, or a five-yard warp for two scarves. Due to the collapse weave, the scarf will experience a bit of shrinkage, so weave about 10% longer than your final desired scarf length.In this scarf there are 90 ends of chestnut silk divided into six stripes (15 ends per stripe.) They alternate with five green stripes of cotton. The green cotton has a total of 59 ends which are combined with 16 wires (from two network cables) for a total of 75 ends (15 ends per stripe.)
I measured a double length of the network cabling so there would be two network cables running through the scarf. This was done primarily to balance the design, but also for redundancy. (What would you do if a wire broke? Throw out the scarf?)
The network cable is stripped of the outer layer and the colorful wire groupings are revealed. You can use a wire stripper. I used a buck knife. Each network cable will yield eight wires.
Split these wires into groups of four. At this point it is important to keep track of your wire groupings. I put the orange and brown wires (with their companion white wires) on the outer stripe and the blue and green wires (with their companion white wires) on the inner stripe.
If you are creating two network cables in the scarf, as I did, you will need to do this twice: once for the left-hand side of the scarf, and again for the right-hand side.
Pointed twill. The cable wires (shown in yellow) are all on the second harness. This allows for an even distribution.
Using front-to-back warping, thread the yarn and wires through the reed and harnesses. Tie on only the cotton and silk yarns to the back beam and wind on. The network wires are drawn through and loosely coiled together, they will be tensioned separately from the yarns, as a supplemental warp. Tie the yarns and wires to the front apron rod. Check for even tension of the silk and cotton yarns. Then at the back of the loom, unwind the wires from the coil, pulling them into consistent tension and tie them together at the end. Then tension the wires behind the loom with a large weight. I recommend a 2.5 gallon water bottle. The weight should be between 12 and 20 pounds. More weight than that would stretch the wires, and cause them to experience metal fatigue. In addition, it is important to not bend or kink the wires too much during the weaving, as this can break them.
Check the entire warp for even tension. Though the wires have a different level of flexibility to the cotton and silk they should move evenly when you open a shed. Treadle as shown above to get a pointed twill pattern. You can also play around with the treadling to create diamond or rose-path patterns.
As you advance the warp, take the tension off the wire warp, wind the yarn warp forward and tighten, then adjust the wires back to equal tension with the rest of the warp. Don’t drag the weighted wire warp as you advance.
After you’ve finished weaving you will need to cut the scarf off the loom. I recommend using wire cutters for the wires, otherwise you will end up with nicked and useless scissors.
Cut the yarns to an even length on both ends. Twist and ply the yarn fringe to finish the scarf. (I plyed the thicker yarn stripe at 13 ends per fringe, and the thinner yarn at 17 ends per fringe, to give the fringe a consistent weight.) The wires should be left alone until the fringing is completed. Then you will need to head the cables. Even out all the wires to about 6 inches beyond the woven edge. This will give you enough room to twist the wires together and attach the cable heads. Take eight wires from two adjoining stripes and twist them together once.
Next you attach the cable heads. For this you will need the crimping tool. Cut the wires to the exact same length, feed the individual wires into the cable head, and crimp it into place. If you mess up at this point you will need to cut off the head and redo. I recommend practicing with extra wires before you try to attach the cable heads to the scarf (a new use for thrums!) Steven Nikkel's tutorial on wiring standard, straight-through (as opposed to crossover) network cables is invaluable at this point. In straight-through ethernet cables, all of the cable heads should be wired with the exact same color sequence when viewed from above. If done incorrectly the network cable will not work.
At this point, you need to finish twisting the wire fringes in order to replicate the twisted-pair electronics of a conventional network cable. (This also looks pretty and mirrors the twisted-fringe of the rest of the scarf.)
My scarf was finished at this point. You may decide to wrap the exposed wires of the network cable with yarn, as you would a tassel or the end of a kumihimo braid.
- Steven Nikkel's tutorial on wiring network cables
- Dux Computer's guide to building ethernet cables
- Wikipedia on RJ45 ethernet cables
Here are some other high-tech scarf ideas to try:
- Leno lace: create twisted pairs in the network cable using the leno weave structure.
- Double weave: inserting purchased cables through tubular channels woven into cloth (for those who would prefer not to head their own cables.)
- Double weave with pockets: create channels for wiring and pockets to hold an MP3 player and headphones
- LED scarf: weave a scarf with led lights throughout the warp and small batteries at the ends in tiny pouch pockets.
Selah Barling has held the usual eclectic mix of white collar and weird jobs. She prides herself on being a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants weaver. Rarely is a project unrecoverable; serendipity is just around the corner if you’re willing to recognize her. Selah loves to read, spin yarn, learn, and teach.