diy project: sculptural braided extension cords


I’m constantly getting into silly arguments with my partner about my DIY projects. Whenever I turn to him for advice, ever the left-brainer, he gives me the practical answer, which I hate. Shouldn’t you be able to carry it this way? Wouldn’t this shape make it sturdier? What’s this extra piece for? Excellent questions, all.

I’m realizing that on the art/design spectrum, I fall much closer to the former than I thought. I like nonfunctional objects, unanswerable questions, excessive use of materials and lots of extra steps. I can’t help it. The problem I’m usually trying to solve is how to add strangeness and beauty to my surroundings, not how to make life easier. If you look at my archive of DIY projects, I think you’ll see that at heart, I’m really not a pragmatist or a minimalist, as much as I’d like to be. Form does not follow function — they duke it out constantly.

I’ve prefaced this particular project with the above disclaimer because I want everyone to know that this project is not practical. Electrical cords continue to vex those with aesthetic sensibilities; the majority of us want them to blend unobtrusively into the background — or better yet, disappear altogether. But say you have a cord that needs to stretch across a room, and you’re sick of the tack-it-along-the-floorboards approach. My hope is that you might consider going the opposite route: Make the cord the center of attention, perhaps a giant colorful braid that you probably won’t trip on because, well, you can’t stop staring at it.

Is this project practical? No. Can you remove the cords easily from these tubes? No. Is it wise to put a giant rope out on the floor? Um, not really. But this is the only extension cord I’ve ever liked enough to potentially wear out of the house as a giant necklace, and that’s success in my book. So if you’re into a little frivolous anti-design, this project is cheap, easy and really fun to make. Enjoy! — Kate

Read the full how-to after the jump!

Materials

  • 3 extension cords (all the same length, 6′ or longer is better)
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • 3 skeins of thick/bulky weight yarn
  • 3 plastic cord tubes (these can be found at IKEA or most hardware stores in the electrical section)

 

Instructions

1. Tuck the end of an extension cord into the open slit of the plastic tube.

2. Tape the tube to the base of the plug to secure the tube to the cord. Continue tucking the entire length of the cord into the plastic covering.

3. Cut the covering to the exact length of the cord. Repeat steps 1–2 for the other two cords.

4. Take the end of one skein of yarn and knot it around the beginning of the first covered cord.

5. Begin wrapping the yarn around the cord, covering all the plastic and tucking the loose end of the yarn into the first few wraps to conceal it. Continue wrapping the cord with yarn. As you do this, you can begin rolling the finished cord into a small loop and securing with a piece of yarn to make wrapping easier. When you get to the end, knot the yarn around the base of the cord and snip off the excess.

6. Repeat with the other two cords.

7. Begin overlapping the cords, one over the other to form a simple braid. Secure both ends by knotting a piece of yarn around all three right near the base.

8. Place the cord in an open area for display, or use anywhere you would normally need extension cords. Don’t place the cords in doorways or anywhere someone might trip.

You’re done!

  1. Sheetal Pai says:

    Awesome idea to cover up some ugly wires spoiling my home decor… will try it for sure, Thanks :)

  2. Brilliant! I’m totally stealing this idea and using it to cover the cords of a couple hanging swag lamps. You know the kind, the ones with the ugly metal chain.

  3. monica says:

    Quite literally, running home to cover up the atrocious chain dangling from my otherwise beautiful hanging lamp!

  4. Katie says:

    Honestly…it’s brilliant. I love it.

  5. Soledad says:

    I think there’s life after this post. Thank you so much.

  6. brigitte mcQueen says:

    LOVE this project — brilliant!! I was also wondering about the vibrant blue wall color… is there any way to get a bit of info on the shade… it’s just what I’ve been searching for! Thank you!

  7. HOLLY says:

    Ditto Soledad! Genius genius. My pretty basket full of nicely coiled cords is still fugly. I’m doing this asap. Thanks Kate!!

  8. Sara L. says:

    This is an incredibly awesome project, and I asked my Physicist husband, who does all our wiring, about the safety aspect. He said that the reason they say not to have extension cords near flammable things is that in case the wire is exposed, and there is a short circuit, there could be a fire. Note that this is only if the wire is cut somehow, and the metal interior is exposed. The “overheating” mentioned by Theresa above is not true, as extension cords do not produce that much heat, not unless there is already a problem with the fuse. So this project is only dangerous if the cord is wrapped around something sharp and metal, or if a roving bunny chews through yarn AND cable cover AND cord cover.

  9. Great way to use cheap yarn…go to Jo-Ann Fabrics and use one of their coupons. I personally I like the idea of a cream-colored yarn against a raw white wall. Especially if you’ve other white furniture.

  10. I just have to say that I have a lovely electric blanket that I’ve had for eons. It is electricity wrapped in a warm blanket.

    This cord idea may be a wonderful solution for my antique booth. We are allowed to have electricity in the booth but the cords drive me insane because they are ugly and in the way.

  11. tinadatabase says:

    Lovely post :) I like the write up too especially as Amy has pointed out.

  12. Amber says:

    Has no one yet mentioned the amazing fiber artist Sheila Hicks in this discussion? She’s done some amazing and beautiful artwork so close to this, I thought it was a referential work. Please, please google her and see it.

  13. cheryl mesler says:

    What a great idea! I’m going to put all of my leftover yarn to use. Where do i get the plastic tubing? I am doing a search on Home depot to see exactly what it is called and how much. Unfortunately we do not have an Ikea nearby.

  14. Jojo P. Coco says:

    Very cool but I would agree with Teresa…FIRE HAZARD!

  15. Amanda says:

    Love the braided cords! And those pillows! Where di you find the pillows?

  16. Donna says:

    I’ve been working on some DIY pendant lights for my dining room and the only thing that had me stumped was the swag cords that would hang down behind them, ruining the pretty turquoise wall behind the lamp. Now, I think I can adapt this idea to make a braid as a design element for the swagged cord instead of it just being ugly! Thanks for the great idea! :)

  17. annbug says:

    You are a person after my own heart. I found myself nodding along to your whole post, especially this line – “I like nonfunctional objects, unanswerable questions, excessive use of materials and lots of extra steps. “

  18. lling says:

    one of a kind . . .

  19. Maria says:

    This is great and I love your writing style! Can you please tell me where you found those lovely yarn colors? THanks

  20. Martin says:

    I think this is an incredible idea, not just for power cords (safety issue smafety issue! ;) ), but for all those random cables that we all have snaking around the entertainment center. Cool combo cord out to those side speakers or from the dvd player? Absolutely!

  21. Kayla Rae says:

    “The problem I’m usually trying to solve is how to add strangeness and beauty to my surroundings, not how to make life easier.”

    ME TOO Kate, what a poignant sentence indeed!

  22. Emma Amborn says:

    Who says this isn’t practical? I need to have extension cords and the little thin ones are always getting tangled and I’m always tripping over them. By beefing them up and making them thick and colorful it would really help to solve this problem. I’d also love to do this with my laptop power cord to see the reactions I’d get whenever I take it out.
    I’m also really want to wrap yarn around everything now. I just found an ugly lampshade that I think would be greatly improved with some yarn.

  23. MENUSITARIZO says:

    JUST LOVELY IDEA!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT! :)

  24. Violet says:

    Just came across this site and love your braided cords and as I use any number of them in my work shop and hate the look of plain old cords guess what I have done. You bet my cords are now a rainbow of different colors.

  25. Great idea! I love this tutorial.

  26. Elizabeth says:

    OMG! THANK YOU! I have been so depressed by the extension cord that I use for my air conditioner. This is a life saver!!!!

  27. Joann Herman says:

    The FIRE DEPARTMENT would surely frown upon this idea, it does look lovely but also VERY unsafe,

  28. Christie says:

    The reason this is a potential fire hazard is because people constantly accidentally overload their extension cords. It’s easy to think that extension cords are your ubiquitous solve-it-all when it comes to placing electronics in the room, but the truth is many aren’t built to handle what you plug into them. This overload creates a resistance in current transfer from your electronic and the extension cord, causing it to overheat and eventually melt, which in turn exposes the wires to start a fire. If someone were using the wrong type of extension cord for their needs (say plugging an appliance into an average thin extension cord) the yarn and plastic would only be tinder for the fire.
    So the moral of this post is: Make sure you check that your electronic doesn’t need more electricity than your cord can give!

  29. Doolots says:

    This is one of my favourite tutorials I have come across! Super cute Kate! Yes, maybe it is a potential fire hazard. However, if it is on an appliance cord that is only in use when you are around it I think it would be safe.

    I’m thinking of doing it on a smaller scale on credit card machines in my salon. I’m sick of those boring black cords. Looking forward to more of your ideas :)

    x

  30. Brent says:

    Let’s get real with the risk, folks. The danger is subtle. As previous posters have mentioned, the risk is overheating of the cord because it is insulated by the very attractive and innovative covering.

    The type of cords shown in the project are typically 14 gauge wire (AWG). For supplying large amounts of power over longish periods of time this size wire could be a thermal risk. In my opinion there would be little risk of immediate combustion, but rather the heat would tend to accelerate degradation of the insulation. Depending upon the time and temperature this could lead to insulation failure and fire or shock risk.

    Mitigation steps:
    1. Use a thicker wire. 12 AWG or thicker wire will handle higher electrical loads without as much heating.
    2. Inspect the wire periodically. Things to be aware of: discoloration (browning of white wire, for instance). Embrittlement. Discontinue use if you see these.
    3. Only use the extension cords for low power. The typical wall outlet in a US household can supply 1800 watts of power. Some can supply more. I would guess that powering something (or a bunch of things used on the same circuit) rated 1000 watts or more is high power. If you are powering something continuously rather than episocically, that should raise your concern and lower the power (watts) threshold that you should become concerned over. Note: 1000W is only a guess.
    4. Touch the wires when in use. If they are warm, raise your concern level and rethink.

    This sounds like an abundance of caution, but many applications are low power these days and there are quite a few places I would use this nice design without qualms. As and example, computers, many lamps (LED, CFL, and lower power incandescent), clocks, and even some stereos and TVs ought to be low power enough to be safe. Halogen lamps, large TVs, motors (such as a vacuum cleaner), and hairdriers I would not use.

  31. Niamh G says:

    I absolutely love this project and have immediately bought some plain lamp cords to do this with! In terms of safety I am a little unclear now, I guess I’ll have to do some research but from my knowledge wool is highly heat & fire resistant (they even use it in firemen suits) so maybe this would HELP to ease the fire risk issues? I don’t know I’m not an electrician. Irregardless, I am going to make sure I buy 100% pure wool yarn for my project, just in case! It can’t hurt right? I’m thinking grey, soft baby blue and dusty medium grey/blue…

  32. Usman says:

    Very cool !!!!! you give brilliant ideas.Best solution to get rid of ugly wires

  33. astrid says:

    it seems a little difficult

  34. nina says:

    wow very nice cooll.. i like it.. thanks kate pruitt

  35. Kelsey says:

    As far as the safety concerns related to tripping, couldn’t that be totally eliminated by hanging the braid? I think this could look super cool draped up high or even secured to a wall in a cool shape.

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