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Experimenting with flat braids

 marudai  Comments Off on Experimenting with flat braids
Apr 182012

There are quite a number of flat braids that can be made on a marudai. I find it fascinating looking at the braiding instructions and seeing two sets that are virtually identical, but one is round and one is flat (e.g. 8F and 8G in Jacqui Carey’s Creative Kumihimo – the only difference is the thread that is moved with the right hand in the first step).

I have been experimenting recently with 8E (Creative Kumihimo again, also Rodrick Owen’s 250 Braids), trying to see whether I can make a similar braid with 10 threads. It looks fairly obvious to me how I would extend this braid for 12, 16 etc threads, but I had 5 different ideas for doing it with 10. I soon realised that out of my 5 ideas, 1 was a waste of time – when I started making it about 1/3 of the moves were undoing another 1/3 so very little of my braiding was effective. The other braids gave me a combination of flat braids – one was quite wide and thin, others were more rectangular.

The change in shape was affected by whether I only ever crossed the outside threads from the group of 6 threads (and whether I did this every time I started a sequence regardless of whether the larger group was at the north or south of the marudai) or whether I always crossed the outside threads of the north group regardless of whether it was the smaller or larger groups.

Although I haven’t tried it for myself yet, I believe this same braid is in Makiko Tada’s Comprehensive Treatise, but with a different sequence of moves. I plan to try this out some time, and see if it does work the same way. I also plan to see if the different sequence inspires different extensions to 10 threads.

So many braids to make, so many plans to try, and so little time ….


Nov 302011

I decided to try making Kiku-kara II from the Comprehensive Treatise of Braids I on a kumihimo disk. I was inspired to try this after Elliott Evans said that it was similar to Kyo Kara Gumi in “Essence of Japanese Braiding” (which I don’t have), and that he thought Kyo Kara Gumi would work on a disk. You can see what he has made on a marudai in his blog: particularly More Silk Braids and More Kyo Kara braid.

Kara Kumi braid on a kumihimo disk

When I first looked at Kiku Kara II, I thought “no way on a disk”, but this is the result so far. The moves are not so bad as they look – a lot of the criss-crossing starts from the outside, so you don’t need to add extra disk moves to make space to move threads into, which is probably one of the hardest parts on a disk. At least for me as I feel like I am not achieving anything during them.

I am not happy with the tensioning so far, and the braid is uneven. I may try doing this on a marudai and seeing if this makes it any easier to get it right on a disk.

If anyone has any tips…?

Braiding on a disk

 kumihimo disk, marudai  Comments Off on Braiding on a disk
Oct 102011

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time recently using a kumihimo disk instead of a marudai.

It’s reminded me how much nicer the marudai is to use, although I did enjoy being able to braid in the spectator gallery of the local swimming pool. I don’t fancy trying that on a marudai!!

We’ve recently started putting instructions for making Marudai Painter braids on a kumihimo disk as well as a marudai. I’ve not seen instructions for these braids, so I’m working out what I think they ought to be and testing them before putting them on the site. Because the threads sit in slots on a disk, you have to take them out and put them in different slots so that there are gaps in the right places. With a marudai, you can usually squeeze the threads where you want them, or gently slide your threads to one side to make space. Far easier.

As well as working out instructions, I have been making videos for some of the braids. I felt this was particularly useful for Shippo, as it is difficult to describe pushing parts of the braid together and easier to demonstrate it. The video process has been quite time consuming and I’m not going to do one for every braid. I end up undoing and redoing the braid several times so that I can make sure the threads are all in the right starting positions. And for someone who does not like listening to her own voice, working on the soundtracks isn’t much fun either.

I hope you’ve found the videos I’ve made useful, and if there’s a braid you’d particularly like a video for, let me know.


Starting a blog

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Oct 072011

Sometimes it feels like I have been braiding for ages. Well, I started with my daughter’s friendship wheel around 4 years ago, but I didn’t progress beyond designs for that until this year.

We worked out rules for making 32 thread kongoh gumi braids quite soon after we got the disk, but even though we knew it was theoretically possible, I didn’t try making one. And then I did! Not the easiest thing to do on a kumihimo disk. To be honest, I didn’t actually try to do it on a disk at first. I had read a bit about kumihimo and marudais, seen pictures of them, and decided to experiment. I had no real idea how interesting I would find kumihimo at that point, so I didn’t want to spend much money.

A temporary marudai made with kitchen towelI decided that the key things were a support with a hole in (kitchen roll), something to help me figure out which threads should be paired together (a small embroidery hoop marked with kitchen bag ties) and weights on the threads (lace bobbins). I used 3 strands of DMC on each bobbin, and gave it a try.

Oops – a counterweight on the growing braid was needed too. That was a cloth bag with a few marbles in it.

This set up was far from perfect. The bobbins tended to tangle together, and I couldn’t see my braid. Mistakes were made, and the pattern didn’t come out right. I hated my makeshift marudai, and I didn’t want to undo the braid and try again.

Although I hated my “marudai”, I still wanted to try more kumihimo braiding. I got Jacqui Carey’s books (Beginners Guide to Braiding: Craft of Kumihimo, now published as Japanese Braiding: The Craft of Kumihimo and also Creative Kumihimo), and persuaded my husband to make me a wooden marudai.

I wanted heavier weights, so I used matched lengths of copper pipe flattened with a hole for threading a wire through. These progressed into something a little more like traditional Japanese tama – film cannisters and medicine pots with pennies inside.

My set up still isn’t perfect (e.g. my marudai is made from softwood – it is vulnerable to damage, and I keep sandpaper near by to smooth it off), but I love it. I’ve been doing some work on a kumihimo disk recently, and even though I find it a takes a while to set up, the marudai is miles better.

So far most of my marudai braiding has been hopping around Creative Kumihimo trying whichever braid takes my fancy. I compete with my children for use of the marudai. My son (A) loves 8C (shippou), one of my daughters (B) loves 8D, and my other daughter (J) is experimental. Sadly (for me) it is J who has the marudai at the moment, and her braid is taking a while to make. Strictly, I think J may be weaving on the marudai as she has several threads that do very little and one wraps around them, but she is enjoying and making, so I don’t plan to argue about that.

I am planning to use this blog to talk about my experiences, explorations and experiments in braiding. Probably most of the braids I try making will end up on Marudai Painter in time, but it takes a while to go from braiding to having it ready for the web.