Oct 182011

Although this is not the first post in my new blog, it is the first one to be written since I moved the blog onto the internet instead of my home computer. I had wondered if I would have to rewrite the first 2 posts, but WordPress made it quite easy to transfer everything.

So, to everyone reading this, welcome to my braiding blog.

We’ve got a few braids here that we have started getting ready for putting on the internet. Once we think we have got the threads mapped properly, I make a design that takes my fancy and check it works. Most of these braids are short – just long enough to see the pattern come out (and hopefully not long enough for me to spoil it with mistakes). Some of these braids are attached to keyrings, so we are getting quite a collection of these. Others get carefully pulled apart leaving the threads available to reuse. Sometimes I find taking the braid apart by reversing moves on the marudai is quite a good way of understanding the braid structure better.
I expect there are a lot of people out there who enjoy making braids without necessarily having a plan for what they are going to do with them Jewellery seems to be quite popular – either a simple friendship bracelet, or I have seen some stunning beaded pieces. I can’t remember how I first came across this article, “That’s Nice Dear”, but it reminds me just how versatile braids can be.

Of course, different shapes of braid are better for different things. the next braid we are planning to put on Marudai Painter is a round hollow braid. When we’ve made it, it tends to squash flat pretty easily, but it still looks nice. The version we’ve (almost) finished is a 16 thread braid in Creative Kumihimo and also Comprehensive Treatise of Braids 1, but, sometime, we are going to try and make larger versions of it. Murray has an ambition to recreate a tartan pattern, but that will probably take 70+ threads. I am not sure whether I am up for THAT much of a challenge :)


Braiding on a disk

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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.