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.
I 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.