January 27, 2011

Kumihimo Braiding

Kumihimo "Marudai" braiding device
Kumihimo is Japanese braid-making. Kumi means 'coming together', and himo is 'string, cord, rope, or braid'. I first learned to do this braiding on a square cardboard years ago. I knew of the beautiful wooden stand and weighted thread spools, and was about to try making my own, when I found a used one with 8 spools. I love it. I love, and USE all my tools!

There are many braid varieties made from 4, 8, 12, and 16 bobbins. I always do the eight and the same cord progression pattern all the time - no thinking, just a peaceful motion. Since I'm using varied colors, just trying to coordinate with what I'm making it for, it creates it's own pattern. I've made Kumihimo braids for most of my hanging felted pictures - those, using my handspun and dyed yarns.

This braiding is with crochet cotton thread, and it makes a narrower braid than with the yarn. I'm weaving this for the grandson's cloth alphabet books I made. Looking at it, Monte wants me to make him shoelaces!!

The bobbins are weighted and then a central counterweight is needed, attached to the braided cord. They typically put weights in a little silk bag. My counterweight is what I started with - a baby food jar filled with sand. I should make a cute bag!

When I begin and whenever I've got to move the counterweight back up close to the top, I put a chopstick thru some of the strings under the top hole. I used to wrap a rubberband around the threaded bobbins, but now I'm getting used to the twisted thread loop making it's own stopping point (so it doesn't just drop, roll, and unwind - which it will do if you don't have the string to the back as in illustration #1 above).

The felted picture is one of my earliest pieces, before I was doing needle-felting. It's wet-felted with embroidered details. I've made several of these pictures, not with embroidery tho, but needlefelted details, and sold them. The Kumihimo braid is for hanging the piece from a dowel on the back incased in a sleeve. I also attached the braid around the picture - an added twist, separating it from the felted frame.

Wet felted and embroidered - with Kumihimo Braiding
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