Oh dear! I did not get on very well with writing a blog every day for my advent tips. I did post them in my Facebook group, but it has been pretty hectic here and I did not get the chance to write them up more fully here. Well here they are now!
Day 11 – Feel the Rhythm!
Every braid structure has its own special rhythm. For instance Round Braid has the top down, bottom up moves followed by a quarter turn and this is repeated throughout, while the braid made on the Prumihimo disk is made with three cord moves followed by turns of different lengths. When you learn a new braid structure it is best to turn off the radio or television and settle yourself down somewhere peaceful, where you can practise without distractions. Shut out the family and the pets and turn off your phone. Keep practising the moves until you can remember them without having to check instructions. Keep practising and gradually you will start to feel the rhythm of the braid and your hands will seem to know what to do next. Don’t rush to get onto making something specific. Braid, braid, braid until you can complete the moves with complete accuracy and full confidence. As this starts to happen your hand movements will become smoother and more even, which will result in beautifully even tension. Time spent practising is never wasted.
Day 12 – Spread the Joy!
Kumihimo is still a very niche technique in the world of jewellery making and of craft generally. Even many experienced jewellery makers and crafters have never heard of it, so it is up to us to spread the joy and knowledge. People are always fascinated when they see it being made and are intrigued by the way that simple and repetitive cord moves can produce something so intricate. Disks are so portable that there is no excuse for not having a project on you at all times! Don’t be shy to pull out your disk on public transport or in a waiting room. You will need to be ready to answer lots of questions and give advce on how to get started. It is a great way to connect with others and to make friends. It is a great feeling to be able to pass on something special to others.
Day 13 – Weighted Bobbins.
It is possible to buy cord bobbins with an attached weight and I am often asked what they are for. There are several different uses for these bobbins and one of the most useful is to keep thin cords tight on the disk when you are using both thick and thin cords together in Round Braid/Kongo Gumi. The cords travel around the disk in this braid, so the slots will become stretched by the thicker cords, which means that the slots will be less able to grip the thinner cords. By using weighted bobbins on the thinner cords it is possible to maintain tension on these cords. When you use the Prumihimo disk you will be using both thick and thin cords, but they do not share slots in the same way. For this reason it is not usually necessary to use weighted bobbins, but if your Prumihimo disk has seen a lot of service the slots will have loosened over time, so you can try weighted bobbins for extra tension on the thin cords. This advice also applies to worn round disks when you are using thinner cords and particuarly when it is a beaded braid. Weighted bobbins on all 8 cords will make a big difference.
Some people like to braid all the time with weighted bobbins and I have to admit that you will get great tension if you do this, but I find that the additional weight is very tiring for your hands and wrists, so I prefer to braid without weighted bobbins whenever possible.
It is very easy to make your own weighted bobbins. The weight of each bobbin is around 20g, so I tape two 50 pence pieces to the flat side of the bobbin. If you are not in the UK and do not have access to our currency you can try weighing a couple of suitable coins of your own. Not all currencies have such heavy coins, so you can try large washers instead.
Day 14 – Be Kind to your Hands
This is a really important tip. Kumihimo involves very repetitive hand actions, so it is important to avoid prolonged periods of braiding, which could lead to repetitive strain injury or other ailments. It is all too easy to keep on braiding for hours because it is such a pleasurable activity, but make sure that you take a break every now and then. You could try a few stretches or hand exercises or you could just do something else, which requires a different range of movements. If at any time while you are braiding your hands start to feel stiff or a little bit sore, stop immediately and give your hands a proper rest. If braiding starts to be really painful you should seek medical advice. Taking simple precautions now could prevent problems in the future.
Day 15 – Bright Lights!
Never underestimate the power of light. This is particularly relevant when you are threading beads with small holes. You can use either natural light or artificial light. Natural light varies in strength during the day depending on where you live and the time of year. It is strongest in the middle of the day and you need to be close to windows or skylights, with as much all round light as possible. Alternatively, you can invest in a good daylight lamp. There are many available at a wide range of prices and styles. If you have been struggling with threading beads and you have not been working in good light you will be amazed at the difference it makes. If your eyes cansee the holes in the beads clearly your aim will be more accurate and the cord will slide through tiny holes. In poor light your aim will be less accurate and you are more likely to catch the edge of the hole and the cord will not pass through. You also run the risk of fraying the end of the cord, which also makes the job much more difficult. If you do not have one already, put a daylight lamp on your Christmas list!
Day 16 – Add a core. Braiding around a core prevents the gap in the middle of a beaded braid from collapsing. This may happen with larger beads and with very round beads. You can watch this video to see how.
Day 17 – Stand up! Kumihimo does not need to be a sedentary activity. If you stand up and walk around while you braid you can get a little bit of exercise. It may not be a complete workout, but every bit of exercise adds towards a healthy lifestyle!
Day 18 – Enlarge the hole in the disk. The original kumihimo disks had quite small central holes, but more recent versions have larger holes to enable people to use a wider variety of beads, including long beads, such as daggers, thorns and twists. If you find you need more space just enlarge the hole with a craft knife or kitchen knife.
Day 19 – Check both holes! If you are working with two hole beads always check both holes. It is quite common to find that one hole is blocked and it is very frustrating to find a missing hole when you are half way through the embellishment on a design.
Day 20 – Combine techniques. Most of us have come to kumihimo from other types of jewellery making or other crafts. If you combine your skills you can create some unique effects. Popular combinations are wire work with kumihimo or beadweaving with kumihimo, while both macrame and polymer clay can be used effectively with kumihimo, as well as many others.
Day 21 – Join in! Being an active part of the kumihimo community is a great way to build your confidence and skills. If you are not already a member you might like to join my Facebook group. Search for Kumihimo by Prumihimo and Friends and apply to join. Please make sure that you answer the 3 questions, which are designed to keep out spammers and trolls! Don’t be shy if you are new to kumihimo. We have members of all different levels of experience and everyone’s input is valued.
Day 22 – Wear it! When you wear your own jewellery you are sure to get lots of lovely comments, which will give you pride and confidence in your work. It is also a great way to make sure that your work is of a fufficiently high standard. Wearer trials are a very important part of the design process. If you make for sale or for gifts it is very important to know that your jewellery hangs correctly in use and is comfortable to wear.
Day 23 – Experiment! Although kumihimo is an ancient art its use in contemporary jewellery making is still in its infancy and there is so much more to explore, especially as new beads and materials become available. You are only limited by your imagination!
Day 24 – Enjoy! I have saved the most important tip for last. Kumihimo braiding is a wonderfully pleasurable activity, with the added benefit of being relaxing and soothing. Do it for sheer enjoyment and never allow it to become a chore or a bore. If you take on too many commissions or find people wanting too much from you it is best to step back and make things just for your own personal enjoyment.