In the run up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to offer a different tip each day as a sort of kumihimo advent calendar. I have been posting them each day in my Facebook group, Kumihimo by Prumihimo and Friends and I have decided to blog about the tips here as well. Here are the tips for days 1-6:
Advent Tip – Day 1
Use a new disk for beaded kumihimo. When you work with beads the cords need to be held firmly in the slots on the disk to maintain good tension. If you have used your disk for thicker cords, even just once, the slots will have been stretched and will not be able to grip the cords properly. Tight cords are always desireable for kumihimo, but they are particularly important for beaded kumihimo. It is much easier to keep the beads in position under a tight cord than it is under a loose cord. If just a single bead is allowed to jump over the cord in front the error will be very visible in the braid. You also find with loose cords that even if the beads stay in the correct position you end up with too much cord showing between the beads and the overall effect is likely to be uneven. The whole braid is also likely to feel too floppy. I wish that I had understood all of this when I first started kumihimo. Like most people I bought just one disk. My first braids were made with S-Lon beading cord because I was trying something I had seen in a magazine. I loved the effect. Then I started experimenting with satin cord and various yarns. When I decided to return to beading cord and seed beads I was really disappointed and initially I could not understand why my braids were not as good as my earlier efforts. I was all ready to give up all together, but luckily I persevered and realised what was happening. The purchase of a new disk solved the problem and I knew I needed to reserve this new disk for thinner cords. Marking the disks avoids errors!
Advent Tip – Day 2
Stop Beads. Use a stop bead to keep the beads on your cords. Stop beads will be familiar for beadweavers, but may not be for braiders. For 0.5mm S-Lon you need size 6 seed beads, or any other bead with a large enough hole to fit two cords. Simply pass the cord through the bead twice in the same direction and tighten. Now the bead can be moved up and down the cord to release more cord as necessary. This tip is particularly useful for bracelet lengths of braid because it means that there is no need for bobbins. While bobbins are really useful for longer lengths of cord, they tend to bounce around and slow down the braiding process. Without bobbins and on shorter lengths of cord the braiding is super fast. If you are making a necklace or lariat using bobbins is a good idea, but a stop bead is still useful because bobbins can sometimes fall off the cord, allowing your beads to tumble to the floor! If you do not have suitable beads to use as stop beads, you can try using a slip knot, but it is not as secure.
Advent Tip – Day 3
Double up. If the slots on your disk are getting a bit loose or if you want extra tight tension, try braiding with two disks stacked on top of each other. You don’t need to glue them together because the cords will keep them in place. It makes a big difference, even if both of the disks are a bit worn. The effect is very much like using a double-thickness disk, so if you want really tight tension or you are using super-fine cords or threads, use 2 new regular thickness disks together.
Advent Tip – Day 4
Stiffen cord ends. Sometimes a needle can be used to thread beads onto cords, which makes the threading quick and easy. However, it is often not possible because the doubled cord plus the needle is just too wide to fit through the bead. In this case the easiest way to thread beads onto the cords is by stiffening the cord end, allowing it to harden and then cutting the end of the cord on the slant. By doing this you make your own integrated needle. You can use several different products to do this, such as superglue, clear nail varnish or fray prevention products. My preference is for the sort of superglue which is sold in a bottle with a brush. The reason I like this is that it is easy to apply and hardens very quickly. However, you do need to be very careful with superglue and make sure you follow all the manufacturer’s instructions. What ever product you use, be sure to use it very sparingly. A common mistake is to apply too much product, with the result that the cord absorbs the product and swells, making threading more difficult rather than easier! Remember to apply just a small amount on the last centimetre or two of cord and allow it to harden before you cut the end and use the cord. If you are threading lots of beads and the cord end starts to fray you can simply trim it on the slant again and continue.
Advent Tip – Day 5
Keep it level. Although we often talk about the top and the bottom of the disk, as in top down-bottom up, it is best to keep the disk as level or flat as possible when you braid. This will keep your tension even. The way to achieve even tension is for each cord to be moved with the same amount of force. If your disk is tilted the cords experience different levels of force. When you are braiding with Round Braid/Kongo Gumi the difference will not be significant, but with some other braid structures it will make a big difference and a tilted disk can result in lumpy or twisted braids. So it is good to get into good habits right from the start.
Advent Tip – Day 6
Cord requirement. How much cord do you need to make a braid? The general guideline for how much cord is needed is for each cord to be 3 times the length of the braid required. For example, if you want an 8 cord braid measuring 20cm you need to allow 60cm for each cord, which is 4.80m in total. This is a very generous allowance for good reason. It is very difficult to add cord into a braid if you run out and the take up of cord varies according to many different factors. If you braid with thick and thin cords you will usually find that you need more of the thin cords than of the thick cords. If some of your cords are stiffer than others you will use up less of the stiff cords. Adding beads makes a big difference to the take up of cord, depending not only on the size of the bead, but also on the location of the hole on the bead. No mathmatical calculation can work this out for you, so you need to have allowed enough cord to meet any unexpected eventuality. Cord is cheap, but your time is precious!
I hope you have enjoyed these tips. For experienced braiders much of this will be very familiar, but these simple tips can make a big difference when you are starting out on the kumihimo journey.
So what tips are lined up for the rest of the advent period? I have to admit that I do not know! I make up my mind each day and I just have to hope that I will be able to come up with something new and useful right up to the 24th. Watch this space to see if I manage!!