Learning new braid structures

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Every January in my Facebook group I set up a poll about goals for the year. This year the top answer was to make more time for kumihimo, but there is not much I can do to help people with that!

The second most popular goal was to learn new braid structures, so I have decided to write a series of blogs about my favourite braid structures to encourage braiders to try something new. The basic round braid/kongo gumi made on the regular round disk will always be the most popular braid structure and for very good reasons. It is easy to learn, works up quickly and can be made from a wide range of materials. Plain braids can be worked in different colours to create a multitude of different surface patterns, while beaded braids add a completely new dimension, which is ever-changing as new beads come onto the market. However, experimenting with other braids is tremendously rewarding, so I would urge everyone who has not already done so to step out of their comfort zone and try something new. All the support you need is available on my YouTube channel for visual learners, or in the Braiding Patterns (Resources) section of this website for those who prefer written instructions.

Learn Spiral Braid by watching the video

Learn Spiral Braid by reading written instructions

Spiral braid bracelet

I am going to start by recommending the Spiral Braid or Ridged Spiral Braid. This is a great starting point because it is just a step away from the familiar moves of Round Braid. The braid is made with 12 cords and has a round appearance with a raised ridge spiralling around the braid. Visually it is most effective when the ridge is made in a contrast colour. It is important to heed the advice I give in both the video and the written instructions about using 2 different colours for the remaining cords because this trick makes the braid much easier to learn. Once you have learnt it you can play with different colour combinations and solid colours. You also need to cut longer cords for the ridge cords. Start with 30% longer, but keep a record of what works for you because this will vary from person to person.

I always recommend that new braids are learnt using satin cord because the slippery surface makes it easier to control the tension and create a smooth braid. However, any braid made with 12 strands of satin cord will be fairly stiff, especially the thicker ones. This works well for bracelets, but it is usually more desirable to make necklaces which are more flexible and will drape around the neck. Once the braid has been learnt you can experiment with different cords and yarns. For the necklace below I used soft knitting yarns. For the ridge I used chenille and for the valley I used a yarn with delicate flecks of metallic thread.

The video was filmed several years after the instructions were written and I made a minor change to the order of the moves, so it is best to stick to either the video or the written instructions to avoid confusion.

As with all braids, tension has a part to play. Irregular tension in basic round braid tends to hide itself well, but in this braid it will be more obvious because the spiral will not be evenly spaced. Practise will sort this out. Sometimes the ridges will flatten out after a few inches of braiding and this is again down to tension and pulling too hard on the ridge cords. As you braid keep a close eye on the way the braid is forming and if you see any flattening or distortion you can ease off the tension of the ridge cords.

The finished braid can be used in the same way as any round braid. It makes a pretty bracelet on its own or it can be used to hang a pendant from. Lariats and lanyard straps can also be very effective made with spiral braid. Beads can be added in just the same way as with round braid, but if beads are added onto all cords the full effect of the raised spiral will be lost, so I prefer to use beads either just on the ridge or just in the valley, as shown below. This is based on my own experience and I know that other people have had more success with beads on the spiral braid. It is worth noting that when you use beads on the ridge they may move slightly to either side because they are not supported by the rest of the braid, as they are in regular round braid, so sometimes photos may not show the whole story.

The braids in the photo above were made 6 or 7 years ago, so I thought I would revisit the technique and see if my views had changed. I used copper size 8 beads on the 4 cords which form the raised spiral and for the other cords I used a ready mixed cocktail of greens and aquas. The samples below show, from left to right,

  1. Beaded 12 cord spiral braid
  2. Beaded regular 12 cord braid
  3. Beaded regular 12 cord braid with a core.

Kumihimo spiral braid

I think that the slightly raised spiral effect in sample 1 is pretty, but not particularly defined. I found this quite a fiddly technique to get right because there is not much space for the beads, resulting in overcrowding. In the finished braid I felt that the copper beads in the spiral did not sit quite as neatly as I would like.

I think that the beads sit more neatly in sample 2 and regular round braid is an easier braid to work with. However,  the braiding was fiddly because again there is not much space for the beads, making it more difficult for beginners.

The third sample is my favourite and was also the easiest to braid. Braiding around a core is an easy technique to learn and it provides more space for the beads, making it much easier to braid the beads. The only downside is that you do not get the raised spiral effect, but using slightly larger beads or drops/magatamas would achieve this visual effect, with the added benefit that the beads are fully supported by their neighbours.

The experiences and preferences of other braiders may well differ from mine, so experimenting for yourself is the best way to find out what suits you. An alternative to adding the beads during the braiding process is to embellish the braid with strung beads or chain, allowing them to nestle in between the ridges and securing them with a beading needle and thread.

I have been asked if Spiral braid can be worked with a core cord. The answer is that you can braid around a core using Spiral braid instuctions, but the core will force the braid into a round profile, rather than the flat profile it naturally forms and this will completly flatten the ridge on the braid.

Learn Spiral Braid by watching the video

Learn Spiral Braid by reading written instructions

The temperatures are falling and icicles are appearing everywhere!

There are some projects that are such fun to make that you can feel yourself becoming rather addicted! The kumihimo icicles are certainly one of those projects. What makes some projects addictive, while others are less appealing to make? A quick make is always fun, but if they are repetitive they can become boring. The charm of a project like the icicles is that each one can be a little bit different, so as you work on them you have the fun of seeing how they turn out. The beads used are lovely to work with, but they are more than just pretty, because you can play with different combinations to achieve different effects. Transferable skills are an important aspect of all craft and the techniques learnt in making the icicles can be used in different jewellery projects, such as pendants and making focal sections for bracelets and necklaces. Finally, you can never have too much bling on a Christmas tree, so you can make as many of these charming ornaments as you like, knowing that the more you make the greater the impact and that they will give pleasure year after year. They make great gifts or can be added to gift wrapping for maximum impact.

My icicle tutorial has proved to be very popular and last month I made up some icicle kits, which sold out immediately. These kits are not only very time-consuming for me to make up, but it is complicated to source all the different types of bead, so I was not able to restock immediately. However, I have finally got together the beads I want and put together some more kits. In nature every snowflake and every icicle is unique, so when I make icicles for myself I make each one slightly different. For the kits I provide the materials for two matching, but not identical decorations. For the restocked kit I have made some changes so that for those who already have the first kit they can make two new designs. Each icicle is made up of 6 different shapes of bead in a variety of different finishes and I vary the shapes in each icicle, so there are 8 different bead shapes in the kit. This is why the sourcing of the beads is complicated and I have had to buy from 5 different suppliers! This is why kits are a good way to try something for the first time and can be economical, even with international shipping, because you do not have to pay multiple shipping charges. Once you have learnt the technique you can experiment with your own ideas. The tutorial is different to the instructions in the kit because I show different set ups to help people to use what they have in their stash. I also explain two different ways of constructing the icicle. In a kit I can supply just the right size of end cap, so in a tutorial I wanted to show how you can make your own endings.

If you want to make some icicles for your tree you can either try the tutorial or the kit (while stocks last!)

Icicle kit

Icicle tutorial 

These are addictive … you have been warned!

It is raining cats … but not dogs!

I am very pleased to be able to say that I have been able to restock my cat button bracelet kit for the third time and this time I have both the blue and the red versions available. This adorable bracelet seems to have become my signature kit, but this time I have made a few changes. Originally I designed the kit to accompany my second book, Kumihimo Endings. The kit included materials for one bracelet with additional materials so that a variety of ending could be made. However, I have had many requests for the kit from people who already have the book, so I have now simplified the kit to make one bracelet with two button hole variations and I have removed the book from the package.

The buttons I use are hand made in South Africa by a community organisation, employing local women and using environmentally friendly materials and production processes. Each button has its own individual character and this is where the difficulty in sourcing the buttons lies. Internet shopping does not work for this because I like to be able to select each button, making sure I only take the friendly-looking felines! As the doting owner of two spoilt cats I know what I am looking for!

I have been asked for dog button bracelets and I would love to be able to find some, but so far I have not found anything quite as appealing as my little stripey cats. I will keep looking.

I have also been asked for other colours and I have experimented, but nothing works quite as well as the red and blue, so I do not intend to extend the colour range for these buttons.

One part of the kit building I particularly enjoy is ‘cooking up’ the seed bead mix. I use only Miyuki beads for this so that the finished braid has a regular appearance. The different effects and finishes gives the optical illusion of variances in size, but when you feel the braid you can tell that they are regular in size. I gather together 6-8 different beads and first mix them together in equal quantities. Then I add in more beads of some types to achieve the effect I want. Then I make up a small section of braid to see how it works out and if I am not completely happy I tweak the mix further. It really is like cooking apart from the fact that I can’t actually taste the mixture!

If you are interested in trying one of these adorable little bracelets please click on the links below. I ship internationally and if your country is not listed on the website then you can contact me by email (pru@prumihimo.com) and I can usually ship to your location. I do all the packing myself to keep costs as low as possible and this kit weighs less than 100g, so shipping costs £4 (US$ 5.20 approx). If multiple products are purchased I am often able to make a saving on the shipping cost which I pass back to the customer as a PayPal refund.

Red Cat Button Bracelet

Blue Cat Button Bracelet

Let’s twist again!

This post is all about how to achieve a twist on a Prumihimo braid, which amuses me because I usually have to explain how to flatten a Prumihimo braid! One of the members of the Kumihimo by Prumihimo and Friends facebook group posted a Prumihimo braid with a pronounced twist, which she had not expected because she is an experienced braider. The post received a large number of likes and a couple of other members expressed and interest in making similar braids.

First of all the reasons for twisting of this particular braid need to be explained.  I designed the Prumihimo disk to simplify a traditional straight braid, using my own system of slots, dots and numbers. If the braid is made with perfectly even tension the braid should be completely straight. Beginners rarely braid with even tension, but the more they practise the straighter the braid will be. Even experienced braiders may find that they do not produce perfectly straight braids all the time and there are several reasons for this. The good news is that steaming or pressing the braid can flatten a twisted braid permanently.

The most common reason for twisting is that the braider is pulling harder on some cords than on others and even a slight difference will affect the braid. The best way to avoid this is to work in a regular and rhythmic manner. Give yourself time to braid without interruptions and relax into the 3-step rhythm of the braid. Stopping and starting will also affect your braid. Each time you put the disk down you risk releasing the tension on the cords. The best way to set your disk down is resting on a vase or something similar, which allows the braid and cords to dangle freely and keeps the disk level. This is good advice for not just the Prumihimo disk, but also for all types of disk braiding.

Your choice of cords may affect the straightness of the braid, especially when you combine cords made of very different materials. Flat materials, such as ribbon or tape yarn will often cause a braid to twist. Using multiple cords in a slot is also likely to cause twisting.

Braiding errors will also cause twisting, especially when the 3rd move in each set of 3 is omitted.

Flattening a twisted braid is easy and is based on the traditional Japanese remedy of steaming. Please remember that steam is hot and cord, especially synthetic cords, will melt when overheated, so it is worth testing a scrap piece of cord first. Don’t forget to protect your hands and your working surface too. Give the braid a few blasts of steam from a steam iron or steamer and you should feel the braid soften and relax slightly. Untwist the braid and place it under something heavy to cool. When the braid is completely cool check it. If it needs a bit more you can then apply more steam, cover the braid with a double thickness cloth and lightly apply the iron to the braid, but be aware that too much heat and pressure will permanently damage the braid.  Leave it to cool under something heavy as before.

So that covers flattening, but what about creating a twist? Deliberately choosing materials which are likely to twist is one way. For example, use a firm, round, synthetic cord, such as satin cord, in the slots at number 1 and 2, and combine it with a flat, cotton yarn or several strands of thin, organza ribbon in the slots at number 3 and 4. This is likely to produce a fairly gently twist. Experimenting with different combinations of cord will produce interesting results.

For a twisted beaded braid choose beads which are very slightly larger than the braid can accommodate and the beads will force the braid to twist to make space for the beads. For example, use 1mm satin cord in the slots at number 1 and 2 and use 4mm beads on S-Lon 0.5mm/Tex210 in the slots at number 3 and 4. When you start to braid the beads you will find that there is not quite enough space for the bead to sit in the V of satin cord and it will protrude slightly above the disk. When subsequent beads are braided the beads are forced out of line, causing a spiral. After braiding use a beading needle and beading thread to sew through all the beads several times to achieve an even spiral. You may need to experiment with different sizes of bead to get the effect you want. If the beads are not quite large enough there will be enough space for them in the braid and it will not need to twist. Using beads which are a bit too large will be difficult to braid and produce a messy effect.

The basic round braid on the round disk is perfect for making spirals and a similar look can be achieved by using beads on only some of the cords. However, the effect is different. With round braid the beads spiral round the braid. The Prumihimo braid is also round, but when beads are added on two sides (the double beading method) the braid appears flat and the whole braid twists. The photo below explains this better than I can! The photo on the left shows a spiralling Prumihimo braid and the photo on the right shows a 16 cord round braid with beads spiralling around the braid.

Twisting Prumihimo

 

It is time to think about the festive season and icicles!

kumihimo icicle

Now that the clocks have gone back here in the UK and the weather is a few degrees colder it is only natural that thoughts turn to the festive season. It is also a good time to think about Christmas crafts well in advance because the last few weeks before the holiday really fly past.

Every year I design a new Christmas design for workshops and my Christmas workshops are always very popular. When I post details of the workshops on social media I always receive multiple requests to make the tutorial available for those who cannot make it to the workshop. It is not appropriate to release tutorials for current workshops, so for the Christmas ones I wait until the next year. So I am very proud to be able to post details about the Icicle decoration. This was designed for a workshop at Spoilt Rotten Beads in Cambridgeshire in 2018. It was a lovely day and everyone did really well. Several people contacted me afterwards to say that they had become pretty obsessed by the icicles and could not stop making them! Now I am able to make it more widely available.

When I write a tutorial there are two aspects I consider to be particularly important. Firstly, the design needs to be original to me. There is no point in replicating something that is already out there and students at a workshop need to know that they are being taught something special. The beauty of beaded kumihimo is that as a relatively new craft there are still many wonderful things to discover! Secondly, I like to feel that learning goes beyond the tutorial design, in that I teach transferable skills to help braiders to develop their creativity. Once the festive season is over the skills learnt in the making of these icicles can be used to make pendants and key fobs or perhaps graduated bracelets and necklaces. The wire ending method is a great way to finish off a braid without the use of special findings, so it is a really useful skill.

In the tutorial I give instructions for two different methods of starting the braid. The bottom up method is best when you want to use a charm and the top down method is good for a tassel ending. Both methods can accommodate a large bead ending. I recommend trying both methods in order to make the most of the learning experience. The choice of beads and the order in which they are loaded give the opportunity to create a collection of different styles of icicle. I give suggested layouts, but I also encourage experimenting with what ever you can find in your stash.

The icicle is a very pretty and sparkly decoration, which is perfect for a Christmas tree because of the strong contrast of colour. It would look great with one of my other tutorials, Snowflake, and I can just imagine how exquisite a tree would look if it was decorated with only snowflakes and icicles.

If that is too restrained and subtle for your liking then just make them in bright colours. There are no rules when it comes to festive decorations!

Icicle Tutorial

Snowflake Tutorial

kumihimo icicles

The perfect weight

If you are planning a trip to Japan you are sure to find lots of fabulous souvenirs to bring home with you, but don’t forget to leave space for a few yen. A friend recently visited Japan and very kindly gave me some yen on her return. You may think that was an interesting gift, but not much use to me in London. Well, think again! The number of coins she gave me was very specific because it was 14 and they added up to 50g, which is the weight I like to use for kumihimo.  What a brilliant idea and what a thoughtful gift. I tied them together with ribbon and attached a clip and it is now my favourite weight. The coins form a neat little bundle and the weight could be adjusted, if required.

Get ready for Christmas with this special offer

Kumihimo Christmas

Christmas kumihimo

It is my firm belief that you can never, ever have too much bling on a Christmas tree! For that reason I have decided to offer all four of my best selling Christmas decoration/ornament tutorials for the price of 3. As these are best sellers I am aware that some people may have already bought some of them, so it will be possible to exchange up to 2  of these tutorials for any other tutorial.

Now is a great time to get going on making Christmas decorations. Yes, I know some people hate to see Christmas arriving earlier and earlier each year, but if you are a crafter you will know what fun it is to be able to make in peace and without pressure. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are going down, so there is more time and inclination for indoor activities. Time always runs short just before Christmas, which can be disappointing if you had plans to make lots of gifts and decorations. Don’t delay!

These decorations do not have to be made exclusively for the tree. Try popping one in with a Christmas card for a special friend to hang on her or his tree. Tie one around the neck of a bottle of booze as a gift, which can be enjoyed for many years after the bottle is empty. Tie one around each wine glass on your festive table, as a decoration for the meal and a take-away gift for your visitors. They make lovely gifts for teachers and make a great change from all the chocolates and toiletries.

What about after Christmas? All of these tutorials teach skills which can be used for kumihimo jewellery making. Two of the designs are round braid made on the round disk, one is 7 cord braid on the round disk and one is made on the Prumihimo disk. Basic wireworking skills are used in two of the tutorials and these are explained fully. Embellishment techniques are used in 2 of the designs and these are also explained fully. Braiding around a core is used for 3 of the decorations and braiding with wire is used in one. All of these techniques will build braiding skills and can be used in so many ways. Each new skill will open up so many design opportunities.

Even if you do not have a Christmas tree, do not decorate your home or you do not celebrate Christmas at all you will find these decorations can be made in alternative colours for different applications, such as wedding favours/decorations, birthdays or other religious celebrations.

Finally, a word of warning – these can be addictive! There is something very satisfying making quick and adorable makes like these. One will never be enough!

Special Offer – click here

Prumihimo disk – click here

 

Working with leather

Leather kumihimo

Leather kumihimo

Leather kumihimo

Introducing new materials to your kumihimo is a great way to extend your skills and to make some really unique pieces. Leather was the subject of a recent challenge in the Kumihimo Challenge Group on Facebook, which was a great opportunity to dig out some leather and refresh my leather working skills. Some time ago I had picked up a pack of fabulous 1mm leather cord in a range of colours, so I knew I had what I needed to get going. I decided to use the Prumihimo disk because while I wanted to let the leather be the star of the show I also wanted to enhance the design with some beads. A simple row of beads on two sides of the braid seemed just right. I decided to use pellet beads because they are a great shape for use with the Prumihimo disk and because I had just the right colour available. I only wanted one colour of bead because I was planning to use 4 colours of leather and I did not want the whole effect to be too busy.

It was only once I started to braid that I remembered that the take up of leather is less than cord, so once I had made enough for the bracelet I still had plenty of leather. My advice in this situation is to braid to the end of the cords because you are bound to be able to find a use for the remaining braid. After finishing the bracelet with a simple glue-in barrel clasp I turned my attention to the excess braid. I decided to make it into a matching pendant by glueing both ends into an oval end cap and hang it simply on a length of leather. I was really pleased with both pieces and they went down well in the challenge. If you would like to see the other entries, which were really varied and displayed a huge range of talent, click on this link.  If you have not already done so you might like to consider joining in with the challenges. It is not only fun, but it is also a huge learning experience. My advice is not to take the voting too seriously, as it is merely a tally of likes. The real challenge is to get something made on time, on topic and on the right page!

After making my pieces I was left with quite a bit of leather and I decided to make up a few kits. The aim of this particular kit is to provide a learning experience, so leather is provided to practise with and to get a feel for working with leather. Once that has been done the results are going to much more professional. The leather provided for practise can be reused by unravelling the braid. I have provided the leather in four toning colours for the bracelet and there is sufficient leather to make enough for the pendant. There is also a length of leather to hang the pendant from. The lovely brushed brass style magnetic clasp and the oval end cap are included. As with all of my recent kits, a link is provided to a page of images of the bracelet and necklace, so that the details can be zoomed in on if required.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these kits, please click here. 

If they are sold out you can check out my shop for other kits. I tend to make up kits in strictly limited quantities and just have a few available at any time.

Leather kumihimo

Feeling blue? New cat button bracelet kit

Blue cat button bracelet

My signature cat button bracelet kit has gone blue for the summer!

This kit has been specifically designed to accompany my second book, Kumihimo Endings – The finishing touch for every braid. The book is full of both popular and innovative methods of finishing off kumihimo braids and other textile jewellery. The chapter I am most proud of is Button Fastenings because I have worked hard to find as many ways of fastening a braid with a button as possible. There are 7 different endings, but the possibilities are way higher than that due to the mix and match cord finishing element of the instructions. There really is something to suit everyone.

My aim was to provide a kit which did not limit people to just one type of button fastening. The kit contains enough beads to make one bracelet, but it includes the materials required to make any of the fastenings in the button chapter. I advise people to look through the chapter carefully to find the ending which suits them. Some are more complex because they involve learning a new braid structure (page 44 and page 48), so they would be perfect for someone looking to extend their braiding skills. Others are quick and easy (page 27), while yet others additional beads and are more decorative (page 50 and page 51). Once the bracelet has been completed you may have a few bits and pieces left over and these can be used in other projects, or used to help you to purchase the best type and size of bead or finding.

My first cat bracelet kit was launched before Christmas and it featured a cheery mix of red tones, which proved to be very popular. For the summer I thought it would be fun to try a different colour, so I went for cooling tones of blue.  The hand made cat button is made by a community business in South Africa, employing local women and using environmentally friendly materials and production processes. Each button has its own individual character, so the illustration is only a guide, but when I buy the buttons I select them carefully in person to make sure they have friendy faces! Apologies to dog lovers, but this kit is only available with a feline!

I sell the bracelet kit and the book together so that I can offer a small saving on the individual prices. I also send an additional tutorial after purchase as a way of offsetting the shipping charge. I am often asked if I will sell the kit separately to those who have already purchased the book and I am happy to do so. Please email me if you would like a kit on its own. Otherwise the kit and book can be found in the shop on this website. The bracelet is made on the round disk and this is not included in the kit.

This photo shows just two of the possible endings. On the left is a beaded button hole (page 50) and on the left is a loop button hole (page 42).

Blue cat button bracelet kit and book

Book only – Kumihimo Endings

Heart Charm Necklace – the new kit

Heart charm kumihimo

I am continuing with my plan of periodically releasing limited edition kits. I am always exploring new ideas and materials and I enjoy being able to post the designs on social media. When I do I always get requests for kits. I am not keen to get involved in large scale kit production because that would take me away from what I love best – designing and making. However, sometimes I find that I have enough beads and cords to make up a few kits, so it makes sense to offer them. Not only is it a practical way to keep my stash under control, but it is also an opportunity for me to learn what is most popular and gain a better understanding of the kit market. Each kit I develop builds on what I have learnt from previous kits.

I also enjoy the chance to work with more unusual materials. When I write tutorials or books I need to stick to materials which are widely available, but I am able to be a bit more creative with kits because I supply everything. This Heart Charm Necklace kit is a good example of this because I have added a lovely varigated yarn to the braid to add colour and texture to the satin cord. I am also able to use some very cute spotty heart charms, which are now discontinued. I tried several different colour combinations and settled on the pink and grey for the first kit, but I have more of the heart charms, so I hope to put together a different combination at a later stage.

I try to include as much as possible in my kits and like to go beyond the basic minimum. For instance, the design requires 10 heart charms, but I have added in 2 extra charms to give the opportunity to make matching earrings, using your own findings. They could be used in other ways as well, such as key rings, bag dangles or on a lariat, as in this video. I also include some cord for practise and as I hate waste I make sure that there is enough cord to make a bracelet. In my kits you may also find stop beads, threading loops, needles and anything else which I think would be useful. I am always open to suggestion, so if you think there is something else I should consider including I would love to hear about it.

A new development for this kit is a link to large images of the design from different angles. I believe this will be useful backup for the tutorial. Sometimes when you are making something it is good to be able to get a closer look at a particular part, so these images can be zoomed in on to inspect every part of the design. This link will be provided in an email from me after the kit has been purchased.

If you would like to buy the kit please click here.

Prumihimo kit