One of the most exciting things about writing tutorials is seeing what other people make. A design can go in a completely new direction in someone else’s hands. A great example of this is Jamie North’s fabulous interpretation of my wire bracelet. Not only is the execution of the wire braiding really precise and even, but the choice of clasp and sliders give the bracelet a sleek, contemporary look. I love it! Jamie has got some gorgeous clasps and other findings on her site, www.glitznkitz.com, which are well worth checking out.
When I designed the Luscious Lentils bracelet I wanted to make a bit of a statement with something bold and chunky. However, the instructions are just as effective when smaller beads or beads of different shapes are used. The pattern is very versatile and in this example I have used size 8 beads and 10mm daggers for a completely different look. It is important when braiding with beads to keep the tension fairly relaxed, otherwise a braid like this, which is designed to lie flat, can twist. Many people have the tendency to braid very tightly, especially at the beginning. The cord needs to be pulled up tightly enough to keep the bead in place, but there is no advantage to keeping the cords too tight. Beaded braids have a much more pleasant feel to them if they are made with a relaxed tension. If you find it really difficult to ease off on the tension you can add a bit of extra weight on the braid end at the beginning.
It is always exciting to get a parcel in the post and especially when it is full of beautiful wire in great colours. As soon as I hit the ‘publish’ button on this blog I am going to get out my tools and start work on my next project. The smaller reels hold 0.3mm wire and the larger ones hold 0.2mm wire. Both are great for kumihimo and they can even be mixed in the same project. The purple wire has an unusual matt finish, which is really special when mixed with shiny wire.
Traditional Japanese Kumihimo braids are made on wooden stands, the most common being the Marudai and the Takadai. Wonderful though these devices may be, they are also expensive. So a wonderful lady called Makiko Tada invented the foam disk, an inexpensive and easy to use device, which opened up the world of kumihimo braiding to a much wider and very receptive audience.
I want to introduce you all to my first kumihimo disk. It is a little battle weary, but it is still very much in use. It is discoloured and a bit grubby. Extra markings have been scrawled on here and there and the original numbers are fading away, but for certain uses it is still the first disk I reach for. It has even survived a battle with my cat and the holes here and there are the scars from this feline jealousy. Perhaps I should think of retiring it soon, but it is like an old friend, who has been with me through thick and thin and travelled as far as Australia with me. Sadly, it can no longer grip the finer cords, but it is unsurpassed when it comes to ribbon and wider yarns, so I think it will be with me for a while longer.
This is what started the obsession off for me about four years ago. It is the first piece of my own Kumihimo, which found its way into a finished piece of jewellery. I was entering a forum challenge to create something inspired by a place. I thought of Tokyo in cherry blossom season and made a traditional tree of life pendant, using silver wire and crystals in tones of pink. I raided my craft supplies and found embroidery silk in pink and silver, added it to a bit of satin cord and whipped out my brand new Kumihimo disk. It was just too easy! I loved the way it all tied in together and that I was able to use the same crystals I had used in the pendant to finish off the cones, while having the Japanese theme running through the whole necklace in terms of both theme and technique.
How did my entry do? I think I am allowed to boast on my own blog, so yes I am proud to say that I did indeed win the challenge!
I have had a couple of requests for some information about Kumihimo with wire, so I have added these two bracelets to the site as free mini tutorials. I love to use wire, but the technique is very different to the way Kumihimo is made with cords and yarns. The best way to learn to braid with wire is to do as much experimentation as possible and that way you will get a feel for it. Some wire can behave differently to others and the best type is very soft and not too springy. You need to bend and stroke the wire into position, rather than pulling it up tightly. The good news is that it can be manipulated into shape after it has come off the disk, so some irregularities can be sorted out after braiding! The end result is great, so it is well worth having a go.
I have been busy today adding content to the website. I am working my way through the suggestions made by visitors to the site, starting with the easiest! Several people have asked about adding beads to braids other than the Round Braid. While Round Braid is definitely the easiest and the most versatile braid it is possible to add beads to other braids. I decided to add a section about beading on a Spiral Braid. If too many beads are added the raised spiral design on the surface of the braid is covered and lost, so I have given instructions for the two designs in this photo. In the top braid crystals have been braided between the raised parts and in the bottom one larger beads have been braided on top of the spiral. Seeing them side by side like that really highlights the versatility of kumihimo braiding.
We are all sweltering here in the UK as we experience the longest heatwave for 7 years, so I thought I would make something really cooling … a watermelon necklace. I think it shows a more playful use of Kumihimo braiding. I wish I could claim this braid pattern as my own unique design, but I have seen lots of versions on the internet, ranging from simple 8 warp Round Braids to 36 warps with lots of detail. This is a 20 warp braid made with chinese knotting cord. I think it goes really well with the watermelon beads, which have been lurking in my bead stash for some time.
I have been amazed and delighted by the wonderful reaction I have received on the launch of this website. Many helpful suggestions have been made as to how I can improve the site and I am working through them now. So far I have amended the instructions for one of the free mini tutorials and added pictures of all the individual braid patterns above the relevant instructions. I hope that will make them more user-friendly and the pages certainly look a lot prettier with the photos. I was pleased to be able to find at least a couple of examples of each of the five patterns and it just goes to show that experimental braids never go to waste!
Few things can compare with the sight of a magazine in the local newsagent with your own design emblazoned across the front cover. I know this because it has just happened to me! I am officially a cover girl and I am going to make the most of it! Not only am I pleased for myself to see my design given such prominence, but I am also delighted to see Kumihimo being given such a high profile.
I may be a tiny bit biased, but I really think that every jewellery maker would find Kumihimo skills useful. Why hang your gorgeous lampworked beads, silver clay pendant, wireworked focal or beaded centrepiece on a boring length of expensive chain when you could quickly and cheaply make up the perfect partner with a few old threads?
The way to get more Kumihimo into magazines and onto front covers is to give feedback to editors. They really do take letters and comments seriously, so if you would like to see more you need to write in, email, comment on Facebook and submit photos of your work. Spread the word!