Earlier this week I picked up some of the new solo beads from my local beadshop. They are made by the Czech company Preciosa and are a short, blunt dagger shape with the hole at one end. They are the same shape and size as the twin bead, but with one less hole! They come in a lovely range of colours and I could immediately see that they would be good for kumihimo, so I picked up several colours and looked forward to experimenting with them.
So what makes a bead good for kumihimo?
Primarily it is the size and location of the hole. Beaded kumihimo is most effective when made with S-Lon cord, which is approximately 0.4-0.5mm diameter. If a bead can slide easily onto the cord you know it will be good to work with. Beaded kumihimo can involve a lot of threading, so a bead which is a tight fit on the cord will be very time consuming to thread.
From a design point of view as little cord as possible should be showing between the beads. Visible braiding between the beads is very effective, but visible lengths of bare cord are not so attractive. Therefore, shaped beads need to have the hole close to the edge.
Finally, a bead needs to offer something special to the braid, such as texture, surface interest or shape. There is no point in paying more for a new bead, when it does the same job as beads already in your stash!
Solo beads have a reasonable sized hole, just slightly smaller than a regular size 8 seed bead. It is located in the narrow tip of the bead, so it will braid in neatly and the shape of the bead will protrude further than size 6 and 8. The shape of the bead is reminiscent of the long magatama bead, but the hole runs straight through the bead, rather than on a slant, so the bead sticks out at a right angle to the braid.
When I experiment with a new bead I like to see how it performs in existing designs. I was really pleased at how it worked in my Delightful Drops tutorial. As the name suggests the original design uses small drop beads. When solo beads are used the different sections of the bracelet are more defined and overall there is more texture and contrast. I used beads with a metallic finish to tie in with the silver size 8 seed beads.
If you are interested in giving it a go, you will find the tutorial by clicking here.