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Braiding for a Bolster

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Over the holiday weekend, I didn't knit a stitch.  I did, however get crafty with some perle cotton.

20080527_AllTheBraids.jpgFor my first big weaving project, I need to have two cords to use to help tie the ends of the bolster closed.  This seemed like the perfect application for a Kumihimo braid.  I talked about Kumihimo a long time ago when Julie got me excited about the craft.  I bought some perle cotton, the braiding foam templates, the bobbins* and tried out a few simple things, but since I didn't really have anything that I needed a braid for, I put it all aside on a shelf. 

It's amazing how having a real project to plan for can remind me of things that I never quite got into, and then get me really excited about it.  We spent Friday through Monday in Ann Arbor, and I spent almost all my free time in the car and at my parents house "auditioning" braids. 

I have a very nice, basic book that describes a nice variety of basic braid structures and then describes how altering the colors and their order can fundamentally alter how you see the braid.  For instance, the second cord from the top and the 3rd cord from the bottom are made using the exact same braiding technique, and the exact same number of threads.  The only difference is the number of threads of each color (and, in this case, the braid closer to the top of the picture is using 5/2 perle cotton while the lower one is using 10/2 perle cotton). 

All the rest of the braids in the photo use different "weave structures"  -- and I use that phrase because when I was working on the braid on the bottom of the picture (the one with the red, white and blue diagonal stripes) I realized that I really was weaving.  And the bottom braid is really a warp faced weaving -- like something you might get off of an inkle loom.  After I had that realization, I realized that the basic idea behind all of these braids had it's roots in weaving, which made the idea of creating these braided cords even more perfect as accents for my woven bolster cover.

After all the auditioning, which braid do I think will be the winner?  Likely the second braid from the top.  You can't tell from the picture, but it is one of the few soft, almost stretchy braids in the bunch -- it's also very easy to make.  And I think it will be the right complement to the bolster cover. 

What I like about Kumihimo is that it is a form of weaving that is eminently portable, easy to get started in and requires almost no expensive equipment.  You can use any threads you like and it is not that hard to "sample" and develop your own ideas.  While I work on finishing up my waffle weave sample I'm going to try out a few of them with some elastic thread my weaving teacher let me borrow.  Since Kumihimo braids can easily be embellished with beads, I thought it might be fun to create some of my own hair ties.


* If you are looking for Kumihimo supplies, I can highly recommend BraidersHand

Bead and Braid

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Kumihimo Braid and Lampwork Glass Bead

Today's picture gets you both my handmade item and the interesting found object. The lampwork glass bead comes to me from Oak Grove Yarns. I found Linda at the Michigan Fiber Festival and really fell in love with her interesting beads in all shapes and sizes and irridescent colors. The crow in me that collects the shiny things had to have one. Only none of the ones she had on display that I liked had a hole big enough for a Kumihimo braid (at least not the ones I make, I am sure you can make them out of finer thread). When she offered make one custom for my needs, I jumped at the chance to have my own small piece of unique handiwork. It arrived last week and I love it's rough hewn texture and the sense of depth the bead conveys, like water moving under ice.

The braid you see threaded through the bead will not be the bead's final cord. This cord is barely long enough to be a bracelet. However, it is probably the first Kumihimo braid that I have created that I really like. It's made from silver and lilac DMC perle cotton. It was made on the Kumihimo disk. I seem to get better results from the disk thank the plate. I'd like to make a somewhat thicker cord for this bead. And I think I will probably choose darker thread colors to set off the bead better. Perhaps black with a teal accent? And then I will need to find the the jewelry findings. Amazing how one inspirational bead can send me off on a whole collection of new adventures.

Kumihimo

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I'm going to start right off and say that I am a big copy cat. Going out to visit Julie is a little bit like getting to go backstage with Carol Duvall. There's always some new crafty thing to talk about or take a look at. Perhaps you saw her post on Kumihimo on her blog not too long ago? I got to see all the parts in person and got a demonstration as well. Kumihimo is a Japanese form of braiding. I was completely intrigued, and could imagine all sorts of uses for it, and decided that I needed to get a similar set up of my own.

So what did I do? I went home and called Janis at BraidersHand. I talked to her Saturday morning and my supplies were here on Monday! I'm beginning to think that there is some special postal route time warp between Chicago and Washington, given how fast things seem to get to me from there! I asked her to give me the same stuff she gave Julie. I told you -- big copy cat.

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Kumihimo Supplies: A Plate and a Disc, EZ Bobs, and a Couple of Japanese Instruction Books

What do you need to get started with Kumihimo? Well, you don't need much actually. I got both foam braiding guides. The disc is used for round braids, the plate is used for flat braids. I also got a bunch of EZ Bobs to help keep all the moving threads out of trouble. It strikes me that these would be excellent if I was going to do Intarsia kniitting. (Perhaps that Kaffee Fassett pillow from my Rowan Membership will get done someday, after all.) Although Janis includes English instructions to get you started with some basic braid forms, I also got two books that had good pictures and diagrams. More Kumihimo Designs: Mini Book is for the disk and includes a braid that contains beads. Kumihimo for Disc and Plate contains designs designs for flat or round braids, including a really neat braid with a picot edge. Both books are completely in Japanese, but don't let that bother you if you're interested in this. The diagrams are great, especially when you have Janis' basic English instructions to help get your rolling. The diagrams in the second book are in full color, which is helpful, but not necessary. I'm beginning to see why the crafting community loves Japanese craft books.

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New Hobby, New Fiber

Trying out a new craft wouldn't be complete without purchasing some new fiber. I trundled on down to JoAnn's and picked up a nice supply of colorful perle cotton to play with (size 5) and also found some very nifty, very shiny rayon embroidery floss that I thought might be neat to work with as well (it's encased in those plastic sheathes for some reason). I know I could have used regular embroidery floss, but perle cotton is not meant to be separated into strands, and I thought it would hold together better while I was playing with my new toys.

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My First Braid

The first thing I tried out was the disc. I started trying to make the most simple braid provided in Janis' instructions. It ended up being quite delicate since I only had size 8 perle cotton (that I had bought for tatting) to work with on Monday night. It's a little uneven in width towards the end because I loosened up a little bit on the floss, but it looks the way it is supposed to, and I'm happy with that. It may look complicated, but that little braid is actually quite easy! Like, braid while you're watching TV easy.

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My Second Braid

When I started playing with the plate, I wanted a bigger braid where I could see a lot of progress quickly. So I started with some leftover 2-ply yarn from Mom's shadow knit sweater. The end that's looking a bit crunched and stressed was at the beginning when I was pulling a lot tighter. I didn't like the look of it too much, so I tried experimenting with tension. I found that I like the results better when I just rested the yarn in the grooves with out actually jamming it into the little slots in the grooves. It meant I had to be a bit more careful not to tilt the plate, but I liked the look of the bigger braid much better. I also used a weight to hold the end down, which I didn't do with the round braid. The weight stretches things and also makes for bigger/stretchier braids. This flat braid isn't quite as mindless as the round one, but it still doesn't take too much focus.

This is fun stuff to imagine with. I can imagine big braids being used for the strap for a felted handbag, round braids being used to create a neat toggle for a button or a latch to hold a felted bag closed. I'm thinking it might also be a nice way to create a wrist distaff for spinning or ties for a lace up sweater. Traditionally, Kumihimo is done with silk threads. It might be an interesting use for some of the silk singles that I spun not too long ago.

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