The Right Materials

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After my first attempt with my new acrylic marudai, I was very keen to start digging into some more kumihimo patterns and start exploring just what I could do. This is where only having 8 bobbins, or tama, was probably a blessing to keep my enthusiasm contained while I developed the skills I’d actually need for some more complex patterns.

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Finding kumihimo books and guides is interesting as it seems to be a craft of two cultures, split not so much by language, but by tools. There’s a lot of books out there exclusively aimed at ‘looms’ or the kumihimo disks, such as Twist Turn Tie, a book that is okay but I feel distinctly meh about. Others are aimed towards using the marudai, such as part of the amazing Makiko Tada’s series and some of Jacqui Carey’s books as well.

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I’d bought a copy of ‘Creative Kumihimo’ with my marudai, which was a little bit of a mistake as, although it’s a wonderful book, it’s more aimed at beaded kumihimo and not the very basics. It does have some information on preparing warps. If you’re a beginner looking for some more handholding and an English language text, I’d opt for Japanese Braiding: The Art of Kumihimo instead. A combination of this and Makiko Tada’s book were perfect for sorting out the more fiddly parts of the set-up.

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At the moment, I’m definitely finding the set-up part the most challenging aspect of kumihimo. Even for an 8-strand braid it takes a while measuring and tying, getting the weights bag attached. For the first of the next few satin rattail braids I made I found myself getting frustrated with some escaping tama and not easily being able to adjust the weights bag that easily as the braid grew.

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For the next braids, I tried to adopt a more sensible colour scheme, rather than just 8 different colours. Makiko Tada’s patterns are really easily laid out, tell you exactly what kind of braid (round, square, flat etc.) and how many strands and also come with a few possible colour options. You don’t often see the various pattern names (if I remember correctly one of these was made following the edo yatsu gumi pattern) in a lot of kumihimo resources but there are numerous colour options that can be used for a single pattern. Rosalie Nelson has some interesting books on just this.

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I have to admit, while I was enjoying learning and braiding, I wasn’t wowed with the results of any of my satin rattail braids. Knotting the ends was definitely not a great idea as it just looks bulky and horrible and my colour choices weren’t very inspirational either. The nice thing about the rattail is it requires very little preparation as it’s a single thread, rather than a floss, and I wanted to feel a bit more ‘competent’ before I started spoiling myself with ‘proper’ rope. It’s also very easy to see any mistakes in the tension or mistakes in the pattern as everything jumps out at you quite aggressively.

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Still though, I wasn’t feeling inspired. I was learning and enjoying the tak tak of spinning the bobbins around and getting familiar with some new patterns. I also spent some time sitting down carefully studying my books to the ‘proper’ way to secure the weights bag which was a lot better than the horrible mess I’d been making and praying it would all hold together while making the braid. This was a very positive step for making my braiding more efficient and removing the frustration with the set-up, which is a lot more enjoyable when you don’t have to re-tie everything five times!

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Satin rattail is shiny but the stuff I bought wasn’t great quality and had some small imperfections and I don’t think my finished braids looking anything as eye-catching as those in the ‘Cute Kumihimo’ (かわいい組ひもの教科書) book, which is an awesome book more aimed at disk users. Perhaps time for a change of material!

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