The DMC Difference

I mentioned in my last post on kumihimo that I wasn’t completely happy with how my satin rattail braids were turning out. I’d completely fallen in love with the marudai and was having a lot of fun with the making part but felt the finished look was lacking a little something. Thankfully, the fix turned out to be an easy one.

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For my next few braids I wanted to try using DMC stranded floss for them. There are lots of great things about DMC floss, it comes in many colours, as an embroiderer I always have a ton of it in the house and the 2 m long skeins are well-suited making about a 1-1.5 m braid. I will not miss trying to find inspiring colour combinations amongst the local shops collection of satin rattail, although their DMC selection is pretty lacklustre too…

I just used all six strands together for all of these braids to save a little time. I guess if you want to be ‘proper’ about it, then it would be better to split the floss down and recombine it to make sure there was no remaining twist, as you would when embroidering, but as it wasn’t shiny and no one but me would be looking that closely, I figured I could probably get away with it.

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The patterns are all from my favourite book, the ‘Comprehensive Treatise of Braids’, which I think has the best pattern diagrams ever. I love how a book that is so modest and unflashy in its design, with just one not great resolution photo to show you a summary of what all the braids look like, is just so incredibly well thought out from start to finish.

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The little short braid in purple, green and white, which is an unexpected hit as a colour combination for me, is kusari tsunagi, a round, 8-strand braid. I’ve been mostly following the bobbin and counterweight suggestions in the book wherever possible as I don’t really have a good understanding of what ratios I need for what tension with what material just yet. Starting with 60 cm of warp threads, I ended up with a braided section of 13 cm, and total length of 25 cm if you include the completely over the top tassels! I love it though, the mint green and purple are an awesome combination and I love the way they blend just from some simple knotting at the ends.

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I was so in love with the colour combination that I decided to stick for it for a second braid… that for some reason I also decided to make pointlessly long! I didn’t bother to cut off the additional starting knot either for the photos, which is why there is the strange lump on the end. The pattern for this one is kusari kaku yatsu and the braid has a really interesting square shape to it. I’m not sure if I need to be a little careful with twist getting in at some stage of the braiding process or I just need to finish the braids somehow but this one really feels like it has a mind of its own and refuses to lay completely flat!

Both of the braids are absolutely tiny, they’re about 10 mm in diameter but I love the how the stitches look crisp and clean and the whole braid seems tight and compact, though they are still far from being what I would describe as compact. The DMC cotton is definitely a win for me!

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In colour combination number two, which I felt was a bit more adventurous, I worked something that I think a kongoh with 8 strands. This is an absolutely classic kumihimo pattern and you can work the spirals in either direction but it’s simple, effective and I love it. Rather than just knotting the ends, I thought I’d have a go at whipping them, which wasn’t a total success and plenty of threads got crossed during the winding, but was okay for a first attempt.

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I’m still a bit clumsy getting started but when it comes to the braiding, I think things have been going relatively smoothly so far and I’m completely enchanted with the tak-tak-tak of the bobbins when I’m working. However, we couldn’t have everything go too perfectly, right? So let me introduce my first attempt at a flat braid, a 12-strand hira-se, which is supposed to have a central rib, not look like a python attempting to carefully space it’s digestion of several different meals. Much as the random bulges are fun, and it was good practice learning to identify and unpick mistakes, I got lost a few too many times on this pattern for it to be anything salvageable. It’s a shame because I love this colour combination, and the braiding design, even if for some reason the combination makes me think of trilobites…

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Cotton, cheap, fun and colourful though I think you’d need about 48 strands to make anything of any considerable thickness (or start working multiple strands of floss on a single bobbin to bulk it up a bit).

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8 thoughts on “The DMC Difference

  1. I dabbled with 8-strand braids for a while (not on a marudai, just on card) and found oddments of stranded cotton were excellent for trying things out. The braid was big enough to see the structure easily, while still being delicate enough to be pretty. Good luck with you experiments!

    Liked by 1 person

      • My setup was not as sophisticated as discs – a playing card with eight slots cut in one side, a large paperclip to hold the braid out of the way. For thick thread, I used a stouter card, but it still had one row of eight slots.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you’re onto a winner with the DMC. How nice that something as readily available as stranded cotton turns out so well. Sod’s Law usually decrees that you need something fearsomely expensive and harder to get hold of than an honest politician!

    Liked by 1 person

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