Starting a braid with a loop is often done to allow for a button or bead closure, or as an alternative to a metal end cap. The photo to the right is a loop start done on a disk with metallic DMC floss. The concept is very simple, but it requires a bit of planning. Instead of beginning the braiding at the center point of the measured threads (top diagram below), the braiding begins to one side of the center point using only half of the elements. After enough of the braid to make the desired loop is finished, the elements from the other side of the warp are included (either combined with the threads on the initial tama or as new elements which double the number of tama being used), and the braid is completed.
The loop doesn’t have to be short, however. This week I tried using long loops to secure a donut bead in a bracelet. I was first attracted to the donut because of its different colors – purple, blue and green – so I chose Robison Anton 2340 Peppermint for the green, Marathon 1271 and 1096 for the blue, and Robison Anton 2426 Raspberry for the purple. I measured 30 strands per tama. Figuring out the warp length took a bit of math, but nothing too difficult. The total length had to allow for twice the diameter of the donut (to make the loop) and the length of the rest of the bracelet on either side of that measurement, then doubled plus 10% to allow for take-up. I allowed more length than I needed because I knew that the four tama which would end up on the East/West of the sixteen tama braid would have a greater take-up than the others. (I didn’t want to run out of thread again as I did last week!) I estimated about 10cm of braid for the loop and approximately 8cm of the bigger braid, so each warp needed to be about 70cm long. Because I didn’t want to have to stop and go back to the warping reel halfway through, I measured both warps at the same time. I used a double choke tie – just far enough apart to place the chopstick through while winding the first eight tama – to make the winding process a little less risky. Sometimes even with the tightest of choke ties, the individual threads can slip around and I end up with some shorter than others. Nine times out of ten, that doesn’t matter in the end, but I’m sadly obsessive about that kind of thing.Usually I choose a round braid structure with half of the tama: a 4-strand if the larger braid will be an 8-strand braid, an 8-strand if the larger braid will be 16-strand. For this project I decided to try my favorite eight element flat braid, the kara yatsu structure, and then bring in the other half of the eight elements to form a sixteen element flat braid for the rest of the bracelet. Instructions for the eight-tama kara yatsu structure are found on page 43 of Makiko Tada’s Comprehensive Treatise on Braids Volume I: Maru Dai Braids, page 43 of Jacqui Carey’s Creative Kumihimo, page 54 of Carey’s Beginner’s Guide to Braiding: The Craft of Kumihimo, and page 68 of Rodrick Owen’s Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru & Beyond. The 16-tama hira genji variation is found on page 55 of Jacqui Carey’s Creative Kumihimo .
Since the inside of the donut was purple, I chose to arrange the colors so that the edges of the loop braid were blue and green. The initial setup (shown at left) was blue at positions 1 and 7, green at positions 2 and 4, then purple at positions 3,5,6,and 8. I used 227g in the counterweight bag, and I made sure that the weight bag and hook would not snag the other end of the warp that hung below. I braided 40 sequences of kara yatsu to form the loop. (I miscounted with the second half of the bracelet – be careful with your counting and don’t get distracted!)
When the 40 sequences were complete, I carefully brought the other end of the warp up through the hole in the mirror (above, left) and wound the elements on the remaining eight tama (above, right). The counterweight was increased at this point to 510g to accomodate the extra tama. Some careful thought is required to minimize the floats that result from the new color arrangement and bringing in the previously-unused set of tama. After several tries, I found that placing the the “new” blue elements at positions 1 and 14, the original blue elements at positions 6 and 9, “new” green elements at positions 2 and 13, the original green elements at positions 5 and 10, the “new purple elements at positions 3, 12, 15 and 16, and the original purple elements at positions 4, 7, 8 and 11 gave me the shortest floats at the transition between braids. I took care to avoid twisting the loop braid, as well, because I wanted it to lie flat. This would not have been a consideration with a loop braid that had a round structure. If you don’t wish to increase the number of tama for the remainder of the braid, the corresponding unbraided portions of the warp can be added to the existing elements.
When both sides of the bracelet were finished, I used the same type of clasp that I used in the Princess Pink necklace. I haven’t been able to get back to the nearest Hobby Lobby to see if more are available, and I am disappointed with myself for not purchasing more of them. The item, packaged for Hobby Lobby under the brand “The Jewelry Shoppe Findings”, is labeled “611350 Glue On Slide Clasp” and is not available in their online store, so I am hoping that no one else has been interested in them and I can buy more soon.
Charting the Pickup Braid
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Artist’s StatementI enjoy kumihimo precisely because it is not a mindless activity – it demands my focus and attention, engaging the problem-solving part of my brain. Whether the structure is one that I am braiding for the first time or a familiar one, I am required to concentrate on the way the threads work together to form that particular braid. It forces me to pay close attention to the process instead of hurrying or looking ahead. The individual moves lead one to another predictably, and the structure, once understood, tells me what should come next. This peaceful, rhythmic flow added to the pleasure of the color interactions and handling the silk is the joy of kumihimo for me.