This lovely fused glass pendant was a gift from a dear friend, and it contains one of my favorite color combinations – bright blue against a black ground. Its strong block shape seemed ideal for a metal collar necklace, but the opening in the glass was just a bit too small to accommodate either of the two that I wear. I could have simply designed a braid that would fit through the opening, but I wanted to avoid having the weight of the pendant pull the braid down into a “V”. Our family has long enjoyed visits to Skycraft Parts & Surplus in Orlando (an amazing place filled with things you never knew you always wanted), and on one recent trip I discovered coils of a flat plastic that were naturally curved at the correct diameter for a necklace close to the neck of the wearer. They seemed thin enough to be easily hidden in a braid, so I slipped several lengths into the basket along with several weights of colored wire that I hope to experiment with someday.
The third band from the top of the pendant has a small grid pattern in the two colors, and I chose to pick up that motif in the braid. I chose the familiar 16 tama kara uchi gumi, or hollow braid, to encase the plastic support. Instructions for the kara uchi gumi structure on the maru dai are found on page 87 of Makiko Tada’s Comprehensive Treatise on Braids Volume I: Maru Dai Braids, page 60 of Jacqui Carey’s Creative Kumihimo , page 141 of Rodrick Owen’s Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru & Beyond, and page 67 of Catherine Martin’s Kumihimo: Japanese Silk Braiding Techniques.
The braid worked up very quickly because I used the pre-measured Imposter silk substitute from Braidershand: three sections from a package of color #20 Black and one section from a package of color #1 Sky Blue. All four of the sections were knotted in the center of their lengths and then each element was divided in half in order to wind the sixteen tama. I used 454g of counterweight for the sixteen 70g tama.
The initial color setup placed the four Sky Blue tama at positions 1, 3, 8 and 10, with all of the remaining twelve positions in Black. I braided the entire 19-inch (48cm) length of the hollow braid and then allowed myself a few centimeters more in case the ends became stressed during the insertion of the plastic support. I removed all of the tama and then slid the braid over the support, being careful not to twist it. This allowed the zig-zag part of the pattern to be displayed instead of the “connected pinwheels” which would have shown if I had rotated the finished braid about 90 degrees around the flat core.
I borrowed the idea for the tassel closure in the back from one of Karen Huntoon’s students in Truckee, California. When I visited her Kumihimo Group meeting last November, I was impressed by a necklace made with a loop start and a tassel coming through the loop as a closure that hung down the back of the wearer. Since I have very short hair, I liked the idea of a point of interest in the back as well as in the front. It would work equally well for someone with longer hair who chose to wear it in a chignon or ponytail. (You can see in this photo that the end on the left had twisted to reveal the alternate pattern as described above.)
This Week In My Workroom
Sometimes I work on specific projects, other times I'm just experimenting, but I am
Here's what's going on this week.
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.