I know that I’ve said it many times, but I always learn from my students. I learn new ways to see structure, new ways to communicate kumhimo methods, and I see new possibilities through the eyes of other enthusiasts. Last weekend’s three-day workshop for the Weavers of Orlando was no exception. It was a joy to spend time with this delightful group of talented fiber artists once again, sharing 16-tama braids this time. At the end of three days (and three warps), we had all taught each other a great deal.
One of the most exciting ideas came as we worked samples of the combined yotsu gumi structure that I featured in last week’s belt project. Berna understood the structure right away and began to experiment with it in a variety of ways. Not only did she alternate sections of the combined yotsu gumi with sections left separate, but she successfully braided the separate yotsu gumi sections before continuing the combined structure. Ideas for exploiting that design possibility swirled in my head for the entire ride home.
When I was braiding the belt for last week’s project post, I unbraided the beginning section of the combined yotsu gumi several times, each time convinced that I had made a mistake because the color order was different than I expected it to be. The four solid yotsu segments did not repeat directly. For example, if the yotsu braids were arranged as A-B-C-D, then the result would be a double diagonal stripe of color B flanked by single stripes of color A, and a double diagonal stripe of color D flanked by single stripes of color C. Moreover, after three repeats of the entire sequence of moves 1 through 16 (working diagrams are found in last week’s post) plus one further half sequence (moves 1 thorugh 8), the colors again form their groups of four, but the center two colors are reversed: A-C-B-D. Another 8 rows must be completed before the original color order occurs again.
I was eager to try using the structure in a necklace. I chose a lovely painted Peruvian Plate pendant that I purchased from Karen Huntoon of What A Knit in Truckee, California last fall. I found four segments of color #20 Black Imposter Rayon in my stash from Braidershand, along with two segments each of color #15 Gold and color #18 Chile Red. The geometric designs on the Peruvian Plate are very delicate, so I decided to split each segment in half and wind 19 ends on each of 16 70g tama. I solved the color arrangment dilemma by placing the sets of four tama Black-Gold-Red-Black (left to right) so that the diagonal stripes would appear to be double black stripes flanked by either red or gold. What I thought was a clever way of avoiding problems with the colors lining up backfired later when I meticulously interlaced the separate sections as I had seen Berna do in class. Having the two black strands interlace with the single red and gold ones did not produce an attractive “braided” segment, so I abandoned that design feature and stayed with alternating sections of combined and separate yotsu braids. Each section of the combined braid consisted of 7 sequences of moves 1 through 16 plus one sequence of moves 1 thorugh 8.
Another problem to be overcome is the length of the separate yotsu sections. The outer two sets of four (in my case, the black yotsu sections) naturally turn out longer than the inner two yotsu braids because they are farther from the center. I had already lightened the counterweight considerably to help the combined sections to be firmer and more tightly woven, but that did not solve the problem, so at the end of each 15-sequence repeat of the separate braids, I added another two repeats to the red and gold braids before beginning to combine them again.
The clasp used for this necklace came from Wild About Beads, and the end caps came from Silver Enchantments. My original plan was to use a special flat clasp but the final braid was too large to fit the small loops. Maybe next time…
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.