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Working with Japanese Kumihimo Threads
Before tying the threads to a tama or using them with a disk or plate they must be made smooth and orderly. You may notice that they don't lie perfectly parallel to each other; smoothing the threads makes them lie parallel.
Planning a Braiding Warp
Plan for more braid that you think you will need. Braids typically take-up half of the length of the threads (called the warp) that you start with. Thicker threads and yarn will take up more and finer threads less; threads with beads and threads that are idle part of the time will also take-up more.
If one rope of silk (four sections, 42 threads each, total 168) is cut in half to make eight sections there is enough for a necklace that will be approximately 25” long.
To determine how your desired thread or yarn will look as a braid, twist it together firmly to see how the colors go with each other and approximately what size the resulting braid will be.Record Sheets
Sampling is also a good idea, as is keeping notes even if you don't intend to make a braid over again. You probably will use the thread again or something similar and if you have notes you won't have to start at the beginning each time.
Adjusting Counter Weight
To understand how the counter weight affects the braid prepare a warp to make a 20 inch braid in your favorite structure. First, use as much counter weight (see note keeping suggestions below) as you can and still keep everything balanced. Braid at least 10 inches and you will see that you have a very supple braid with long floats. Now take out as much counter weight as you can and braid another 10 inches. This braid will be stiff with short floats. The point of this exercise is to see how much you can influence your braid with the relationship of the counter weight to the weight of the tama.
Fishing weights make good counterweight. Rodrick Owen suggests having the following weights on hand. 3- 8oz; 3-4oz; 2-2oz; 3-1oz
Remember that your braids aren't finished until they are steamed over a tea kettle. Use a chopstick to hold the braid over the steam so that you don't burn your hands.
The photo to the right shows two kongoh (spiral braid) braids both made with sixteen 100 gram tama. The line on the left is actually one end of kumihimo silk, the braid next to it is made using two ends of silk per tama and the thinner braid has one end of silk per tama. In this case I used very little counter weight as I wanted a stiff braid and that is exactly what I got. I was quite surprised to see that the 100 gram tama would not be too heavy for one end of kumihimo silk. This sample further illustrates the relationship of counter weight to tama weight; I could braid a large number of braids of different degrees of stiffness and size with the 100 gram tama.
Instructions for a Cotton Drawstring
Perle cotton is an embroidery thread that most people seem to be familiar with and weavers are familiar with mercerized cotton. Both will make a good drawstring for your counter weight bag. A round cotton braid grips very well when you attach the bag and it wears well too.
The easiest way to determine just how many ends to use for a braid is to take the thread that you are considering and double it back on itself until you get enough ends to twist firmly together. The resulting twisted cord will be about the size of your braid. Count the number of ends and divide by the number of tama that you are going to use. For instance - if you are going to use 16 tama and you have 32 ends then you will put 2 ends on each tama. If you were using 8 tama then you would put 4 ends on each.
Prepare a warp for 8 or 16 tama that is at least 34" (83cm) long, your finished braid will be about 17" (43cm) long. Use enough ends so that the braid is approximately 1/8" (3mm) to 3/16" (5mm). in diameter. Use about 50% counter weight and make a supple spiral (kongoh gumi) braid.
Prices are subject to change.
Saunders Solutions Inc. DBA BraidersHand, January 3, 2011
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