Sunday, 22 March 2015


The marudai and tama (braiding stool and weights) are useful tools for building up the strength in my hands, and I am enjoying making kumihimo braids with them.

I was inspired to think of braiding when I discovered this, a small warping frame (for warps up to 4.5m) that Ashford started making last year, ideal for making warps for small looms and for braiding.

I'm also still using all of these - hand putty, handmaster ball, small weights.

I had a big set back with my hands in January, caused by swimming, it took 6 weeks for them to recover and I saw the physiotherapist again who told me that the problems I'm having are not in the text books. I suggested it was time to re-write the books! I understand properly now what he told me a few months ago; that this is not injury, it is a condition that we are dealing with. The condition is hypermobility syndrome. It is a matter therefore of management and control, not "recovery". Basically the ligaments that link my bones at the joints are weak, and I need stronger muscles and tendons to hold the joints stable.

Going back to the braiding, I started by going back to the simplest instruction book, Jaqui Carey's Japanese Braiding, the Art of Kumihimo and found a flat braid pattern that I enjoyed and made several in different colours. All but the red/pink are made with Drops Muskat cotton yarn which I can buy at a shop down the road (Yarnbirds) for £2.50 a ball. The pink used a 4-ply Drops cotton yarn plus a Rowan cotton-silk-viscose yarn.

I started with two colours, then three, then four and the colours revealed the pattern to be more complex than I had thought.

Next step: I chose 8 different colours so I could watch the path of each yarn in the braid.

I discovered the pattern repeat was 16 steps, having learnt this and with a long warp on the stand I got out Roderick Owen's Braids which has many more kumihimo patterns.

 I made all these braids in the photo below successfully and discarded a few short bits of other patterns that I found too challenging to follow with eight colours.

The labels attached to the braids tell me the pattern number in the book.

On the left of this photo is the first flat braid I was making with the sixteen step repeat.

From left to right, the patterns used are 16, 14, 13 and 12 in Roderick Owen's book, and below are a selection of square and round braids, patterns 10, 9, 8, 6 and 5.

I don't have time to give pattern details at the moment - this work fits in my 'screen breaks' from working on the magazine and I have more work to do this evening. However, my next idea is to make up a four colour warp which might make some of the patterns easier to work and go through the 8 strand patterns all over again. Maybe I'll have time to include some pattern instructions another day.

Just to finish,  a link to Carey Company, Jaqui Carey's business website for anyone in the UK looking for the equipment and instructions for Kumihimo. My marudai and tama are old ones, found on Ebay, made by a business no longer trading. The only new wooden marudai and tama now made in the UK seem to be those by Michael Williams.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

off the loom and finished...

See previous post.

On the loom, width 9".

Immediately after removal from the loom, width 8", length 120cm, still an open cloth as shown below.

Very little, if any loom waste, just about right to give a fringe.

Hem sewn using a fine spindle spun yarn of the same merino fleece as the warp.

 After finishing (vigorous washing in hot & cold waters) width 6", length 94cm.

Finishing left the fringe somewhat felted and tangled, see below, 

However, this is a temporary problem - I have been able to separate out the ends. All that is left to do is trim off excess weft ends left where I changed shuttles and trim the fringes to equal length. I'm make the next one using a longer warp - and I'll wind it on the warping board.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Day in the Life of Looms 2015

Meg of Unravelling blog is co-ordinating A Day in the Life of Looms once again, the New Year's day look at looms around the world through the blogs of handweavers.

This took me hours and hours. Firstly choosing the yarns, I had other choices at first but there was a weft yarn I couldn't match a warp to and a lovely potential warp that turned out to be nowhere near long enough. Then I could only work slowly because my hands are not strong, they are slow and need rest breaks.

Both yarns are handspun from fleece I have washed, hand carded, and spun long draw from rolags. The dark warp yarn is from a coloured Merino fleece bought from Yvonne Hoskins (business name Woolaston Wooly Wonders, a member of the British Coloured Sheep Breeders Association, contact details in this list of wool producers). The weft is a grey Shetland shearling found through the Murmuring Wheel group run by Diane Fisher; it was shorn by her brother Phillip, the Singing Shearer. The Shetland was spun on my Haldane Shetland spinning wheel - it seemed appropriate - and the Merino on my Schacht Matchless. This loom is my 10" Cricket rigid heddle loom.

I wanted to use the direct warping method, I thought it would be easier for my hands than using the warping board. There's an Ashford video demonstrating the method if you haven't seen it before. Warp length is limited by how far you can put your warp post from the back of the loom. I have a 3 foot square table, but that isn't long enough to make a scarf, so looked around and found the ever useful G-clamps (every weaver should have some, in various sizes, so many uses!) and clamped an extra board to the table to achieve the length I wanted.

Happy New Year! I hope you will enjoy your weaving and other crafts in 2015.