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.