Kumihimo: Braiding on the Karakumidai III

May 1, 2016

Here’s another sample in the current series, based on 2 metres of pearl cotton 5 for each colour and five-colour diamonds.

The colour scheme is, again, not my own. I’m still far from choosing my own colours. It originates in a karakumi/diamond pattern worked on maru-dai or round stand by renowned American braider, Michael Hattori. Though the finished product looks similar, the way of working the diamond braid on the two stands is different. I’ve yet to work karakumi on a marudai; my own marudai is too small at 9.5″ diameter – I need a marudai which is 12″, or even 17″, wide.

This time, I’ve increased the number of diamonds to three and tensioning is improving. There are no gaping holes anymore in my work and no ‘slubbing’ of colours where the tension is too weak. I’m now much more keenly aware of which threads to tension when. It’s vitally important to be somewhat “mechanistic” or “industrial” in the kata or hand-movements. The hand movements have to be the same throughout; once something works, it has to be repeated. I’m constantly reminded of an experience I had in Kyoto, watching a young apprentice doll-maker at work, demonstrating at the Kyoto Traditional Arts & Crafts Museum. Every movement was carefully considered and replicated as if he was a machine. Everything he picked up went back into the same place; his movements looked automated. It was the only way to get the dolls looking exactly like each other. We in the West find this odd – we too often like to break the rules and too often feel uncomfortable about submitting ourselves to the discipline of repetition.

I know now there are three vital areas to monitor regarding tensioning: one is the top threads of the half-diamond which must be tightened before working the centre-point thread; another is going back and tensioning the previous threads on the top half of each full diamond and lastly there’s the very centre of each full diamond: I always drape these particular ones over the top of the stand which helps in the tricky reversing of direction involved for the bottom half of each full diamond. And there’s just one more: where the top of each full diamond interacts with the surrounding diamonds – I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it just needs an extra tug to nudge the point of the diamond into position. This last one is the scariest of all, but just keep tugging!

Apart from tensioning, the other major issue at this stage of development is the ‘boundary threads’, here in yellow, which “outline” all the diamonds and half-diamonds. It’s vital to keep these ‘passive’ threads out of the way of the ‘worker’ threads involved in each diamond, so I’ve used plastic freezer clips/barrettes from IKEA to ‘keep me honest’. The clips are not critical in working so few diamonds, but they help.

Obviously I’m now on the way to working a Four Diamond sample. But first, I want to backtrack and work a Double Diamond again, this time with six colours rather than five. The six colours will allow me to work a combination of small and large diamonds; the varying sizes of diamonds is aesthetically enticing. But only achievable with six colours! More on that later.

I’m deliriously happy that I now no longer need to refer to diagrams. On reflection, it’s taken me about 100 hours all up to memorise the hand movements.


Working the mitsubishi (Triple Diamond)


Start of the five-colour mitsubishi (Triple Diamond)


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