Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fun with Kumihimo

Top to bottom:

1) Round Braid with 4 blue and 4 cream strands.

2) Square Braid with 4 blue and 4 cream strands.

3) Hollow Braid with 6 blue and 2 cream strands. After approx 2", switches to Round Braid.

Maybe you've heard of Kumihimo? It's a Japanese braiding technique that is traditionally done using a wooden stand called a marudai or a takadai. Thirty years ago, I wanted to try kumihimo, but it required a fairly expensive outlay to get started, so I'd never gotten around to it.

Then, about 11 years ago, my 6 year old brought home from school an economical, portable form of kumihimo that uses a foam disk with cut slots to hold the yarn. What a brilliant invention – no need for the heavy weights required for traditional kumihimo and, did I mention, it's portable? I quickly ordered myself up a couple of these disks from Braiders Hand. (I see they now offer a square "plate" for making flat braids. They didn't have that years ago when I ordered mine.)

Even before the disks arrived, my kids' interest waned (in fact, DD2 now swears she's never even seen one of these things before) but I played with it a bit. Since I had no real use for the braids I was creating, I laid the disks aside and, eventually, they were stored in the garage.

I recently decided I would like to experiment with using these braids in clothing, and I dug my disk out of the garage. I could no longer remember the correct technique, but Youtube came to the rescue.

I first started with the standard round braid, which is what my kids had learned. My first sample used 8 strands of a fine crochet thread and the resulting braid was far too thin. I found some yarn left over from previous projects – it is roughly a DK weight. I tried the 8-thread round braid using the yarn, and I liked the result much better. This braid is more supple and definitely has potential.

Next, I decided to try a square braid. I have seen many obi cords that use a square braid, but my 8-thread braid was far too compact and stiff. Of the three patterns, I found this one the hardest to keep straight in my head and I made a couple errors in my sample. (It seems like every time I thought, "I have it now!" I would make a mistake.)

I then tried a hollow braid. The bottom sample starts with about 2" of the hollow braid and then I switched back to the round braid, which is my favorite of the three. (In the photo you can see where it changes pattern, just a bit over the hole.) This time the pattern is slightly different because it uses 2 white yarns and 6 blue yarns (positioned as shown in the Hollow Braid video), where the other samples use 4 and 4 (positioned as shown in the Basic Round Braid video). I love how changing the yarn colors yields such a different effect.

Below are the Youtube videos that I found useful. If you go to Youtube and search on kumihimo, you will find other videos, including those that use the traditional wooden stands. There is also a video showing how to create a beaded braid using the disk. The resulting braid reminds me of bracelets I saw for sale in Egypt.

Basic Round Braid

Square Braid

Hollow Braid

Eventually you will see a kumihumo braid emerge in at least one of my pieces. It won't be immediately, though, as I have a lot of other things going on too.

2006 Winter Olympics

I have been watching the Olympics the last couple of weeks and it has been making me think back to the 2006 Winter Olympics. At the time, I was "into" knitting (one of my friends calls me a serial hobbyist) and I decided to participate in the Yarn Harlot's 2006 Knitting Olympics.

The point of the Knitting Olympics is to cast on during Opening Ceremonies and cast off on or before the closing ceremonies. You are encouraged to challenge yourself in some way. I think this was the first sweater I had made, except for one I made as a teenager for my mother. And that one wouldn't go over her head. :) For me, making a sweater in that time frame was challenge enough, and this one used intarsia, a technique I am not adept at.

DD2 really wanted a Weasley sweater from the first Harry Potter movie and I managed to locate one of the original patterns released by Rowan when the first movie came out. I found an online chart to use for the letter A – the pattern supplied only the letters H (for Harry) and R (for Ron), if I recall. I used the Rowan tweed yarn that was used for the original movie sweaters.

I read somewhere that the expert knitter they hired to create the original movie sweaters worked hard to achieve the "loving hands at home" look. Not unlike an adult working hard to replicate a child's scrawl-like text. For me, I had no trouble at all achieving that look. LOL. I'm sure DD2 could still fit into the oversized sweater, but it's been sent off to storage – its services are "no longer required."

I also made her the hat that Hermione wore in the Prisoner of Azkhaban. The site that sold this pattern is no longer around, though I did find at least one free pattern when I googled. I believe I used Manos yarn for this.

And of course, she needed a Gryffindor scarf. For this I used an inexpensive Plymouth acrylic and one of the many free internet patterns.

Finally, I made her a nose warmer, which has nothing to do with Harry Potter but DD2 requested one because she hated getting a cold nose in the snow. I got this pattern from Knitty. Of course, she wore all of her knitted booty up to the Tahoe and promptly lost the nose warmer. :) Come to think of it, it's been years since I've seen the hat, too.

Oh, did I mention that DD2's favorite color, for years and years, was red?

So, that's what I was doing four years ago during the Winter Olympics. This year, it was all sewing, stenciling, and kumihimo. :)