Tag Archives: floss

15: Kumihimo Disks

I was first introduced to Kumihimo (Japanese cord braiding) by Becka Rahn of the Minnesota Textile Center. She was teaching shoppers at Craftravaganza in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was stuck in my booth for the show so I couldn’t try it there, the idea stayed with me. (Shameless plug: Isette will again be at Craftstravaganza Saturday, May 10th.  Come check it out, it’s a cool show!)

16 strand set up.
16 strand set up
16 strand braid in progress, coming through the center hole
16 strand braid in progress, coming through the center hole

A very basic explanation of kumihimo: you move threads around a disk in a specific repeating pattern that causes the threads to overlap and make a cord.  You need a minimum of 8 strands, and from what I can tell, there is no maximum.  There are tons of tutorials on-line, and it’s a very cheap hobby to try out!

Becka taught people how to braid on homemade cardboard disks – it seemed quite reasonable to make one on my laser.  After researching kumihimo on-line, I learned 3 things:

Fact 1: Modern of kumihimo disks are based on the tool called a Marudai, which make braided cords and is stool like, not hand held.  The other big difference is that it is smooth on the edge – no individual slots for threads.

Fact 2: Most commercially available kumihimo disks have 32 slots, and are round. Square disks are also available, marketed to make square or flat braids.

Fact 3: 32 strands is an artificial limit to the braid, and square / flat braids can also be made on a round disk – the square ones just make the threads and repetition easier to keep track of.

So, having never actually made a kumihimo cord in my life, I set out to make a versatile disk with more options than the 32 slot version.  (Ah, hubris.) That, and I didn’t want to simply copy what you could go to your local craft store and buy.  Overall, I’d call it a success – I made some beautiful braids.

Braid in the order I made them.  12 strand twist, then a 8-strand. 16 strand, and then the 32 strand Mitake Style
Braids in the order I made them. 12 strand twist, a 8-strand, a 16 strand, and then the 32 strand Mitake Style

Design change 1: squarish design – more like a puffy cube.  It still can rotate in the hand, but has the “corners” marked directionally to keep track for square/flat designs. Verdict: win.  The disk worked well for both round and flat braids, and could rotate in my grip.

Design change 2: Go big – 48 strands can go on the disk (I read somewhere that I can’t find now that kumihimo thread slots should increase 4 at a time).  Verdict: toss-up.  It basically made this disk impossible for beginners – almost all the tutorials on-line are for 32 slot disks.  But it is not hard to extrapolate the data if you are not depending on the numbers to tell you where to move your thread to, but instead use visual placement.  The bonus is that it allows for larger, more complex braids. 

You can she the size difference 1.5 inches makes!  Green one was the first attempt, the almond one was used for the rest
You can see the size difference 1.5 inches makes! Green one was the first attempt, the almond one was used for most of the braids

Design change 3: With the go big idea, the original disk was roughly 6.5 inches across.  Marudai are quite large, so I figured with a larger diameter, it might be easier to work with. Verdict: loss.  Part of keeping the tension on the braid with the handheld disk is pinching the center of the circle from the top and the bottom – there was no way my hands could reach that.  Even the second version, 5 inches across, was a bit to big for comfort, and I don’t have dainty hands.  I’ll make the next one 4.5 inches.

The thumb in the center helped me keep the tension even as I was moving the threads - like sticking your finger in to hold the knot before you make a bow.
The thumb in the center helped me keep the tension even as I was moving the threads – like sticking your finger in to hold the knot before you make a bow.

The laser cutter is a great way to make kumihimo disks, and quite versatile.  It is relatively simply to design one with more or less slots, and the durability of the acrylic allows for more handling than a homemade one from cardboard.  The acrylic disk is more rigid than the foam store-bought versions, and there isn’t as much “grab” to your thread.  This makes it more important to watch the tension while braiding so it doesn’t get sloppy.  It doesn’t take long to get a rhythm going though, and it can be quite fun!

If you’d like to try your hand at your own kumihimo, here are some helpful hints:

Get a pattern for your own disk, which you can easily cut from cardboard.

– Check out You-tube videos to see the movement of the braiding – sometimes the written instructions can be a bit daunting.  Start with the 8 strand kumihimo and work your way up.

The color picker I used for the 8 strand cord is great to see how the colors you pick will work!

– Craft Design On-line has a great kumihimo braid gallery, and is where I got the patterns for the 16 strand and the Mitake style cord.  They allow you to customize the strands with your own colors!  I also like they give instructions for the marudai as well as the disk.

The hardest braid I did, this one requires 32 strands and was originally intended for the marudai, not a disk.  I had to keep adjusting the placement of the strands so there was room.  This strand has 32 threads, and is impossible to make on a standard kumihimo disk.
The Mitake is the hardest braid I did.  It 32 strands and was originally intended for the marudai, not a disk. I had to keep adjusting the placement of the strands so there was room to continue the braid. The Mitake is impossible to make on a standard kumihimo disk.

 

07: Floss Organizers / Thread Holders

No, not the kind of floss for your teeth. Which, before I started working with Rebecca of Hugs are Fun, I would have wondered myself. Floss is the term for embroidery thread, used for embroidery and cross stitching. Collecting floss can be quite the passion for needle workers, and organizing it is always a challenge, especially mid-project!

Nice and neatly organized floss is so pleasing!
Nice and neatly organized floss is so pleasing!

It’s been almost a year since I met Rebecca, and we started developing the cross stitch kits (available in her shop, or my supply shop Beadeux.) I didn’t want to just tuck the thread into the kits, potentially to end up in a knotty mess.  I came up with a quick holder, inspired by the triangle designs on the kit packaging.  They were made out of 100lb card stock to be nice and sturdy, but being paper, they weren’t meant to last forever.  I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised then they started gaining attention in their own right!

The original floss holders were quite small, less than two inches wide and less than an inch tall.   I wanted to make some full sized versions – 3 different designs.  In usual fashion, that blossomed to 5 (well, 4.5).  I wanted to use up some stock, so they are made out of odds and ends in acrylic and wood – including some fantastic leftover painted wood.  I have to admit, I really like the “dipped” look!

This set was made from opal acrylic, a milky, semi-translucent white
This set was made from opal acrylic, a milky, semi-translucent white
This group of floss organizers was made with scrap wood, including some painted wood from an old project I did.  The hard to see one is blue acrylic.

This group of floss organizers was made with scrap wood, including some painted wood from an old project I did. The hard to see one is blue acrylic.
They tied nicely to the fiddly corners in the lotus
They tied nicely to the fiddly corners in the lotus

If you know my Isette work, you can see some familiar motifs.  The lotus is the exact same one used in my jewelry – just 3 inches tall!  I wanted to see how the not-round or not-straight edges would work for floss tying.  The verdict is it works just fine!

The original peacock design, back in 2088.  Space age, or a cheese grater? You decide.
The original peacock design, back in 2008. Space age, or a cheese grater? You decide.

The peacock makes me smile – it’s a cleaned up version of a bubbly peacock I cut in my first batch of laser designs back in 2008.  I only ever made a single pair of earrings with the original design (though I still make a second variation the Peacock.) I simplified the design, made the feather bumps mathematically even and enlarged the outer hole.  The two hole design allows for some interesting tying between the holes, like you can see in the picture.

Peacock floss organizer made from salvaged wood.  I love the bubble design!
Peacock floss organizer made from salvaged wood. I love the bubble design!
This is the larger design, hanging quite nicely of the little metal hooks.  It would work on pegboard too!
This is the larger design, hanging quite nicely of the little metal hooks. It would work on pegboard too!

The final two designs are really the same thing, based to the Swoop design, just made two different sizes.  The small version is 2 inches wide (so 4 inches of floss tying space), and the large one is 3 inches wide for bigger projects or more floss.  The concept here was to organize in two tiers instead of tying things into individual holes.  I personally like seeing how the floss colors play together smushed right next to each other.  It also has quite a large handle on the end, all the better for hanging!  Great for peg boards, or hanging off work lights. (And, of course, any free space around the edges is fair game for tying on as well!)

I absolutely love how they turned out, in both wood and opal colored acrylic, and look forward to listing them in Beadeux soon! (When they are up, you can find them in the Floss Organizer section.)

Photos I love but couldn’t figure out how to seamlessly stick them in the post:

I love the milky white look, but Opal Acrylic is TERRIBLE to photograph
I love the look, but semi-translucent-not-quite-white Opal Acrylic is TERRIBLE to photograph
It's like a rainbow rocket!
It’s like a rainbow rocket!
Jumble of floss organizers.  Or floss holders.  Or thread organizer holder.  I don't think people have settled on one name!
Jumble of floss organizers. Or floss holders. Or thread organizer holders. I don’t think people have settled on one name!