Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Necessary Diversion

With all that we have on the go around here lately, I was caught a bit off guard by the reminder email for the workshop I signed up for! My first instincts was that if I had some down time, I'd rather stay home and weave, but I started to think about it. It was just what I need right now. Something new and fun and..... a day away from home. Besides, it's another workshop by my friend Alison and she makes them informative and fun!

I had signed up for two of her classes, with the second one is all things 'inkle looming' to be held in May. In this workshop we are learning basics of Kumihimo and in particular, Konga Gumi (which means small round braid). You will want to click on some of these pictures to see detail better!

As usual, Alison had meticulous notes with many clear diagrams, all neatly presented. There was a basic card neatly notched, a weight (a film canister with pennies!) and our warp materials. We marked our cards with the compass points and the direction to turn, then warped up eight ends (four light, four dark) and got started. After an inch, we added in eight more ends of four light and four dark and adjusted to the increase. The basic moves didn't change, just the number of threads we were were working with. Then we altered the colour sequence, sometime by moving only two threads and created quite different pattern. 
Here is my braid well under way!

You can see quite a difference between the eight end braid and the sixteen ends by the big jump in physical size of the spiral near the bottom! We worked our way through six pattern changes over the course of the morning.  During the lunch break, the sample table up front was a popular spot:

There were twelve participants from all over the southern island. So what are they looking at? It seems that Alison loves kumihimo  and its potentials and has been creating samples for years. Apparently there is even an article by her on this subject in a past Handwoven.

That plastic storage container is *full* of zip bags *full* of braid samples, along with short notes on colour and pattern arrangement. (Yes, that's an inkle sample featuring pick up!  That's the next class in May....)

Here Alison is showing some of the class the various samples. She is wearing a Japanese vest featuring warp and weft ikat.

There was a selection of her reading materials and sources of inspiration.....

All those samples have been made either on the simple card stock, foam disc or this unique invention! Click on the picture and see..... Its a slide carousel! There's a card stock on top to reduce the size of the centre hole but the notches are perfect for holding the yarn in place. The stand also was a thrift store find and is a round metal ring with four metal legs. In its former life, it held a glass for a candle. Beside this is a marudai  that friends gave her, which is not in use as yet. Even her tama's are also unique! Tamas being the weights that hold the yarns.

Normal tama's are hollow and filled with a set weight of lead. These are little wooden 'cups' which I think she said are candle holders from a craft store (now long closed) that she fills with coin. There is a small wooden knob she found that acts as a lid. Smart!

Different coins add up to different weight! I just love the ingenuity.... It seems that fibre artists of any ilk, all have a bit of the inventor to them as we quite often borrow tools and make them our own.
You'll never guess what this is.....

There was no real way to photograph this well! First of all, it a foam kumihimo disc and its upside down. I hesitated to touch it given the delicate warp. The braid is tight and features a spiral and its being made from horse tail hair! Its a bit of a challenge and Alison took it on. 

After lunch we got back to work... and this is just a sample shot of other students, Diane and Anna working, but everyone was equally very focused on their cards or charts!

We all used 4/8 cotton 'warps', all had light and dark combinations but below is Cynara's braid with sharp contrast black and white which really shows the pattern! Nice transitions too...

The pace became more relaxed in the afternoon as we all braided away and looked at how to compose patterns. Alison has developed her own system that is quite simple and makes sense. The graph design looks much like the braid. Can't give you more than that as its a trade secret!

 Alison passed around some interesting braid projects. Above is a braid she made for a birder friend. The thinner braid has a long red wood thing with a screw in the bottom. When you twist the red wood 'knob' (for the lack of a better word) it makes a noise just like a robin!

This braid was simply beautiful! The picture doesn't do it justice. It was a soft variegated cotton yarn that ranged from violet mauves to a soft green. What Alison did was cut a given number of ends (8) starting at the mauves and an equal number (to total 16) starting at the greens. As the pattern progressed they reach a mid point, the soft pale green with no apparent pattern and then reversed. The blue/purple diamonds shift to green diamonds. I found myself thinking of some nice variegated tencels I have at home when I saw this one!

Here's one that is for my Canadian ~ American friends! A braid that looks somewhat similar to the red maple leaf and then transitioned to the red, white and blue. I thought that she must have added in the blue but Alison said she used a clasped weft technique!

My class mate Barbara brought along her Rodrick Owen book and I recalled that I have a copy of this fabulous book! I mentioned to a friend Linda at Ravelry that I had taken this workshop and she beat me with this!

"Hey! What’s the chance! I spent yesterday and will [be] heading back within an hour or so to a class run by Rodrick Owen. A friend of mine had taken his class a number of years ago and told me that at his age, he’s going to get to the point that he doesn’t travel well anymore….so I needed to take the class! So I took the plunge.
We did 8 strand braids yesterday and will do 16 strand braids today. He is quite old now, and his hands shake so much that I think we all held our breath as he demonstrated finishing the ends with that needle. But he didn’t come away bloody and has such a well of knowledge that it’s just an honor to be in his class."

......Okay, you win!    :)


DebbieB said...

Fascinating, Susan! My elder daughter is interested in Kumihimo - I bought her a kit at Christmas and just brought her a book on the subject from our guild sale. I'm directing her to come look at today's post!

Anonymous said...

Great sounding workshop! And you get another with Alison in May - lucky you. I have just recently dug out my kumihimo stuff.

dorothylochmaben said...

Hi there - what a great day out and in good company by the looks of it ! Some very interesting braids and lovely photos ! I liked the 'birdy' braid ! When I've made braids I never seem to know what to do with them !

Linda said...

Oh my, Susan.....if someone would tie you up in a closet for 10 years and I spent every day of that time weaving, I would hardly catch up, let alone beat you at your skill level. I *love* the variegated braid and how the accent ended up reversing. It's another fascinating craft that has so many possibilites given the tweaking of so many variables... I look forward to seeing what fabulous work you do in combining the two. I'm quite sure we will be 'wowed'. I came out of my weekend class with an appreciation for the millions of hours it has taken Mr. Owen to become as skilled as he is; the vast amount of information that there is to be learned in Japanese braiding (not to mention the requisite many hours of practice); and so many ideas of how to blend the two forms of weaving together. What fun we will have!

Lynnette said...

Kumihimo is something that I've had on my mind for some time now too. I envy you your workshop, it must have been fun...
Cudos to Bruce for getting that amzaing shot of Callie in action - how sweet!

Louisa said...

Kumihimo is so much fun! You can even add beads to the braid as you work. I'm quite surprised that Alison doesn't have a "real" marudai and tama. Though as you saw, it's easy to come up with substitutes. When I was teaching we used folding stools with a hole drilled in the seat and nuts and bolts for the tama! Personally I very much prefer a proper stand to the foam disks. So much easier and way less errors. Enjoy your new-found skill!

Two Guys and a Loom said...

What an interesting process, love the recycled materials. Your work looks lovely!!!!

Two Guys and a Loom said...

What a great the recycled materials!!! Your braids turned out lovely!!!!