Braidweaver - Carol Miller Franklin - My Fascination with Kumihimo

Frequently Asked Questions

How many tama should I buy?

If you're just getting started with a maru dai, you may begin with only eight tama. There are more than a dozen different structures for eight tama, and you can change the appearance of every structure by changing the amount of fiber on each tama, the number of colors you choose and the initial placement of those colors.

Having sixteen tama will expand the range of braid structures you're able to create. Once again, braids made using the same sequence of braiding can look quite different depending on your fiber and color choices. If you get truly adventurous (and have enough room on the mirror of your maru dai), there are other braids that require 24 to 32 tama.

If you're buying tama for a taka dai, you will need a minimum of 30 to 40 tama for single layer braids. Double layer pickup braids require at least 60 tama. If you wish to make wider pickup braids, you will add tama 8 at a time, but remember that you are limited by the number of koma (and the number of pins on each koma) on your taka dai.

How heavy should the tama be?

Tama are sold in different weights for different braiding situations.

37gram tama are for use on the maru dai when braiding with fine, light threads with a small number of threads per element, but they are not heavy enough to be used on the taka dai.

70gram and 85gram tama are the most versatile weights. Either weight is fine for use on the maru dai or taka dai.

100gram tama are most often used with the ayatakedai or kakudai, and 250gram tama are used with the kakudai.

What kind of counterweight should I use?

There are quite elegant counterweight discs and rods on the market, but you can get quite creative with your counterweights to get the appropriate amount. In the United States, fishing weights are readily available and serve nicely. If you choose lead fishing weights, consider coating them with a protective substance to avoid health problems when handling the weights.

Which books are best for beginners?

If you are a beginner on the maru dai, I would suggest Jacqui Carey's Beginner's Guide to Braiding: The Craft of Kumihimo, which is once again in print with the title Japanese Braiding: The Art of Kumihimo. Its many photographs are very helpful when you are learning how to set up the maru dai and manipulate the elements around the mirror.

Once you are comfortable with the basics of the process, Makiko Tada's Comprehensive Treatise on Braids I: Maru Dai Braids, Rodrick Owen's Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru & Beyond (recently re-released in paperback), and Carey's Creative Kumihimo (which includes graphs for determining color placement) are all indispensable.

If you're looking for instruction on the disc or plate, I would suggest Shirley Berlin's Kumihimo On a Card or More Braids On Cards for the budget-conscious. For more thorough explorations of card braiding techniques, Rodrick Owen's Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru & Beyond includes instructions for the card, and Makiko Tada's Comprehensive Treatise on Braids VI: Kumihimo Disc and Plate includes some amazing shapes that can only be achieved on the disc or plate.

If you are learning to braid on the taka dai and do not have access to a class, Rodrick Owen's Making Kumihimo - Japanese Interlaced Braids is a good place to start. For a truly exhaustive treatment of taka dai braiding, however, Makiko Tads's Comprehensive Treatise on Braids, Volumes III, IV and V are without rival and well worth the investment.

Browse my kumihimo reference library for more information about the available books on the subject.

What do you charge to teach a class?

My charge for teaching classes differs according to the setting and how far I must travel. I do not expect individual students to cover my daily fee when they take private lessons in my home. For guild workshops or conferences, I am happy with the organization's customary honorarium; supplies and equipment fees cover the cost of consumables.

Where can I purchase equipment?

You can find a list of equipment supplier links on my Resources page.

Do you rent equipment?

I do have a limited supply of equipment that I provide for rent during classes so that students who are interested in kumihimo but hesitant to invest in the equipment before they try to braid can have the opportunity to learn how much fun kumihimo can be.

Where can I purchase fiber for braiding?

You can find a list of equipment supplier links on my Resources page.

What is your favorite fiber for braiding?

Nothing can match the joy of braiding with real silk, but there are a number of good substitutes when cost is an issue. When I'm experimenting with new ideas or structures I haven't tried before, I often use 10/2 or 20/2 mercerized cotton from cones. Cotton or rayon embroidery floss is also good for sampling on the maru dai or the disc or plate. I frequently use the premeasured lengths of "Imposter" synthetic for maru dai braids, and I have used bamboo yarn as well.

When I'm braiding for a specific length or on the taka dai, however, my fiber of choice is a 40wt machine embroidery rayon sold on spools. Many people, including "experts", mistake it for silk in the finished products, and I enjoy having an enormous range of colors to play with. The only fiber I refuse to braid with is the commonly available polyester machine embroidery thread, which has a very stiff and scratchy hand in my experience.