Saturday, August 20, 2005

Fun With Braids

I finished the kumihimo braid that I need for the Kumi2 CyberSwap. Or at least the prototype model that I will keep to use as a strap for a knitted fulled bag — yet to be knit of course. Now I have to do the "real thing" for the swap, in different colours because I need the rest of these ones for the bag itself. The theme is Expanding the Basics which I think I've accomplished with this braid. Kumihimo is normally done with fine silk threads or at the very least with biron which is a rayon substitute. Something shiny and slinky anyway. Andean braids are usually wool or alpaca but with a hard twist to make a strong rope for practical use. In this case I've done a Japanese braid in soft wool so that it will full in the washing machine to a solid, reasonably non-stretchy cord to coordinate with fulled knitting. Notice I don't use the word "felted." That is reserved for fabric that is made from fibres that are interlocked alone with no other technique involved. If it's woven or knitted or crocheted or whatever first, then it's "fulled."

On the left is what the braid looked like before I threw it in the washing machine with a couple of towels and detergent and hot water. I put it through 2 long wash cycles (without letting it empty) and then the cold rinse cycle. And then I took the braid on the right out of the machine.

It's now thicker and shorter than it was and very fuzzy. The fulling process fairly successfully hid the mistakes in braiding and the sloppy tension and it's just long enough for a shoulder strap. It's not too stretchy and once I got the braid into my head, it was actually much quicker to make than knitting I-cord. I think I should have attached it to the bag before fulling it but the bag doesn't exist yet! And I had to see what happened to the braid in the washer — and get my swap samples in the mail asap.

For those who care about such things, this is Braid 40, Usu Hira Se, from Makiko Tada's Comprehensive Treatise of Braids 1: Maru-dai Braids. It takes 12 - 70g bobbins with a 15 oz counterweight. I used a 2-yard warp of 4 strands of wool for each bobbin (6 of each colour), either Condon's 2ply fine (discontinued) or Quebecoise 2. I'm not sure now which is which but the green was hand-dyed by me and I think both are leftover from a handwoven blanket that I still sleep under every night. I could only do one 2-yard warp at a time because the bobbins got too full. Now to warp up the actual samples and do this all over again. And write it all up.

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