Monday, February 29, 2016

Jean reviews Kumihimo Jewelry Simplified: Learn to Braid with a Kumihimo Disk by Rebecca Ann Combs

Author Rebecca Ann Combs, who wrote an equally wonderful book Kumihimo Basics and Beyond: 24 Braided and Beaded Jewelry Projects on the Kumihimo Disk which came out in 2013, has once again presented the reader with vibrant patterns and beautiful instructions concerning the ancient art of Japanese braiding, kumihimo. It is futile to resist this, her second offering: it's way too illuminating, lovely and fun to learn.
Kumihimo Jewelry Simplified is great for the beginner new to braiding or the more experienced learner who wants to extend her expertise. The disk the author suggests you braid with is the Beadsmith Disk. It is a sturdy disk which comes in a 6" size and a 4" size. It is wonderful to read the author's advice on which one to choose and why (and why, if you get really into kumihimo, you might find it good to have both)!
The book begins with an explanation of what kumihimo and how it came to be. According to the author, "the techniques go back thousands of years, but the heyday of kumihimo in Japan was during the time of the samurai." She also refers to her first book and discusses the fact that in that prior book she didn't use the numbers on the Kumihimo disks. This book differs in this way, as the numbers will be used after each sequence, making the braiding somewhat more manageable.
She discusses all the tools you will need and gives an overview of the fibers, which are gorgeous and come in all sorts of colors and sizes. There is even a section in the basics on "kumihimo math". Once you get into the book, you will see exactly how wonderfully fulfilling making kumihimo jewelry can be. It is just glorious!
The book begins with the Eight Warp Basket Weave. The very first project will teach you the skills you will need to complete all the projects in the book. It is a beautiful necklace. The author says,"Master this project. Learn if forwards and backwards. Then you'll be ready to take the next step on your kumihimo journey." How reassuring is that? I feel eager to learn as much as I can from this encouraging teacher.The photos are clear and the instructions and tips are perfection. All your questions are anticipated and will be answered.Potential mistakes are addressed. I love that--it is very helpful. Adding a pendant and finishing the necklace are all included in this first, seminal project.
Once you have gotten it down, you will quickly progress to making braided bracelets which include beads, and have more elaborate finishing clasps. How pretty do you want it? However pretty you want it, you will get it in Kumihimo Jewelry Simplified. There are all sorts of styles and colors for all sorts of readers with different tastes, from casual to elegant.There are some new styles I have never seen before, such as the "Charm Bracelet" which are made on a base of kumihimo. So fun for a younger learner, or for you to make with your daughter or granddaughter! It has a steeper learning curve that the first project I mentioned, but it is really cute.If you are more of a "tuff chick", try the striking project which follows it, braided in leather, the "Leather Wrap Bracelet". This is quite possibly the one I would try first after getting that initial necklace down pat. It is a double wrap and resembles the Jens Pinds pattern woven from chain maille.Very cool.
In the 16 Warp Hollow Braid chapter, there is a knockout necklace and bracelet set called "Check Me Out". The necklace is plump and has a pendant, as well as two styles of copper chain. The bracelet is flatter and wider, cuff-like. The blue tones of the fibers chosen for this set and the copper chain and end caps, as well as a toggle, play off each other really nicely.
When the reader reaches the chapter called "16 Warp Trapezoid Braid", also known in Japanese as "Kawari Hira Kara Gumi" (each technique you learn comes with the original Japanese name for it) , there are some stunning bracelets to tempt. I liked the hip "Bling Bracelet" which has a number of sliders on black Chinese knotting cord. There is a variation of this one in a rusty brown with a brass adornment front and center, too. Very romantic but updated.
The final chapter is a total Wow! It is titled "Mixed Messages". You'll be braiding more than one braid and more than one color for these projects. For example, "Mighty Micro Braids" is a necklace with a centerpiece of three large big-holed lamp work beads, and a lush collection of kumihimo braids in all sizes and colors, both neutral and "pop". So marvelous, and you (and I) can do it!
There is a very nice explanation off what Marudai is at the end of the book (a way to braid without a disk) with some wonderful photos. For people who become complete fans of the techniques learned in this terrific book, it might be fun to try braiding with the marudai, a freestanding wooden construction which is totally intriguing looking!
This delightful book, Kumihimo Jewelry Simplified: Learn to Braid with a Kumihimo Disk, by the energizing and passionate author Rebecca Ann Coobs, is a must have for jewelry designers who are interested in using fibers when they make jewelry. Grab this for your library!


Unknown said...

Great review Jean, as always. 'love the Kumihimo braids!

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

Thank you so much :)


Eileen Bergen said...

Great review. I've wanted to try kumihimo for a long time. I bought all the supplies but was too intimidated by it. This sounds like the book I need "simplified" and with the slots numbered!

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

Thanks, Eileen--I like the very same thing about it!