It’s the first Saturday in November, and on this dark morning the autumn colors are glowing! New England may have long winters (and equally long summers), but you just can’t beat the wonderful change of seasons here.
Tonight we’ll change our clocks back to standard time, and we’ll have some morning light for a few weeks before we head into the short days of winter. Tuesday is election day, and Thanksgiving won’t be far behind.
At this time of year I have a surplus of energy and good intentions. October was a great time for me to take a long weekend class at Red Stone Glen and then attend the 2nd annual kumihimo conference called the Gathering. I returned home from both with some new skills and lots of ideas for using those skills. What would the world be without teachers?
This is a shot of my class with Makiko Tada at the Gathering. We were learning a braid structure that she designed, called “Baby Bamboo”–Takenoko Tedori. The little chevron type figures in the braid suggest young bamboo shoots.
Mikiko is on the far right, in the front. I enjoy her teaching style, which is to give each student just enough info to set off on a journey to figure out some important tenets of braiding. It’s frustrating for sure to learn this way, but you can’t beat the thrill of discovering something on your own when it finally clicks!
Based on the movements that create Takenoko Tedori, we were to figure out how to make two smaller braids that could separate and rejoin, like buttonholes; and how to manipulate the color sequence into other patterns using the same movements.
This is Makiko’s sample braid that we studied in class. At the top of the photo is the section of the Takenoko Tedori that she taught us. Right below is the buttonhole variation that we had to figure out on our own. Below that are the variations that are based on changing the color positions of the tama and tweaking at the braid movements slightly.
For me, the biggest learning curve in this class were the plain color sections that separate the pattern sections. Those plain color areas are done by carrying one set of colors in the core while braiding only one color on the outside. I just happened to take a class on core braiding the previous day, but we had used core stands to achieve this. A core stand allows you to hang the unused tama above the working area where you actually braid. It’s a marvellous solution for keeping the core color out of the way as your braid. In Makiko’s class we did not have core stands, and she taught us how to braid by moving the UN-used tama along with the tama you want to braid. It was a mind boggling to do. The tama that carry the core move with the active tama, then have to get moved in the opposite direction to get out of the way of the tama that are actively braiding, and it was pretty hard to keep track of which direction I actually needed to go while doing this! It is considerably easier to do at home, with no other classmates, no background noise, and maniacal concentration on the braid. Whew!
Here is a small section of braid where I have manipulated the pattern by rearranging the color order of the tama.
In the previous day’s class, taught by Rosalie Neilson, we learned to do core braiding with the aid of a core stand. Here is the braid I made in that class. I learned something brilliant in that class about how to save a braid to continue in future. Take off the tama and replace with ‘easy-bobs,’ then put each element on a foam braiding disc in the order they were in on the marudai. Later, you can put the whole thing back on the marudai.
I learned some wonderful skills at this event, and spent time infused with good food and terrific camaraderie!
I also took one class that was just pure fun–making two bracelets in the Sami style of braided tin and beads on a reindeer leather base, with reindeer antler used for closures. Our teacher was Katherine Buenger from Minnesota. Do you know the Sami? They are the people who live above the arctic circle in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They are the foundation of our wonderful fairy tales of father Christmas and his reindeer-driven sleigh.
Here are my two bracelets. Who knew that reindeer leather could be dyed? I could not resist the bright green!
So I’ve returned home full of ideas for incorporating braids into my tapestry work. I realize now it will be some time before I feel ready to tackle my large PMoW (Portuguese Man of War) idea, so in the meantime I intend to play with the concept of braids in tapestry. It will be good experience. I’d better get a lot of work done in the coming weeks, when there is still light in the morning and the autumn scenes continue to amaze me.