Lately, I’ve been thinking about my braid samples and wondering what to do with them. You know what I’m talking about –  those 8, 10, or 12 inch — or longer — experiments you make when you’re taking a new technique class or trying out a new braid My samples were all over the house, completely unorganized and undocumented.  After eight days of rainy weather and a case of laryngitis, I needed

First marudai braid

a project and so I began the hunt. I found samples in drawers, hung over doorknobs, in unpacked pouches, randomly lying on tables.  I put them all together in spite of the mistakes, uneven tension, and odd color combinations.  Each one brought back a memory and a feeling – sometimes accomplishment and sometimes frustration. But, all together, my samples tell a story and I love them.

I found the very first braid I ever made on a marudai. I took a “Kumihimo Immersion” class with Adrienne Gaskell at Bead and Button in 2011. I was absolutely enamored with her elegant labradorite teardrop necklace and ran to the show floor (during the class!) to buy some “similar” beads. I came back with these huge daggers, and with Adrienne’s kind guidance and supervision, I worked for hours. I succeeded with the technique, but the outcome wasn’t quite what I planned! My necklace looked more like a dog collar. When I got home, I hid it. Today, I embrace it!

First continuous beaded braids

My second find was a continuous beaded braid that I made shortly after the dog collar.  Continuous beaded braids were what lured me to the marudai. I saw a necklace in one of Jacqui Carey’s books that caught my eye and I just couldn’t figure out how to do it on my own. I was still using the disk most of the time and you just can’t do those braids on a disk. Adrienne invited me to a workshop at her home. Stringing the beads wasn’t an issue for me, but edu-yatsu was a bear! I was basically a Kongo-on-the-disk-kinda-girl and anything on the marudai was frightening and intimidating. Nevertheless, I took my marudai and some beaded cord on a vacation and practiced over and over and over. I practiced so much and massaged the braid so much I wore the coating off of the beads. Looking at this sample shows me how far I’ve come. I love CBBs, and I must admit 12-Strand hira kara with size15/0 beads is my favorite.

Makiko’s class in Japan

My next found memory was a good one too. Still the Kongo-Disk-Girl, I ventured on a two-week Japan Adventure, again, with Adrienne, to meet and take classes from the world renowned Makiko Tada. What was Kongo-Girl thinking? We used a synthetic silk and dressed the marudai.  Makiko gave us a paper with lots of round circles and dots on it and then, every half hour or so, told us to move on to the next group of circles. I was in braiding musical chairs! When the music stopped, we did too, and we were onto a new braid structure. My poor brain! On the second day with Makiko, we worked on the square plate and I did much better. Nevertheless, my sample for the marudai doesn’t look so bad, does it?

Current samples from a Rodrick Owen class

Since these early days, especially in the last year, I’ve broken away from the disk and learned to explore the magical world of braiding, especially on the marudai. Now I have strings and strings of braids that I proudly look at – each one is a different experience, and memory, and I can see how much I‘ve learned.  So, to answer the question, “What do I do with my samples?” I keep them. I look at them and I learn from them.  Now, if I could only start cataloguing and labeling them!