Starting a Kumihimo Study Group

February 27, 2016 Photo: Robert Galivan
Cleveland Area Kumihimo Study Group
February 27, 2016 / Robert Galivan

It’s becoming quite popular for Kumihimo enthusiasts around the world to get together on an informal basis to braid together. Kumihimo Study Groups, as we call them, are a great way to meet your fellow braiders, learn new techniques, troubleshoot current projects, and to just have a good, braiding time. This post is how we started our Cleveland Kumihimo Group.

My co-founder, Susan Rothmann, and I first met at the 2014 Bead & Button Show. We took their first ever Kumihimo Master Class, taught by Adrienne Gaskell, and discovered that we live 20 minutes from each other in the Cleveland area! We agreed that when we returned home we’d start braiding together. However, life intervened and we never managed to get together. Fast forward to the 2015 Bead & Button Kumihimo Master Class. We met again, and decided to start a Kumihimo Study Group. The Cleveland Area Kumihimo Group was born in August of 2015.

There were some basic decisions that we had to make in order to begin:

  1. Mission & Purpose
  2. Initial Focus
  3. Structure
  4. Frequency of meetings
  5. Location of meetings
  6. Growing the group

 

Mission & Purpose

The mission of any organization defines their reason for existing and directs the activities of the organization. The mission of the Cleveland Area Kumihimo Group is to advance our knowledge and skills of Kumihimo braiding. Our purpose is to study Kumihimo Braid structures & Continuous Beaded Braids with other braiders who use the maru-dai. Braiding with beads is optional, but encouraged.

Initial Focus

For our initial focus, we chose to study braid structures, using Makiko Tada’s book, Comprehensive Treatise of Braids: Maru-dai Braids as our guide. We are systematically working through the book and create sample braids for two braids structures at each meeting. Some members braid with yarn or other fiber, while others use continuous beaded braids to study the braid structures. For those who braid with beads, we’ve discovered braids that we really like and some we will probably not return to. A couple of favorites so far are Kaku-yatus (square eight) and Hira-yatsu (flat eight). We tried them both using the continuous beaded braid technique. Kaku-yatsu worked well with size 11 seed beads. As the name implies, it’s a very square braid and the rhythm of creating this braid structure is very efficient. The Hira-yatsu braid when created using both size 11 and size 15 seed beads in the same braid, resulted in a braid with interesting shape and texture.

To ring in the new year, we decided to stray from the book for one meeting and create a braided ID lanyard project – some were braided using fiber, some continuous beaded braids, each unique. In late February we welcomed a guest braider, Bob Galivan, who taught us the Anda-gumi braid on the Hamanaka square plate, invented by Makiko Tada.

A private Facebook page was created as a place to announce meetings and for documenting our activities. After each meeting an attempt is made to not only post photos of our samples on our private Facebook group, but also to share our samples with other Kumihimo groups on Facebook. Because not all members use Facebook, we also have an email list to share announcements of upcoming events.

Structure

The Cleveland Area Kumihimo Study Group has an informal structure. A commitment to braiding on a maru-dai and an interest in our mission, purpose and focus are the only requirements to membership. There are no dues. Any group needs an organizer to schedule meetings and keep members informed of upcoming events but no one serves as a teacher. We braid in community and help each other figure out the various braid structures. As we grow, we may need to re-evaluate our needs, but for now, this informal structure works.

Frequency & Location of Meetings

Our goal is to meet monthly, and for the most part we have achieved this goal. Since initially, the group is small we decided to meet alternating between our homes, in order to share hosting responsibilities. Currently, we average approximately 4 members per meeting.

Growing the Group

We began by announcing our intentions to form a kumihimo study group, in Facebook Kumihimo groups, of which there are many. Those who were interested, contacted me. In order to stay true to the purpose of the group, I needed to screen for marudai use, as well as geographic location. It turns out that there are many individuals out there in kumihmo land that braid on a marudai and even more who would like to learn. While our group is based in Cleveland, we have members from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Maryland, California, Utah, and Florida (1/2 time). We think of these out of town members as virtual members, but even they occasionally join us live. They are working through Makiko’s book with us and some even post photos of their samples on our Facebook page for us all to see.

Susan and I are more than willing to help people learn the basics of marudai use. We have not yet established a try (kumihimo) before you buy (a marudai) program, but are considering this possibility. We continue to reach out on Facebook as well. Developing a beginner kumihimo class using a marudai is also in the early stages of development. We’d likely partner with our local bead stores and such well established organizations as theTextile Art Alliance of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Starting a study group wasn’t difficult. Having a partner in this adventure was helpful, but not totally necessary and being organized is a plus. A desire to braid in community is really the strongest requirement .

The Cleveland Area Kumihimo Study Group continues to grow and provide opportunities for members to study Kumihimo and braid in community. Is it time for you to start your own group?