Friday, September 18, 2009

The Journey Begins

I'm still in the midst of braiding with horse hair and haven't posted anything in a while.  I've been trying off and on to put pen to paper about how I started braiding.  Here's what led to my very first kumihimo braid...

The Journey Begins

I didn’t know it at the time, but my journey began one sunny winter afternoon in Jackson, Wyoming. It was early February, 2007, and my cousin and I were there for a week of fun and freezing.

We were poking into all the nooks and crannies around town when I saw a bracelet made from horse hair. Being an avid horsewoman and interested in all things horsey, I picked it up for a closer look. It was several narrow three-strand "pig tail" braids finished with crimps on the ends and a toggle clasp. Now, I have many years of braiding horses' manes and tails for the hunter show ring under my belt, and I've become pretty good at it. My immediate reaction was, "I can braid better than that!"

Needless to say, I put the bracelet down, and we moved on. But I kept thinking about it.

The First Steps

A few weeks after returning home, I fired up the computer and Googled “horse hair bracelets.” There’s a bunch of web sites out there selling them. Many didn’t appeal to me, but Suzanne Storms’ braids were different from anything I had ever seen. I was intrigued; I just HAD to know how to make a braid like that.

Further searches on “Suzanne Storms” led me to the Victorian Hairwork Society site. I discovered there are books on how Victorian hair jewelry was made, that horse hair can be purchased in bulk, there’s something called “kumihimo,” and there are books on how to make kumihimo braids. WOW! There’s a whole world of braiding out there! I wanted to know more.

More Discoveries

More searches on “kumihimo” led me to all sorts of places. I discovered there were such things as the marudai and tama, and I saw lots of braids and jewelry made from various fibers. They were eye-openers and fascinating, but at the time they weren’t what I was interested in.

I also discovered something called a braiding disc. There were even instructions on how to use it for some braids. I immediately understood that many braids that could be made on the marudai could also be made with the disc. And this was something I could experiment with without a big investment.

The Very First Kumi Braid

I was anxious to get started and hoped the local craft store would have a large selection of braiding equipment and supplies. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. However, in the kids’ craft section there was a kit with a foam disc and plastic lace for making lanyards. The disc looked much like the ones I had seen online and the kit was inexpensive, so I took the plunge. I also looked for something that would be about the same thickness as a bunch of horse hair, and found some hemp (normally used for knotted friendship bracelets).

I eagerly ripped open the kit when I got home. It even had instructions for several different braids. The square one looked nice and I decided to try it. The instructions were clear, and I was actually making a braid! And it was looking good! Holy cow… this might really work!

Here's the braid...

And here's the disc.

The braid was about the right size for a bracelet, but it didn't smell very good!  And I knew there would be a whole of of things I'd have to figure out to make a horse hair bracelet.  Nothing like a good challenge...!

This seems like a good place to pause...  more to come sometime later when I get my thoughts together.  I have several other post ideas, but I WILL get back to this (and that's a promise).

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