Jacqui Carey's "Beginner's Guide to Braiding"

Sorry, I now this blog has basically become the "braiding blog" lately, but it's sort of what my life has become at this point. I did fall asleep last night noodling on a carpentry poject, but it will be weeks or maybe months before that comes to pass, so here we go.

I finally went to the library last week to see what books they might have on kumihimo. I'd seen books from Jacqui Carey referenced on various web sites, so I was happy to find a copy of this one on the shelf. Carey is one of the luminaries in the modern braiding world. She has written several books on braiding and travels the world studying the braids of diferent cultures and giving classes. She is a mathematician, and has explored the theoretical side of braiding quite extensively, trying to determine how braiding works and developing new braids and braiding styles.

This book, Beginners Guide to Braiding: The Craft of Kumihimo is just what it says. It is a slim volume (64 pages), but it is packed with enough color photos to get anybody started with kumihimo. Carey covers all of the equipment you need, and gives instructions for six basic 8-strand braids. Each braid is diagrammed, photographed in a step by step fashion, detailed with more photographs of the "active site" of the braid, and explored with photos of color and material variations.

I went through the book, and made a sampler of all six patterns. I only did 16 or so iterations of each pattern, and I did it in a single braid to save set-up time.

Carey starts with this "square braid" that I'd never tried before. It's a good choice, I think, as the moves are simple and the braid has a nice structure.


Carey calls this "round braid". I've been calling it "kongo gumi". It's a fast, solid braid that adapts well to every even number of threads that I've tried.


This is another I haven't seen before, but this "flat braid" is a type of braid I've been looking for. Expect to see more of this braid from me in the future.


I'd made something like this "honeycomb braid" when I was playing around trying to use up yarn, so it's good to see that it's a recognized braid.


I've been calling this braid "Edo Yatsu", but Carey calls it "hollow braid". The color variations she explores show some of my favorite versions.


Everybody else seems to call this "Hira Kara Gumi", but Carey titles it "rounded flat braid". It's a classic, and a good braid for closing out the book.


This book isn't everything I might wish. For one, I can understand whe Carey wouldn't want to bog new braiders down in Japanese terminology, but I think it's a disservice to not even mention traditional names for the braids so that braiders can relate to information they find elsewhere.

Secondly, she only acknowledges traditional materials and equipment. She gives no help for braiders who might be working with floss or yarn. She gives no help for braiders who may be working with a foam disk instead of a marudai. Only brief mention is made of improvised marudai.

Anyway, I consider those to be nits to pick. This is a good introduction to kumihimo, and if my descriptions of braids have intrigued you rather than bored you, and you're uncomfortable gleaning instructions from the Internet, you should definitely hunt down this book.

2009.01.20 at 9:30am EST