This past weekend, I participated in a Kumihimo workshop given by Alison Irwin.

Kumihimo is the ancient Japanese art of braiding.  Traditionally, the round cords are made with at least eight strands and were used for tying samurai armor.  They also make exquisite ties for clothing – particularly the obi sash on kimonos.

Alison is an inspiration –  impeccable in her presentation and documenting of her work and apparently insatiable in her art.  The combinations and permutations of pattern and colour seem to be infinite, and certainly the myriad samples, each carefully labeled with the pattern drafts proved that.

We were introduced to the Marudai and the  many utterly ingenious ways that Alison has invented to create her Marudais.  She’s even working on a system that will fit in a neat flat package so she can take her kumihimo-ing everywhere.

Then we worked with the cardboard disks, starting with eight cotton strands and increasing to 16 and working a sample piece with several patterns.  The black and white sample in the bowl shows only some of the patterns possible with eight and eight.

When I came home, I was so fired up that I made another braid, the tan and white one, with seven white and nine threads in contrasting neutral shades of tan, gold and olive.  With the subtle colour shifts, the simple block pattern is reminiscent of reptilian patterning.