Friday, August 8, 2014

Killington Bear

Yesterday I was playing tennis at a place called The Summit Lodge in Killington, Vermont.  There are two St. Bernards that actually live at the Lodge and a French Bulldog that goes to work there with his owner.  I heard a commotion and saw the three dogs running at full-speed across the road and behind the maintenance building, with the Bulldog’s owner in pursuit, trying to get them to go back where they belong.  I was surprised at how fast the St. Bernards could move, but didn’t pay any attention beyond that.
A couple of minutes later I heard a racket in the bushes behind the maintenance building and the tennis courts.  I thought that the dogs were probably chasing a chipmunk and hoped it got away.  The next thing I knew, one of the St. Bernards was barking and looking up a tree, and one of the tennis players yelled, “There’s a bear in the tree!”
Sure enough, just 10 feet from the tennis courts was a tree with a medium-sized bear in it.  The one St. Bernard kept barking from the bottom of the tree, while the other two dogs kept their distance.  The bear had to readjust his perch a few times when branches broke under his weight, but he settled on a strong, thick one and hung on for dear life.  The poor bear looked terrified. 
Photo by Carol Moriarity
A few of the Lodge’s guests came down to look and take pictures.  They didn’t seem to realize that there was nothing between them and the bear. 
Photo by Diane Rosenblum.  You can see the top of someone's cap at the bottom-right of the photo.  
Those of us who were playing tennis stayed behind the wire fence, which probably wouldn’t have protected us for long.  Not to mention that the fence doesn’t even go all the way around the tennis courts.  Good thing that black bears are almost never aggressive!
The dogs and the gawkers finally went away.  The rest of us thought that the bear had been through enough stress and we went back to playing tennis.  We assumed that if we moved away from the fence, the bear would come down from the tree and leave.  After about ten minutes we heard what sounded like tree branches breaking, but it was actually the sound of the bear’s claws on the bark as he climbed down.  We all stood quietly where we were so that we wouldn't spook him.  When he got to the ground, he stood there looking at us for a few seconds.  Then he took a few steps toward the Lodge, changed his mind, and went back into the bushes and down the hill.
We found out later that the bear had been on the lawn in front of the Lodge and the dogs had chased it from there.
I’ve heard that there are several hundred bears living in Killington, especially on Bear Mountain.  We’ve even had them go through our yard, but this is the closest I’ve ever been to a wild bear.  It was VERY exciting!

Monday, June 9, 2014



I've been having discussions with some online friends about learning Kumihimo.  Now, I’m no expert, but I do believe that I've got the basics down pretty well—and the basics are what a beginner needs to know.  There is an incredible amount to be learned about Kumihimo and there are so many variations on this technique.  You can probably spend a lifetime learning new ways to work with it.  

These are the first three Kumihimo braids that I made.  They are all round and made from ribbon because that was the only type of cord that I had.  The top braid was made with four different colors of smooth satin ribbon in no particular pattern.  The middle braid was made with two colors of satin ribbon with picots in a spiral pattern.  The bottom braid was made with one color of satin ribbon with picots.

Personally, I love beaded Kumihimo, but I’m not going to talk about that here.  If you’re just learning, you want to start by creating simple, round, Kumihimo braids, like the ones above.  Once you’re comfortable with those, it will be easier to learn how to add beads.  Start with what’s simple, practice until you’re comfortable with it, and then learn the more complex techniques.

First, what is Kumihimo?  It’s the ancient Japanese art of combining fiber cords to create a braid.  Depending on the source, Kumihimo translates as “gathered threads,” “come together,” or “braided cord.”  The braids were used by ancient warriors on their armor and swords.  Later the braids were used as belts on Japanese kimonos.

Traditional Kumihimo is created on a wooden stand called a marudai, which is rather expensive and too large to carry around with you.  What we’re going to be talking about here is braiding Kumihimo on a foam disk loom.  The disk costs only a few dollars and is small and lightweight, which makes it very portable.  Many people like to take their Kumihimo projects with them to work on while riding the bus or while waiting for an appointment.  

Kumihimo braids can be round or flat.  Colored Kumihimo cords can be combined into hundreds of beautiful patterns depending upon how many cords are used and how the colors are loaded onto the disk.  I have read that braiding can be done with as few as 4 cords and as many as 100 cords!   

This blog series will be about creating a basic, round braid, which is made with 8 cords.  That round braid can be made into bracelets, necklaces, key chains, purse handles, and dog leashes.  I’m sure there are many other possibilities.

This is a 6-inch disk that is 3/8 inch thick from  The quality is top-notch.  It is very firm, which helps with the tension of your braiding.  Above the disk you see two bobbins.  The one on the left is closed and the one on the right is open and waiting to have a cord wrapped onto it.


Kumihimo disk loom:  The round disk can be about 4¼ to 6 inches in diameter.  The thickness can vary from ¼ inch to 3/8 inch.  Thicker disks promote better tension.  There are 32 slots around the edge of the disk, which are used to secure the cords.  Thicker cords will stretch out the slots, so it's good to have two disks.  Use one for thicker cords and the other for finer cords.

Cord:  This can be any strand of fiber used for Kumihimo braiding.

Warp:  This is another name for a cord.  The term is adapted from weaving.

Bobbin:  This is typically a plastic spool that folds onto itself to hold a long cord, thus keeping it from getting tangled with the other cords.  The weight of the bobbins also helps with the braiding tension.

Braid:  A braid is the product of Kumihimo weaving.  If it’s round, it is sometimes called a rope.

Weight:  Hangs from the start of the braid to help keep the tension even.

Tension:  A weight is attached to the start of your braid.  This weight works with the weight of the bobbins and cords to keep tension on the braid.  That makes the braid snug and even.

Here are two similar cords.  The green is is Petite Satin Cord from  It is about 1mm or 1/16 inch in diameter and is known as bugtail.  It has a wonderful feel to it!  The blue cord comes from Hobby Lobby and is 1/8 inch, about 2mm in diameter, and is known as mousetail.  Rattail is slightly thicker.

This is a list of supplies that you will want for creating a basic, round, 8-cord braid.

·      Round Kumihimo Disk
·      8 Kumihimo Bobbins
·      A Kumihimo Weight for the start of the braid.  You can make your own.  I've used a few keys that were attached to a clip as well as some fishing weights on a clip.  I've heard of others who use a small bag of pennies tied to the start of the braid.  I plan to buy a real Kumihimo weight from
·      Cords—see below.
·      Fray Check—to seal the braid ends before cutting.
·      E6000 glue—to attach the end caps.
·      Very sharp scissors for cutting the ends of the braid.
·      End caps—either glue the braid end to the end cap or attach wire to the braid end and make a wrapped loop through the end cap.
·      Clasps—when the clasp and end cap are one unit you must use glue.  This is also true when the end cap has an open end and a totally closed end with a built-in loop.
·      Thread—you can wrap the braid ends with thread before cutting the ends.
·      Tape—you can tape the braid ends before cutting the ends.
·      26 or 28-gauge wire—you can wrap the braid ends with wire before cutting the ends.
·      20-gauge wire—for making wire-wrapped loops.  This can be done with cones or end caps that are open on both ends.
·      Round-nose pliers for wrapping loops.

     These are the ribbons I used in the braids at the top.  They are the 50 cent spools from Michaels and they work very nicely.  The ribbon with the picots is a little wider and the braids from this ribbon are larger than the braids from the plain ribbon. 

There are many types of cords that you might use for your braid:
·      Rat tail, mouse tail, bug tail—here’s a great description:
·      Ribbon—try the 50 cent spools of narrow, satin ribbon from the craft stores.
·      Yarn—especially the fancy specialty yarns.
·      Embroidery floss—don’t separate the threads.  When braiding without beads, you might want to double up, putting 2 strands in each slot, because floss strands are finer than bugtail.  Metallic embroidery floss is wonderful when working with beads that are somewhat transparent.
·      C-Lon and S-Lon—these cords are the same but from different manufacturers.  They come in multiple sizes (buy cord, not thread) and are for use with beads.  As a rule, I don’t recommend them when braiding without beads, unless you’re trying for a special effect.

That's it for now.  

Part II will deal with setting up the disk and making the braid.
Part III will address several techniques for finishing the braid.

                    © Copyright 2014 Linda's Art Barn. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hello, Heart Surgery, and Kumihimo

Oh, my goodness.  I haven't posted anything here since last July--six months ago.  How did that happen??!!  It wasn't for any one reason.  I guess I just got too busy being retired.
My husband finally retired in October after putting it off for several months.  For years he'd been traveling a few days a week to New Jersey for work and had continued to see his doctors there.  When his retirement was official, he decided to find new doctors here in Vermont.  He started with a new cardiologist, who put him through a bunch of tests and declared that he was ready for an aortic valve replacement, and while they're at it, they're going to bypass that old stent that blocked up years ago.  That was unexpected.  His surgery is January 23 and all prayers are welcome.
In the meantime, I've been learning how to do Kumihimo, a form of Japanese braiding with lovely cords and sometimes with beads.  It's sort of a cross between braiding and looming.  I had a class in beaded Kumihimo a couple of years ago, but I didn't have the correct supplies (my fault) and my bracelet was a major failure.  After learning a bit more about it, I decided to try again.  This time the proper way. 
I started out by learning how to do a "simple" 8-warp braid with thin ribbons and it was fun. I made a few more ribbon braids and decided it was time to tackle a beaded braid.  
I took a photo of my pathetic attempt to make a braid with the wrong thread.  It was supposed to be a round rope, but it turned out "squishy" and kept morphing into weird shapes.  Yes, squishy might be a real Kumihimo term.  I learned it from my Kumihimo friends.
FAILED KUMIHIMO:  Instead of looking like a rope, this braid was flat in places and looked like there were beads missing in other places.  They weren't really missing; they'd just moved out of place.
I cut the failed braid apart and started from scratch.  This time I used the proper size thread for the bead holes and I used a weight to control the tension and bobbins to keep the warps from getting tangled.  I'm very pleased with the outcome.
Much better!  This is a round rope.  These beads are not uniform in size, so the edges are a bit bumpy.  Personally, I like this texture and I love the multiple shades.  And there's no squishiness!
Once I had completed the first bracelet successfully, I decided to make another bracelet. This time, the beads are very uniform in size, but I used two different colors.  I also chose a pattern that made a spiral of the colors.  The spiral is a little difficult to see because there isn't a lot of contrast between the two colors.  The darker color is very close to the new Pantene Color of the Year for 2014, Radiant Orchid.  It's yummy.
In the center-left are three of the lighter, very transparent beads.  You almost can't see them.  Just to the right of them are three of the darker beads.   The thread I used was a metallic, light purple, which really lit up those transparent beads from the inside.  I tried several different clasps before I settled on a magnetic clasp with a safety chain because I gave the bracelet to a friend who's in her 80's.  I didn't want it to be hard for her to fasten.
I really enjoy this beading technique, which has many variations, some of which are quite complex.  This should keep me busy for a long while!

© Copyright 2014 Linda's Art Barn. All rights reserved.