The braid can be worn in several different ways. Let it hang loosely around the neck like a scarf or join together the two Kongō Gumi braids above the tassel with a decorative barrette or jeweled pin. It can also be worn as a choker by passing the Kongō Gumi braids through the bottom of each loop. The tails can hang freely or be tied into a square knot. Enjoy welcoming the shoots and leaves of spring with a “spring green” accessory for your wardrobe.
The inspiration for this design stems from the era of the 1980's, I was one of many weavers on a textile tour of the Orient with Russell Groff (Robin and Russ yarn store co-founder). Our tour started in Japan … and that’s where I learned about kumihimo. Our first stop was a Tokyo kimono academy, where we had a demonstration of how to braid kumihimo on the marudai and the kakudai. That afternoon, while the weavers toured the Ginza shopping area, I arranged for a private tutor to teach me how to braid on both stands.
At the end of the day, I bought both stands, and was given two books written in Japanese. I enjoyed the technique so much, that I returned to Japan on several more occasions to continue my studies both in Japanese braiding and obi weaving design.
After my initial return to Oregon, I began studies in Tea Ceremony to learn the art of serving and drinking green tea, a new custom I experienced in Kyoto. I also “devoured” my two braiding books. I could understand the illustrations, but not the content, so I started studying Japanese to help me decipher my books.
A few years later, I taught a kumihimo braiding workshop at the Tea Ceremony school. During the early 80’s, people had access to beautiful kimono which were shipped in large batches, and the tea ceremony students were interested in customizing their kimono with matching obijime (the kumihimo cord that holds the obi in place).
One of the tea students was a gardener from Japan who tended the Portland Japanese Garden. During the workshop, students chose one color of silk to produce a coordinating obijime with three different braid structures … square, round and flat. The gardener chose a florescent green which he told me was his favorite color-- calling it “spring” green. (It’s several tints lighter than the flavorful green tea served in the Tea Ceremony).
The project which follows is in honor of the season about to come, and in honor of the gardener who still shapes our sakura cherry trees and rhododendrons. The project named after him is “Masa’s Spring Green”.
After the workshop at the Tea Ceremony school, I continued to study braid structure but my main interest turned to color and design. I was curious about how many different designs there are in a particular braid structure. The various designs are determined by the initial placement of the multi-colored elements before the braiding commences. This curiosity lead to the development of a software program, two books on specific 8-element braids (Hira Kara Gumi and Edo Yatsu Gumi), and a recently published book called Kongō Gumi – A Cacophony of Spots – Coils – Zags – Lines.
The project that appears in the January/February 2014 "silk" issue of Handwoven Magazine is a neckpiece formed by interlinking two silk kumihimo cords. Each cord has an 8-element loop at one end and a 16-element braid at the other. For the 8-clement braid I chose the 2-color layout of Braid 19 from The Twenty-Four Interlacements of Edo Yatsu Gumi, and a 6-spot braid (6.217) which looked like a flower from Kongo Gumi – A Cacophony of Spots - Coils - Zags - Lines. Both braids are constructed from the equivalent of two different colored packages of silk, each containing 4 elements or ropes,