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Traveling with your jewelry projects: Kumihimo

Create beautiful jewelry, wherever you are!
Kumi disk

With summer vacation season in full swing, we thought we'd take a look at how you can bring your jewelry making on the road!

Knitters and crocheters seem to have the skill mastered; my friend Melissa works on her crocheting while she's sitting at traffic lights! But we jewelry makers have more complex issues facing us than how to carry a hook (or needles) and a skein of yarn. We have heavy tools, teeny beads, boards and jigs and bench blocks, and all kinds of other things. So let's take a look this week at some neat items that can make our jewelry-making journeys less cumbersome. 

Later this week, we'll look at some traveling bead boards that can keep your Delicas from disappearing and your crystals contained. 

But first up: Kumihimo! 

A traditional marudai
A Hybridai
hybridai collapsed
A picture of the hybridai collapsed, from the manufacturer's website

For the uninitiated, kumihimo is a Japanese art form that involves braiding eight or more different cords or ribbons to create stunning braids that can be used in necklaces or bracelets. Beads can be added as you work for an endless array of lovely options in both color and style. 

So how do you keep all those cords or ribbons separate as you work? There are two different tools that a kumihimo artist chooses to use in a project. The first is a disk, pictured above, and that's certainly easy to travel with! Designed by kumihimo master Makiko Tada, it is made from a flexible foam and features notches around the edges to keep your cords organized. The disk is a great option for simpler projects using shorter cords and for anyone who wants to enjoy kumihimo without making a large investment. But it is not recommended for projects that use continuous strands of beads.  

Most expert kumihimo artists prefer to work on a marudai (ma-ru-dye). This traditional Japanese braiding stand is made of wood with a round top. They come in different heights, but can be as large as a small coffee table! The marudai is the fastest and most efficient method of creating kumihimo braids, and once mastered, it is at least twice as fast as the foam disk. A good marudai is worth the investment as it will last a lifetime. But a marudai can be cumbersome and difficult to carry and unless you get one that comes apart, like those available at Fiber Artist Supply Company, taking it on an airplane is near-impossible. 

So what bridges the gap between a disk and a marudai? A Hybridai, of course!

This new concept kumihimo stand gives you all sorts of braiding options. The mirror is reversible, so you can use notches (like slots) or have a smooth braiding surface. The notched top is nice because it holds your cords in place, protecting from bumps or spills. Or, if you prefer, you can snap your foam disk into a special adaptor, which allows the disk to rotate smoothly (and lets you braid with both hands). The mirror sits on a tabletop braiding stand that can be used by itself or rested on leg extensions that bring it up to the usual western marudai height. An adjustable angling device allows you to set the Hybridai at an angle if that is a more comfortable braiding position for you. 

As far as traveling with your Hybridai: it is portable enough to take with you. It is constructed of durable HDMF and hardwood, sturdy but weighing less than 9 pounds. More importantly, it arrives flat packed and features snap-together construction; it assembles and disassembles with no tools needed. You could pack it in a suitcase with no problem, and braid away in your cabin in the woods or tropical island retreat.

Crafted with an appealing design, this braiding system isn’t cheap but it is attractive and highly functional. Find it at
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