Kongoh gumi on a marudai
Part 1: Setup
1. Cut four cords to the length specified in your pattern. Center the cords in a 10 mm or larger split ring, and tie an overhand knot to secure the cords to the ring (photo a). This creates the eight cords for your kongohgumi braid.
2. Feed the ring through the center hole of the marudai, slide a chopstick through the split ring, and tape the chopstick to the underside of the mirror (photo b). Arrange the cords around the mirror, placing two at the top (north), two at the bottom (south), and two on each side (east and west)
3. Using a Big-Eye needle, string each cord with beads as indicated in the pattern you are going to follow.
4. After stringing, tie a tama loop at the end of each cord, and attach a tama:
- About 3 in. (7.6 cm) from the end of the cord, make a fold. With the folded end, make a loop. Pass the folded end through the loop, and pull tight (photo c). This loop should be pretty small, but the size isn’t critical.
- Next, pass the working cord through the loop, making a large slip knot (photo d). Insert the
tama or bobbin into the new loop, and pull snug.
- Begin wrapping the cord onto the tama, winding about half of the beads onto the tama as you go. Push the remaining beads up onto the mirror. Stop winding when you have about 6 in. (15 cm) of cord
between the tama and the bottom edge of the mirror. Make a slipping hitch: With the working cord
coming from the bottom of the tama, grasp the middle of the cord with your dominant hand palm down (photo e). Flip your hand over, wrapping the cord around your fingers to forma loop (photo f). Slip the loop over the tama(photo g), and tighten the cord.
Part 2: Braiding
Note: The cords switch positions as you braid, but the active cords are always the ones in positions 2 and 6 and 4 and 8. It takes a total of four pairs of movement for the cords to return to their original positions. While you're learning the braid, it may help to label the tama so you can easily tell them apart!
Slide the beads off the mirror down to the tama. Remove the chopstick from the split ring below the mirror, and attach your counterweight to the split ring.
- Work a 2-drop kongoh braid with no beads for about 1 ⁄2 in. (1.3 cm): Movement 1: Bring the top-right cord down, and place it to the right of the bottom-right cord (figure 1). Bring the bottom-left cord up, and place it to the left of the top-left cord (figure 2). Rotate the disk 90 degrees (figure 3). Movement 2: Repeat “Movement 1” with the two cords that are now in the top-right and bottom-left positions (figure 4). Repeat the two movements until the unbeaded braid is 1⁄2 in. (1.3 cm) and all the cords are back in their original positions.
Continue working as in step 2, but now add beads using the “Drop, skip, jump” method: Lift cords 2 and 6. Isolate the top bead on each cord. While lifting the cords, drop the beads toward the point of the braid (photo a). Lower the cords down to touch the mirror, and “skip” the cords into their new positions (photo b). Watch as the beads slip under the previously braided cords all by themselves! Lift the cords slightly, and “jump” the cords into their new positions (photo c).Continue to add beads on each move and keep braiding until you’ve reached the desired length. As you braid, your cords will get shorter and you’ll need to adjust them as the tama get too close to the mirror. To do so, lift the tama slightly to release the tension on the cord, and rotate the tama toward you a bit. The slipping hitch will release the cord, giving you more cord to work with. To release more beads onto the working cord, remove the slipping hitch from the tama. Slide more beads toward the mirror, and make a new slipping hitch.
When your beaded braid is the desired length, work 1⁄2 in. (1.3 cm) with just the cords.
Using pliers or a hemostat, grasp the unbeaded end of the braid just under the point of braiding. While securely holding the pliers or hemostat, use your other hand to remove the counterweight. Lift the braid from the marudai, and rest the braid and the tama on your work surface. Seal the ends of the braid(see “Sealing the end of a braid”).
Part 3: Sealing the End of a Braid
Grasp the unbeaded end of the braid — just beyond the beaded portion — with pliers or a hemostat. Allow the cord burner to heat up for a second or two, and then apply the tip where you want to end the braid. Continue to apply the cord burner to melt and seal the end of the braid.