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May 20th, 2015 at 17:00 pm

Choosing A Class

I am on a braiding binge and so doing lots of thinking about “things I wish I knew back when”

Within that context – let’s consider how one might, in a near perfect world, take a serious approach to Japanese braiding and with future side trips in the much larger world of Fiber Art & Jewelry Braid Making.

These suggestions may not apply to your situation and yes, may be outside your means at this time.
“Let not your heart be troubled… ”
One of the best things about braiding, is opportunity exists at many levels of commitments in time and money
So use what you can as a starting point, and adapt as needs be to make it work for you.

Plus, everyone should be able to find some level of involvement withing their means that will bring them enjoyment in the making of braids.

Equally, there is NOTHING wrong with being among those who view braiding as just another tool in their jewelry making technique box so long as they are honest about their products.

But if that is you, you might want to stop reading now.

So why am I writing this rant –

Quite frankly, I care too much to be less than appalled by the background and training of those who would take your money in exchange for likely next to nothing other than how to screw the legs into your stand and generally exhibit no respect as an artisan for the craft they profess to be competent to teach.

The goal for this discussion is NOT to be “teacher specific” – rather to list and understand things that will best serve YOUR needs as a student at the level of your present expertise – a starting point for your own due diligence.

In case you were not sure so far, these are admittedly strongly held beliefs – but feel free to discuss the point and not the persons

Please be compassionate to your would be fellow students. Nothing can destroy a class for all involved when it is intended to build on a specific level of confidence. As with all “rules” there are exceptions, and “Japanese Braiding” holds a qualified exception

At one time or another we have all taken a class where there was someone who should not have been there. Way over their head, and pulling the rest of the class under along the way.

Be honest first with yourself and if you are determined, then contact the teacher and explain your situation honestly. Let them decide if it is worth your time and money to participate.

If needed accept you don’t meet the prerequisite gracefully and wait for a better opportunity.

Exceptions sometimes exist = when the class is led by a Japanese “trained” teacher – One whose training, skill and expertise represent a high level of competence in the craft AND the ability to teach. Why is this? Because their ingrained study and teaching ethics includes instruction with multiple levels of teaching – A Japanese one room school house if you will. Likely exists in other cultures and maybe in modern programs like the UK’s Cities & Guilds.

There are some excellent mentors to help you get started on your “braiding” journey in the use of the most basic equipment, the braiding stand either “flat top” or Marudai. If you are not yet able to participate in class, I truly hope you will find one who is a good fit to your needs.

If someone is kind enough to try to help you, one thing to expect is that at some point they will say it is time for you to make the commitment and find a way to study with a top level teacher. Do not feel abandoned, try to understand that they may know you need something different than they can offer.

So CAN you learn to use a marudai to make braids without taking a class? Some can – many try and even do but should you?

Speaking from experience – having to “unlearn” bad habits is second only to “unbraiding” in my least favorite learning experiences, so if you can, as early as you can after you determine that braiding on a stand is “right for you”
Find a way to learn from a well qualified instructor.

Can you learn to use a marudai CORRECTLY and create a basis for doing more than the “starting structures” of each braid family?

I don’t think so – there are just to many subtleties not covered in any current book or DVD that must be shown, first hand, with the velvet glove needed to guide you into the tiny differences.

Does that mean you should not try – of course not – probably not, but know up front that you are creating long term obstacles.

So what kinds of questions should you ask

Recently, as a morph of a discussion, I saw a really excellent summary of what one should look for in a teacher of braiding on a Marudai or “flat top” – and I hope this garners enough comments to create such a list –

Meanwhile, if I am going to pay for a class, I want some confidence that the teacher will have sufficient training to teach it “right”.

There are very specific reasons for every nuance of Marudai (and all other Kumihimo as well) –

The first things I would look for in a class description is a “defined” skill level and what if any prerequisites are required.

For formal learning opportunities (retreats, conference, ongoing study groups) – there is often a very strong correlation between costs and quality when one is considering fiber art education.
The obvious exception is when the class is being sponsored by an educational group such as a guild – and because of the quality of the setting, Then, dues paying members get a break because some of the costs are a membership benefit.

So it only seems prudent before spending hundreds of dollars to ask a question or twelve.

Look at the teach bio – with whom have they studied?
How long have they been involved in the craft –
What specific experience and expertise do they claim

Look at their work – yes, you may be a beginner, but is this something you “aspire” to create?

If the bio is not specific – ask how long they have been braiding – where else have they formally taught.

See what they share on line in braiding venues – does their commitment to the craft fall in line with yours?

Those are my openers –

Let’s work together to make a list of the factors to be considered before you commit your hard earned free time and money.

Definitely looking forward to hearing your comments here or in Facebook at either Beaded Braids Kumihimo & More
or the AllJustString community page

Or if you are shy, email Email wheat@itsalljuststring.com

Thanks for reading ….

Enjoy The Making,


May 16th, 2015 at 09:47 am

Asking Technique Questions

Sometimes it seems one should be afraid to answers questions for fear of being condemned as mean – when all you really want to do is the give the best possible advice. Sort of a form of no good deed goes unpunished.

Perhaps the most important part of asking a question is the context of your attitude – and the sincerity of your desire to learn.

In any craft, asking the question often does not lead to the answer you want, but it may lead to the answer you need.

If you choose to be a victor not a victim and that means a willingness to take the best advice – even when it means a less convenient path to a successful goal.

To the point answers may not seem gentle, but if your attitude is
not only will you happier because you go the help you needed –
but your results will ultimately be better and you will be happy with those results.

Nor, should any be “upset” or “fearful” of asking when their question requires more information before it can be properly answered.

So thinking about Beaded Braids – Particularly in a group where different forms of equipment are used for the same result. What is done on a disc might be handled differently on a braiding stand or marudai.

One of the context that far too often generates “well I am sorry I asked and make that mistake again” is a question that pertains to a specific pattern, tutorial or project.

The best answer to those queries is “Ask the Author”
Never mind issues of copyrights (although those are quite legitimate in some cases and not so much in others)

More importantly, there may be very design specific reasons how and why the author of the pattern or tutorial felt the work needed to be done for the best result.

For example the simple “which is correct” Left down, Right Up or Left Up, Right Down. First, the assumption here is often that there is only ONE structure in Kumihimo – or even only ONE “basic” or standard braid.

Fact one: in some cases, such as when it is ALL one color bead AND you are not concerned about the visible spiral of the Kongo Gumi (Hard Round Spiral) that is used for the instructions for most Foam Discs – then either is fine

But there are situations where color / bead placement WILL be effected by the direction used. This concept becomes even more important when or if you decide to expand your creativity by working other braids.

Besides, asking questions of the author also means you will be helping them to consider improvements to the information they provide.

So ask your questions and then read/listen to the answers with a a mindset of wanting to gain the best answers and your time in this group (or any other for that matter) will be better spent.

If you can do that, I promise your results will be better and you will be happier for the extra effort.

March 9th, 2015 at 05:53 am

Myth of Pricing

in: Pricing

every time I see the costing advice “2-3 x materials” it makes my teeth hurt.

If you do not respect your talent and expertise – no one else will either –

That means your first decision has to be to clearly define your goal.

Each of us has to make decisions about how we want to perceived. Why any artisan would choose to be comparable to Walmart is not something I will ever understand, but some do.

That means your first decision has to be to clearly define your goal.

The very idea of “what the market will bear” is so demeaning – If the market can’t bear the true value of your work, then you are in the wrong market.

Nothing can squeeze the joy out of creative work faster than turning it into the drudgery of making it a job where you are both under paid and under appreciated.

I know that not everyone has had the advantage of working in product development and so really understanding first the cost of manufacture BEFORE labor, the cost of labor, the overhead (all the business expenses shared over your entire business) and FINALLY the concept of PROFIT that must be added to the COGS (cost of goods sold)

I know it is just repeating what you have read “on the internet” and it seems like gospel. but 2-3 times the cost of materials is NOT what should be used for ANY hand crafted work.

Heck, that is not even the formula used by sweat shop manufacturing –

That might – very rarely – be PART of overall costing factor that is what is used AFTER all “development costs” have been recovered for mass produced items in less than nice places “for the workers”

If your goal is to be a “pin money” crafter, where all you really want is creative outlet and maybe be able to “replace” materials – that is your choice – neither good or bad.

If your goal is to seen as a professional, one who has invested time and money to learn their craft, then you need to rethink your pricing formula.

A large part of my life has been devoted to helping designers with tough love speech –

If you are in the pin money group, happy to recieve no compensation for time and talent and expertise then your costs, at the very least price for the COMPLETE replacement cost as if you had to make them the work again, and had to buy all the materials.

Or simply choose what many do, make for your own enjoyment and hopefully given as gifts to friends and family –

Obviously I have strong feelings about COSTING and how it effect PRICE – and someday I need to finish ‘the book” but if you are interested in considering more than slave labor pricing, – there are some blog articles starting at: http://wheatcarr.com/biz/pricing-pt-00-intangible-costs.php

If nothing else, please unload that gun you have pointed at your foot, respect the decisions of others instead of tearing them down for their business decisions and get past the bad business advice of applying mass production costing to hand crafting and above all – lose the false modesty, block the green eyed monster and decide what is right for you.

February 10th, 2015 at 09:08 am

Respecting Tradition

In cold weather I find myself often focused on exploring food – TheHenry likes this most of the time and early on in our decades together starting name the experiments he liked. So I could make a point of remembering what I did. In fact most dinners start with “What are we calling this?”

Inspired by a comment in a recipe group – today’s Passing (and perhaps prevailing context) thoughts.

Whether it is food or fiber work or any other aspect of a culture’s roots I prefer the commonality – the desire to give one’s family “comfort” using the best possible ingredients available and affordable.

Do you honestly think any ancestral home maker would have shunned the use of a food processor? Even and perhaps especially in many ways the Amish use technology – they just prefer people power.

Do you really think your great-great-grandmother would have found it preferable to hand sew a shirt rather than use a sewing machine and then have hours of time to spend on the embroidery or other fine details?

Is it really such a sin to use a circle cutter, rather than laboriously hand cut circles for whatever form of stuffed dough you and your family enjoy?

Are those who oppose machines also opposed to taking advantage of their home freezer to that found can be prepared in advance – meaning “on the day” they will have more time with family instead of alone time in the kitchen?

Quite frankly if they were not open to change and the opportunity to improve on their daily lives, would they have crossed an ocean as did the forebears of so many members of this group and migrate to North America?

No, I believe they would have welcomed the means to have time better used in other ways to provide comfort to the hearts and souls of their family and community.

I believe they would as reading accounts of every day life show, have made decisions based on their economic situation and the value of the “machine” – choosing to work and save for those most beneficial – I don’t have a dedicated machine for every food prep process, but I do have a Kitchen Aid with the specialty attachments that “cost justified” based on frequency of use.

Perhaps that is the tradition we should honor, careful use of our resources and not just acquisition for the sake of “owning”.

Yes, we should honor the past, allowing it to empower us in all ways while at the same time moving forward with respect for what brought us to this point.

February 9th, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Braiding Disc Counterweights


With the recent announcement of the new accessory for Braiding on Disc – the Kumi-Handle – it seemed like a good idea to address another braiding aid, the Counterweight.

Although I have spent many hours working with a counterweight on a disc so I would understand its use; I do not usually use one. Just not how I learned.

Shown above is the recently released (Fall 2015) version offered by The BeadSmith and the one you will most readily find in my e-store. There are many DIY Solutions and eventually I may put together a list but for today…

So for today’s addition to the “department of general information” espoused by Shirley Berlin – some background on the the three currently commercially available versions of counterweight. It is possible I missed some, but here is what I can “Verify”

First produced in Canada by Jamie North’s partner – Kevin Swanson were the Gator Weights – but like many basically one man operations, with the explosion in braiding interest they apparently had some difficulty meeting demand. I know I often waited weeks for BeadSmith to get shipments and seem to always have the item in back order. These weigh approximately 45gm and 87gm and are slightly larger in diameter than the current Kumi-Weight.

About a year or so ago, the next addition to the counterweight field was put out by Beadalon. There version shown in the compatibility photo are intended for use with their spool knitter and for kumihimo.

The Beadalon hooks are not unlike some machine knitting weights I have use. I have never seen these in person so cannot speak from experience. Like all tools I am sure they will have fans. Still given how I feel about the Knitting Machine hooks I have like that is the look of their hook – I suspect even at their much lower price point, they might not be my preferred solution when a counterweight is required.

Within the product description on my e-shop is more of my thoughts – but I admit to being amused that the first thing TheHenry said was “you won’t use those, the alligator clip will damage your fine threads” – not an issue for those only doing beaded braids with SLon cord.

This all need more thought, but I guess if I were not up for some DIY solutions, then I like that the most recent entry into the market has both the alligator clip and a hook (although I know the folks at BeadSmith have no clue how I will use it besides holding down the table cover on the picnic table.

What is important – is the consideration for those reliant on the counterweight if they will also be using the new Kumi-Handle. With that in mind, I will continue to work with my Handle, use the weight and share my findings.

Kumi Wt Handle Compatible

Looking forward to your thoughts, comments, correction and divergent opinions on to counterweight or not.

p.s. still fact checking the timeline, I know I have the order correct, just need to check further on the exact dates.

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