Sunday, August 26, 2012

BSBP Deconstructed: Kumihimo Lariat

For those of you looking for my BSBP reveal post, it is here; I hope you'll click and look at the whole reveal! (one post down).

THIS post is the first in a series of posts giving the gory details on my BSBP journey. Thanks for visiting, and if you like design minutiae, this is the post for you!

The first piece I made for my recent BSBP (Bead Soup Blog Party) reveal was the kumihimo lariat, using semiprecious gemstone chips.

When I first opened my generous bead soup, I saw so many delightful elements, but knew I wanted to work with the "wing." toggle.
I was drawn to the wing toggle on the right

I wanted it to be front and center, so I turned my thoughts to deciding what I could create with a front closure. I love lariats, so I looked to the box of treasures I had received from my partner, Kate, and latched onto the semiprecious gemstone chips - and decided I would try to make a kumihimo lariat with them. I envision a long mulitcolored gemstone kumihimo braid, with the wing on one end and the toggle ring on the other - when worn, the wing would drop through the toggle ring and hang down.

I knew I would need to sort the chips by color, because I am far to anal to have them all randomly mixed up in my kumihimo. I separated them into 4 piles by color, and soon discovered that I didn't have nearly enough chips to make a kumihimo lariat, because kumihimo eats up a lot of beads! So I went digging in my stash, came up with more chips, (and I had to make an emergency run to Michael's to supplement my own meager chip stash!) Kate's gemstone chip strand consisted of amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, and peridot. Michael's didn't have any aquamarine chips, but they had blue topaz, which was very close, and once I had combined the aquamarine and the topaz, it was impossible to tell which was which.

I wanted to make a clear boundary between each separate gemstone in the kumihimo, so I enameled some large-hole beads to match the gemstones:
For those of you that are into enameling, these are the colors I used:

For the amethyst gemstone chips, Iris Purple enamel was a perfect match.
For the citrine, I blended  a base coat of pumpkin, followed by 2 coats of nut, then 2 coats of egg yellow.
For the peridot, I blended 2 coats of egg yellow on top of 2 coats of spruce green.
For the aquamarine/topaz chip mix, I used 1 coats of transparent turquoise on top of 2 coats of transparent aqua.

I got off to a lot (a LOT) of false starts on this project. Finding a stringing material that was long enough for the lariat, and thin enough to go through the chips, was a challenge. I finally settled on size 4 Griffin silk cord. It already has a needle attached, so it didn't have to be doubled to do the stringing, and it's fairly strong. I tested it on a few random chips, and it was a good fit, going through without too much difficulty.

The amethyst was my favorite of these 4 gemstones, so I decided it would be the beginning and end segment of the lariat. I started stringing the chips (tedium!) - and it took a couple of days to get all 8 warps strung, with the chips counted equally on each one. Plus, I was guessing how many chips to use in each color segment, because I couldn't find anything published about the number of chips per inch for kumihimo. And I wanted the different segments to vary in length a little, just to be a little bit random.

I placed the warps on the kumihimo disc, braided the first amethyst segment, and got ready to add my first enameled bead. I had chosen large hole beads, thinking that I would braid a little bit of silk cord without any beads to end the segment, and then cover this with the bead, and then start braiding the next color. I knew I would have to add the bead very carefully, so as to not disturb the braiding pattern. But I had neglected to think this through very well - there was absolutely no way those strung warps of chips was going to pass through the hole in the enameled bead. Duh!

So I had to unstring all the unbraided chips. Very sad face!

I added the first enameled bead, restrung JUST the chips for the next segment, and completed that segment, added a bead, and moved on to the next segment. Soon, the third segment was done, and it was time for the peridot. These chips were about half the size of the others, with, (duh!) much smaller holes. And I hadn't tested the silk cord on the peridot. For awhile, I was afraid I would be starting all over again, switching to #2 silk cord, but I eventually discovered that some of the peridot would go over the needle if forced (and some wouldn't - oops!), and by going back to Michael's and buying even more peridot chips, I finally had enough chips with large enough holes to complete the lariat. Yay!

I think I took the kumihimo apart a total of 7 times before it was done - the last time, because my plan had been for it to be twice as long as it actually is. I wanted it to drape around the neck twice. I figured I was ingenious enough to figure out how to add another piece of silk cord to each warp, covering the knots up with those large-hole enameled beads, because the 2 meters of silk I started with wasn't long enough for the 60 inch lariat I envisioned. I knew I would have to add cord. I kept braiding until I ran out of cord, at about 45, 46 inches of lariat. With considerable trepidation, I carefully added the next length of silk, tying knots, using glue, etc - then let the glue dry over night. The next day, I cut the ends close to the knots, and began the process of feeding the next enameled bead (the all-important knot-covering bead!) onto the lariat. I got it over 2 strands, then over the 3rd, and then discovered that there was no way that even this large-holed bead would fit over the jumbled, glued mass that was my 8-warp knot. So I started manipulating the glued knot with my pliers, squeezing it, trying to make it smaller, breaking off little hunks of glue, pulling the strands, pushing the bead, and after about 20 minutes, when I was trying to get the very last strand inside the bead, the knot gave way, and the newly added strand came flying up into my hand. Oops. Insert bad word of your choice HERE.

So, plan B. Or, plan E, or F - I've lost count. I decided the lariat would no longer wrap around the neck twice! I cut off a lot of the already braided kumihimo, arriving at the final length I now have.

At this point, I felt like the silver colored wing toggle was too much contrast for my rich, jewel tone lariat, so decided to patina it to match the amethyst. Details of the patina process are here. However, one last little change in plans - the toggle ring that went with the wing wasn't wide enough to accommodate the amethyst sections of the lariat (which were slightly wider than the citrine and topaz/aquamarine, and a lot wider than the peridot.) So I switched rings with the other toggle Kate sent me:

I think the wing goes nicely with the scrollwork on this toggle ring.

I also enameled a couple of filigree cones with the iris purple.

So there is the saga of the gemstone chip kumihimo lariat - it actually took a couple of weeks from start to finish, what with all the false starts and do-overs along the way.
kumihimo braid detail

this picture shows the disparity in diameter caused by the sizes of the different chips

the wing that started it all!

Stay tuned - I'll deconstruct another BSBP project tomorrow!


bailaora said...

great lariat, kumihimo is a difficult technic i suppose:) congratulations!

H.T. said...

Fantastic Work!
Beautiful idea of the design,wonderful balance and harmony in composition of colors,materials and shapes.
Very much textural lariat,modern and clear form.
Warm Greetings-Halinka-

Andra Marasteanu said...

Ohh, it's absolutely gorgeous!!!!
Love the idea, the colours, everything! Totally my style :P

Unknown said...

Very beautiful.

Jean A. Wells said...

This is a beautiful, no gorgeous, piece. I love it. And, there you go enameling again. I am beginning to think this is a habit of yours! Another great job and I love how you keep posting on. Now on to the original post.

RanaLea said...

This is just a phenomenal piece! Makes me want to learn kumihimo even more, now! :)

boston blogger said...

Love reading about your adventures here because it gives my hope about pieces I have to redo over and over until I get it right. Also thing shorter lariat is much nicer that double wrap around the neck. I may have to order some chips from Michaels.