Reprint from Bead & Button Magazine, April 2017

Kumi Q & A by Adrienne Gaskell

Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about using a soft core inside of a beaded braid but I’m unclear — why use a core and how does it work?

A: Cores are most often used to prevent a beaded braid from collapsing. A braid may collapse when the inside of the braid forms too large of
a hollow space. The core will fill that hollow space and keep the braid round. A two-drop kongoh braid may develop a hollow space if:

• The braid is made up of mostly 60 or larger seed beads. These beads have large holes and the warp cord will fill only a small portion of it. Thus, the beads are pushed to the outside of the braid, leaving a large hollow inside the braid. Sometimes stringing the beads on a heavier warp cord or doubling the warp cord can solve the problem. When this is not possible, a core will do the trick.

• The braid is made with mostly gemstone beads or pearls. Since these usually have very small holes, a thin warp cord or wire is used. The combination of large beads and a thin warp causes a large hollow inside the braid.

• The braid is made with 12 or 16 strands of beads. This will have a larger outside diameter than an eight-strand braid, again causing a large hollow in the center of the braid.

CORE MATERIALS

Many materials can be used as a soft core; rattail, yarn, cording, and t-shirt ribbon, to name a few. Core thickness requirements vary depending on the beads used, and so it may be necessary to test different core materials to determine what works best for your braid.

BRAIDING AROUND A SOFT CORE

If using the split ring start, tie the end of the core to the ring. If using the overhand knot start, tie the end of the core in with the knot. Cut the core at least 6 in. (15 cm) longer than the finished braid length.

There are several ways to manage the core and keep it out of the way while braiding. You can drape it around your neck or clip it to your shirt. It can also be hung above the disk or marudai using a ceiling fan, ceiling hook, or overhead lamp.

If you need to extend the length of the core in order to reach the overhead object, simply tie a long length of CLon/SLon to the end of
the core, and wrap the other end of the CLon/SLon onto a plastic bobbin. Hang the bobbin over a fan blade (photo), ceiling hook, or lamp. The weight of the bobbin will keep tension on the core while braiding.

If you’re working on a disk, another option is to simply flip the core to the opposite side of the disk from where the warp cords are being worked. Start with the core positioned on the left of the point of braiding, move the upper-right warp cord into position (figure 1). Flip the core from left to right, and move the lower left warp cord into position (figure 2). Rotate the disk, and repeat.

The diagrams are for kongoh gumi (round braid) Z spiral.