Pru Mcrae: meet a Kumihimo expert

Today, I’m really thrilled to introduce you to a Kumihimo expert – Pru Mcrae! She has spent over a decade studying Kumihimo and bringing us beautiful projects to try. She is also a published author and the inventor of the Prumihimo disk. So, it doesn’t matter whether you already love Kumihimo, or you’re just discovering it for the first time. You’re going to learn so much from Pru…enjoy!

Welcome to Pru Mcrae

Let’s dive straight in and get to know the brilliant Pru Mcrae and her Kumihimo designs…

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How did you get started with Kumihimo?

I first came across kumihimo disk braiding in a magazine over a decade ago and I was immediately intrigued. I could see that it could combine my lifelong loves of textiles and jewellery making. So, I sent off for a disk straightaway and, since then, I virtually always have one in my hand!

Do you enjoy other forms of beading too?

I enjoy many other forms of beading and jewellery making and I particularly enjoy combining these skills with kumihimo braiding.

Is beading now your full-time career, or is it still a hobby?

It is my full-time career.

How would you describe your style?

I would describe my style as innovative and experimental. Much of my work combines kumihimo braiding with beadwork and some wirework. I particularly enjoy adapting traditional Japanese braid structures for contemporary jewellery making and breaking away from the strict rules of traditional Japanese kumihimo.

Who, or what, inspires your work?

I am inspired by the person who made disk braiding possible. The original round kumihimo disk was invented by Makiko Tada, which meant that expensive and cumbersome wooden braiding stands were no longer needed to make kumihimo. Makiko has been at the forefront of experimental and creative kumihimo for several decades.

Do you have a favourite piece (or pieces) of work?

That is always a very difficult question because each new design represents a new concept and a challenge overcome. What I am most proud of is having developed my own disk, The Prumihimo disk, which simplifies a traditional braid structure. All the braids made on this disk have a distinctive look and every time I see something made on this disk, by me or by others, I feel a real sense of achievement.
The most recent design I am proud of is my morse code necklace spelling out ‘Keep Safe’.  This is available free on my website to keep my fellow braiders busy and safe in these difficult times. (If you would like to try this project, here is the direct link).

What is your beading space like?

I am lucky enough to have a room in my house for my work and the family call it the Beadoire. However, kumihimo is very portable. So I tend to work in other parts of the house to be with other family members, to watch television or to enjoy the light in a particular room. I have even been known to braid while cooking, but I don’t recommend it!

Do you teach beadwork at all?

Since 2015 I have taught braiding in workshops in different locations in the UK, such as bead shops and bead shows. For two and a half years I was a Guest Designer on Jewellery Maker television, which involved live demonstrations of kumihimo jewellery making.

Has your work been published anywhere?

My work has been published in UK magazines: Bead & Jewellery, Beads & Beyond, Making Jewellery. Also US magazines: Bead & Button and Beadwork. Plus Australian publications: Australian Beading and Digital Beading Australia.
I have also published two books. My first book is The Prumihimo Disk – A fresh approach to kumihimo. My second book is Kumihimo Endings – The finishing touch for every braid.

Do you sell your work?

I never sell finished work … I only give my work as gifts. The only exception to this is when I have been commissioned to make samples for commercial companies.

Do you do other forms of craft as well?

I have enjoyed a life full of craft, such as silk painting, mosaic, knitting, crochet and so many more, but now Kumihimo takes up virtually all of my time. However, at the time of writing I am working hard to sew as many cloth face masks as possible.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start learning Kumihimo?

Feel the rhythm! Kumihimo involves a series of regular, repetitive hand movements and by relaxing into the rhythm of the braiding you will produce the best braids.

For anyone who already knows some basic Kumihimo braids, what would you recommend they try next? What will help them improve their skills and become more advanced?

I would recommend trying different braid structures. I have instructions for many of these on my YouTube channel. Half Round Braid and Hollow Braid are particularly pretty braids.
I would strongly recommend trying the Prumihimo disk because the braid it produces has a straight structure, rather than a spiral one, making it ideal for jewellery making. However, until the lockdown is over I will not be sending out any disks.

Can you give any tips about the best tools and materials to use for Kumihimo?

The condition of the disk is crucial to kumihimo. The tension of the braid is regulated by the slots on the disk and these will become stretched by wider cords, making them too slack to hold the thinner cords needed for beaded kumihimo. Disks are not expensive, so I advise keeping one for the exclusive use of thin cords.

For braids without beads I recommend starting with satin cord/rattail because its slippery surface helps to achieve even braids. Once you have learned how to braid you can raid your stash and experiment with all sorts of yarns, cords and ribbon.

For beaded braids I always recommend starting with size 8 beads and S-Lon Beading cord Tex 210/0.5mm. Once you have learnt how to add beads you can experiment with different sizes of bead and thicker or thinner cord.

Where can people find your Kumihimo patterns?

My patterns are available on my website, Here, I have more detailed tutorials in the shop, as well as a wealth of free information, instructions and quick patterns. You can also find a wide range of designs demonstrated on video on my YouTube channel,

What next for you?

I’m so grateful to Pru Mcrae for giving us a look into her Kumihimo world, and for the brilliant tips she has shared. If you are keen to develop your Kumihimo skills, I urge you to go and explore Pru’s website and YouTube channel. Having worked with Pru Mcrae in the past, I can personally testify she is a brilliant teacher!

Now, if you want to improve your beading skills in other areas too, then have you joined my mailing list yet? If you’re a member, then I hope you’re already enjoying your monthly newsletter, packed with beading tips and advice. Not a member yet? Then click here to find out more and sign up now.

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