The Tuesday Night Beading Club: The Weave of the Compass
Alma Montgomery poured a vial of opal coloured bicone crystals into her bowl of mixed beads and began to string her fishing line with her bead soup as she noticed Queena and Birdie busily sitting at a small table in the corner of the store, drawing flowers with their markers and being uncharacteristically quiet.
Tonight’s project was a beaded Kumihimo lariat, but if Alma could catch on, she planned on going the extra mile to make a belt instead. She had a hectic day at the newspaper and she enjoyed the chance to unwind by winding up her strands of beads.
Tonight’s project required a special wooden beading loom Melody called a marudai. It looked like a large, thin donut on a tripod. It took a long time to string the long eight strands of beads to get the project going, but Alma was nearly finished her final strand.
Fern looked at Alma’s strands and nodded in approval. “You always choose the best colours.”
“So do you,” said Alma.
“But with you it seems to come naturally.”
“It is true,” agreed Magnus as she straightened out her eight strands of palladium seed beads of various sizes, obviously emphasizing texture over colour. “Your elegance shines through your colour choices.”
“I love what you are doing with your piece, Mags,” added Anne as she continued to string her black and gunmetal coloured strands. “It looks striking.”
“I am making this as a gift for my mother.”
“How is she doing these days?”
“Oh, she is off to Stockholm to test one of her more outré theories, but she should be back in time for your mother Bingo’s birthday.”
“And then the real outré shenanigans begin. Does she still have anything to do with that cult she started in Pretoria, Mexico City, Moscow, and Wellington?”
Melody gasped. “Your mother started a cult?”
“She started a little religion as part of her method research. It is one that advocates that deities are busy and taxed, and so, they didn’t leave us in a lurch since they gave us the tools to solve our problems on our own. In lieu of prayers, just do good deeds.”
Elah held the white strands as Svetlana gasped while helping straighten them out. “Your mother sounds like a wild woman!”
“Oh, she is sensible and prefers her classical music with a warm cup of tea. She merely travels to explore the depths of the human psyche.”
Flora laughed as she tied a knot. “I would love to meet her, Maggie.”
“I will bring her over here when she flies down.”
“Your mom Clara would just hit it off with her, Alma. Two divas of science would have a lot of possibilities if they got together. Did Maggie ever tell you her mom can pilot her own plane?” smirked Anne.
“She has her ways,” Maggie said matter-of-factly.
“She could give Theo a few aviation lessons, you know.”
“Theo is quite the aviator in his own right. Melody, it seems we have all finished the difficult part,” Magnus replied as she watched Queena and Birdie whispering and giggling before jumping out of their chairs and running into the backroom taking their drawings with them.
“Watch me,” said Melody as she placed her eight strands of beads on the marudai, two strands on each side, forming a cross with the strands as the beading group got up from their chairs and formed a semicircle behind her.
“I call Kumihimo a weave of the compass, because you have two strands for each direction – north, east, west, and south, but the word is Japanese for gathered threads. We are using a marudai, but you could also use a takadai if you wanted a flat braid instead of a round one. Samurais would use a Kumihimo braid to lace up their armour. Most people use ribbon to make a Kumihimo braid, but we can also use beads to get a very dramatic effect.”
Alma leaned forward as she watched Melody begin to braid the strands as she continued to speak. “Take two from the south and bring them to the north like this, then take the two from the north and take them to the south. Take the two strands from the west and bring them east, and then take the two from the east and bring them west. This is the Square Kumihimo, and that is all there is to it. It takes longer to string your threads than to do the actual braiding.”
The group watched as Melody quickly braided the lariat before taking it off the marudai and then sewing the ends end to secure the beads.
“Bravo!” Alma applauded. “It’s gorgeous!”
“It is simply beautiful,” Elah sighed as she returned to her chair and began to weave the strands. “I hope I can remember those steps.”
“South to north, north to south, west to east, and east to west,” said Magnus as she began to braid.
“You seem to be a natural at this one, Mags,” said Anne as she braided at a slower pace.
“It is right angle weave that confounded me, but I used to be the navigator on family outings when I was a child; compass directions are simple enough for me.”
Magnus was interrupted by the ringing of her phone. She looked at the screen before answering. “Mush Pot, what is it? Yes? Braddie is there, too? Yes? Oh, that does sound important, but I cannot leave in a middle of a beading lesson. Yes, I know science is important, but so is art and I pride myself on never missing a beading lesson…Theo, that may be true, but I am making a lariat for my mother and I trust your sensibility will prevail. Good, I will see you in about an hour. Good-bye.”
“Sounded serious,” said Svetlana. “Is everything all right?”
“Yes, Theo has something to show me. I will find out in an hour. Alma, that lariat of yours is magnificent.”
Alma smiled as she looked up. “It’s going to be a belt….I, oh nuts, I forgot my place. Oh, I hope I don’t get this tangled and have to start again!”
Melody walked over to have a look. “Not too serious, I can fix that…”
“Gracious,” said Magnus as she lifted her head and sniffed the air. “It smells like a perfume factory in here.”
Melody raised her head and smelled the air, noticing the strong smell as well. “Not just any perfume!” She ran out of the store front and into the back before she yelped, “Girls! What did you two do now?”
Everyone put down their work and ran into the house and gasped at the overwhelming odour coming out of the dining room. There in the centre of the scene was Queena and Birdie who sat at the table with empty perfume bottles looking stunned.
“We made flowers,” said Birdie as she pointed to her drawings. “We wanted them to smell pretty and be real flowers.”
“We took perfume and ta da!” said Queena. “Markers and perfume make science!”
Svetlana walked over and lifted the drawings to reveal the stain on the table cloth. “Markers and perfume do not mix on cloth, you two.”
“What a tintinnabulation,” sighed Magnus. “Science is always such a messy affair.” She moved in closer to look at the smeared drawings. “You girls will have to come over to my garden for a visit where you can play among real flowers. Thursday is your science day, if I remember correctly.”
Melody rolled her eyes as she removed the wet paper from the table. “Why can’t their experiments be less destructive?”
“Ah, come on, Mel,” said Anne as she pulled the table cloth and folded it before pointing to Elah. “Remember the time where the three of us tried to change the colour of dirt to match our clothing?”
Melody and Elah laughed. “We didn’t want to get lectured about coming home dirty after exploring the ground,” said Elah wistfully. “The food colouring didn’t work, and using my mother’s acrylics did not go exactly according to plan, especially after mom found out we used all of her paints.”
“What we did in the name of science,” said Melody. “And the fine old tradition continues.”
Flora smiled. “Since everything seems to be under control, I think I am going to continue the fine old tradition of art-making back in the studio.”
“I hope I don’t lose my place again,” said Alma. “I really love my belt.”
“It will make you look even more radiant than you are,” said Magnus as she walked with the others to the Studio and then looked at Alma’s belt. “South to north, north to south…”
“West to east, and east to west. Thanks, Maggie, I won’t get tangled now.”
After Melody and Anne returned with Queena and Birdie skipping behind, it did not take long for everyone to finish their pieces and wear them home from the Singing Quilt, all remembering the directions of the Kumihimo as their pieces shone beautifully in the moonlight, especially Alma’s belt that moved as gracefully as the wearer herself. As she carefully studied her belt once again, she suddenly remembered what critical element was missing from the beading group – and would bring up the omission at the next lesson. After all, Queen’s Heights was founded on work being weaved into play and it was about time the Tuesday Night Beading Club did the same.