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Adrienne’s big kumihimo adventure

For the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories and photos from kumihimo artist Adrienne Gaskell as she takes a month-long kumihimo-related trip down the west coast of North America, from Vancouver to San Diego. Her journey will take her to various bead stores and manufacturers, the Braids 2016 conference in Tacoma, Washington, and a 3-day workshop of her own, with lots of stops along the way. Come back every week to see what she’s been up to!

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Week 1

I think we can all agree that air travel is not as much fun as it used to be but on the first day of our trip my husband, Carl, and I were really looking forward to our third and final flight because it was on a small 14 passenger floatplane. This flight would complete our 3,500 mile journey from Miami, Florida, to Nanaimo, a small town on Vancouver Island, B.C. We were very pleased with ourselves that we were able to meet one of the biggest challenges of our trip — packing one bag each weighing no more than 25 pounds. This meant we were doing a month away with carryon bags!

This was my first time visiting western Canada, and so I was really happy we choose the floatplane instead of the ferry. It was much faster and we were rewarded with spectacular views of the coastal islands. But the best part — when the pilot saw all of Carl's professional camera gear he invited him to sit shotgun to get better photos. What a great way to start the adventure!

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Peter's marudai
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Peter's workshop

The Vancouver part of this trip was planned solely as a chance to relax and recharge after several months of working non-stop, but kumihimo was definitely on the agenda as well. We visited our friends Shirley and Peter Berlin and braiding has long been a part of their lives. Shirley writes instructional braiding booklets and also makes kits, many of which I have used to teach braiding to my grandchildren. Peter makes beautiful hardwood marudai and tama. He has a real love for wood and we enjoyed our tour of his workshop, which included seeing his huge storage of rare woods. Of course, I had to get some new tama to go with the beautiful Berlin marudai that I already own.

More seals

Vancouver proved to be just what we needed, including long hikes along the beach and amazing museums to inspire creativity. But probably best of all was our day out on the whale-watching boat. We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day with sightings of killer whales,  harbor seals and bald eagles.

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Shopping at Shipwreck Beads

Next stop: Tacoma, Washington, for the Braids 2016 conference. After our relaxing week in Canada we thought the Amtrak Train would be more enjoyable than flying, and we were right! I highly recommend west coast train travel for short trips. It was just four hours from station to station with none of the long lines or security hassles of flying. The seats are large, there is a lot of leg room, and the dining and observation cars give you the opportunity to get up and stretch your legs. The train travels right along the coast and is very scenic.

Braids 2016 was attended by more than 175 people from 14 countries,  Japan having the largest representation outside of the U.S. Makiko Tada had arranged a day of pre-conference shopping for the 24 ladies from Japan. We started at Shipwreck beads, a huge treasure trove of beads, books, and so much more. The employees at Shipwreck were probably wondering what we were all about and I'm fairly certain that this is the first time that a woman in a kimono has been shopping there.

After Shipwreck Beads we went to Michaels Craft Store and JoAnn Fabrics, and it was fun to see what they found of interest. I always stock up on the gorgeous hand made greeting cards when I am in Japan so it was very surprising to see that the ladies were buying American greeting cards with equal enthusiasm.

Check back next week for coverage of the braiding classes and lectures given by some of the rock stars of kumihimo at the Braids 2016 Conference. Oh, and lots of photos of braids!

Week Two: Washington and Oregon Coast

Week Three: Sonoma County

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