Many braiders who choose to work in silk buy premeasured bundles of silk threads. These bundles are usually designed to produce braids that are a good length for the obijime braids worn with formal kimono.
When sweetie and I braid, we are often aiming for other lengths, or specific colors that it is more economical to buy in bulk on spools. Then, we measure out our own bundles. Traditionally, this would be done on tall warping stands called bodai. We use a kind of mini-bodai that clamp to the edges of a table. I have made a few sets of these in the past, but I just made a nice set for Sharon.
They are made entirely from cherry wood, except for the screws that attach the pegs to the bases, and the hookie thingies of course.
I bent the metal rod in a 4″ metal brake that I had to buy a 4″ bench vise to use. It was super easy doing it this way. The bends are exactly where I wanted them and used the mechanical advantage of the vise instead of brute force.
With the “2 and 1” pegs that i normally make, if you have a 4 foot table you can measure out 4′, 8′, and 16′ warps fairly easily. By making this “2 and 2” set, she can now add 12′ and 24′ to her repetoire for those longer or more complex braids.
I have been meaning to acquire a takadai braiding stand for years. They can be expensive, so I have been waiting until I decided that I was getting bored with marudai braiding, then I would probably make one. Braiding teacher Shirley Berlin broke the news to me several months ago that I would never really get bored of marudaikumihimo.
More recently, a friend of ours decided that she was ready to get rid of some surplus braiding equipment. She asked me if I knew anybody who was looking to buy a takadai, and quoted me a very good price.
So, I decided to bite the bullet and get started. Once I got it assembled, it looked like this:
The piece of bamboo resting diagonally across the lower arms is the beater sword used to tap stitshes into place. The pegs on the left and right upper arms are mounted in koma that slide along slots in the arms. At the top of the takadai is the tori. Lower down is the roller and standing vertically is the long metal pin that secures the roller.
To set up the takadai, you measure out a sufficient length of material and a sufficient number of threads of material for your braid. The definition of “sufficient” will vary based on the braid you are trying to make and the material you are using. (I measured out 34 55″ long threads of white 30/2 silk yarn and 32 55″ threads of black.) Then you tie a leader cord to the roller, pass it up over the tori, and tie it to the gathered end of your material. Then you separate out threads of material and wrap most of it around tama bobbins. (I wrapped two threads on each tama, so 17 white and 16 black.) Lastly, you hang strands over the koma, one tama per peg, on both arms of the takadai. (I started with all the white strands on the right, and all the black strands on the left.
To work a braid on this setup, you create a “shed” on one side of takadai by pushing some threads down. (I was making a simple weave braid, so my pattern was just alternating over (down) and under (up).) Then, you wedge the sword into the takadai so that it holds the shed open. Next, you pass the topmost strand from that side through the shed, and make it the bottommost strand on the other side. While you remove the sword and close the shed, use the sword to beat the point of braiding and tighten the braid. Repeat this process on the other side. Keep repeating this side to side and a braid will start to form.
When a koma at the top of an arm is empty, move it to the bottom of that arm and slide the other koma upwards. If a tama is getting to close to the arm, unwrap it six or seven inches. If the point of braiding is no longer over the round stick that holds the sword down, crank the roller a little to wind up the leader.
Eventually, the braid will get long enough to wrap around the roller itself. Keep going. By this point, I was doing one full iteration (with the material returning to start position) about every forty minutes, making about 2.5 inches of braid.
After even more time, the tama leaders will start to peep up over the edge of the koma. Now you are in the home stretch, but you are far from the finish line. Keep going until you are almost out of material.
My braid came out 25 inches long and about an inch wide. You can see how the black and white strands pass back and forth through each other and themselves. Not bad for a first braid!
I’ve been doing a bunch of 16-strand braiding these days. All of my donated medallion cords for a few years have been 16-strand braids because I started getting a little bored of 8-strand all the time. It always bothered me that while most of the 16-strand braids in Jacqui Carey‘s Creative Kumihimo are expansions of some of the 8-strand braids in the same book, there was no doubling of the “8J” Yatsu Sen / Yatsu Rai pattern. “No problem,” thought I, “we can figure this out.” Hence:
I haven’t seen this in any books or anything, so as far as I know I made it up. It wasn’t that hard to figure out, though, so I would not be surprised if somebody else provides this pattern somewhere.
I started making these printable “index card patterns” more than ten years ago. They are a pretty good reference, but only if you already know how to braid on the marudai. This is the first new one I’ve made in a while. I think the last one I made was this “Double Maru Yotsu” card in 2012. Feel free to copy these or print them out for your personal use, just don’t use them for any commercial purpose without asking my permission.
Have fun! I’m working my first try at this braid right now, and it’s pretty challenging.
I was going to participate in a zoom conference with a bunch of braiders, but I realized that I did not have a braid set up to work on during the call. so, I measured out the silk, wound the tama, and worked on the braid. Then, I had another Zoom, and that gave me enough time to finish the braid.
It’s basically the same braid as the previous one, but the core and outer colors are reversed.
Last week, we attended the “Armistice” event up at Cooper’s Lake Campground. Informally called “Pretendsic”, this was the event that the campground decided to run on their own after the SCA’s Pennsic War was cancelled again. It was a much smaller and informal version of a war, with no organized battles and many fewer classes. We did not even camp up there most nights, and brought all our own food. We spent a lot of time in camp braiding, and I completed these four braids.
All four braids were made using kute-uchi hand-loop braiding. The two inner braids are Mitake-gumi 10-loop rectangular braids, both using a single ply of acrylic yarn for each loop. The two outer braids are Maru-genji-gumi 16-loop round braids. The inner of the two uses a single ply of acrylic yarn for each loop, and the outer uses two plies of cotton crochet thread for each loop. To keep the loops together in bundles for the 2-ply braid, I used rope kute handles. These were all braided while seated on a bench, and I used my toes to beat the stitches if the braids were too long for manual tightening.
Back in the Spring, I started teaching myself a new kumihimo braiding pattern. It’s called the “Sankaku-kumi 1” braid. It is #116 in Makiko Tada’s Comprehensive Treatise on Braids: Marudai. It is a triangular braid with fifteen strands.
Most marudaibraids have a number of strands that is divisible by four. Eight, sixteen, and 24-strand braids are the most common. Odd-stranded braids are uncommon. I’ve done a 9-strand braid and a 17-strand braid in the past, and I’d love to be able to run a workshop on odd braids. This one seemed like a good candidate.
First, I did the braid in some acrylic yarn I keep around for learning purposes.
It’s a pretty thick braid because I used two plies of yarn on each tama. You can see that there are a number of errors in this braid. Most of them seem to be of the “doing the wrong step at the wrong time” kind. There are 9 white strands, and 6 red strands. They are separated into six positions around the marudai: RR WWW RR WWW RR WWW. Each iteration, you move one white strands from each group two positions clockwise, and one red strand from each group one position counter-clockwise.
For the second try, I used cotton crochet thread, and reversed the colors. I don’t think there are any visible errors in this braid. There are some structural twists in it, though, that keep it from being smooth.
For the third try, I went with lace-weight silk yarn. I got started on this, then it sat on the marudai for at least six months. I got side-tracked onto other things and it stared at me accusingly for all that time like a one-eyed daruma doll. For this try, I used back and gold threads for the 6 center strands, plus red and white threads for the 9 outer strands. I did not quite plan out the color pattern well enough, so you can see where two white strands come one after the other. There’s also a big error from when I got started on the braid again and did the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’ve hidden it in the photo, though.
Anyway, this is a nice, fast braid when you don’t take a six month break in the middle of it. I’ll probably give it a rest for a bit, then do a fourth try to lock the pattern into my memory. Once I do that I can create my own instruction sheet and I’ll be ready to teach a class on it.
When I was in Japan for the TV show, they gave me the opportunity to visit with Makiko Tada in her studio and while I was there she taught me how to do “Kute-Uchi” hand loop braiding. I have since taken more classes in it, and done more studying. This craft, like finger loop braiding, has the disadvantage that once you start a braid, there is really no way to put the work down until it is finished. Also, if you want to experiment with the multi-person braids you actually need multiple people. That is, unless you have some “helping hands” to hold the loops for you.
I’ve seen several designs for these, but most of them seemed either too primitive or too engineered. Some are made of PVC pipe or other humble materials. Some have magnetic bases to keep them from shifting, but then you need a metal table. anyway, I thought that some wood would be nicer, and friction would probably be enough to keep them from shifting. A few hours in the shop, and here we are!
Here you can see the kute-uchi hands in use. This is just a simple 5-loop braid, but I can stop at any time by sliding the loops off my hands onto the dowel ends. The bar in the center keeps the two sides separate, and fiction between the wooden base and the tablecloth keeps tension on the loops. If I need more tension for some reason, I can always put a weight bag on the base to increase the friction. the hands do need to move forward, as uptake from the braid makes the distance between the hands and the fixed point shorter as the braid progresses.
Here’s a closer shot from the front. The dowel just goes through the upright post. A set screw keeps the dowel from sliding out. The upright is in a shallow mortise for stability, and a screw comes up from underneath to keep that attached. There’s no glue, so I can remove the screws if I need to take the whole thing apart for travel or something. There’s a bit of sealer on it to stabilize the wood, but no finish to make it slippery.
I actually made three of these. I needed at least two for making two-person braids, and why not make an extra one while I was working? I had three good pieces of dowel in the surplus rack.
I’ve been wanting these for a while, so it is really good to finally get around to making them.
Set up the marudai with another 16-tama braid in red and white. This one looks similar to the last one, and it’s braided similarly in alternating colors, but it’s based on a round braid instead of a square braid.
So yeah, 6 plies of lace-weight silk yarn per tama, using braiding pattern 16T from Jacqui Carey’s Creative Kumihimo.