bookmark_borderAchievement Unlocked: Takadai

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 marudai kumihimo.

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:

Ready for setup

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.

Working a braid

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.

Braid forming on the takadai

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.

Braid getting long

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.

Leaders starting to show

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.

Finished takadai braid

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!

bookmark_borderSpeaking of Braids

In yesterday’s post, I was mentioning 16-strand medallion-cord braids, and that reminded me to post about something nice that happened to me recently. The American Kumihimo Society (of which I am a member) is trying to get their new web site rolling, and introduced a new feature where they post pictures of members’ braids that were inspired by classes they took through the AKS. One of the reasons I started doing more 16-strand braids instead of so many 8-stradnd braids was because when Sharon and I went to the AKS Gathering in 2017, we took a class in 16-strand braids from Rosalie Neilson. So, I submitted a picture of my most recent set of Aethelmearc braids and the picture was accepted for publication!

bookmark_borderBeaded Fancy Braid

The braid I used for Fancy Square Braid and Another Fancy Braid has these nice compressed inner threads, and it struck me that you could make those inner threads beaded, and the beads would be nicely couched in the braid. I had some “magatama” beads in my stash from the swag bag of the AKS conference in 2017, so I decided to try it.

Fancy Braid with Beads completed 2021.11.08

I really like how it came out. There are a couple of “errors” in it, but I mostly recovered from them quickly so the overall braid was not disrupted. The magenta inner core on each bead makes a nice counterpoint to the different colors of blue thread I used for the other strands. The beads are strung on “S-Lon” beading cord, were kind of a challenge to get them well seated in their stitches, but I was able to work out a method eventually. The “magatama” beads have a teardrop shape, and are only on every other side stitch, which made it somewhat easier.

bookmark_borderAnother Fancy Braid

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.

bookmark_borderStill Braiding

I am still braiding with kumihimo on a regular basis, though not as much as I used to. Most of my braids become medallion cords that are donated to my local SCA group. Some become garb embellishments. every once in a while I just do a braid to practice a particular braid or color combination. Also, sometimes for fun. This one is basically for fun, to break up the monotony of making black&gold braids for the Barony or red&white braids for the Kingdom.

Completed 2021.10.31

This braid is about 6 feet long. It is a 9-strand flat braid that uses 6 ends of lace-weight silk yarn per strand. This braid is a little short for it, but it is appropriate for use as a sageo or simply securing a box. To achieve this color pattern in the final braid, I started with a RKK WK RW WR set-up.

The Set-Up

bookmark_borderPeace Braids

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.

Four Kute-Uchi Braids from Armistice

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.

bookmark_borderAnother Flat Braid

This braid uses the same 16-tama hira nami braid that I used for the last braid in the “side to side” series, but the colors were set up in a “quartered” pattern instead.

I think this pattern looks like fish scales

That is, if most times you see this braid set up in a “top and bottom” pattern of “KKKK KKKK GGGG GGGG” , and the “side to side” pattern is “KKKK GGGG GGGG KKKK” , then this pattern is “KKKK GGGG KKKK GGGG” . Next, I am doing the same braid in “KGKG KGKG KGKG KGKG” which comes out much more chaotic-looking than you would think.

bookmark_borderBraids for Hitatare

The scroll doesn’t show them, but most hitatare I have seen are embellished with little knots called kotsuyu . I’ve made these in the past for my green hitatare and for Sir Morgen’s daimon hitatare. I want to get some pictures of me wearing the daimon before I add braids, so that it matches the scroll, but I do eventually want to add braids. To that end, I spent a few days making braids.

Thirteen Black silk braids

All of the braids are made from sixteen ends on black laceweight silk yarn per tama, and are simple 8-tama round edo yatsu braids. The pile at the bottom is 9 15-inch braids to make the kotsuyu knots, 5 for the hitatare and 4 for the hakama. The 2 braids with looped ends are for the munahimo chest ties at the front of the hitatare. The two very small knots are for the vestigal sodetsuyu sleeve knots at the bottom of the sleeve ends.

bookmark_borderBarony Braids 2019

Normally, I try have a half dozen black and gold medallion cords braided by the time our local Agincourt event rolls around in October. This year, with everything else that was going on, I just managed to complete the sixth braid.

Barony Braids 2019

As usual, these are all about a yard long and all made from lace-weight silk yarn.