Our SCA Kingdom, the Sylvan Kingdom of Aethelmearc, had its Spring Coronation last weekend, so I made some braided medallion cords for the Baronial gift basket to the Crown.
I was a little short of time, having entered the six 16-tama braids I made in the fall into a largess derby in January, so I did mostly 8-tama braids. One of the braids is the 16-tama double-rai braid, four are yatsu se, and one is shige uchi. I should do a batch of the 9-tama shige uchi braid next time.
Sweetie needs some braids to make tokens for her elevation later this month, so I spent a few weeks doing nothing (braiding-wise) besides edo yatsu in silk.
These are all 8-strand “round” braids about an eighth of an inch in diameter. The violet braids use lace-weight silk yarn, but the lilac braids use reeled-silk. This fine filament silk is a bear to work with, especially in bulk lengths like this. Each braid is about four yards long, starting from about five yards of material.
All seven of these braids were made on the marudai using cotton crochet thread. I used four plies of thread per strand, four strands of blue and four strands of white. The braids are a variety pack of 7 different braid shapes. All have ring and toggle closures and come with an extra jump ring so that they can be used as medallion cords. They are all approximately 30 inches long.
I completed these braids back in November or December, but I was holding off posting about them because I was going to put them in the Coronation gift basket in April. Then, I found out there was a largesse display at Baronial 12th Night.
They are all color variations on the same braid, with 8 red and 8 white strands per braid. The effects of the different starting positions produce end results that are similar to those produced for other 16-strand braids that are doubles of 8-strand braids.
All seven of these braids were made on the marudai using cotton crochet thread. I used four plies of thread per strand, four strands of green and four strands of black. The braids are a variety pack of 7 different braid shapes. All have ring and toggle closures and come with an extra jump ring so that they can be used as medallion cords. They are all approximately 30 inches long.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.