bookmark_borderTakadai Braid #2

A second braid made on the takadai. This one is a 33-tama 2/2 twill braid made with four plies of reeled silk yarn per strand. 16 strands are rose pink, and 17 strands are scarlet. I started with twice the length of material as last time, and wound up with about 6 feet of braid.

Silk 2/2 Twill Takadai Braid, ~2 yards

Because I used reeled silk instead of plied silk yarn, the braid came out much smoother, flatter, and even than the first braid. The takdai does a lot of the work, of course, keeping the tension even and such, but I am really happy with this braid.

bookmark_borderBanner for Shirin

I actually completed this banner back in June and gave it to her at Pennsic in August, but I never posted about it. Maybe I didn’t want to spoil the surprise before, and then forgot to post after? Anyway, my friend Shirin al-Susiyya was being elevated to the Order of the Laurel back in May, so I decided to make a banner for her as a gift.

Azure, a bend dancetty between two dragons segreant argent

The fabric is some nice navy blue raw silk. The paints are acrylic fabric paints. It took me a little longer than I was hoping, so it wasn’t finished in time for her elevation, but she has it now. Some words on process:

First, outline in chalk

A good way to get repeatable complex shapes (like heraldic animals) if you are bad at freehand art (like I am) is to print out a picture of the shape at the exact size you want it. Then, cut around the outside of the template, place it where you want the shape, and trace around the outside with chalk.

After painting the shape, pencil interior lines

Fill in the basic shape with a coat or two of paint, then cut the template apart so you can use the pieces to trace out the interior lines in pencil. You can probably freehand some of the smaller details, but sometimes I get pretty small with my template pieces.

Finally, paint interior lines

Then, use a fine brush and some black paint to outline the shape and ink the interior lines.

I’ve used this method a bunch of times, and it really produces good results for me. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting the paint!

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_borderNew “Double Rai” Braiding Pattern

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.

bookmark_borderBraids for Spring Coronation

I did these braids back in the fall, but I held onto them for a while and then put them into the Baronial gift basket to the crown for Kingdom coronation. I’m posting today because Coronation was yesterday.

Coronation Braids, Spring 2022

From left to right there are two 9-strands flat braids, three 16-strand round braids, and one 8-strand flat braid. They are all silk, and all intended as medallion cords.

I don’t know if all that is exciting enough to withhold “the surprise” for six months, but there it is. Now it can be told.

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_borderFancy Square Braid

This braid is braid 16AD, the final braiding pattern, in Jacqui Carey’s book “Creative Kumihimo”. Essentially, it is a 12-strand braid that is overlapped with a 4-strand braid. I used it to create this braid which uses Baronial colors at the corners to protect a tight inner core of Kingdom colors.

The completed braid is about 30 inches long, with a ring-and-toggle closure so that it can be used as a medallion cord. Each strand of the 16 contains 6 ends of lace-weight silk yarn.

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_borderIndigo Shibori Silk Kosode

A few weeks ago, Sharon hosted an indigo dyeing activity at our home. Some people came over and we spent all day dunking fabric in dye pots. I did some small test pieces for various techniques, but I also twisted up some big pieces of silk broadcloth, and then I made this kosode from that fabric.

It looks kind of like an accident in a bleach factory, but closer up the indigo patterns are very organic and Rorshach-inkblot fascinating.

bookmark_borderIndian Silk Kosode

Basically as soon as Sweetie and I had reached full immunity following our second COVID-19 inoculations (it’s not really a vaccine, you know), we went and visited my parents in NJ. They still live where I grew up in NJ, and although we did not want to go into NYC to visit fabric stores, I decided to search around the area to see what might have become available in the 30+ years since I left. Sure enough, the large presence of immigrants from Southeast Asia in my home town had resulted in some great fabric stores catering to their tastes, including one just 15 minutes from my parents’ house, called “Fabric Guy“. I was looking for some figured white silk for another project, but also wound up buying some of this lovely medium-weight silk brocade.

Close-up on the fabric

I suddenly decided that I needed a fancy kosode, because who doesn’t need a new fancy kosode every once in a while? One difficulty with the project is that the gold metallic threads for the flower buds (or whatever they are) are pretty much just behind those graphics. Cutting the fabric released hundreds of little whiskers, and I realized that wearing the kosode would break off more of those and they would get into everything else. The solution was to add a lining to the plan.

Open kosode, showing lining

I had some light-weight habotai silk in my stash, so I used that. I’ve made lined garments before, so this was not alien territory for me, but it has been a while. The trick, for those who don’t know it, is to leave closing the neckband for the very last step. That enables you to attach the sleeve linings to the body lining easily by pulling those seams to the outside of the garment. This silk was so light that keeping it still enough to sew was something of a challenge, but it came out OK, I think.

Indian Silk Kosode