Kumihimo is the ancient art of Japanese braid making. The most popular
piece of equipment in use today is the marudai (round stand). The
traditional marudai is made form smooth, close-grained wood, with the top
surface, the kagami or mirror, supported by four legs fixed to a base
plate. The mirror is the most important feature of a marudai. The surface
and all edges must be perfectly smooth so that the threads can flow over
them without snagging
Tama (Bobbins): Traditional tama are made from wood. A set of tama of
equal weight is usually used so as to provide an even tension of the
threads. Lighter tama are used for making finer braids and heavier tama
for thicker braids.
Attached to each
tama is a cotton leader about 16" in length to prevent wastage by allowing
the tama to hang while braiding the end of the warp.
To offset the tama weight, and to provide the correct tension in the
braid, a counterbalance weight is used. these weights are usually held in
a drawstring bag attached to the end of the warp. As a rough guide, the
counterbalance weight should be half the combined weight of the tama. The
more weight, the looser and softer the braid. The less weight, the tighter
and more compact the braid.
||Warp (or thread): Any
type of thread, yarn, or ribbon may be used for the warp, depending on the
effect you want. Cut the desired length and number of warp threads for
each tama. Holding the end of the warp together, attach them to the tama
leader using a reef knot. Keeping the warp taut, wind the warp smoothly on
to the tama. Stop winding about a foot from the end of the warp. Tie a slip
knot in the warp threads to stop them from unwinding.
|To tie a slip knot, hold the
tama so the warp threads are underneath. Place the palm of your right hand
on top of the threads and tuck your thumb under them. Twist your right
hand so that the warp threads make a loop around your fingers. Bring the
tama into the loop from underneath and arrange the loop around the center
of the bobbin. Slide the bobbin down to tighten the slip knot. Continue
until all the tama are wound.
Marudai setup: Grasp
the free ends of the warp together and tie around them with a length of
thread. Tie a short length of thread into a loop. Attach the loop around
the warp with a reef knot. Using an "S" hook, attach the weight bag to
this loop. Place warp on marudai with tama arranged around the outside of
the mirror and the end with the weight bag going down through the hole in
the middle of the mirror.
|Braids are created by moving
pairs of warp threads simultaneously to new positions on the mirror and
shown in the pattern below. When moving warp threads, lift the threads
(not the tama), letting the slide across your fingers. After each sequence
the tama should be in their original position. Readjust the tama to keep
the symmetrical arrangement. Slide the tama down releasing more warp to
braid by turning the tama. Slide the weight bag up your braid as necessary
to keep the tension.
braiding for the day, place a bobble, chopstick or small dowel rod above
the braid but below the mirror to prevent the braid from coming off the
marudai and lower the weight bag to release the tension on the braid.
To finish the braid, first tie a temporary
securing knot over the end of the braid to stop it unraveling. Finish off
the braid by making tassels, attaching hardware, or whatever your
Setup and sequences: The large circle
represents the mirror which is divided into four compass points, with
south nearest to the braider. The small circles represent the warp tama,
and the arrows show the movement of tama.