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Archive for the ‘takadai’ Category

I’m weaving. On a floor loom.

Fleetwood Mac had it right. Well, the title, anyway…the lyrics, obviously, have nothing whatsoever to do with weaving. But I have big love for the big looms. I can’t begin to explain how good it feels to be in front of a loom again. Both of the big looms; I include the takadai as a large loom.

First thing this morning, I started weaving. I went to bed at one am last night, and tossed and turned because I couldn’t sleep for wanting to weave, but I had to at least try to sleep. Bryony always wakes up early, and she is a child who cannot be without supervision. So first thing in the morning, I was on the loom. And every chance I’ve gotten throughout the day, so I’ve gotten quite a ways! It’s nothing fancy, just a simple plain weave in two variegated colors. And since I typed that last sentence, I’ve decided that I like the two colors separately, but not together, and cut off what I’ve done so far. What can I say? My heart is fickle lol. I tied the warp back up and started again, so warp and weft are now the same color.

This is uncharted territory for me. I feel like the Indiana Jones or Nathan Drake of weaving (oops, my geek is showing). I know it sounds ridiculous to say that, but this is my view: weaving is a central tenet to pretty much every culture, going back time out of mind. Every culture has a different way of doing it, has a pattern it calls its own. There is inkle weaving, tablet weaving, rigid heddle weaving, backstrap weaving, tapestry weaving, table loom, floor loom, fingerweaving, and probably others whose existence I haven’t discovered yet. Every culture uses their weaving for various things, but one commonality is that it’s all cloth.

For me, a floor loom is like discovering a whole new weaving world. Up until now, it’s been an occupation that only employed my hands. Treadles on table looms are, necessarily, operated by hand. Now, my hands are free, and I’m treadling with my feet! Do I use both feet in turn, or only one moving from treadle to treadle? Is it better to be barefoot, wear socks, or wear slippers? Maybe those socks you get in the hospital, with some traction on them?

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The finished takadai braid

The second attempt at braiding is off the takadai. The first attempt has never been seen here, nor will it ever be. Yes, it was that bad. This second one was much better, although still not perfect. But there’s still a lot to learn, so maybe I’m being too much of a perfectionist. I’d like to work my way through the whole book. We’ll see how that goes. It seems like some of the step-by-step instructions are pretty clear, and some are a bit more muddled. It could also be that I’m the one who’s muddled!!! Either way, some things will have to be read and re-read until that light bulb moment comes.

This morning, I’m once again redoing leader strings. I turned the wasted thread into fringe, which would, technically speaking, mean it’s not waste, but I hadn’t planned on fringe. It’s there because my leader strings were too short to allow me to braid any further. So I’m taking the advice I was given and making three foot long leaders.

This is more of a task than it sounds. Each three foot leader is a doubled piece of string. To make 25 leaders, you’re talking about 25 lengths of six foot string. And you’re talking about not getting them tangled. I haven’t worked that part out yet, although I have an idea that I’ll try in a little while. I did figure out to use the warping board to make the leaders, though! Well, to get the lengths cut, anyway. I still have to tie each one up, but using the warping board is a whole lot faster than cutting each individual leader, which was what I’d done before. Both times. I’m not always the brightest crayon in the box.

In my defense, it’s not really practical to use the warping board for four inch leaders. It just isn’t. And the second time, it just did not occur to me at all until I was looking at repeatedly measuring six foot lengths and cutting them. Hey, six feet, that’s two yards! And once you start measuring in yards, a warping board is perfect!!

So now the lengths are cut, I just have to tie them off and get them on the tama, then start studying the next braid.

I also need to spend some time on a chain maille choker I’ve been commissioned to make!! That sounds so weird when applied to me, but it’s my second commission. She said surprise her, so I’m trying, but I want it to be perfect for her. I want her to love it. It’s not even about the return client thing. It’s just about the fact that it’s jewelry. You’re supposed to love it, otherwise what’s the point?

Okay, it’s also about the fact that I’m making the jewelry, too.

I’m kinda glad winter is on its way…I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied!!!

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The takadai, with the ayatakedai extension removed.

So, one of the dozens of fiber arts that I like is kumihimo, and like everything else fiber, it’s a gateway drug. You see, there is more than one form of Japanese braiding. I already have two marudai, and quite a few foam kumihimo disks. But I’ve been fascinated with the takadai and the ayatakedai. Only, where to get one, right? Well, Braidershand makes what I was looking for. The link will take you to the one I bought. There’s an 18 month waiting list to get one, but I’ve got to say, Janis at Braidershand is a doll, and all the equipment I’ve purchased from them is first rate and worth every penny.

The downside to the takadai and the ayatakedai is that neither is as popular here as kumihimo. A good marudai or a braiding disk is far less expensive than these big pieces. Not a complaint, just an observation. You get what you pay for. I won’t be buying any more equipment for quite awhile–I’ve tapped out that budget–but I’m quite happy with what I have! But the point was that, because they’re not as popular, it’s harder to learn because unless you live in the right area, or can afford to travel, neither of which applies to me currently, you kind of have to learn on your own. There aren’t a lot of books available either, and virtually no YouTube tutorials. Demos, but no tutorials that I’ve found.

The loaded tama, and one with the new, longer leader string

For the takadai, I can recommend Rodrick Owen’s book Making Kumihimo: Japanese Interlaced Braids. It will walk you through setting up your takadai and several different braids. He has a couple of other books too, and some deal with the core stand, which is another piece of equipment from Braidershand. Now that  the studio is finally coming together, I can play a little bit, so I have been!

The takadai is the size of a small floor loom. It’s for oblique braids, and it uses tama, which are the weighted bobbins the thread is wound around, and 9-pin koma, which are the sliders on the arms of the takadai. Those are used to keep your warp strands in order. As each koma is emptied of its warp strands, it’s brought down to the bottom of the arm, and the others slide forward into its previous space. The torii is a structure at the very top of the takadai, and the braid is pulled up over that as you go, like a cloth beam. The sword–and there is a Japanese word for it that escapes me right now–is used to hold the shed you create with your hand, and to beat after you’ve cast the tama through it.

9-pin koma

The learning curve wasn’t very hard for the basics, especially if you weave already, although the first time I tried braiding on it, the braid was horrible, bowing rather than flat, not symmetrical, didn’t come to a point the way it should…horrible. My mistake there was in not realizing the author’s takadai only carried four koma, where mine carries six, so I had removed two koma from each arm to match his, thinking I needed to do this. What that did was put everything at the wrong angle. I also discovered that the leader strings on the tama needed to be a lot longer than the four inches I usually have on the marudai. So, the next morning, I unraveled all that I had done the night before (not fun), and started over from scratch. The piece I was doing calls for 25 tama, which meant I had to re-do 25 leader strings. They are now a foot long each and I’ve been told I might want to increase that length even more, to two or three feet!! Understandable…if you’re working with silk, which is expensive, you don’t want any waste if you can avoid it!!! Currently, I’m working with Chinese knotting cord, which is pretty inexpensive, and I’ve got a bunch of it, but I’d still rather not waste any cord if I can use it instead!

The much improved second braid

After making all the repairs to the previous night’s mistakes, I started the braid over again and it came out much better the second time around. It’s not perfect by any means. I still need to work out a balance on beating as my sides are not symmetrical where they should be, but at least it’s no longer bowing in the center. The tension is good, so the braid is flat, as it should be. And I had a lot of fun making it. Putting a warp on the takadai is much easier than warping a weaving loom!!! The only exception to that might be the Gilmore Big Wave…maybe.

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