Last week, I had the good fortune to experience the ancient art of Kumihimo, while traveling to Japan as part of a cultural exchange with the live coding community there. This was as a guest of Makiko Tada, who kindly invited me to her Texte studio in Tokyo, for a full day of Kumihimo braiding. It quickly became clear that Tada-Sensei was no ordinary craftsperson. That was already impressive, until she showed me a video of her Kumihimo machine, which left me speechless:.

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Last week, I had the good fortune to experience the ancient art of Kumihimo, while traveling to Japan as part of a cultural exchange with the live coding community there. This was as a guest of Makiko Tada, who kindly invited me to her Texte studio in Tokyo, for a full day of Kumihimo braiding. It quickly became clear that Tada-Sensei was no ordinary craftsperson. That was already impressive, until she showed me a video of her Kumihimo machine, which left me speechless:.

The version I saw was clearer and without the music , but should give you an idea of this machine, which is powered from a single cog. She has worked on reconstruction of Kumihimo from archaeological finds including imprints on pottery , has consulted on aeronautical and medical uses of Kumihimo similarly to professional weaver Leslie Downes who we met during the earlier Weaving Codes project , as well as bringing public understanding to the structures and practice of Kumihimo.

Tada-Sensei quickly threw me into the practice of Kumihimo, first with a basic Yatsu-Kongoh-gumi braid, with eight threads, to become familiar with the process. At first this was on a hand-held foam Kumihimo disc, where one thread is moved at a time, and held in place by the plate, so bobbins are not needed. Once I got the idea, we moved to do the same braid but on the Marudai stand, so I could get the feel of moving two threads at once. On the Marudai, quite a heavy bobbin or Tama , one per thread, is used to create tension, and picked up by the threads in a certain way — making sure not to actually hold the thread, but rather have it pass over the top of your fingers, so that the tension is kept constant.

If the mirror gets scratched, then the silk thread will start to catch. I should have asked about this, but suppose that using threads that are not spun give a satin-like shininess to the resulting braid. What immediately struck me was the balance and symmetry of Kumihimo movements. At least in the patterns I was introduced to that day, every action with one hand was paired with the same action with the other hand, either at the same time or alternately. Tada-Sensei quickly corrected me when I at first used the same hand to move two threads in a row; it was important for balance to change hands.

As a result I had a pleasant feeling of not having a dominant hand, as I alternated between hands on the foam disk or moved hands in symmetrical movements on the Marudai. Interestingly, colour-effect patterns are present in kumihimo just as they are in weaving. The same simple structure that is used to make a spiral Kumihimo can also be used to make a variety of other surprising patterns, including flowers and hearts, just by changing the arrangement of thread colours.

It seems to be a running joke in the Kumihimo community for a wine break to cause the braid to go haywire, but I think I fared pretty well. After some hours of work I must have looked rather tired, because Tada-Sensei suggested I rest for a while, and put me in a tatami-floored room for a nap.

This was definitely a good thing to do, and has got me thinking about building proper opportunities for rest in workshop activities I do in the future. Refreshed, I was then directed to the Takadai frame. This was another revelation, and close to weaving, but where diagonal threads alternate between being warp and weft, interlaced to create a v-shaped braid. This reminded me of how weft becomes warp in tablet-woven borders on the warp-weighted loom.

Again, there was perfect balance between left and right, with each hand taking turns between the tasks of creating the shed there were no heddles — my fingers wove over and under the threads to do this , and placing the sword to keep the shed open, picking up the threads to pass through the shed and beating in the thread with the sword. I was doing a braid, which in weaving terms we would call plain weave or tabby.

A much more complex braid was already underway on the takadai, and it took a while for the braid to settle into the new pattern. I fully expect that understanding how to transition from one pattern to another properly would be a very advanced topic.

The Takadai threads work their way towards you on pegs, and to make more space you pick up a block of pegs from the back of the frame and move it to the front.

This is an extremely pleasing action, with the gravity of the bobbins automatically shunting the blocks up the frame, like a train. My final task was to work on a square rather than round foam Kumihimo plate, in order to observe that the flat braid produced on this device is related to braiding on the Takadai. This is similar to tabby weave, but where the warp threads take turns being the weft thread. This was an exciting introduction to the practice and structures of Kumihimo, but from the samples that Tada-Sensei showed me 3D structures, braids-within-braids , there is much more to learn, and even after many decades of exploration, Makiko is still developing new Kumihimo structures herself.

Indeed this is a thriving research field, with many of the workshops in the Braids conference taking place in Japan in October already full. I hope this will not be the last of our contact with Tada-Sensei and this remarkable craft! Hello Alex! What a fantastic experience you had!

Tada-sensei is a marvel, and one of the most generous people I know — you are very lucky to had have her all to yourself for a day! Your piece was very impressive and insightful — not too surprising, as I assume you are a weaver and have an intuition for the relationship of braiding to weaving. Although not all kumihimo braids follow this rule which I imagine you already know, but just in case , braiding is differentiated from weaving by the fact the the elements move on a diagonal, forming a V-fell, and warps are not fixed but become wefts.

This is more true of takadai braiding than other types of kumihimo. Did you get to try the ayatakedai? That is not braiding at all, but rather a form of twining, or could even be considered related to 2-hole tablet weaving; it has fixed elements that twist Z or S, then a weft thread is passed through.

There is also the kakudai, in which the braids form upwards, rather than downwards as on the marudai. As you saw, the world of kumihimo is wide and full of possibilities! I have been doing kumihimo for almost 40 years I started at the Domyo school in Tokyo in and have worked with Tada-sensei since I will also be teaching at the Braids conference in Iga. If you are interested in seeing some other work and are on Facebook, please check out the Kumihimo Braiders International page. Many very experienced kumihimo braiders from around the world post there, and it is a great font of information.

Hi Michael! Apologies for the very long delay in replying. Take care. Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Our aim is to integrate ancient weaving into the history of science and technology, especially digital technology.

The project encompasses the investigation of ancient sources as well as practices and technological principles of ancient weaving. You can find our publications on zenodo. Das Projekt umfasst sowohl die Untersuchung antiker Quellentexte als auch der Praktiken und technischen Prinzipien des antiken Webens.

Unsere Publikationen finden Sie auf zenodo. Some example Kumihimo braids. Some of the Kumihimo structures I was introduced to. A spiral structure interfering with a particular arrangement of thread colours in order to create a flower pattern. Working on the Marudai. Can you see when I drank the wine? Braiding Kumihimo on the Takadai. Beating in the thread. The braid emerges from the plate at an angle, and the change of direction involves rotating the plate degrees. Finishing the day in a Japanese-Italian restaurant with the Tada family.

Graham Dunning says:. Michael Hattori says:. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Search in Blog Search for:. Hosted by. Categories Activism 1 Ancient dress 5 Ancient Greek metre and rhythm 5 Ancient weaving 13 Andean weaving 3 Braiding 3 Exhibition 9 Fashion 2 Festival 8 laboratory 12 Live Coding 16 not classified 3 pattern matrix 9 Reconstruction 6 Starting border 1 Symposium 3 tapestry 1 Textile Techniken 6 weave structure 6 Weaving imagery in Greek poetry 3.

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Tada, Makiko

All books are available from dealers of your area visits. Owing to computer -generated very clear diagrams, you can learn by yourself Maru-dai techniques with various color arrangement examples and new ideas of design such as triangular and semicircular cross sections for necklaces. Samples braided with techniques of 32 Marudai and 20 Ayatakedai are included. Five to eight color arrangement samples per technique are shown. In some samples, color diagrams are superimposed for the convenience of readers.


Kumihimo Octo Plate by Makiko Tada



Makiko Tada



Kumihimo Braiding in Tokyo with Makiko Tada


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