Ayatake-dai: Narabi-kamakura braid (1)

May 26, 2009

Double Kamakura 1

The spur for this flat, ayatake-dai braid is the upcoming six-monthly braid swap organised by the Takadai Study Group of Complex Weavers (USA), which calls for seven 6″ samples. My normal 4-metre warps provide around 15 such samples, so I have plenty of scope for making mistakes in the two months left to complete the exercise.

The photo regrettably illustrates the best part of a day’s worth of warping and braiding and serves as a record of the pitfalls associated with this braid design for anyone who has not touched an ayatake-dai in some time. I share it here, not having decided whether to undo it all or throw it away or save it as a caution for future braiding students.

So what I have learned and what have I re-visited?

1. the width of the braid depends on the number of elements per bobbin which depends here on the anticipated appearance of the 2/20 tencel yarn used. As few as 2, 3 or 4 strands under 100gm bobbin weight is not ideal, especially for ayatake-dai braids where you want nice, plump little ‘stitches’, not something anaemic, highly-stretched and stressed. So with 32 bobbins in mind on two-level hane, I’ve come up with 6 strands per bobbin, which yields a nice width of around 4cm, which is not too far out of the range of the standard Japanese obijime – which is the basic sub-conscious model for any braider working in the Japanese tradition, surely.

2. the “back” of the braid faces the braider during the braiding process, i.e. one probably needs a small mirror attached to catch any mistakes on the underside. I can readily see the wefts as I work, which are less obvious on the ‘right’ side. Tensioning sufficiently so they disappear, without buckling the braid in the process, is the key.

3. Black Gutermann-style sewing cotton was not ideal for this braid. Always better to use the lightest colour of the finished braid, which in my case, means starting anew with white tencel yarn, probably doubled because the bobbin weight.

4. The instructions for this design are given in the Sakai & Tada book in Japanese and not in the Lacis Publications English edition. You can see how I’ve misconstrued the working diagrams. Without going into the detail of where I mis-read them, note to self: diag.1 means 8 repeats of the kamakura hand-movements; diag.2 means you re-located the bobbins (the taka-dai arms are particularly useful!) THEN do a single kamakura hand-movement; diag.3 means you relocate bobbins again THEN do a single kamakura hand-movement to finish. Counting to three was never so easy, or so hard!

5. Yarn bobbins. It’s indispensable that the LH bobbins pass above/on top of the RH one before the RH bobbin passes to the left side. It’s so obvious it’s not even in the Sakai & Tada. Note to self for the future!

6. My Braidershand ayatake-dai is brilliant and the taka-dai arms are indispensable the further one works through the book, but the distance between braid and hane is somewhat cruel, requiring me to hunch over my work. Not only are ayatake-dai braids noisy to make, but back-breaking. Lots of t’ai chi required at the end of a working session! The only permanent solution is to get hold of an authentic small ayataka-dai, which is not only practically out of the question (I’ve never seen one outside Japan), but like a karakumidai would require a Westerner to stand. So it’s standing or hunching over.

Narabi kamakura 2

Here’s where I worked Diag.1, then relocated bobbins as per Diag.2 then mistakenly worked the 8 hand-movements again as per Diag.1. You end up getting this slow move of colours – not the zappy colour change required.

Narabi kamamkura 3

This is where I had the mad idea that I was supposed to do Diag.1, then Diag.2 followed straight away by Diag.3. Too severe a shift in colours, so the wefts start showing.

One Response to “Ayatake-dai: Narabi-kamakura braid (1)”

  1. rodbyatt Says:

    Will take up the suggestion of using a lower chair, plus experimenting with moving the braid much closer to the hane and away from the torii.
    There is also the business of “beating-and-tweaking”: beating five times then tweaking by pulling the braid towards one, which creates an audible click, to ensure proper tension.
    Never having actually seen a Japanese braider work on this loom…

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