Haori-himo: ties for haori jackets

June 2, 2009

Haori-himo making
Making haori-himo – Nishijin Textile Centre, Kyoto (Oct 2003) 
Haori jackets feature a braided clasp which allows the jacket, worn over the kimono to formalise the ensemble, not only to secure it close to the body but to allow part of the kimono to remain visible(1). Other jacket designs, such as the michiyuki and the samue, cover the garments underneath completely. Haori himo are detachable from the jackets so on the second-hand market, it’s possible to buy jackets with or without ties. There is now a secondary market in ties separate from the jacket. Ties are secured by tying on to tiny loops built into the jacket and are tied together with a reef knot. Women’s haori ties are invariably long and thin and flat, approx.6.5 inches long and 3/8inches wide; whereas men’s are of a different character entirely. Women’s ties are invariably multicoloured (as are the jackets) especially from the Taisho Period onwards when aniline purples and orange dyes took hold(1a), very often featuring a variety of braid structures. Dyeing and ungen colour shading (from light to dark) is also common. Some haori-himo are hand-made; others are machine-made. Often the only way to tell the difference is by the handle (handmade being noticeably softer) and by the dyeing (with some being “too perfect” to be dyed by hand).The photos show part of the collection of braided objects in the museum section of the Iga Ueno Braiding Centre in Iga Ueno (Mie Pref.). Not too far from Kyoto and Nara, this was a traditional braiding centre of note, like a nearby town Nabari, and is perhaps best known for complex double-weave pickup braids incorporating kanji calligraphy characters(2).

* double-weave pickups, featuring geometric (e.g. the checkerboard/ichimatsu) or naturalistic designs (e.g. mum, cherry blossoms, etc.), done on the takadai loom

* strong lateral stripes, being warp-faced sanada-himo (woven with separate warps and wefts, but not to be confused with ayatake-dai braiding)(3)

* cloth-covered braids

* plain and twill patterns, some highly textured monochromatic braids, made on the taka-dai loom

* ‘wrapped’/makie braids, where a different coloured thread is wrapped around braid cords, most usually done on kakudai loom(4)

* ayatake-dai loom braids with their characteristic Suruga and Kamakura braided stitches (Suruga being V-shaped and Kamakura being ‘slanted’)(5).

* four hollow braids (with cotton cores) stitched together to form a single braid.

The five examples are worth discussing in detail. The end loops are traditionally made by fingerweaving, but these days are made on a marudai (round stand), especially by Westerners(6). These are made with small numbers of threads, most often with a simple four-element structure. Additional threads are added and the loop tied off. The threads are then transferred to a takadai, kakudai or ayatakedari loom for braiding the main length of the clasp before tieing off for a free-ended tassle.

The first is mostly done on a two-level ayatakedai, in Kamakura style, from two-ply silk. This means 16 bobbins in total, with four stitches ranging to the left from the centre and the other four to the right. Kamakura style fortunately allows the cream silk weft threads to remain invisible. Every so often, selected bobbins are taken out of action to produce some decorative floating stitches, seven in total. The braid is finally transferred to a takadai loom, warp and weft threads divided into twice the original number of bobbins (16 on one arm and 15 on the other) and then a rep sasanami braid is made, producing the ridges where the colour goes from cream to orange. Finally, this sasanami is reversed in the last quarter inch(7).

The second, cream to fawn, is exclusively done on the kakudai. Half of the threads are braided on the kakudai for almost their entire length in the simplest possible four-bobbin structure, probably using 100gm bobbins; this is repeated with the other half, to create two braids. All the threads from both braids are then combined and split evenly across four 240gm bobbins and the four-bobbin braid structure repeated. As in all cases where the transition from one braid structure to another is extreme, some reinforcing threads are used(8).

The third is the filled hollow braid type, silk or rayon over a cotton core. The uniformity of the pink dyed sections betrays this as machine-made, as does its handle.Theoretically this resonates as a hand-made braid because the lateral wrapping reminds one either of the Kamogawa braid pattern, unique to the kakudai, or the traditional wrapped/makie style, again special to the kakudai loom.

The fourth is again machine-made judging from its handle. Its textured apperance is very close to the Ryuko or dragon-scale style of braiding on the takadai loom which I discussed in the October 2005 newsletter.

The fifth, in two-ply silk, in ungen shading (white to orange) features a base of plain weave (on both sides of the takadai loom, bobbin 1 is green/blue, bobbins 2 and 3 are cream-to-orange) and traditional Yamato floating stitches on top. This allows the cream/orange to show only on the Yamato over the contrasting green/blue on the inside(9). It’s quite difficult to achieve Yamato floating stitches evenly covering the inner core. Yamato is of course the term describing Old Japan, after the Yamato Plain where Japan was first unified into a nation state, but how floating stitches and Yamato became linked is unknown to me. To overcome this it’s possible to include additional threads in the floating stitches, but that doesn’t appear to be too obviously done in the case of his haori-himo.

Haori-himo are miniature masterpieces of of both Japanese braiding and dyeing. Some, like the first example above, are made on three different looms. Their existence, like the obijime, is linked to kimono culture. Braiders in the modern age have of course moved on to fashion accessories, mobile phone cords and luggage tags, in a not dissimilar way in which ivory carvers moved from netsuke to okimono, with the advent of Western clothes and pockets in which to carry objects. Despite changes in fashion, haori-himo through their inventiveness can teach modern-day braiders a great deal.


(1) The hanten is the folk equivalent of the urban/aristocratic haori (Liza Dalby, p.169) and the non-overlapping front sides recalls the karaginu or Chinese jacket of the Heian Period. For a discussion of how it formalises kimono, see Dalby, pp.214-217.

(1a) Dalby, ibid, p. 176. Dalby’s discussion of the haori on p.342 is worth quoting here in full:

“Geisha were the first women to wear haori over kimono. During the late 17thc, geisha from the area of Fukagawa in Edo adopted the haori, until then an item of male formalwear, as a bit of daring masculine chic. Much later, the haori was taken up as fashion for ordinary women, and during the 1910s and 20s, 3/4-length haoris were an important accessory to the kimono ensemble. By then of course women’s haori made no statement other than bourgeois fashionabiliyt. Geisha had long since ceased wearing it.”

(2) A visit to the Iga Ueno Braiding Centre was included in the Kumihimo Conference, Kyoto, November 2007. Braids made on all types of looms are on show at the Traditional Crafts Museum, Kyoto.

(3) Sanada-himo is a weaving style linked with Kyoto. It is most common these days in the braided cord used to tie up wooden storage boxes containing tea ceremony utensils and other objects. Examples are on public display at the Kyoto Traditional Arts & Crafts Museum.

(4) Braiding on the kaku-dai loom is a lot faster than on the maru-dai loom and many braid structures are able to be made on both looms. It’s hardly surprising that one finds lots of kakudai-structured obijime on the market, many made in China, reinforced by the fact that round braids have the highest status for obijime. Wrapping/makie in a contrasting coloured thread (or ungen-shaded threads) is linked with Kyoto braiding.

(5) All ayatake-dai braiding braids use either hand-movements called Suruga or Kamakura, singly or in combination. Suruga involves the bottom two bobbins come up inside the top two and the Kamakura, the bottom two move to one side – or the other – of the top two. Suruga and Kamakura are of course place names. See Sakai and Tada (1983) where Designs 1-6 are Suruga and Kamakura style starts with Design 7.

(6) Instructions are given in Makiko Tada’s book on maru-dai braids, as well as Rod Owen, Making kumihimo: japanese interlaced braids (pp.45-47)

(7) See Tada’s design, Seikaiha-gumi No.2, Design 31 which caters for 18 and 19 bobbins on either takadai arm.

(8) See Sakai and Tada (2004) or Hirano (1981).

(9) Ryoumen-taka-yamato-gumi (i.e. Yamato floats on both sides of the braid) is the braid structure – see Tada, Takadai Book 1.


John Marshall Making Japanese clothes

Liza Dalby Kimono: fashioning culture. Vintage, 2001.

Sakai A and Tada M. Advanced kumihimo. Tokyo, Jap. Assoc of Sohbi Braiders, 1983. All manner of ayatake-dai braids.

Sakai A and Tada M Kumihimo: the essence of Japanese braiding. Trans by Prener and Kawamura. Berkely, Ca., Lacis, 2004. Kakudai and ayatakedai braids.

Hirano, Mitsuko Kumihimo (kakudai). Tokyo, 1981.

Speiser, Noemi The Manual of braiding, Basel, Switzerland, 2nd ed. 1988. Speiser discusses all the braiding stands but offers the earliest discussion in English of the ayatake-dai loom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: