Kumihimo – Itsukushima

June 29, 2009

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Itsukushima is an historic temple braid from a renowned temple of the same name near Hiroshima, south Honshu. Proclaimed a National Cultural Treasure, the original at the shrine dates from the 12th century and was used as a wrapping braid around a sutra scroll, dedicated to the shrine by the Heike Clan. The original is 17mm wide and while the red is faded to an orange/flesh colour and the white is now bone, the green is still bright.

Done here in ‘Birch’ overlocker/sewing cotton thread (white, dark green, yellow, red), 12 ends per bobbin, using 38 bobbins of 100gms each.

In Masako Kinoshita’s book, Archaic Braiding, there is a description of it as interlocking of two pigtail braids (which corresponds to Rodrick Owen’s sections 3 and 4 in his book with the pattern and instructions, Making kumihimo, Design 38, pp.110-114), plus two 2/2 twill braids (Owen’s sections 1 and 2).  Maintaining the tension at Steps 4-5 and 4-11, as per Rod Owen’s book, is absolutely critical: pull the far ends in close before beating! The rest of the braiding is otherwise straight-forward; the interlinking jiggle isn’t as complicated as it first appears.

Where to from here? Experimenting with colorways, in eline with those braided by Makiko Tada and Warren Felton, plus a colour variation illustrated in Kinoshita’s book and on display at the Saidaiji Temple Treasury at Saidaiji, near Nara, incorporated into a sutra scroll cover of brocade textile and two different braids. This particular Itsukushima involves the central stripes being the same gold/yellow colour, the inner pigtail linking done in pink/white and the two outer pigtails are gold/green and green/dark blue, with a total width of around 10mm. I’m now also confident about tackling other interlinked braids, after the examples provided by Owen in his book and Leigh Morris in his books.

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