Kumihimo – Kikkoh

July 11, 2009

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Braid structure: Tortoise-shell, single-faced (Katamen-kikko-gumi, no.1 and 2)

Source: Hand-movements described in Makiko Tada, Comprehensive treatise of braids IV: Taka-dai braids 2, pp.114-118. Colour scheme from Rod Owen, Making kumihiumo (Design 50), p.127

Materials: Synthetic, approx 2/20, Mexican, close to commercial weaving yarn known as Praslon.

Stand and bobbins: Braidershand Taka-dai stand with 52x100gm bobbins, 13 on each side of the four arms; 6 strands per bobbin.

18mm wide, samples done for the Yahoo! Group kumi2 Swap 2006. The kikko or kikkoh surface design is commonly used in samurai armour (mimi-ito or “ear thread’ used around the outside of lamella armour segments) and in the sword sash (sageo). The motif symbolizes strength and longevity.

I have made this braid several times previously and have been unable to minimise the skew in the tortoise-shell pattern. Reducing the angle at the braiding point so that it was perpendicular to the arms helped a little bit, but not enough to compensation for the increased restriction in hand movements as a result. No amount of attention to beating, either in strength or even-handedness, seemed to make any difference to the outcome.

It is a reasonably simple braid to work, with only four hand-movements. It becomes automatic without the need for the pattern after the first foot or so. Interestingly, any wrong hand movements in Kikkoh no.1 stops any further braiding, automatically so you know you’ve made a mistake immediately you make it.

Diving the hand in and out of the threads closest to the braider is impossible so an unconventional ‘pulling down’ of threads using the other hand to assist is required. I attempted the alternate way of working described by Tada-sensei, Katamen-kikkoh no.2 , involving relocating bobbins from one arm to another in the style of taka-dai pickup braiding, but I found this a relatively slower way of working and I was more prone to making mistakes.

I hope to do this braid again in the unusual red-white-green colour scheme used recently in the restoration of an historic Japanese suit of armour (see News #9, 5 Oct 2006 on Masako Kinoshita’s Loop Manipulation website – www.lmbric.net). I also hope one day to tackle the double-sided Ryomen kikkoh braid.

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