Kumihimo – Ryuko-gumi and related braids
April 7, 2013
In her second book on takadai braids, Makiko Tada details four different flat braids of the ryuko (dragon/tiger) design, all done with 50 bobbins on the takadai braiding stand. I worked my first one about seven years ago, but am doing them now as ‘miniatures’ with just 4 and 6 strands (20/2 weaving yarn) per bobbin, producing a much narrow braid than I’ve done in the past.
I got the idea of “miniature” braids from ‘apprentice’ braids on public display in the museum section of the Adachi braiding workshop in Kyoto. In addition, I got specimens of sageo from eBay and saw examples in my local art gallery, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, with their fine Japanese swords on display, with sageo attached. I’ve seen similar at the Osaka City Museum and I’ve got my own insignificant Korean repro sword, with a double-layer takadai sageo braid (a pickup braid with less than the usual 66 or 60 bobbins).
My warps are four metres so I thought I’d get around 60″ or so of braid (I scored 2.72 metres). There are four ryuko braids: Ryuko-gumi, Ryuko-shima-gumi (“striped”), Uroko-ryuko-gumi (“dragon scales”) and Hirosuji-ryuko-gumi (“wide striped”). All of these are done with equal numbers of bobbins in two colours. Working at the rate of several centimetres a day, this first one took the best part of six weeks.
The function of these braids was sageo or sash for Japanese sword, attached to the metal loop on the saya or scabbard of the sword and attached to another braid or running entirely around the waist proper, under or over the heko-obi or men’s obi waist sash. We know this design was used for sageo in the Edo Period because it’s mentioned in the kumihimo classic, Shika Suuyou, a braiding manual of 1826. So the aperture of the saya is the governing factor for the width and depth of the braid. I’ve not designed these for any Japanese sword in particular.
First up is the Ryuko-shima-gumi (shima meaning “stripe”). There are just eight hand-movements through one complete cycle; it’s nice to know that there is consistency in the “big” jumps between bobbins which are always over six. I did this in Praslon (synthetic) 2/20 weaving yarn, so it as a very matt appearance compared to shiny silk. I’m okay with this pattern and its braiding to upgrade to rayon or silk sometime.
I successfully submitted this as part of the Complex Weavers kumihimo Study Group’s six-monthly braid exchange.
Makiko Tada, Comprehensive Treatise of Braids IV: Taka-dai braids 2. Tokyo: Texte, 1998. Pattern 48.