Marudai and Braids

The equipment, plaiting, takadai and finishing off.

A marudai is a piece of equipment used for making braid in the Japanese fashion, called Kumihimo.  It looks like a really big french knitter, with the bobbins and threads hanging around the outside and with the braid being formed through the centre hole and weighed down by a weight bag to keep the appropriate tension on the forming kumihimo.  There are lots of patterns you can make with 4, 8, 16 or more bobbins.  It is lots of fun and there is so much variation.  I am using rayon threads to imitate silk.  Much more affordable than silk.  I learned about it from Marie Christine Gosse, the creative French tutor, when she was here in August.  She incorporates kumihimo in her lace work and it is very effective.  It is a very relaxing thing to do.  It takes concentration, but the movement and sound of the timber bobbins is quite mesmerising.  Sometimes I wonder if I have hypnotised myself.

Another way of “playing” to get the right weights and try out different threads etc. is to use the plastic 35mm film containers.  The lip / lid allows you to have the thread steady and not slipping off and of course you can use sand inside (or whatever) to get the weight you want to play with.

I know there are some marudai operators out there – I have been trying to build a marudai and spent this morning making bobbins. BUT, they turned out to be only about 13 grams each. I am aiming for 85 g bobbins so I must have made them much too small. Does anyone have any that they could send the dimensions of? (length, thinnest and thickest diameter)?

Nice to know that someone else is trying what I have found to be a facinating craft. My Tutor at the Nambucca Craft Weekend told us that approx 70 gr. are the most useful weights for the bobbins but it really depends on what you are planning to make, and what threads you are planning to use. The weight of the weight bag is roughly half that of the total bobbins used. That depends of course on whether you are using 4,8,12,16, or 32. I can’t find my copy of Jaqui Carey’s first book on Kumihmo, {still in a box at my daughter’s home} I did pick up her 2nd and that’s the one I used to check my numbers were correct, I do prefer her first one though as I think it has better or maybe more explanations in it. I made my bobbins from plastic pill containers filled with sand to 70 grs. And then sealed with a strong sticky tape. They were passed by ourTutor who came up from Sydney and had several different types of Japanese braid frames. We are lucky here as we have a craftsman who makes lovely marudais and the weighted wooden bobbins if wanted.

I recently replaced some curtains and decided the weights from the draw strings would be ideal for Kumhimo bobbins.

I just wanted to have a “go”, so I made up my own kit as follows:
Frame – a plastic bathroom stool with a hole in the middle.   I roughly made a round pillow the size of the top with a hole in the middle to match the stool and tied it on.
Weights for the 8 weaving threads – an empty tube (mine were Zantac effervescent tables – Berocca cases would be good, or old film cases) filled with lead sinkers.
Small fabric bag with more weights in it for the start of the braid. It all worked fine.

Invest in a small foam kumihimo disk so you can have an inexpensive play before you decide to spend $150 on a large marudai getup.  The small disks are such fun to use – I’ve only just learnt last week how to use mine.

I went to the local doll show last week end and we found little stools made of wood about 15” high with 2 discs about 6” on dowel sticks. I am going to put a hole through the top disc of mine and use it to make braid. I read in a book to use fishing sinkers for the weights so I now only have to put the hole in the top and wind the bobbins then I have the set up. One of our lace makers made us disc out of MDF they work very well.

Have you tried the takadai hand-held board?  It can be improvised from cardboard or a piece of rubber/foam from clark rubber.  (Alternatively, I know where you can get the ready-made board.)I have my own copy of Rodrick’s book and I think it is the best of all the braiding books.  Another one to look out for is Beads and Braids by Jacqui Carey.

The foam disks  are about the size of a bread and butter place and have a hole in the middle and a number of markings and cuts around the circumference.  They are used to make braid in a similar fashion to a french knitter in that the threads are manipulated around the outside of the disk and the braid grows down the centre hole.  It is a portable adaptation of the Japanese Marudai which is a timber stand.  The Japanese Braid is called kumihimo.  It is quite relaxing and it means you can make the braid with the colours and textures you want.  You can make braids you just can’t buy in the shop.  There are heaps of patterns and you can start with just four threads or work up to many threads.  I like to use 8 threads.  The cuts in the circumference of the foam disc keep all the other threads in place except for the one you are moving at the time.

What do you do with the braids you make? I’ve been tempted a couple of times to try it. Bought two books.  But I can’t see making the braid without a reason or purpose for doing it.

Some uses for kumihimo braid:
key fob
spectacle cords – great gifts
dolls houses – old fashioned light cords
braids for soft furnishings such as trimming on cushions, full size or dolls house
dolls houses – braid for trimming furnitures such as lounge chairs
braids to embellish quilts, or use as a cord to hang quilts – using a variety of threads to highlight colours from the quilt
necklaces, with or without pendants

Don’t forget pet leads & collars, and a quick look at the miniseries Shogun will show the braids used in all sorts of situations.

There are heaps of patterns you can get from the books, and you can make up your own.  Even if you use the same pattern, by re-arranging the starting positions of the threads you can get completely different looking braids.

With the foam disc you can basically use up to 16 bobbins. The more bobbins the more colour designs are available. Depending on how the bobbins are moved round the disc you can get round, square, flat, octagonal, twisted, hollow, trapezoidal (truncated triangle), star braids. You can incorporate beads. The possibilities are huge.

Finishing off braids
You could try a loop at one end and a knot – maybe a monkey’s fist. this knot is described in 50 Heirloom buttons. I’ll have a look through my braiding books for other suggestions