Finished in No Time

I really thought the flat braid would take a little longer to complete. I knew I’d finish it today, but I thought it would have taken another couple hours. Sometimes it’s pleasant to be wrong.

It finished out at 78 inches, so will need cutting down. You may notice that it looks a little bit like a shoelace.

A bundle of flat woven braid folded in half repeatedly The braid texture is similar to flat shoelace braid.
Finished flat braid

The components for the hat are now complete.

I need to fold over the top edge of the mushi no tareginu and stitch it. The kazari-himo (deocrative cords) need to be tidied up in length, though I could simply tie them up…

Next is whether or not to cut the slits to weave the flat braid through the “curtains.” I’m torn on this. As much as the idea of experimental archeology excites me, I’m just not convinced I have quite enough research to move forward. Research, ha! I have one highly zoomed in photo. I have no idea how it is secured on either end. I know something was woven through though, at least in this example. All of the other images have no indication of a flat braid, or anything for that matter, woven through. But they are all slightly later period (past 1200 or so).

After that difficult decision, the mushi no tareginu and kazari-himo will be attached to the hat. I’ll consult a Chinese decorative knot book and tie up the cords in the large loops shown in the Costume Museum image.

I’m going to sit on most of that though and let the question about the flat braid percolate. Maybe I’ll see if I can find any other images…

I’m currently satisfied with my progress.

Tomorrow is kososde day.

Beginning the Flat Braid

8 tama are wound.

The math said I would need 100 inch strands to get 70 inches of braided cord. I only need 64 inches. I did the math twice more to be sure. And I still erred on the side of caution and set the sawhorses at 110 inches apart. I would rather cut the cord down than find I’m short of the mark.

I’m still a little conflicted about weaving this cord through the mushi no tareginu (hat curtains). Making those slits in the finished fabric wigs me out possibly more than the first snip into expensive fabric because these panels are now complete. If I mess them up, I have to start over, and I don’t have the time or money to do that.

Enough thinking. Now, we weave!

And there are early results.

A white braided cord runs top to bottom, bisecting the image. The cord is an 8 strand flat braid.
8 strand flat braid.

It’s a little too narrow. Only 1/4 inch, I had wanted 3/8. I wanted to increase the threads per strand as I was afraid it would be too narrow, but I did not have enough silk (or anything else for that matter). It doesn’t have the exact chevron pattern from the blown up image. It is however, the best I can do without further research. 17 inches and counting…


One of the reasons I leapt into the Calontir Clothing Challenge was to give me something to focus on other than my grief. I had just lost my darling animal companion, a yellow fronted amazon parrot named Loretto. He was my world.

And now I find myself thrust into the position of shoving more grief onto this project. I’ve lost a job I love, the best I’ve ever had. My industry is dying. Theatre as we knew it is in a death scene. So I’m also mourning my career to some extent. Maybe things will be better after the pandemic. If theatre comes back, the job I love might be mine again. There is a tiny glimmer of hope.

And I’m going to cling to that and keep working on this project. I know it’s a lot to put on a project, but here we are.

I stayed up way too late last night weaving, so this morning I started at 83 inches. I’m not kidding around about throwing myself into this project.

I’ve been dealing with what seem to be more tension issues with individual threads within strands being off. The finished product doesn’t appear to have been affected. I did top out at a blazing 37 inches per hour. I certainly feel it in my shoulders.

I will need to trim up the kazari-himo, decorative cords. The first came in at 166 inches, second at 174, third at 172 and the fourth finished out at 181 inches. This last cord also finished a bit better than the rest. 4 of 8 strands terminated within an half inch of each other. My overall tension was better. How about that?

The Last of the Thread

It arrived today! My last order of silk thread.

I was a little worried that it wouldn’t show up today and I would be forced to cut out the kosode to maintain daily tangible progress. Research is great, results count. I may be advancing some of my research as I go on this project, but as I said earlier this month, I did my research first.

8 fully wound tama are now sitting on the table next to my marudai.

I need to finish this last kazari-himo (decorative braid) and move on to the flat braid as quickly as I can. To keep up with the production schedule, I need to complete one project every three weeks. Hat, kosode, hitoe, and uwagi (lined, counts as 2). I don’t know if I’ll be entirely finished with the hat by Wednesday night, but I’m going to try.

Time to warp the marudai and set to weaving for a little while before bed…


I didn’t feel up to crawling around in the floor cutting up silk today, so I’ve been spending time staring at zoomed in images.

A flat braid with a chevron pattern is visible woven through the sheer fabric. I know that the sleeve ends of hitatare have a flat decorative braid run through them, using either tiny loops or slits in the fabric. Hitatare – a men’s upper body garment with decorative cords at sleeve ends and attached to the collar frequently worn with matching hakama (pleated pants) and one garment in my next big clothing project after C3 so stay tuned for that.

On the other side, still zoomed in, are what appear to be the kazari-himo tied off to the flat braid?

As in they don’t attach to the hat? Oh dear. This is what I get for saying I’m going to finish the accessory layer first. Looks like I need to stitch the individual panels to each other a bit further down as well.

It makes sense to have something hanging over the panels to help hold them down in a light breeze. A built in cord that the decorative cords hang from would absolutely do this well. I’m curious about the sheer fabric holding the weight of the kazari-himo from the flat braid. I have some scrap of the silk gazar I used for the mushi no tareginu. I could do a test. The slits in the fabric are only cut, and at that position would be through 2 layers of fabric, just above the fold over hem. I’d guess that the braid width is about 3/8 inch wide.

Do you know what this means? More silk thread. I can’t order any more, so I’ll have to make do with the extra spool I ordered this last time.

I wish I could just go to Kyoto and look at the thing in person! I may keep the kazari-himo (decorative cords) attached to the hat as the image is a little difficult to make out for sure. The flat braid though…that should happen. I’ve found a chevron braid in one of my kumihimo books already. It’s also an 8 strand. I’ll measure out the finished mushi no tareginu (hat curtains) width, double check it against my hat circumference, and use that as my cord length.

Good news. The completed panels are slightly smaller than the outer circumference of the hat. So they fit and I didn’t screw up when I cut my panels. Hooray! My flat braid needs to be 63 inches long. I’ll aim for 70 inches to be safe. I should have enough thread. I think. The math says I have enough. Fingers crossed.

Avoiding the Kosode

I’m not really, but it feels that way. Okay. Maybe I am. A little.

I had intended to complete the kosode first. The kosode is the next to skin layer of the outfit. I wanted to work my way from inside to out. And then my linen thread was slightly delayed. Next I didn’t have enough linen in a solid piece. Luckily I seem to have exactly the right amount of silk. Even if it is slightly off white. And now…um, I just don’t want to cut into the silk, I guess?

It’s the one garment that I don’t have a period pattern for. I had to extrapolate the pattern from other garments. Can you tell my anxiety is playing up? I’m also worried that I may have measured something wrong or done a bit of faulty math.

Here’s the plan. Clear the floor of the dining and living rooms. Mop. Re-iron the silk. Throw the silk in the floor. Just kidding, kind of. I am putting the silk on the floor though. I’ll mark out the entire garment to be safe and then cut it out. That anxiety comes with paranoia. No, I don’t really trust the little paper layout I made.

I have one last decision to make before I mark out the kosode. What panel width? The men’s undergarments are cut from 50cm wide bolts. But a Laurel I know has explained that those garments were likely funerary and oversized. The women’s garments use 45cm – 17.7 inches. But women’s garments weren’t tailored to the body at all and those are outer garments. I’m very tempted to use the wingspan method. 14 inches would do nicely for me., though I may go with 15.

Got the floor prepped and then had a work meeting.

And now I don’t have work? My contract is not being extended with my employer. Last day is November 5th. I’m lucky to have had a job, especially in my industry, for this long. Not a great time to be a theatre kid. Stupid pandemic.

So I took the rest of the day off.

Tomorrow is another day.

2 Weeks In

Tonight marks 2 weeks of the Calontir Clothing Challenge.

I’m almost done with my Accessory Layer for C3. I’ve finished up the stitching on the last mushi no tareginu (hat curtains) panel. The 4 panels are also now attached to each other. All that’s left is to fold the top over (potentially stitch it) and attach them to the hat… 3 of 4 decorative cords are complete. 4 tama are wound. More silk thread (a spool more than I need) is on the way.

The silk thread for the uwagi (uppermost garment) lining arrived from Britex. One of the colors will work beautifully. I’m relieved.

Has anyone else noticed that I have deviated from the production schedule? Eh. I can’t remember how in depth I got about it. Well, I’m revisiting that tonight as it is more than obvious that I chose to finish the accessory layer rather than undergarment layer first. Oh well.

Here’s a lovely inspiration image:

Woman in ichime gasa with mushi no tareginu. (A rush hat with a very large brim circumference that has sheer curtains and decorative cords hanging from it.)  at the Jidai Matsuri 2009
Woman in ichime gasa with mushi no tareginu. (veiled hat) at the Jidai Matsuri 2009. Wikicommons

If you look over her shoulder, under the hat, you can see that the mushi no tareginu are folded over at the top. I’m uncertain if the fold over should be stitched down or not, but I don’t see visible stitching on the outside…

Close up image of a mannequin wearing traditional Japanese dress, a travelling outfit.
Travelling Outfit from the Kyoto Costume Museum

This image on the other hand, which is of my reference outfit at the Kyoto Costume Museum, appears to not only have the fold over stitched, but it almost looks like a channel with a cord running through it. But the decorative cords attach to the hat? Is it just a wide hem? Hmm. She’s also wearing one more layer than is labeled on the line drawing. See that cream colored collar? Things to ponder while I wait on supplies and move on to the kososde.

Third Time’s the Charm

Finished reeling silk thread and winding it on tama. By reeling, I mean running thread in a loop between two sawhorses set 248 inches (20′-8″) apart 20 times for each tama. I’ve learned it’s not possible to keep the tension even. (Problem 1) This leads me to believe this would have been done in shorter segments that were then put together. More research is required.

7 wooden spools or tama are lined up on the left of the image with looped ends made up of multiple threads extend to the right. A looped and knotted length of light pink cotton thread runs top to bottom of the image. On the far right is another tama on it's side, empty.
Seven full tama, or weighted spools, A loop of cotton embroidery floss for holding the silk strand on the tama. On the right is one empty tama.

So not only is it impossible to keep the thread tension even while reeling, it’s also impossible to wind the strand onto the tama with even tension. (Problem 2) And as you can see from the above photo, there are also the cut ends to deal with further complicating the tension. (Problem 3)

A white multithreaded strand runs from a looped end on the left to a double row of of wooden spools, top down view. The strand is tied off halfway between the looped end and the spools.
The 8 strands secured together

The looped ends of the strands are tied together with a bit of embroidery floss that is taped down. I pulled the tama taught. The strands were smoothed down and tied together using silk thread. (Problem 4)

The next step is to pass the tied together end through the whole in the center of the top of the marudai. The round top is called a mirror. A small bag containing lead fishing weight (approximately half the weight of all 8 tama combined) is attached via a lark’s head knot to the strand just below where they are all connected together. The tama are then unfurled over the edge of the marudai and secured with a lovely adjustable looped knot. I tend to get two or three of these wrong to start and a tama suddenly drops to the base of the marudai.

A Marudai, or Japanese braiding stand, prepped for weaving. It is a wooden device with disk top and square bottom. The top is held 2 feet above the bottom by 4 wooden dowel legs. A bag of weight hangs from the cord in the center. 8 tama hang over the edge of the mirror/round top of the marudai.
Marudai prepped for weaving. A bag of weight hangs in the center. 8 tama hang over the edge of the mirror/top of the marudai.

I then adjust the height of the tama so that they are all even. Keeping your tama at an even height as you weave is important to maintaining the delicate tension held between the cord weight and the tama. Even tension means an evenly braided cord.

Once the tama are adjusted in height with the proper knot, I adjust the strands around the marudai so the start of the braid is in a neutral position.

And we’re ready to begin kazari-himo number 3.

This is a top down view of a marudai set with 8 strands. we see a round wooden top divided evenly by 8 white strands that join in the center over a hole in the round top.
Top down view of a marudai set with 8 strands.

Problems 1 through 4 mean my cords are not evenly braided. The varying lengths of remnant strands when I finish weaving are a testament to it. And that’s okay. I am not a master of this art. I did my best with the tension. It will result in a perfectly usable cord, just like the last 2 times. And I can only do my best and learn so that maybe next time is better.

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

I’ve been tired all day.

I managed to get decorative cord number 2 finished and put away. I’ve reeled silk thread for five of eight strands for cord number 3. It took longer than I expected and the thread is disappearing at an alarming rate. I may be paranoid about my faulty math. And that’s where it ends for today. In the morning I’ll run the math a few more times and then order thread.

My bed is calling.

New Thread Complications

It is what it is.

4 tama* of old silk thread, 4 tama of new silk thread. I knew there would be a difference. I set them alternating so that the difference in the cord would evenly spiral through it instead of bouncing from side to side creating a zig zag wave in the weave from the variance. I’ve seen how differently weighted and sized strands affect a braid.

I didn’t expect the cord to appear tighter. The new thread is higher quality and smoother than the old, and the resulting braid is more fine. It’s also slightly smaller. Just barely.

Two bundles of white braided cord sit opposite each other bottom left and top right. A segment extends from each bundle creating a diagonal from left to right. The cord on the left is slightly smaller and of finer texture than the cord on the right.
Kazari-himo number two, half new silk thread on the left, number one all old silk thread on the right.

Between a little more weaving last night and some this morning I’ve finished 148 inches. I’ll have the weaving of kazari-himo (decorative cord) number 2 finished tonight. Tomorrow will be for reeling out more silk thread and cutting the kosode.

Speaking of more silk thread…I’ve done the math. Three times, actually. The first time I had just enough thread. The second and third times were just now to double check and then verify that my double check was indeed right. The first time I was wrong. Oops.

I will have to order more thread since the new thread is so much lighter than the old thread requiring more threads per strand. And since I have to order more anyway, I’m going to up the threads per strand to 40. I know that seems like a huge jump, but I totally spaced and called the last set 15 threads per strand when they were really 30. I made 15 loops around the sawhorses. There and back makes 2. Oops. This is why my math was off the first time.

I’ll need 2 more spools. Did I ever say that these spools are 1,090 yards each? Bwahahahaha! Yeah. I’m going through a lot of silk thread.

*I realized tonight I’ve never really explained what tama are. They’re weighted wooden spools or bobbins. Each strand of the braid is wound around one tama, the braid I’m weaving has 8 tama or 8 strands. I’ll take some pictures of my kumihimo “equipment” for a post later this week. I think I should also probably start a glossary to assist my readers…