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…

Documentation First

For the longest time, I considered myself a walking A&S display. I didn’t enter competitions. I’m apprenticed, so (I thought) it was obvious I was “on the path” to Laurel. I taught some classes, did service and shared my art and that felt right for a long time. And then I moved to a different Kingdom. I’ve only been able to attend a handful of events so far. No one here knows my Laurel, and unless they check my wiki, they wouldn’t even know I’m apprenticed. I don’t usually wear a visible green belt. I haven’t run events here. I haven’t held office here. Nothing is obvious. I feel like a person without context. And now, well, there aren’t in person events. I needed a way to share my art and knowledge, a way to show my growth in my chosen discipline.

This pair of competitions, this outfit, all of it, is my first go at A&S competition in the SCA. First go and it’s Kingdom and Inter-Kingdom level. Go big, am I right? Eek!

I wanted to make sure I was as set up for success as possible, after all, I’m really competing with myself. I’ve mentioned my production schedule. That was born out of my research and documentation.

It wasn’t long after discovering the Calontir Clothing Challenge (let’s just call it C3 from now on) and settling on an outfit that I realized I could also enter Crowns A&S Champions (A&S Champs) at essentially the same time. I had already listed each element of the outfit and wrote out an outline of my basic documentation. Using the East Kingdom A&S rubric as a guide, I revisited the outline and laid out what the piece was, what materials I was using to create it, what period references were used for the patterns, how it is done in period and what deviations I am making and why. I’m also adding to these notes as I go so I can include what I learn through the process and how I dealt with challenges and changes in the final version.

I refused to officially enter C3 until I had all that done; entry for A&S Champs is coming up next month. I do enjoy the confidence I have in this project because I had all the groundwork complete before starting. Let’s hope this endeavor can help me create some context in the East Kingdom.

And a weaving progress report: I’m at 78 inches and counting on the second cord. I’m also starting to really feel the repetitive motion in my shoulders.

On a wooden base of a marudai rests white braided cord, coiled in tight loops between the 4 upright wooden dowel legs of the marudai.

Every Day, a Little Progress

8 tama are wound.

I made the switch to the new thread halfway. The new thread is a little lighter and has a different hand. It’s a higher quality thread. I had to increase to 15 threads per strand to achieve a similar, though not exact, strand size to the old thread. I think I’ll use 16 threads for the remaining 2 cords.

I may have to order more thread. I know. I refuse to do the math or even think about it any more today.

I’ll start the braid for cord 2 of 4 tomorrow.

I have panel 3 of 4 prepped and I’m going to settle in to a YouTube playlist and stitch until done.

On the Way to Kosode

What do you do when you find that your bolt of linen is 2 yards too short?

Well, I pivoted to silk.

Luck was with me today when I discovered that I didn’t have as much linen as I thought. I managed to find another few pieces of linen and had almost resolved myself to piecing it when I remembered a bit of white silk in my stash. I measured it. 4 2/3 yards at 55 inches wide. It was going to be close.

Next I set myself to drafting a kosode pattern. The modern analog for a Heian kosode is a nagajuban. It’s the skin layer. Yes, there are perfectly lovely and workable patterns available. All my other kosode use them. I specifically recommend this page by Lisa Joseph, known in the SCA as Saionji no Hana.

The other two garments in the ensemble will be constructed using Jidai Isho no Nuikata, a wonderous tome made by experts in the field of Japanese historical dress who took apart garments left to a temple and patterned them. It’s as close to historically accurate as I can get. But it doesn’t include a woman’s Heian kosode pattern.

I decided to use two men’s undergarment patterns and the women’s patterns for hitoe, itsutsuginu, uchigi, and uwagi as the references. I used my own measurements to determine the length for the body of the garment. I made the sleeve just a bit shorter than the hitoe sleeve so it nests inside neatly. I drafted the overlap panels to be 13cm shorter than half the length of the body panels, the same as the aforementioned women’s patterns. I used the collar length from the women’s hitoe and the width is the same across all garments.

Now was the moment of truth, did I have enough silk?


As luck would have it, I have exactly enough silk. Down to the inch, exactly what I needed.

A yellow soft measuring tape curls over the fold of white silk fabric. In front of the fabric is a spool of white thread. The label reads, "Superior Thread, Kimono Silk, #100 Silk Thread"

In other good news, Golden Witch shipped my silk thread without delay! They even included some nifty vintage fishing findings. I have an angler friend who may appreciate them. No, I didn’t realize I was ordering from a rodmaker’s supply. They had the thread I needed in stock at a great price.

I’m so excited to have the silk thread to finish the kazari-himo. I’m seriously considering blasting out the three remaining cords and finishing the two remaining panels. That’s right. Finished another one last night. It would feel really good to get an entire layer complete ahead of schedule.

Tomorrow I’ll warp the marudai, stitch another panel and possibly cut out the kosode.

Not As Planned

There are bound to be hiccoughs. It’s why I’m trying to push hard and make progress every day. Even if it’s only a little bit of progress.

Some days work is extra hard. Today was one of those. Some days life kicks you in the feelings. Today was also one of those.

But my backup linen thread came from Vavstuga. I got 60/2 Bleached.

And I’ve pinned an edge of a mushi no tareginu panel and will spend this evening after dinner stitching it.

A piece of sheer silk in white extends away from the camera. The edge has been rolled twice, pressed and pinned along the length.

Tomorrow is another day.

166 Inches

More than I expected, but that was without the weight change factored in. I couldn’t be more happy with the results.

A looped bundle of white braided cord, kumihimo, with tasseled ends.

I spent many hours weaving today and managed to finish the first of 4 cords to make kazari-himo or “decorative cords” for the hat in my travelling outfit. I tied a couple of overhand knots in it, loosely and held it up to hat brim height. It’s perfect.

Total time on this braid was approximately 13 hours. 2 hours to reel the thread and wind the strands on tama. 10 hours of active weaving and about an hour in set up and take down, tasseling the ends and clearing the leftover silk from the tama. Not bad.

That makes 2 out of 3 items complete for the first 3 week period of my production schedule. Tomorrow I’m going to spend some time working on a kosode pattern and prepping my linen.

Until the new silk thread comes in I intend to get another panel for the mushi no tareginu (curtains for the hat) started. And speaking of thread, I got a payment off to B & T for the reappearing package of linen thread and a thank you for my honesty. I’m glad a lovely merchant is not out any money because a parcel went missing.

Thread Day

I ran the math. 4 cones. Each kazari-himo, the decorative cords on the hat, needs about 1 tama more than a cone. Because of course it does. At least I’ll have fine silk thread left over? It’s ordered. The hat project just got a little pricey. Oh well. This is why I don’t get a lot of take out.

In the post I received two packages. One from Britex Fabrics with silk thread, and the other was my replacement package from Burnley & Trowbridge with my linen thread. Hooray! Mostly.

A collection of spools of thread. Left is Kinkame brand pale yellow, center is kinkame brand in gold. The kinkame spools have one spool standing on end and another laying on top with the end toward the camera. On the right are 2 spools of 80/3 Londonderry Linen thread in white from Burnley and Trowbridge .

The gold thread I ordered is a more bright gold than I thought it would be. Drat. And it doesn’t blend well with the more antique gold taffeta. Double drat. Don’t try to match colors via your computer monitor. I really thought it would be close. HA! Nope. I will likely have visible stitches and matching thread helps them hide. I don’t know that the Heian ladies would have thread dyed to match the varied fabrics of all those layers. Maybe they did. It wouldn’t surprise me either way. But I can get close, so I ordered a different shade. The bright gold will get a different purpose some other day.

And then another package from Burnley & Trowbridge appeared in my mailbox. The post does not run twice a day. I’ve contacted the lovely people at B&T to let them know that I now have an extra order and I would really like to give them more money.

Today wasn’t all packages and orders. I’ve also managed 58 inches so far on the first of the four kazari-himo. I did change the counterweight. I read through some of the set up instructions in Roderick Owen’s Braids (highly recommend). He instructs to have a counterweight that is 45% of the tama weight. I doubled what I had for the test braid. The resulting cord is much more supple. I’m pleased.

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