In the late 80s I discovered the Japanese technique of making braids on a marudai. I took a class from a woman in NJ, where I spent a day as the only student in the class at the teacher’s house. I no longer remember much about it…. I have no idea where I drove for this class, and no idea if I then bought a marudai or if that came years later, when I met Rodrick Owen. The teacher for that first class was Charlene Marietti. She was excellent and helped me make some beautiful braids that day. I’m quite pleased to find that she writes a blog called Filamenti.
Here are the braids I made that day, a lifetime ago! Charlene supplied all the materials, from the marudai and tama to the threads I used for braiding. She had some fun braiding materials, such as rayon ribbon, chainette, and metallics. These braids have to be about 35 years old now.
I made braids for a few years before ever taking another class. Eventually, probably in the late 90s, I met Rodrick Owen and was very lucky to get to study with him in quite some depth since he occasionally stayed at my house between the classes he taught at the Weavers’ Place, in Maryland, and classes in the NY-metro area. During his free time, he generously gave me some excellent guidance. In some of the classes I took after this point, some of the students were using taka dai to make more involved flat braids. These included twills and double weave braids. I was very intrigued. At some point–early 2000s?– I bought Rodrick’s plans for making a taka dai so that Bob could make one for me.
Along the way I tried a few ‘shots’ on other people’s taka dai. I began to think I’d never have one. Time passed and I eventually stopped braiding except very occasionally, and that was about 25 years ago! Then last year, about this time, I learned that I’d just missed the first meeting of the newly formed American Kumihimo Society. Two weaving friends of mine in my new home state had gone to it. They both did a lot of braiding on the maru dai and also both owned taka dai. Over last summer, Clare let me weave several braids on her taka dai. Once a week for a couple of months I went to her house on Thursdays to weave. What a terrific opportunity for me!
These are the braids I wove on Clare’s taka dai.
I joined to the AKS so I could participate in the 2nd annual conference and meeting. I also found that Rodrick is still teaching in the US, and that Terri Flynn is still connected to him although she had long ago given up her store front business, Weavers’ Place. I decided to put my name on the waiting list for a taka dai at Braiders’ Hand. They are made to Rodrick’s original shop drawings. I attended the AKS conference in Florida, and also took a weekend class on the taka dai with Rodrick and Terri at Red Stone Glen in Pennsylvania.
I wrote about both those events here and here.
For the workshop at Red Stone Glen, I was able to rent a taka dai from Terri, and it was wonderful to get to delve in to the techniques used in weaving on this equipment. That waiting list for a taka dai from Braiders’ Hand had grown to almost 2 years by the time I signed on for one. While Bob was reorganizing his woodworking shop he found the maple pieces he had pre-cut decades ago in order to make a taka dai. We both went on a hunt for the shop drawings I had bought back when he started this project. Were with my kumihimo books? Were they somewhere in Bob’s shop? During that hunt, I also bought plans from Carol Franklin, just in case we didn’t find Rodrick’s (which I thought were now unavailable), but it was immediately obvious to Bob that Rodrick’s plans were considerably different. In order to continue with what he’d already started he’d need to find those original plans.
Needles to say, since I am making my first warp for my taka dai, Bob did find Rodrick’s shop drawings. Bob keeps things pretty organized so I wasn’t too surprised when he found them, all these later and in a different house from when he began this project!
I’ve taken photos and a couple of videos along the way. Neither Bob or I took note of the date he began this project years ago….or even the date he re-engaged with it! He thinks he’s been working on it for about two months, off and on. Thank you Rodrick for making these plans available, and Clare who took at least a dozen phone calls from us asking her to check various measurements on her taka dai (from Braiders’ Hand) against the plans, and to Dave at Braider’s Hand who also answered a number of questions.
Here it is ready for use!
And some of its wonderful details–like the zebra wood Tori and sword pads.
Bob made 44 koma, each with 9 pins. I will keep 22 of them, and whoever gets the other taka dai will get the rest, which means we’ll each have four extra koma. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that he made two taka dai?? There were a number of complicated parts to this thing–and jigs to set–so Bob figured if he had to do all that, he might as well make two. Do you know someone who wants one? Send me a message!
Look at the difference before and after the finishing oil!
Today Bob is focusing on making my weaving sword and a raddle. The sword has a lot of shaping required so that the edges are as sharp and smooth as possible for beating in each weft. It’s cherry. I can’t wait to see that beautiful grain once there’s a finish on it!
I’m about to make a warp for my first braid on my own taka dai! Last year I bought this wonderful group of fine cottons from our guild stash called “Weftovers.” There is a beautiful sheen on these cotton threads. They are very fine!
So it’s time to get busy making that warp. I’m either going to use 7 colors to make #12 from Rodrick’s book Making Kumihimo….
….or I’ll choose two colors and make #25. I want to get my bearings with my new taka dai before I delve back into the more challenging designs.
Time to make a warp!