HL Sofya Chyudskaya Smolyanina A&S Documentation Midlands Regional A&S Faire Spring 2011 Division II: Textile and Needle Arts Costume Accessory: Kumihimo Cord Overview What & where it’s from This craft is a 16-thread braided cord in the Japanese kumihimo style. Kumihimo is a style of braiding that uses a cylindrical device known as a marudai (or sometimes a disc is used in modern kumihimo) to weave threads into simple or elaborate braided designs. As threads are moved across the surface of the marudai, a patterned cord emerges through a hole in the center (Figure 1, About Japanese Braiding). When & how it was used Kumihimo cords have been found dating back to around 550 CE, when early Buddhists in Japan used them for decorative purposes in religious ceremonies (Friedman). During the Middle Ages (1185 – 1614) they became commonly used for lacing Samurai armor, wrapping sword hilts, and harnessing horses, as well as more domestic decorative uses such as drawstring on clothing and pouches, and decorative knotwork (Carey) Who could have used this particular cord This cord was braided to be as long as possible given the length of the threads used, with the intent that it could be divided into smaller, matching pieces based on need. A cord such as this would likely have been too delicate to be used as lacing for armor, but adequate for use on a kimono (to tie back sleeves), drawstring on clothing, hair accessory, or as a decorative tie for some household accessory. Materials 16 threads of cotton embroidery floss Foam disk Cardboard floss organizers Figure 1: Wooden marudai. Method of construction In period, artisans would have used the marudai as mentioned in the Overview, weighting the silk thread with wooden bobbins (Figure 1). Since I don’t have one of those, I used a modern foam disk that can be found in craft stores. For the thread, silk would have been the period material in Japan. Instead, I used cotton threads which I already had readily available. After my mom passed away a few years ago, I inherited her extensive supply of embroidery floss. I don’t do much embroidery, so part of my inspiration for creating this braid was a means of putting some of that floss to good use. As such my choice of materials is more about pragmatic considerations than aesthetics. It might be possible that there were period Japanese braiders who practiced similar pragmatism regarding choice between readily available materials and materials that would have needed to be purchased – especially when making braids for practical, everyday use rather than special occasions. The strands of floss were wrapped around cardboard organizers and arranged on the disc (Figure 2). The pattern comes from Christine Grewcock’s instructions for braiding a 16strand braid, “Four-color spiral with a diamond pattern” (Grewcock): AA BB CC DD AA CD Figure 2: Creating 16-thread kumihimo on a foam disk. CD BB Kumihimo patterns in period were similarly complex, if not more so than the one used in this project; extant braids from the 12th-16th century were already incorporating designs with 40 to 144 threads (Carey 68-9). Because I was restraining myself to floss I already had on hand, some fudging of the four colors occurred. I had four skeins of red floss, but only three of the kelly green – so the fourth green thread is a lighter shade. I combined two skeins of white and two of silver to count as the third “color”, and the fourth “color” is a combination of yellow and purple. Unfortunately I did not think at the time to record specifically which color is represented by which letter on the pattern. However, judging by the photo (Figure 2), I would guess: A = Green B = Red C = White/Silver D = Yellow/Purple After the colors and pattern were arranged on the disk, I proceeded to braid them together until I ran out of thread. The result is over 12 feet long. Reflection Due to my improvised materials and methods, this work is a bit of a departure from a more authentic representation of kumihimo. The project gave me the opportunity to weed some of my mom’s floss supply out of my trim drawer and use it toward a definitive, completed project that might be useful to someone in the SCA. After the A&S Faire I am thinking about donating it to a future silent auction for a charity fundraiser, which I think would have pleased her. The project has also given me practice in kumihimo braiding that could be used toward future projects with more authentic materials. Sources About Japanese Braiding. Melbourne Kumihimo Group. 2009. Retrieved from http://home.vicnet.net.au/~handspin/mkgmain.htm#about Carey, Jacqui. Samurai Undressed. Devon, England: Carey Company, 1995. Many thanks to Kathy Anderson (Wulfwen atte Belle) for sharing scanned pages of this book! Coyle, Debbie. “Kumihimo (Japanese Braiding): Kumihimo Class Handout.” September 2006. Shared through a class handout from Carrie Burge, 2010. Friedman, Jennifer. Kumihimo: An Introduction, Glossary, and Source List. November 4, 2007. Retrieved from http://www.gflower.org/kumihimo.htm Grewcock, Christine. “Kumihimo on a Disk.” October 17, 2007. Shared through a class handout from Carrie Burge, 2010. Owen, Roderick. Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru and Beyond. Interweave Press, 1995.
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