32 Tama
red, black and white braid

Braid started—and [initial setup] photographs taken—20sep2015. Braid completed sometime in October 2019. So, um, this thing was on the marudai four frickin’ years. Le sigh.

The braid as depicted in this photo is about 66" plus a 4" tassel on one end. Photographed 30Oct2019. Cotton threads.

Let this be a lesson, do not try to cram on more tama than the kagami (mirror) can accommodate. Tada-sensai very kindly purchased a set of Domo School standard (i.e. about 67g) tama for me after I took her masterclass in May of 2014 because Catherine Martin, from whose book I first learnt kumi, recommended them so highly; these tama were enough smaller than my beloved 100g American made tama that when I went to Japan later that year myself, I purchased another set[1] , thinking I could make fully double 16 tama braid designs.

Beginning sample, about 6".

But why, you ask, didn't I use my new toys right away? Well, because although my beautiful Mountain Loom Company tama are sealed with wooden plugs, the Japanese ones are traditionally made, meaning, the lead cores used to weight the tama are exposed. I wasn't thrilled about handling lead, so I took myself off to our locally owned hobby store to get some enamel[2] and seal those things.

The threads.

  • 8 strands white
  • 8 strands black
  • 8 strands pure red
  • 8 strands ombre red and pink (thinner than the others)
  • minimum (ombre) 250 inches, doubled for effective length of 125 inches
  • 950 g counterweight, reduced to 875? (minus the lead mold)

125 inches less 4" of tassel leaves with 121 inches; 66 plus 6" sample equals 72 inches, so the braid is about 60% of the original length. It's got some stretch to it, which I have to say I don't like, but I would've had to use substantially heavier tama to avoid this.

Keiruko with add'l tama in each group. Mitake was similar, with black/north and white/south, gradating from pure red, to one set of ombre, the the second set (opposite) ombre red-pink.

Another intermediate setup.

Original notes: “Initial setup of 8 groups of 4 a disaster. (not shown.) Switched to 4 groups 8. (see photo.) Ugly. Now, mitake...? ...Boring. How about two sets of keruiko (4/4s) x3. Eh. 4/4 (i.e. two sets of 16s, divided in 4 groups of 4) x1. Ok, black & white zigzags finally showing up. What about doing the red/pink moving two tama at a time (i.e. maru yattsu?)”

The setup for the actual braid for which I ended up doing b&w only or red only; that is, only 16 tama were used at a time (with the keiruko movements) and thus each group of 16 didn't interact—kind of like oimatsu, except only 1 round of each, instead of 3 sets of movements before switching back to the other set of threads/tama. Shot taken 14Jul2017 S4

I have to say, the colours are striking—it's hard to go wrong with black and white accented with red—and I love square braids, which is what this turned out to be—but the workmanship is...barely adequate, as there are some pretty wretched mistakes. Unfortunately, one of f2tE's friends made the mistake of admiring this thing, so it will be turning up in her xmas stocking, I suspect.

Here's an in-progress shot of my tama prep shot on 17sep2014, showing some as they came, and some masked with blue tape so that I could spray them with grey primer. After that dried, I put the hobby enamel shown in ivory and black on the ends[3] ; a later lot I simply sprayed with gold spray paint that someone had given me.

But mostly, I'm just so glad this is finally done. If I attempt 32 tama kumi in the future, it will be after I convince one of my woodworking friends to make me a slightly larger kagami!

[1]I presume I had Tada-san purchase 24, since I have a perfectly good set of 16; and then decided to get 8 more, but it's possible I got 16 and 16; the photo documenting my painting process would seem to imply this.

[2]Enamels stick better to metal.

[3]With a toothpick, as I recall, because I didn't want to deal with petroleum solvents to clean a brush