bookmark_borderKute-Uchi Hands

When I was in Japan for the TV show, they gave me the opportunity to visit with Makiko Tada in her studio and while I was there she taught me how to do “Kute-Uchi” hand loop braiding. I have since taken more classes in it, and done more studying. This craft, like finger loop braiding, has the disadvantage that once you start a braid, there is really no way to put the work down until it is finished. Also, if you want to experiment with the multi-person braids you actually need multiple people. That is, unless you have some “helping hands” to hold the loops for you.

I’ve seen several designs for these, but most of them seemed either too primitive or too engineered. Some are made of PVC pipe or other humble materials. Some have magnetic bases to keep them from shifting, but then you need a metal table. anyway, I thought that some wood would be nicer, and friction would probably be enough to keep them from shifting. A few hours in the shop, and here we are!

Helping hands in use, from above

Here you can see the kute-uchi hands in use. This is just a simple 5-loop braid, but I can stop at any time by sliding the loops off my hands onto the dowel ends. The bar in the center keeps the two sides separate, and fiction between the wooden base and the tablecloth keeps tension on the loops. If I need more tension for some reason, I can always put a weight bag on the base to increase the friction. the hands do need to move forward, as uptake from the braid makes the distance between the hands and the fixed point shorter as the braid progresses.

Close-up

Here’s a closer shot from the front. The dowel just goes through the upright post. A set screw keeps the dowel from sliding out. The upright is in a shallow mortise for stability, and a screw comes up from underneath to keep that attached. There’s no glue, so I can remove the screws if I need to take the whole thing apart for travel or something. There’s a bit of sealer on it to stabilize the wood, but no finish to make it slippery.

I actually made three of these. I needed at least two for making two-person braids, and why not make an extra one while I was working? I had three good pieces of dowel in the surplus rack.

I’ve been wanting these for a while, so it is really good to finally get around to making them.

bookmark_borderAshiuchidai v1.1

An ashiuchidai is a piece of braiding equipment used when braiding long loop braids. If the material is too long, it’s impossible to pull the “stitches” tight by spreading your hands apart. The ashiuchidai provides a fixed point to hold the braid up where you can work it easily, and a beater bar that can be activated by tugging on a string. The string can be tied to your toe so that moving your foot taps the stitches into place while your hands braid.

I made this ashiuchidai back in June of last year, but I recently added some features to it to improve its performance. There are two stabilizers that keep the beater bar centered and straight on the axle (only one is visible in the photo), and five brass pins added to the beater (visible as the dark dots on the back ot the blade just below the tip) as counterweight. Despite my best efforts, the beater could still get stuck in the “up and in the way” position, and this counter-weighting makes it much more likely that the beater will fall back out of the way.

Ashiuchidai version 1.1
Ashiuchidai v1.1

I still have to try it out! I haven’t made the “helping-hands” that allow you to put down the loops while you’re loop braiding, so trying out the ashiuchidai means devoting a block of time to completing a braid that is pretty long.