L-M BRIC News No. 10                                             05-25-2007 © 
L-M Braiding Research & Information Center / Masako Kinoshita
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L-M Techniques of the Guajiro Indians in Colombia

Masako Kinoshita

WALE'KERU vol. I. vol. II by Marta R. Zapata (Bogota: Carbones de Colombia, 1999, ISBN 958-958650-3) contains a sizable amount of field reports of l-m braiding techniques along with those of other textiles of Guajiro Indians living in Colombia and Venezuela. The book is written in Spanish and was published in Bogota, Colombia. In the following we report the entire l-m techniques of Guajiro Indians from WALE'KERU.   The contents of the book may be downloaded from the Blaa Virtual Library of Luis Angel Arango Library, Colombia.




The book undoubtedly is one of the most important source books of the loop-manipulation braiding (l-m braiding), containing six recipes that have never been reported before as far as we know.  It also contains a couple of significant new facts.
The Guajiros reside in Colombia and Venezuela.  Although there are some Spanish documents since the 16th c. on the aboriginal populace who lived in the area, it is not certain whether they were ancestors of the Guajiros of today.
The work by the author, Marta Zapata, involved ten years of commuting to the northeast corner of Colombia where the Guajiros live.  The topics she studied include not only braiding, but also textile handwork techniques for making clothes, carry bags and sacks, foot wares, etc., as well as ceramic wares, used for ceremonial purposes and daily life.  The importance of these records can be discerned from the advanced age of the informers. Every page is filled with so many illustrations and sketches of their intriguing techniques, clothes, and lives that one is tempted to delve into every page, forgetting your primary purpose of learning their braiding technique.  The title of the book is the word for spider in the Guajiro language, who, in their mythology, taught the people weaving skills.  Sketches scattered around the pages of the book show hairy spiders that spin large webs.

As for the braiding techniques, in vol. 1 they are described with the objects, such as clothes, of which they are a part. In vol. 2, specific techniques that are scattered around in vol. 1 are assembled in a chapter, enabling one to view a unified picture of each technique.

Braids are named after familiar objects, such as maize blossom or rat-tail.
Step-by-step instructions are accompanied by detailed and accurate illustrations that we, without knowledge of Spanish, had no problem understanding.  Initial distributions of the loops as well as color arrangements are also illustrated.  Our instructions obtained from the illustrations in the book, were tested by comparing the swatches made according to the instructions against the accompanied illustrated patterns of the braids.  We also made sure that the swatches showed no structural inconsistencies.  When needed, we consulted with free online S-E translator (http://translation2.paralink.com). Any errors in this text, however, are our responsibility.

There is an extensive field research dissertation by Marianne Cardale-Schrimpff on handweaving and allied textile crafts in Colombia. (Note 1)  This fine Ph.D. dissertation has never been published, and so we are grateful that WALE'KERU is widely available through the Internet.

New facts found in the WALE'KERU field research
1: The Guajiros use both of the two loop-transfer methods, Method 1or A-fell method, and 2 or V-fell method, explained below.

Generally speaking, there are two ways of holding the hands in the l-m braiding technique for which the loops are mounted on the fingers (finger-held l-m); Holding the PALMS FACING UP, and the PALMS FACING DOWN.  The distribution of the latter seems to be insignificant.

Of the former, there are two methods of transferring the loops; you either TRANFER LOOPS WITH THE INDEX FINGER = METHOD 1 or WITH THE SMALL or RING FINGER = METHOD 2. (Note 2)

In the records we have known previously, only one of them is used in a given region. Reports of the practice of Method 1 came from Europe, North Africa and Central and South Americas and those of Method 2 mainly from Asia.
It appeared as if the regions where the two methods were used did not mix, suggesting a separate distribution pattern.

This is the first report, as far as we know, that both methods are used in one region.  For a given braid, however, the Guajiros consistently use one method or the other.

2: When transferring a loop, the Guajiros turn the palm of the operating hand face down regardless of the methods used. (Note 3)

(Fig. 1)
Fig. 1                                                                                    Fig. 2(Fig. 2)

Now, if you pick up a loop either by the index finger or the small finger with the palm facing down, you would hook it up. By setting the position of the palm in the way the finger always hooks up the loop, then all you need to tell is which one of the shanks is taken (upper or lower).

Taking the upper (or outer) shank of the loop will make a C transfer and the bottom (or inner) an O transfer.

3: In the past, Method 1 seemed to be the favored method among the people who had braids with an unorthodox pattern (UO) in their repertory, except one report by Lebedeva (Note 4). Contrary to this trend, the Guajiros
use both Method 1 and 2 for their UO braids. They use Method 1, however, only for two braids, i.e., UO (oo) (the one with O-O transfers), the one we used to call UO no. 1, and the other with O-C transfers, which we call tentatively UO (oc). The latter is one among the seven new recipes reported.

Summary of the 12 Guajiro recipes and their structures
While we have done our best to describe the newly introduced recipes correctly, we would appreciate it if readers could inform us if they find any mistakes. For recipes for making these braids, see ILLUSTRATED INSTRUCTION SERIES: No. 10.

In the following section, braids are numbered (#x) for convenience following the order they appear in WARE'KERU II.

(Fig. 3)
Fig 3Photo 1The majority of l-m braids from the known records are of the 5-loop variety. In this reports, however, the majority uses 7 loops. Exceptions are two examples with 4 loops and two with 8 loops. Many of the 7-loop recipes here are new additions to our repertory. It should be noted that 7-loop and 5-loop braids look quite different from one another even if they are made using the recipe with the same scheme and therefore share the same track-plan.
 (Photo 1 Showing the two sides of braids.  Top two: 5-loop, bottom two: 7-loop)

Photo 2#1. Makusua (maize  blossom) (Photo 2)
4-element tubular braid = 4-element round: New as an l-m recipe.
Number of loops: 4 Each loop acts as one element.
Two-color scheme: S- and Z-spiral and vertical stripes.
You may see this recipe as an application to the l-m technique of the free-end method of making a 4-element round braid commonly seen the world over, that is, exchanging a pair of diagonally positioned elements one pair after the other.

#2. Wayanatouya (Piece of flat wood)
New as a braid, also as a recipe.
This is a rare kind of braid that has two identical faces of 3 ridges with a S/Z/S-pattern.

  (Photo 3)
Photo 3Fig. 4(Fig. 4)
Number of loops: 4.
The braid is composed of two 4-element 2-ridge flat braids connected by one of the two ridges of the component braids. There is a sunken ridge hidden between the right two ridges.

The Guajiros consider that Braids #4 and #5 are variations of #3, because they both have 2 ridges on the bottom side that look exactly #3.  The side that comes on top as the braid is braided look considerably different from #3.

 #3 is a braid with an orthodox pattern whereas #4 and #5 are UOs that are a combination of two 7-element 2-ridge flat braids.

#3. Yaliwanasu (RAT-TAIL variation 1) (Note 5)
Seven-element 2-ridge flat braid. Method 2. New

(Photo 4  Top two: #3, the third to the 6th: #4, bottom two: #5)
Photo 4Fig. 5

(Fig. 5 Top)

Number of loops: 7
Each loop works as one element. The recipe for the braid of this structure given in the Tollemache Book is based on Method 1 and has O (open) loop transfers, whereas this one uses Method 2 with C (crossed) transfer.

(Fig. 5 bottom)
Speiser discusses #4 and #5 in the case of 5 loops and method 1 in her theoretical discourse of some of the possible UO braid structures (Note 6).  Here, we have found the braids that the Guajiros have been making using Method 2 and with 7 loops.

#4 and #5 are each distinctive braids when 7 loops are used. With 5 loops, the recipe becomes identical.

#4. Yaliwanasu  (RAT-TAIL Variation 2)
Fourteen-element UO braid. Method 2. New.
Number of loops: 7
Although the top face while braiding looks as if it is of a 4-ridge pattern, the bottom face a 2-ridge pattern, the braid actually is composed of two 7-element 2/4 twill flat braids.

#5. Yaliwanasu (RAT-TAIL Variation 3)
Fourteen-element UO braid. Method 2. New.
Number of loops: 7
This braid is ocmpoased of two 7-element 1/5 twill flat braids.

#6. Kauleruuya (Penis of a Goat Variation 1)
Fourteen-element 4-ridge twill tubular braid. Method 2.  (Note 7)
Number of loops: 7
This is one of the Trinity Braids, a square braid; the loop transfers are (C-C).

(Photo 5  From top: #6,  #6, #7, #7, #8, #8, #9)
Photo 5
#7. Kauleruuya (Penis of a Goat Variation 2)

Twin 7-element 2-ridge twill flat braids. Method 2.
Number of loops: 7

#7 is also one of the Trinity Braids, twin flat braids; the loop transfers are (O-O).

The Guajiros produce nets using recipe #7 combining with #3 and/or #6.
The sketches in the book show similar features reported in some past News issues, suggesting multi-braider techniques (Note 8).

It is only in issue No. 8 (2005) that we learned the multi-braider technique practiced
today. Whether the Guajiros produce the net-work by a sole worker or cooperatively, the technique itself requires several workable widths of one person. Therefore, though unreported, it should be noted that it is highly likely that the Guajiros have a multi-braider technique.

#8. Washaloutaya (Striped Lizard)
Fourteen-element 4-ridge twill flat braid. Method 2.
Number of loops: 7
The third Tinity Braid, a 4-ridge flat braid; the loop transfers are (O-C).

#9. Ko'osu (Ring or Loop. Meaning is not clear.) Square braid.
The same as #6 in a different color scheme for which bi-color loops are used. The method of making bi-color loops is the same as that used in other Andean regions.

Fig. 6 (Fig. 6)
Far left two: #10 UO(oc),
left:  #11 UO(oo)

Photo 6 (Photo 6)  Top four: #10, bottom two: #11

#10. Pototsu (Flat Braid Variation 1)
Fourteen-element UO(oc). Method 1.
Number of loops: 7.
The braid looks very much like UO(oo)

Speiser discusses the possibility of #10 for the case of 5 loops and method 1 along with others in her theoretical discourse of some of possible UO braid structures. (Note 9) While UO (oo) and UO (cc) can be found in diverse cultures the world over, #10 is the first ever reported.

#11. Pototsu  (Flat Braid Variation 2)
Fourteen-element UO (oo) Method 1.
The top face while braiding has a 4-ridge pattern, from left (under1/over2/over2/under1), and the bottom face a 2-ridge pattern (3/3).
The appearances of the top face of the 5-loop braids and that of 7-loop braids differ considerably because the former has a plain weave pattern whereas the latter has a twill pattern.

#12. Kulenaki'iya (Bridle) New
Fig. 7 (Fig. 7)
Photo 7

A combination of twin 6-element 2-ridge flat braids and 2-loop parallel twines Method 2
Number of the loops: 8

#12 looks very much like Green Dorge (Grains d'Orge = Barley Corn) in the Tollemache book, a combination of 8-element square braid and a pair of 2-element parallel twines using Method 1 with 6 loops. The two share similar structural components; Twin parallel twines bind the midriff of one of the Trinity Braids.

Classification of the Guajiro recipes
1. New as a recipe as well as a braid: 5 items (#2, #4, #5, #10, #12)
2. New as a recipe: 2 items (#1, #3)
3. Those that can be found in the known repertory: 5 items (#6, #7, #8, #9, #11)

Among these, three items (#4, #5, #10) correspond to the scheme that Speiser has discussed for the case of Method 1 and 5-loop while the Guajiro recipes calls for Method 2 and 7 loops. (Note 6)
Five-loop recipes for the Method 1 and 2 proposed as possible construction methods of the tie string of the Khanty jacket is similar to #4 but an O-transfer is used. (Note 10)

Through this report, we learned for the first time that Method 2 is also used in South America, i. e., out side of Asia where all but one of the method have so far been found. In addition, now we learned the practice of method 2 for making UO braids, which so far had never been reported.

Many of recipes in the repertory of Guajiro Indians' L-M braids are first time reports, as far as we know.
Some among them that the Guajiros make using Method 2 with 7 loops have the same construction scheme of Method 1 with 5 loops that has been discussed earlier in theory as a structural possibility. Their braids make us feel as if we are seeing the history of the l-m technique developing right in front of our eyes.

WARE'KERU widened our scope of knowledge on the l-m braiding technique significantly. Not enough can be said of the importance of the contribution of WARE'KERU to the knowledge of the L-M BRAIDING TECHNIQUE.

Many thanks are due to Maria and Eduardo Portillo of Venezuela, who gave the information of this book, WARE'KERU, to Peter Collingwood of GB, and Peter for forwarding it to us.  Thanks are due also to Dusty Hellmann for helping me download the book contents, and to Marilyn Martin for translating those Spanish words or sentences the online translator couldn't help.

Debut of Medieval Braids
'Kaku-hira-uchi Braid Fragments' of Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Japan
Masako Kinoshita

Rare textile treasures, some of them national treasures or important cultural properties, mainly from the late 12th to the mid 16th centuries, and some from later periods, that have been stored in four special chests of drawers at Engakuji in Kamakura, Japan, made a rare appearance at Goto Museum of Art, Tokyo. (2006/10/28-12/3)  The occasion commemorates the 720th year of the death of Mugaku Sogen who founded Engakuji. Having heard that a pair of braids from the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) was in it, we rushed to see it. (Note 11) The pair clearly showed the characteristics of the medieval braids fashioned using KUTE-UCHI.

According to the illustrated catalog of the exhibit (Note 12) :
Kaku-hira-uchi Braid Fragments, Important Cultural Property, are a
pair of braids, each consists of a pair of flat braids made of loosely twisted yarn of white, yellow, yellow-green, pink and purple, with braided-in cores of fairly thick linen twists. The paired flat braids had been wrapped in a now-tattered tubular 'kaku-hira' braid of white, yellow-green and pink yarns of loosely twisted degummed silk, with some of the yellow-green yarns spun a bit stronger.  It is rather rare to see braids in such a format; two braids partially wrapped in a tubular braid. Although we don't know what the braid was used for, the fact that both ends are separated into two braids makes us think that it might have been used as shoulder straps for KESA, Buddhist monk's formal wear. (Oyama) (Note 13)

General Description of the Braids
Here is our report on these unexpected, unusual medieval braids, although our observation measures are limited to the extent allowed at the exhibition.  For the images of the braid, please refer to p. 83 of the illustrated catalog mentioned above.

Piece 1: L 62 cm   W 1.3 cm  Thickness  0.7 cm
Piece 2: L 57.8 cm  W 1.3 cm  T  0.7 cm
Piece 3: L 7.0 cm  W 1.3 cm  T 0.7 cm

In place of the braid name, 'kaku-hira-uchi = square flat braid,' used in the exhibit and the catalog, we will use structurally distinctive terms; 6-ridge twill flat braids for the paired flat braids and 12-ridge tubular twill braids for the tattered pieces of wrapping braids. As a whole, they are identified as '4-layer 3-person-connected braids'.

To paraphrase the term 4-layer 3-person-connected braid:
Japanese medieval braids were made using kute-uchi. (Note 14) our current understanding of kute-uchi was reconstructed from an early 19th-c. treatise. Constructing a double square braid in a vertical alignment (a 4-layer structure), or vertically aligned two square braids or four flat braids in one shot are among the basic procedures of kute-uchi. (Fig. 8 row 1)

fig. 8(Fig. 8)

If three braiders collaborate and construct a braid by connecting three braids made by each braider, they produce a 4-layer 3-person-connected braid. (Fig. 8 row 4)  The kind of the braid produced depends on which 1-person procedure they use.

It has been proven practically as well as theoretically that all extant 4-layer medieval braids had been constructed using one of the 2- to 4-person connection methods. We have found that all 10-plus extant braids are dissimilar either in structure or in color pattern. It is truly amazing that we have found another braid that was produced using another possible kute-uchi procedures in a color scheme that has never seen before in medieval braids.

The features on the two braids laid in parallel are more or less in the mirror image. They both have stitch patterns going in the same direction, indicating each piece was made as an independent braid to form a pair. Interestingly the pair has been worn out almost in a mirror image, which leaves us with a suspicion that it might have something to do with structural factors. Several- centimeters long fragments of the tubular braids and one that is about twice as long hold the central 1/3 portion of the braids. We can't tell whether one continuous piece of tubular braid originally covered the entire central portion or several short tubes in a regular interval. About 20 cm of both ends seem to show no trace of having ever been covered. The form of the pieces suggests that they might have been shoulder straps for a kesa although they seem to be a bit too thick for the purpose.
The stitch pattern of the flat braids is unusually irregular. We can see a pair of linen core-yarns that have been braided in the center two ridges with the silk elements, the short ends of which hang bare at the lower end of both braids, having completely lost silk elements.

Construction Method
Because of the 4-layer structure and the number of ridges, the braid that comes in mind first is 'the Laces for Hanging the Amulets of Prince Shotoku (The Amulet Laces),' National Treasure, from the late Heian Period (the 12th c.), belonging to Shitennoji Temple, Osaka, Japan.  (Fig. 8:a4) (Note 15)
The Engakuji braids, however, are each composed of three separate braids. Therefore the line of the technique that was used to construct the Round Braids found inside the Statue of Zendo Daishi (the Chion'in Braids), the mid Kamakura Period (the 13th c.), belonging to Chion'in, Kyoto, Japan, would be more appropriate as the construction method of this braid.  (Note 16) Whereas the Chion'in braid, which is a round (square) braid, took 2 braiders to construct (Fig. 8: d3), for the Engakuji braids with rectangular cross section 3 braiders worked together (Fig. 8: c4). The construction scheme for the Amulet Laces is used in the Heian Period while that for the Chion'in braids is only found in those from the Kamakura Period or later.
In this scheme, each braider holds an even number of loops on each hand.  For the Chion'in Braid, for instance, two braiders cooperate holding 10 loops in each of four hands constructing an 80-element braid.

For 3-person braiding of this type, the expected number of elements is:
An even number x 2 (number of elements in each loop) x 2 (number of hands for each braider) x 3 (number of braiders) = 12 x an even number (Note 17)

Some Facts We Learned from the Braids
1. Insights on the linen core-yarn: how the core is incorporated inside a braid.
a. For the first time ever, we saw core-yarns that have been braided in one or two central ridge(s).
b. Two strands of rather thick linen core-yarns (according to the catalog) hang from the ends of the braids.
c. Only two strands of core yarn were used, rather than they are only two left behind.

It has been known that some medieval braids have strands of core material, but none showed enough inner structure to reveal how they were put inside of braids. Once, I have seen numerous ends of linen core remains from a completely wasted-away braid, which must have been a double-sided kikko braid.  The twisted core yarn had tiny fragments of silk pinched between each twist suggesting that the core had been worked in the structure. From the Engakuji braid, we actually can confirm, for the first time, this fact.

2. The number of elements may be estimated from the stitch pattern of core-yarn.
In counting the number of elements, the core-yarns braided in the flat braids work the same as colored elements marking repeats of the pattern. In the case of this particular braid, regrettably, it was difficult to obtain the exact number of rows between two successive core-yarn stitches because of the pattern irregularity. Therefore, the numbers given here should be regarded merely as an example.

Case 1. The core-yarn, doubled with an element yarn, appears every three rows:
Number of elements: 6 x 12 = 72, or 36 loops
In addition to 36 loops, 4 ends of core yarn formed into 2 loops are used.

Case 2. The core-yarns have been individually braided in every four rows:
Number of elements: 8 x 12 = 96, or 48 loops = 92 silk elements (46 loops) + 4 core elements (2 loops)

3. Hypothetical methods that might have been used to work in the core:
Case 1: The center braider holds two extra loops, i.e., the core loops at the innermost of each hand next to the innermost silk loops. These two loops are treated as one except when they are transferred. When the two are to be transferred, only the silk loop is passed to the neighbor. The core loop remains in the hand of the center braider and joins to the loop passed from the neighbor and the newly formed pair is treated as one.

Case 2: Initial allotment of the loops: 2 outer braiders hold 8 silk loops in each hand; the center braider holds 7 silks and 1 core. Sequence the loops as prescribed except the core loops are allotted to the innermost of the center braider.
The three braiders work making the connections. On the rows in which core loops are worked, all three works without making connections, thus the core loops remain in the center braider's hands.

The section above has been derived from our naked-eye observations with rather bold speculations. More accurate answers would come out if we had been able to observe them under better conditions.

4. M. Omura, et al., reported in 2003 their observation of a single strand of thin tightly spun Z double-ply silk thread run through some of medieval braids. (Note 18)
We found one thread like the one described above in the central area of Photo 9.
Thus the Engakuji braids present another example to the statistics on this theme, while the presence of the silk yarn of this type among soft silks elements remains a puzzle.
There also are some short Z double-ply silk sticking out here and there in Photo 8. They could be the yellow-green tighter-spun elements Ms. Oyama mentions in the catalog.

Technical Problems
1. Transition from 2-layer structure to 4-layer structure.
Medieval braids we have known before the Engakuji braid consist of a single coherent braid. There does not seem to have been an effort of taking advantage of the ability of kute-uchi of simultaneously produce multiple braids. We see this ability is positively incorporated in the production of the Engakuji braid: it starts as two separate pieces, then forms into a single strand by wrapping the two with a tubular braid, and then branches into two again. It seems to be natural to take advantage of this ability for making shoulder straps for kesa. The braids may be presenting the evidence of a new trend of the technique at this time.

On the other hand, in using kute-uchi, two, three or four braids are simultaneously produced using all the elements.  Braiding only two inner braids will cause technical problems.  Daring to do so will leave unworked elements hanging around and cause uneven tension leading to uneven stitches not to mention an awkward working situation. If a braid is to be made against all these odds, the hanging elements will still have to be taken care of to make a smooth transition from the two-braids section to the wrapped section, and vice versa.  This is the first theme to be resolved in the production of these braids.

2. Color pattern on the tubular fragments of the Engakuji braid:
There are several similar-looking tubular fragments about 4 cm long at regular intervals covering the middle portion of each of the two flat braids.  In addition, there is a tubular fragment about twice as long as others. On the latter fragment, a unit of a pink twill pattern on yellow-green background repeats several times. On the former, however, there are no pattern repeats. Instead, there is only one unit of the pink pattern at the lower half and a yellow-green area occupy the entire top half.
These facts prove that the color patterns were not produced by the standard method in which color elements are simply braided following a prearranged sequence and the surface pattern simply forms following the color sequence.
For switching the color of a stitch arbitrarily on a braid in the l-m braiding technique, one would use the method we call 'two-color loop reversal'. In this method, a two-color loop, a loop with the upper and the lower shanks in different colors, is reversed as it is transferred (C-transfer).  This exchanges the colors of the stitches of the top and bottom layers at the exchange point. By this operation, however, the shanks of the loops would penetrate through the two inner braids and connect the top and bottom layers.
A careful observation of the close-up photo in the catalog suggests the possibility of this technique having been used.
This problem will be easily resolved if the actual object is examined.

We deem that the possibility of space-dyed yarn having been used is small.

4. Color pattern on the inner two flat braids:
The irregular salt-and-pepper pattern of the inner two flat braids is the effect from the composite elements of one purple strand and the rest which may be yellow, yellow-green or pink silk to make up the appropriate size of an element. We believe that there is no precedent of this kind among known medieval braids, as far as we know. The density of salt-and-pepper is irregular from dense to none. In some areas, there are purple flower-like patterns of which we could not tell whether or not they are intended. No difference in the color pattern tendencies was observed throughout the lengths whether they are exposed or covered. We don't know how this seemingly simple color effect was achieved. There's not much possibility of the purple threads having been stitched in afterwards since the pattern seems to cover the wrapped areas as well.

5. About the irregularity of the stitches of the inner flat braids:
The stitch pattern is markedly irregular on all four inner flat braids. In contrast, the stitches of the tubular braids that cover the surface are very regular. It is not the type of irregularity caused by the loss of some decayed elements. We couldn't imagine how such a uniformly irregular surface occurred on the entire length of the braids.


The kute-uchi procedures used for making the Engakuji braids share the same scheme to produce such braids as the 'Chion'in Braid,' 'Hanging Braids of the Cover to the Daijingu Shrine at Saidaiji Temple, Nara, Japan,' and the 'Belt for Wearing the Sword with the Scabbard decorated with oxisalis-leaf design at Kasuga Shrine, Nara, Japan.' For each of the braid mentioned here, a different possible method within the scheme was used. The Engakuji braids provide another example of how the basic scheme was exploited
We believe that kute-uchi made a striking development in Kamakura Period (the 12-14th c.), to which the production dates of these national treasures have been attributed.

The Engakuji braids have provided us with helpful facts to long-standing questions. On the other hand, they have brought us new questions to solve. They may be giving us insight to the crafts people's efforts that have spurred a great advance of the technique during this period. We are left here realizing the extent and depth of the technique. We hope that we may be allowed some day to examine the braids in detail in our efforts to further the research of the L-M braiding.

Acknowledgement: We thank Goto Museum for giving us special viewing time of the braids, Ms. Nobuko Kajitani for giving the timely information, and a curator at Goto Museum, Ms. Rumi Sato for her assistance and advice.

St. Gallen purseLoop-Manipulation Braids on
a Fifteenth-century Purse

Noemi Speiser

St. Gallen 1
purse detail

St Gallen 2
Acknowledgement: We thank N. Speiser for this special contribution.  Thanks are also due to U. Karbacher and C. Kaestli at St. Gallen Textile Museum sending us the image photos and their advice.

Xi, Lace-like Fabric Fragments
Excavated from Lianling Mashan Tomb No. 1 (Note 19)

M. Omura participated in 'the special survey trip 2006 of excavated silk textiles from the Warring Period (402 BC-221 BC) tombs in Hupei province, China.'  She confirmed that the fragile sheer fabric fragments on display, among the objects from Liangling Ma Shan tomb No. 1 at Jingzhou Museum, Hupei Province, was the fabric known as Xi, plain oblique twining (POT). (Note 20) She also confirmed numerous fabric fragments of the same structure, some of them fairly large, among the displays of other archeological excavations at Jingzhou Museum as well as at Jingmen Museum.  The fragments of Xi, tagged mistakenly or unknowingly as an 'oblique interlacing,' displayed at Jingmen Museum were from the excavation of Guojia gang No. 1 tomb.  The wooden coffin from the tomb has been carbon-dated to 2340 (+-)170.
Xi fabrics that have been known among the artifacts from earlier archeological excavations of the Han (220 BC-220 AD) tombs are highly likely to have been constructed using a technique that works in the same principle of the l-m as explained in the following.  We now have learned that Xi fabrics were produced in sizable amounts as early as in the Chu period (5th c. B.C.-223 B.C.)
Xi is a gauze-like fabric made of fine silk threads, some of which often were found sized by japan lacquer and fashioned into head wear. Although it was at one time mistaken as leno- or complex leno-type gauze, it has been determined by J. Nunome's research using photo microscope images as obliquely interlaced fabric made of twisted threads. (Note 21
POT swatchThe fabric structure basically is one end of twisted thread penetrates through an eye of twists of the other twisted thread, followed by many pairs of component threads repeating the same for the width of the fabric. For the second row, the same processes are repeated with the staggered pairs of the first row, only this time the each penetrated thread penetrates the other. Fabrics with the same pattern but in a higher density may look like a plain weave because of the over/under relationship of the interlaced elements at the surface.

(Photo 12: sample swatch of Xi made using f-h l-m with 9 loops.)

Two possible methods of producing the fabric, essentially the same as PLY-SPLIT (p-s) and l-m, were proposed by Wang Xu.
(Note 22)  The fabrics with the identical structure produced using the p-s technique have been named by P. Collingwood as plain oblique twining (POT). (Note 23)  Xi, which has the same structure as a POT fabric, however, is composed of such fine elements that it would be almost impossible to construct it using p-s technique. Moreover, if constructed using p-s with, for instance, Z double-ply yarns, the yarn would be composed of two ends of strongly S-plied singles. The microscopic photograph that Nunome produced shows that the two singles of silk yarn that compose the two-end Z-twist don't have an S-twist at all, and instead have a slight Z-twist. This denies the possibility of Xi fabric having been made using the p-s technique. (Note 24)
On the other hand, no reason has been found that excludes the possibility of the l-m or a technique that works on the same principle having been the construction technique of Xi. Moreover, if the l-m had been used, the cause of the slight S-twist on the component of the Z-double-twisted yarn would have a ready explanation. The l-m procedure for constructing POT fabrics is basically a simple repetition of putting one of a pair of loops through the inside of the other and then giving the first loop a half Z turn. The pass-and-turn operations go through for all paired loops in the width of the fabric and then go back with the same operations given to staggered pairs of loops always giving the loops a half Z turn. The experiments with high-efficiency 9-loop f-h scheme with 28 loops I designed for making POT structure and its variation, the octagonal-eye lace-like fabric, proved that the technique is feasible.  The basic operations are applicable either to the f-h and h-h.  While this put the l-m as the most probable construction technique for xi, no definitive supporting evidence has yet been found.  Omura's confirmation that a sizable amount of Xi was produced in the time of the Chu, several centuries before the Han dynasty, leaves us with a renewed sense of awe for Chinese civilization.
(M. Kinoshita)

A modern Attempt at Making a Medieval Fingerloop-Braiding Booklet
Kimberly Frodelius (Note 25)

A Medieval-style Fingerloop Braiding Manual
Borja painting
As an historical recreationist with the Society for Creative Anachronism, I am active mostly as a calligrapher and illuminator, but I also share an avid interest in European medieval fingerloop braiding. To my great delight, an opportunity recently presented itself to craft a miniature version of a 15th century braiding treatise, while at the same time honoring one of the fingerloop braiding community's foremost researchers, Lois Swales.
(Note 26) As the project developed, it eventually came to include samples of four newly-devised variations of English fingerloop braids, along with hand-painted miniature illustrations. The illustration were based on an initial in the Harley manuscript, the 15th-century fingerloop braiding instructions in the British Library (Note 27), as well as an image of Saint Lucy making a fingerloop braid from the Spanish Borja Virgin and Child altar piece. (Note 28)

The project is a commemorative award presented to Ms. Swales on the occasion of her induction into the Society for Creative Anachronism's Order of the Pelican, the highest award for service to the organization. It is a hand-bound booklet comprised of eight folios.  It opens with a full-page painting that includes the detail of Saint Lucy from the Borja Virgin altarpiece. Following this frontispiece, the text of the award presentation begins with a conjectural reconstruction of the Harley manuscript initial. After the award text, there follow several pages of braiding instructions, directing the reader to construct four newly-devised variations on 15th century English braids. The piece closes with four sample braids sewn to the last folio of the booklet.

A Braider honored
In order to be as accurate to the original images as possible, I acquired digital color images of the sources. I purchased a high-resolution photo of folio 52r of the Harley manuscript from the British Library, and a color image of the Borja altarpiece from the Amatller Institute (Note 29) in Barcelona. The Harley initial is damaged, so I was forced to use some educated guesswork in reconstructing the image, especially the gown of the seating figure.
Four New Braids
The four fingerloop braids presented in the booklet were devised to reflect aspects of the emblem of the award order into which Ms. Swales was inducted. The emblem depicts the historical heraldic image of a pelican 'in its piety,' that is, seated in a nest, surrounded by her young, piercing her own breast with her beak in order to nourish her offspring with droplets of her blood. In keeping with the naming conventions of the 15th-century braid recipes, I used heraldic terms to name my four new braid variations.

gouttylace Goutty

Lace Goutty is a color variation of the six-loop Grene Dorge braid. It uses five white loops and one red loop to create a braid with red 'droplets' running down the center of a white braid. These droplets are meant to mimic the droplets of blood on the white breast of the pelican. The term 'goutty' is a heraldic term used to describe a shield covered with droplets.

lace Fletching

Lace Fletched combines a six-loop version of the 8-loop Lace Chevron, with the addition of a center stripe, introduced by using a set of moves from the Grene Dorge braid. 'Fletched,' while not truly a heraldic term, is a medieval term referring to the 'fletching' (feathers) on an arrow. The term alludes to the feathers of the Pelican herself.

chapeaulace gules

The three-worker
Lace Gules Bordered Ermine connects two Grene d'Orge braids to either side of a broad seven loop braid, to produce a wide braid with a red stripe down the center between two white bands with black flecks. This braid is meant to represent the red cap, trimmed with ermine fur, worm by recipients of this particular award.

Frettedlace Fretted

Lastly, the
Lace Fretted is a successful attempt at joining two Lace Mascles, side by side. It is named with a heraldic term for a woven lattice-like pattern. This braid is meant to represent the nest of the pelican.

It was a great pleasure to bring together a variety of interests into one project, especially one that combined an exploration of the past with experimentation in the present, to honor an individual who has helped to ensure fingerloop braiding's future.

To see images of the booklet, please visit:
To find complete instructions on how to create the our braids, please visit:
The braids were entered into a recent arts and sciences competition known as Ice Dragon, where they won first place in the Fiber Arts Category. To read the documentation that was submitted for that competition, please visit:

I am working on acquiring the web publishing rights to the images acquired from the British Library and the Amatller Institute. These will be added to the portfolio page when those rights have been secured.



Finger-Held (f-h) L-M Method Basic Instructions

Five Recipes of Guajiro Indians

. 4-element round
2. 8-element flat with an unorthdox pattern
3. Tat-tail (7-element flat braid)
4. Rat-tail variation 1
5. Rat-tail variation 2

'Study Group for Replica Construction of Archaic Japanese Braids Using Kute-uchi' = KKFK has been formed in January, 2006. The group meets very other month studying various aspects of braids selected as an yearly theme. For 2006, they studied detailed structural factors of Shsoin square braids theoretical aspects as well as practical based on referencing materials.
For the second year, 2007, they plan to continue with the same theme, aiming at the colors and skill training. Meeting will be held on the fourth Sunday of even-numbered months. The group is open to anybody who are seriously interesting in the subject. Need an approval of the group. Contact: phone +81-743-74-6419, e-mail omura@gangoji.jp

FORCAST: From 01/2007 to 03/2008
International Conference on Kumihimo (11/12-16/2007) is going to convene at the Future Applied Conventional Technilogy Center, Kyoto Institute of Technology. Subjects relating to L-M braiding are: keynote lecture by M, Kinoshita, seminar by M. Omura, slide presentation by Y. Kawada, demonstrations by members of L-M Kumihimo Group, 5 workshops by M. Kinoshita. There also are advanced courses of TAKADAI, KARAKUMIDAI and HAMANAKA DISKS. Demonstrations, exhibitions as well as visits to studios of professional braiders are also planned. There is a provision of one-day registration.
For information: Makiko Tada, phone +81-42-592-7767, fax +81 42-593-3204,
e-mail : secretary@kumihimoconf.org URL: http://www.kumihimoconf.org
L. Swales and Heather Blatt, 'Tiny Textiles Hidden in Books: Toward a Categorization of Multiple-Strand Bookmarkers,' Medieval Clothing and Textiles 3, Edited by Robin Netherton, Gale R. Owen-Crocker, Publication date: 19/04/2007.
The publisher 's URL: http://www.boydell.co.uk/43832917.HTM:
This 10,000 word article contains pictures of extant bookmarkers as well as tables of those we found (including construction details) and an extensive listing of medieval images of bookmarkers.  We describe a number of fingerloop braids found attached to some of these bookmarkers (when they can be identified as such), including some made of bast fiber.  We were limited to B&W illustrations for this publication, but hope in the future to establish a more colorful bookmarker website with further details on those bookmarkers we studied (and continue to study) found in manuscripts and early modern printed books.
Lectures, Workshops:
M. Kinoshita, One-day lecture and workshop, The Legacy of Masunari Ozeki: Archaic Braiding Techniqiues of Japan, 11/23/2007 Basho Manor at Kurobane. Information: Basho no Yakata, c/o A. Arai, 980-1 Maeda. Ootawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan 324-0234
E-Mail a.arai@city.ohtawara.tochigi.jp Phone: +81-287-54-4151 Fax +81-287-54-4188

Activities in the past year (01/2006-03/2007)

tak v bowesE. Benns with G. Barrett,
Tak V Bowes Departed: a 15th Century Braiding Manual Examined, Soper Lane, 2005. (Photo 13)

R. Owen, 'Interlace braids--an Overview,' Strands 2006.

sulawesiK. Kusakabe, Illustrated catalog, "
The Keiko Kusakabe Collection Textile from Sulawesi in Indonesia, Geneology of Sacred Cloths" in Japanese and English, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Municipal Museum of Art, 2006. (Photo 14)

H. Kasuga.

Kawabe, Sakai Municipal Greenify Center 03/02-04/07 Sample swatches made following instructions of 'Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding' at Annual Exhibit of Natural Dye Works. A. Yoda showed three twice-braided cushions, i.e., many lengths of the Tollemache #5 are braided and woven to form a cushion. She used yarns dyed with logwood and cochneal. (Photo 15)
Kawabe, SMGC, 06/3/3-5  Materials relating to l-m braiding in the 15th- and 17th-century Europe. A. Yoda showed a panel with materials relating to N. Speiser's special colloquium given in Nara, 2005.
Kusakabe, special exhibit, "The Keiko Kusakabe Collection Textile from Sulawesi in Indonesia, Geneology of Sacred Cloths," Fukuikoa Munisipal Museume of Art. Superve textile works from Sulawesi Island, not so well known for their excellent quality, such as works of batik, ikat, tablet weaving and l-m braiding, were on display.
Lectures, workshops and study groups :
2006 Bi-monthly meetings, 2/19, 4/22, 6/25, 8/27, 10/22, 11/12,
From Katia Johansen, Denmark: We have just had, here in Copenhagen, a one-day workshop entitled "Simple cords and braids." It was held under the auspices of KEP (continuing education for conservators), which receives support from the Danish Ministry of Culture, Department of Preservation of Cultural Heritage. The course was my idea, and I planned it along with two colleagues, M. H. Jorgensen and A. Sparr. We chose a number workshop; copenhagenof techniques and each taught a selected number. (Photo 16)
Anna Sparr, from Sweden, is an accomplished hair-braider (not pigtails!), so she taught three variations of braiding as well as simple kumihimo braids on discs. I taught various samples of slendring/loop-manipulation and a kute-uchi. There were also simple braids of lace, tablet weaving, rigid heddle and several others for which I don't have the English term handy. 25 textile conservators and other museum people were presented with a series of both simple and unusual braids and cords which they could learn to do, on equipment already set up for them. They circulated throughout the day between different stations, including several examples of loop-manipulation (which was a new technique for most), learning the basics. Each made samples of 4-5 types. Each participant received a folder with full instructions and color photos of the finished products, in addition to their own samples.  The students were very excited about the course, and we expect to repeat it later this year. My object lesson with the course was to encourage my colleagues to learn to see what different constructions are produced by different techniques. My hope is that having now seen loop-manipulated braids in the making, they will be able to recognize them as such if they see them on museum objects or in archaeological finds! The course has inspired further research into the occurrence of loop-manipulated braids in the Royal Archives, collaborating with Joy Boutrup.
C. Kawabe, See&Do Session, for the exhibit at SMGC, 03/05/06, assisted by T. Onishi. 24 participants. M. Omura at National Ethnology Museum, Suita, Japan; 'Let's try braiding with loops,' the Special Exhibition 'Kid's World at Minpaku, about 50 participants, 5/27/06. C. Kako at Hyogo Prefectural History Museum, Himeji, Japan, See&Do Session: 'Let's Make Braids.' After practicing f-h l-m with 3 and 5 loops, children made bresletts with woolen and metalic yarns in the traditional style of Mrs. Kumeda from Aomori. 13 participants. C. Nishioka at The Native Place of Silk Gunma Prefectural Museum 9/27. M. Kinoshita gave workshops at Wako and Nara: 10-11/2006 Kute-uchi Advanced Basic Techniques, The Tollemache Book of Secrets: Treatise for Making Laces, Series 2, Solo techinque for Duo Braiding, The Tollemache Oblique Twining Techniques, Learning through Practice: Basic Structure of braids and the Track-plan. Y. Kawada at Sennan Municipal Center for Buried Cultural Properties, assisted by H.. Kasuga, C. Kawabe, S. Sumiura, K. Tsumori, A Yoda. 11/18/06. Field trip of municipal elementary school kids. See&Do Session, 364 kids participated; mini-workshop, 26 participants. The iron sword excavated from the Mita burial mound with pseudomorphed braid were also on display. K. Kuskabe gave a gallery talk and demonstration for the exhibition mentioned above, assisited by A. Maekawa, 9-loop 2-person braiding of a headband, POTE, of Sulawesi. Attendees were all excited seeing the demonstration. 11/25-26/06
We wait for reports of the readers' activities relating to L-M BRAIDING.
Again this year, we received information from many readers, giving us yet stronger convictions of l-m braiding having been used long in time and wide in area. It is encouraging to see that many people are exposed to the technique through demonstrations, the efforts of volunteers.
Acknowledgement: For contribution of articles -- N. Speiser, Kimberly Frodelius; For information -- P. Collingwood, K. Johansen,  H. Kasuga, N. Kajitani, C. Kawabe, K. Kusakabe, M. Omura, L. Swales; For supplying materials -- Textilmuseum St. Gallen and C. Kaestili and U. Karbacher at the museum, R. Satoh at Goto Museum:  For monetray contribution -- H. Aihara, S. Sumiura, H. Nagase; and those who sent us letters, faxes and e-mails.
L-M BRIC News, starting this issue, no longer issues hardcopy version. The News will be accessed only through the internet. For those who have difficulty to access to the internet or wish to have hardcopy version, please request your wish to the editor. We will be happy to make a full hard copy set from the web and mail it to you, free of charge.
L-M BRIC News is totally self-supported publication by the Loop-Manipulation Braiding Research and Information Center founded by Masako Kinoshita to promote the study of L-M braiding. Donations from interested readers, however, are welcome. If you wish to donate money, please send it to Masako Kinoshita, 5 winthrop Place, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA. Please send YEN contribution through Japanses postal money order account no. 00360 3 2586, title Masako Kinoshita.