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Tama weight question

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  • Ruth MacGregor
    ... Hi, Eileen! It s nice to hear you re having fun exploring kumihimo -- there s a lot to see and learn! Tama weights are an interesting question. Before
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 2, 2004
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      > Also, I have been trying to come up with ideas for tama. ... I am
      > hesitant to go up
      > to 37 grams and that is the minimum available for purchase. Is it
      > easier to do the braids with a heavier tama? Will they be looser?
      >

      Hi, Eileen!

      It's nice to hear you're having fun exploring kumihimo -- there's a lot
      to see and learn!

      Tama weights are an interesting question. Before getting into their
      weight, though, here are some ideas for "improvised" tama you can make
      yourself:
      - Film canisters with coins inside (you can put cotton balls in with
      the coins to keep them from shifting)
      - Dowels with washers on them for weight (wind the yarns onto the
      dowels and hang with hooks on the ends)
      - Big bolts from the hardware store (wrap tape around the bolt threads
      to avoid snagging the yarns)
      - Bobbins made from polymer clay (I've never done this myself, but see
      no reason it wouldn't work)

      Of those suggestions, the film canisters are my personal favourites.
      They're free of cost (if you don't have empties around the house, you
      can usually get them for free from a photo shop), and the coins inside
      are easily recovered if you don't want to use them as tama any more.
      ;-) They also behave pretty well during braiding, almost as well as
      "real" bobbins.

      Before I go on to the next part, here's a caveat: we have members on
      this list who are truly experts in the realm of kumihimo. I'm not one
      of them -- I'm just a braider.

      With that cleared up, here's my "take" on the subject of tama weights.
      In the process of braiding on the marudai, everything you do is
      affected by the relative weights of the tama and the counterweight.
      The constant tension on the strands during braiding is one of the
      things that sets this kind of braiding apart from the myriad others.
      The two sources of that tension (the weighted tama and the
      counterweight) each have a specific role to play, and variations on
      either end result in changes in the braid -- for different reasons.

      The tama, from what I've observed, are in charge of controlling the
      elements being braided -- the stuff up on top of the marudai.
      Generally, the heavier the tama, the greater the control you have over
      the threads. ...Using one end of 6-strand embroidery floss for each
      element as you've been doing, you wouldn't be likely to see a great
      difference in the braid or the handling if you started using heavier
      tama -- you'd feel the difference in weight as you lift the threads, of
      course, but as you've already seen with your very lightweight 11-gram
      spools, the embroidery floss behaves quite well even under only light
      tension, so the heavier tama wouldn't have much of an effect. You
      *would* see a difference (and a big one) if you were to start braiding
      strands made of a number of fine yarns (say, silk or biron or rayon).
      Even if we're talking about the lighter, 37-gram tama, their weight
      helps tremendously in keeping the bundles of fine yarns orderly as you
      braid. Another place where you'd see a big difference is if you
      started braiding thicker, less supple yarns -- in that case, a heavier
      set of tama would ensure that the thick yarn would be folded snugly
      into the braid structure and not escape from time to time in untidy
      loops. (I'm currently working on a thick-and-thin braid using 70-gram
      tama, and I'm wishing I'd started out using the 100-gram ones!) ...The
      weight of the tama doesn't make them easier or harder to use; but it
      can make your job of getting a consistent braid much, much easier, just
      by making sure the yarns on top of the marudai are nicely tensioned.

      The counterweight, on the other hand, is in charge of the firmness or
      suppleness of the result. Its job is to pull downward on the finished
      part of the braid -- like an "advance" mechanism on your marudai. If
      it pulls only very gently (i.e., is lightweight), the braid will be
      very firm; if it exerts a strong pull (i.e., is heavier), the braid
      will be more supple. If you have trouble visualizing this, think of
      what it looks like when you "help" a piece of fabric move along under
      the needle of a sewing machine. When you let the fabric go along on
      its own, the stitches are one length, but if you pull on the fabric
      behind the needle, the stitches get longer. Well, a heavier
      counterweight makes the "stitches" of the braid get longer in a similar
      way, by pulling downward more on the braid -- which gives you a looser,
      more supple result.

      If I understood you correctly, you were worried that you'd lose the
      firmness you like so much in the braids you're making now if you were
      to change to heavier tama (is that right?). Let me reassure you, the
      firmness of the braid remains fully in your control, no matter what
      kind of tama you're using! I usually use 70-gram tama, and when I want
      a firm braid, I can get it (even if I want a braid so firm we could
      call it "hard"!). It's just a question of how much weight goes in the
      counterweight bag.

      My friends will tell you I'm known for giving long answers to short
      questions. ;-) ...Did it help?

      Ruth
    • Eileen
      Ruth, Absolutely! I am in need of more guidance than I am even aware of myself! I am a very detail oriented person so long answers for short questions work
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 4, 2004
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        Ruth,

        Absolutely! I am in need of more guidance than I am even aware of
        myself! I am a very detail oriented person so long answers for short
        questions work for me. I am guilty of long answers most of the time
        myself. Thank you for the info. I can't wait to start applying it to
        my braids.

        Eileen
      • Eileen
        Thanks for the information! I have been searching for a ball winder large enough for my threads in the future. I got my silk thread today and it is lovely,
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 4, 2004
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          Thanks for the information! I have been searching for a ball winder
          large enough for my threads in the future. I got my silk thread today
          and it is lovely, but it is more suited for fine embroidery as opposed
          to Kumihimo. One thread per color that is 120 yards long. Oh well,
          live and learn. I will hang onto it for future embroidery projects
          and kumihimo braids where I just need one or two strands of a color as
          an accent depending on the praid size. The colors are gorgeous.

          Eileen
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