There are four main types of braiding stand or loom in use in Japan today for handmade obi-jime. They are the kakudai, marudai, ayatakedai and takadai.
Kakudai (square stand, 角台) is probably the easiest to use, making nice simple braids fairly quickly. and for this reason is often the first one taught in Japanese braiding schools. Essentially one braids round a short spike whilst a weight hung from above pulls the braid up. It is almost like braiding upside down compared to the more standard marudai methods. The main drawback is the limited range which can be made with this – usually only using 4 to 16 bobbins and one of a dozen or so patterns, though the braids can be round or square, or even flattish, in cross-section..
Marudai (round stand, 丸台) is far the most widely used amongst handicraft enthusiasts in the West, largely because of the relatively low cost of buying or making the fairly simple stand and limited number of bobbins required, and its portability. Braiding hangs down in a hole in the centre of the stand, pulled down by a weight to keep it taut, and whilst 8 or 16 bobbins are most commonly used, with more than 24 being rare owing to how crowded the marudai gets, in theory a very large number could be used and the variety of patterns which can be braided is quite wide. Braids can be made round, square, oblong or flat in cross-section, depending on how you move the bobbins, and all from the same little stand.
This is technically a weaving loom rather than braiding stand, and the threads have a definite warp and weft. As a result the basic ‘stitches’ are easily defined and many obi-jime made on the ayatakedai feature vertical or horizontal stripes. The pattern is achieved by moving warp threads (which run the length of the braid) up and down the V-shaped ‘feathers’ at the front of the loom to creat different sheds (gaps) through which the weft threads (the ones that go back and forth across the braid) pass. Many obijime made on the ayatakedai use bright colours. Summer obijime featuring thicker, stiffer threads and holed patterns are usually created on the ayatakedai. Some ayatakedai also have side arms with koma (blocks of pegs), as on the takadai, which allow for greater variation of pattern.
Takadai (high stand, 高台)
The second best known type of braiding stand in the West, after the marudai. The takadai is bigger, two feet or more across and the braider sits inside the U-shaped frame, or in traditional. The threads are braided by weaving them under, over or swapping round, and even complicated braids of 100 or so bundles of threads are kept in order by placing them on rows of pegs in blocks which can be slid up and down grooved runners at the sides of the takadai. Most takadai braids are flat, 1/2 – 3/4″ wide and use in excess of 25 threads – commonly 36-52, with 60 or 68 threads for the typical ‘pick up’ patterned braids which are reversible with one colour on the underside and another on top.
There is a modern hybrid takadai/ayatakedai known as the ayatakadai, whereby to save space/expense the basic frame can be adapted for both uses by the addition of either feathers at the front or koma (blocks of pegs) at the sides.
There are many other types: the karakumidai which has a row of nails or very small pegs along the top of each side of a square frame is becoming better-known outside Japan, possibly because it is easier to make. Others include the obosolete kago-uchidai, triangular sankakudai and many local variations – this was once a cottage industry and home-made equipment was common.