Mick and Dee Luvbight, Austin, TX
Handout for "Karadas and Rope Dresses" class at ShibariCon, Chicago, May 2009
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This page describes two classes of decorative bondage ties, Karadas and Rope Dresses.
These are generally decorative ties that can be worn under clothing, worn as clothing, or
simply emphasize and accentuate the natural beauty of the rope bottom by adding a layer
of rope to the body.
The class will demonstrate two ties, the basic three-diamond body harness called a kikkou, and
a macramé rope dress that Mick developed during Kink in the Caribbean in 2003.
Although I am not a native speaker of Japanese, I have spent many years studying both the
language and rope-styles, and I can conclusively say that there is no
absolute agreement on any of these terms. So take these definitions as my best effort at
understanding, and please feel free to introduce me to other opinions and nuances I may have missed.
- Japanese word for "body", any tie that surrounds the torso can probably be called a karada, although its usage is typically limited to Japanese-inspired patterns.
- Japanese word for "diamond", a hishi karada incorporates a repetitive pattern of diamond-shapes.
- Japanese word for "tortoise", a kikkou is a karada that incorporates one or more hexagonal shapes reminiscent of the shell of a tortoise.
According to Master K, the three diamond karada is also called a kikkou, and was popularized by Manga artists. Midori, as an example, describes a hishi karada as a kikkou in her book on Japanese bondage.
- rope dress
- any decorative bondage tie that mimics clothing, such as a dress, a corset, a skirt or top.
- a practice of making textiles using square knots and hitches, It has been used by sailors to decorate many things on their ships.
Knots for Harnesses and Dresses
Although you can tie a perfectly beautiful karada using just overhand bends,
a naked torso is a great place to display your fanciest knot-work.
Mathematics tells us that a knot must have an even number of lines entering it.
If you take two ropes and knot them together at a point, you'll have 4 such lines.
Below I've given a short list of knots that can be used in a karada.
Reflecting Knots (click to enlarge)
Crossing Knots (click to enlarge)
|Reflecting knots have the two ends of the same rope on one side of the knot. Except for the sheet bend, these knots are good for constructing a harness from the top down.
||A crossing knot puts the ends of each rope on opposite sides. As such, they can be used when a harness is made in layers (one rope can be tied in place before the other rope is added).
Unless your ropes are different colors or different lengths, it may not matter which kind of knot
you use to make your harness. But you would have to plan ahead to route your ropes depending on
which kind of knot you choose.
Hishi Karada (click to enlarge)
The hishi karada (or kikkou) is perhaps the most iconic karada.
- Start with the middle of a 50 foot rope (or tie two ends of a pair of 25-30 foot ropes) and form a bight.
- Place this bight over the head behind the neck.
- Tie a series of overhand knots every 10-14 inches apart (25-36 cm)..
- Draw the ropes under the crotch and loop through the bight at the back of the neck.
- Split the ropes and use one end on each side to lace the diamonds together.
- Adjust the tension from the front to the back so equalize the sizes of the diamonds.
- Tie the ends together or knot them at the corner of a diamond to end the pattern.
You can use knots to make the diamonds in the back, or as a shortcut you can just cross the ropes back and forth.
Make sure you leave extra slack at the beginning so that the whole harness won't be too tight once you lace the sides up.
When lacing up the sides, if you go through each loop twice, you form a series of hexagons. This is one way to form hexagons that make a tortoise-like kikkou.
The term hon-kikkou is used to describe a box-arm tie with a single hexagon shape between the breasts.
Kikkou Karada (click to enlarge)
Alternate Kikkou (click to enlarge)
Using a double twist instead of a knot, you can create a series of hexagons joined on the edges instead of their vertices. To me, this pattern more closely resembles a tortoise's shell.
|The macramé pattern is created using four short ropes (15-25 feet).
- Start with the middle of one rope behind the neck.
- Tie a square knot over the top of the sternum. This first loop forms the collar of the dress.
- Add three (or more) ropes to the collar, one in the back and one over each shoulder. Using middle of each rope, make a Lark's Head, then un-collapse the Lark's Head to form a square knot.
- Take the two ends over each shoulder and tie them under the arm-pit using another square knot.
- Take one end from the arm-pit and one from either the front or the back and form a diamond shape by tying them together in a square knot.
- Repeat the pattern down the body by forming diamonds.
Square Knot Rope Dress (click to enlarge)
Routing excess rope (click to enlarge)
When you get to the bottom of the skirt, you can finished the bottom with several different methods:
- Just tie square knots and cut off the excess rope.
- Form a series of scallops along the bottom using the sheet-bend knot.
- Run the excess rope up through the middle of a column of square knots, turning the diamonds into triangles.
- The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage, Midori, Greenery Press, 2002 (ISBN 978-1890159382).
- Midori's book shows two ways to tie a hishi karada that she calls a kikkou. She shows a knotted and un-knotted version.
- Shibari: The Art of Japanese Bondage, Master K, Secret, 2004 (ISBN 978-908770620).
- Master K describes the differences between hishi and kikkou karadas, but the only karada he demonstrates is the takate-kote.
- The Beauty of Kinbaku, Master K,
King Cat Ink, 2008 (ISBN 978-0615248769).
- Uses the phrases hishi shibari and kikkou shibari, but never mentions karada.
- Two Knotty Boys Showing You The Ropes, Two Knotty Boys, Green Candy Press, 2007 (ISBN 978-1931160490).
The Two Knotty Boys give excellent descriptions of how to tie several of the knots shown, although they use different names for many of them, and they show two bondage ties (the Tortoise Shell Bodysuit and the Rope Cage) that are elaborations of karadas.
- Ashley Book of Knots, Clifford Ashley, Doubleday, 1944 (ISBN 978-0385040259).
The compendium of knots, shows thousands of knots, how to tie them, who uses them, and
various names for them. Each knot is given a number (although some knots are listed multiple times with different numbers each time), and this numbering gives a clear and unambiguous way to identify which knot is being discussed.
You can see more examples in our Karadas and Rope Dresses Gallery
Updated 2009-04-27 mick @ luvbight.com
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