Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beaded Kumihimo

Kongo Gumi,

Kumihimo beading

An old type of Japanese braiding, kumihimo was really created to the seal regarding battle suits for Japanese samurai and the horses. Afterwards, kumihimo braids had been utilized to secure quilted coats as well as kimonos. Nowadays, kumihimo is much more well-known than in the past and also beaders have discovered exactly how these types of braids may be used to highlight a unique lampwork cyrstal glass bead and just how they may be adorned together with strands associated with gleaming gemstone beads. Kumihimo is completed over a light in weight disk, usually done of froth, along with steps for every follicle associated with dietary fiber becoming braided. Another kind of free-standing kumihimo device is known as the marudai as well as is made up of wooden group upon 4 hip and legs. Materials attached with bobbins tend to be braided with the pit down the middle of the actual wooden group. The simple, stroking movements associated with braiding materials with each other create kumihimo an excellent option with regard to including a hand-crafted string for your preferred hand crafted cup or even porcelain bead.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kumihimo Instruction - Braiding Disk Template

"Kumi" means to braid or gather together and "Himo" means string or cord so "Kumihimo" means simply braided cords. Traditionally Kumihimo is done on a Marudai which is a round wooden stand that the braider would kneel at. Modern braiders tend to braid at tables and Marudai can be made of plastic and more portable versions are simple disks cut from thick foam rubber.

For a simple eight-strand braid you will need:

  • A sheet of thick card
  • 2 strands of thread or yarn a meter long in one colour
  • 2 strands of thread or yarn a meter long in another colour
  • Scissors


  1. First make your Marudai, use the template below to cut one from your card.
  2. Fold your 4 strands in half and knot them to make a loop, push this through the hole in the centre of your Marudai and wedge the strands into the slits as shown
  3. Move the top right strand to the slit to the right of the bottom pair then the bottom left strand to the slit to the left of the top strand.
  4. Rotate your Marudai a quarter-turn anti-clockwise and repeat with the two other pairs.
  5. Continue working this way until your braid is the desired length then knot it and trim away the excess thread.

maru dai, marudai, kumihimo marudai

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Kumihimo Braids - Seven Strand Braid

kumihimo beads

This is a great introductory braid. You can make your own disk by cutting a circle out of cardboard or craft foam. For this braid, you will need 8 slits cut around the edge of the disk (evenly spaced) and seven strands of yarn cut to your desired length. Also cut a hole in the center of the disk (shaded area shown at right.) For fun, experiment with using different color & texture yarns.

Tie an overhand knot in one end of the strands and place it through the hole in the center of the disk.

NOTE: If you want to make a bracelet, use three long strands folded in half plus one strand (half the length of the others) to make your seven strands. Fold them in half before tying the overhand knot so that it forms a loop that can be used as a clasp.

Place one strand in each of the slits (1-7), leaving slit 8 open. Hold the card with the empty slit towards you. (You don’t need to keep track of the slit numbers, I just wrote them here to help with the initial set-up.)

From the empty slit, count three slits to the right. Take that strand and move it to the empty slot. Repeat this process until the braid is to desired length. It helps if you turn the card so that the new empty slit faces you after each strand movement. [For a numeric description, if the empty slit is #5, count three to the right and take the strand from slit #2 and place it in slit #5.]

To finish off the braid, do one of the following:
• Tie a knot
• Divide the tails in half and braid each half with a regular three-strand-type braid and tie off.
• Divide the tails into two sets of two and make cordage with each set and tie off.

With either of these last methods, you can tie your two ends through the loop to make a closure
for a bracelet or necklace.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Constructing Kumihimo Tama for Kumihimo Braiding

Materials needed for eight tama:

(The wood parts for these bobbins are manufactured by Lara’s Crafts and can be purchased at most craft stores. The weights can be found in most fishing supply stores)

�� 8 Wood Spools 7/8” x 1-1/8” (part # U10018, 3 per pkg)
�� 16 Wood Circles 3/4” (part # U10817, 6 per pkg)
�� 16 Bullet Weights 1/8 oz.(part # BW18, 12 per pkg)
�� White Glue

Assembly instructions:

Step 1: Cover one side of 1 wooden circle with white glue Press it firmly onto one end of one of the spools. Make sure that it is centered and even. Wipe off any excess glue. Repeat for the rest of your bobbins and set them aside to dry for a few hours.

Step 2: Turn one bobbin open end up and drip four or five drops of white glue into the hole. Drop in one weight (point down) into the hole. Add two or three more drops of glue. Drop in the last weight (wide end down) and finish with several more drops of glue. Finally, secure a wooden circle over the hole as you did in Step 1. Repeat for the remaining bobbins and set them aside to dry for several hours.

Step 3: Run a thin bead of glue carefully around the rim of the wooden circle, where the circle and the spool join; smooth this down with a finger. Repeat for one end of each bobbin and set aside to dry. When dry, repeat for the other ends. Let dry overnight.

The resulting tama weighs approximately 0.44 oz (12.5 grams)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Kumihimo Patterns for the Kongo Gumi Braid

Kumihimo is the ancient Japanese art of braiding cord (“kumi”= to braid, “himo” = cord). Over the centuries, these cords have been used for religious ceremonies, lacing samurai armor, securing the kimono sash (obi) and other decorative uses. There are hundreds of braiding structures, ranging from simple to very complex, and requiring from 4 to over 100 threads. The braid described here is traditionally made on a round braiding stand (marudai) which uses weighted bobbins to produce a balanced tension and manage long threads. However, some of the more simple braids such as this one can also be done as short samples using a portable diskshaped card, which you can make yourself out of cardboard or craft foam, or purchase in kit form.

These instructions are for one of the simplest braiding structures called kongo gumi (= hard braid), which produces a solid cord with a round crosssection (as opposed to a shoe lacestyle hollow cord or a flat braid). The braiding movements can be made with 8, 12, 16 etc. threads (any multiple of 4) and offer a rich scope of patterns, dependent only on the initial thread colour arrangement. The diagrams at right show threads grouped in pairs, where opposing pairs share the same colour; this initial colour arrangement will produce a diagonal striped cord (below) and is a good “starter” colour pattern to try while getting used to the braiding sequence.

Card setup

To make a braceletsized cord on your braiding wheel:

1. Cut threads about 50 cm (20 in) long – in general, about twice the length of the final cord. Good quality mercerized cotton or rayon embroidery thread, craft thread or crochet cotton are all suitable later, you could try experimenting with splitting or bundling strands, metallic thread, adding beads to one or more strands etc. (Traditionally, bundles of silk threads were used, and precut rayon thread is sold in Japan specifically for kumihimo).

2. Hold the threads together with ends aligned, and secure them using an overhand knot near the end – if you want a simple bracelet “loop” closure, make another overhand knot a short distance from the first using a pencil for a spacer.

3. Bring the unknotted thread ends up through the centre hole (holding the knotted end below with your other hand) and place the threads snugly in their slots according to the diagram, with the knot held tightly in the centre and long ends dangling down. If you are following a special colour pattern (other than the diagonal stripes depicted), it is important to position the “start” thread colour in the “start” slot (marked with an arrow). Threads are placed in opposing pairs, with a space of at least 2 slots between the pairs.

Braiding movements

a. Position the thread pair with the “start” arrow at the top, and the opposing pair at the bottom.
b. Move the thread from position A to position B as shown at right. That is, from the top pair, move the top, right thread into the slot at the bottom just to the right of the opposing pair (you move the thread clockwise and do not crisscross over the opposing pair).
c. Move the thread from position C to position D as shown at right. That is, from the (now) bottom group of three, move the left thread up into the slot to the left of the lone thread at the top (you move the thread clockwise and do not crisscross over the opposing top thread).
d. The wheel will again have pairs of opposing threads. Rotate the wheel COUNTERCLOCKWISE as shown at right, to place the next set of opposing thread pairs at top and bottom.
e. Repeat steps b) through d) until the braid is the desired length.
f. Remove the threads from the slots, and make a double overhand at the point where the braiding ended to secure it. For a simple fastener, pass this knot through the loop you formed around the pencil at the start.


· You can always tell where you left off, because the opposing threads you moved last will be on top. It can be helpful to stop after move b), since you can easily identify the 3thread group.
· Adjust and tighten the threads when required so the “point of braiding” (where the threads come together) stays in the centre and the tension is consistent. When moving a thread, it helps to hold down its neighbour with your thumb.
· Moves will become easier as the cardboard slits wear in, and you can cut the nicks deeper if they start to wear out.
· Check the braid often to ensure that the pattern is emerging correctly. With a 16 (8) thread braid, you will return to the original thread colour arrangement after 16 (8) passes through the set of moves b) to d), although the threads will not be in exactly the same start slots. This produces a repeating pattern block of 4 (2) spiralling rows of stitches as shown on the grid at right. If the pattern is not repeating, you have made a mistake and can just undo the braid back to the problem spot by doing the same braiding movements, but in reverse.
· This braid will stretch, but has no elasticity to bring it back in – so give it a tug to stretch it out before measuring for desired length.
· Tassels are a traditional kumihimo end finish, but you can get many other ideas from the beading and macrame world using buttons, beads, jewelry findings, knotting, etc.
· Uses: jewelry, key chains, eye glass cord, hat bands, chinese knots, …

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kumihimo Bracelet

Art Clay and Kumihimo Bracelet

1 oz 28gg round, fine silver wire
10gm Art Clay Slow Dry (regular or low fire)
10 gm Art Clay Silver Paste type
Hook and Eye set (2pc) .980SV
Paint brush
Kumihimo foam disc
Wire snips
Chain nose pliers
Masking tape
Twist tie
Butane torch or programmable kiln

  1. Begin by cutting the wire into 3 foot (1 yard) long pieces. The oz. of wire has 120 feet, so this will give you 40 wires.
  2. Separate the wires into 4 bundles of 10 wires. Smooth and even the ends and put a small piece of masking tape on each end to hold the wires together.
  3. Hold the kumihimo disc so that #32 is on top, and 16 is on the bottom. Put the two ends of one bundle of wire together and slightly fold them in the middle so that there is a slight bend where the middle of the wires is. Set this mark in the middle of the kumihimo disc and thread one end of the bundle on the right of #16 and the other end between #32 and #1. Keep the wires taut.
  4. Take a second bundle, fold as before, and thread one end between #31 and #32, and between #15 and #16. Again, keep the wires taut.
  5. Turn the disc ¼ turn so that new dots are at the top and bottom. Repeat step #4, threading the other two bundles on each side of #s 7 and #24.
  6. Take the twist tie and thread it diagonally in the center across both sets of wires to the back. Twist at least 2-3 times so that the wires are held fast. You are now ready to begin the weaving process.
  7. Follow the written instructions for the Kumihimo weave. To insure that the braid is tight, hold the twist tie underneath the Kumihimo disc with your non-dominant hand and keep tight pressure while braiding.
  8. When the wires are so short that you can no longer braid, remove the wires from the disc and set the disc aside.
  9. Remove the twist tie from one end. Use the pliers to twist the wires at that end into a point.
  10. Do the same thing with the pliers at the other end, and cut the remaining wire so it twisted about ½” beyond the end of the braid. Make sure the wires are twisted tightly.
  11. Open the clay and pinch off a small, pea-sized piece. Return the rest to the bag and seal it tightly. Roll the clay into a ball, and take the paintbrush and apply Paste type to the twisted end of one end of the wires. Push the ball of clay onto the end of the wires and then firmly push one piece of the SV.980 hook and eye clasp over the end of the wires. The excess clay will be forced out of the end of the clasp. Smooth it onto the wires. Check the curved shape of the silver wire and set the shape. Apply more Paste type and dry.
  12. Repeat for the other end of the wires with the remaining hook and eye attachment. Make sure it is lined up properly so the attachment will close easily. Dry thoroughly.
  13. With half the remaining clay, roll out a 1mm thick small strip. Apply Paste type to the wire/attachment joint and wrap around the joint snugly. Make a solid attachment by smearing the clay onto the wires and onto the attachment. Apply more Paste type. Consider the curved design of the silver wires when adding the clay to the clasp. With the last of the clay, repeat for the opposite end. Dry.
  14. File and sand the ends smooth with files and sand paper. Avoid scratching the clasp parts or removing so much clay that the joint is weak.
  15. Apply a small amount of Paste type between the end of the wires and the clay so that it sinks into the wire. Dry. Fire at 1200 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool.
  16. Brush with a stainless steel brush. Either put in tumbler or hand finish with wet sandpapers/pads.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kumihimo Instructions - Kumihimo Round Braids

kumihimo instructions
Here's what you'll need:
  • 7 strands of yarn, floss, or string - 12" each
  • Octagon-shaped disk made from foam, cardboard or plastic.  The disk needs a hole in the center and a slit on each of the eight sides.

General Instructions:
  • Hold the ends of the 7 strands together and tie a knot.
  • Put the knot through the hole of the disk from top to bottom.
  • Hold the knot with one hand under the disk. The untied ends of the yarn are on top of the disk. With your other hand, place each strand in a slit, leaving one slit open.
  • Hold the disk so that the open slit is towards your body.
  • Count to the third strand to the right of the open slit. Take that strand and move it to the open slit.
  • Rotate the disk clockwise so that the open slit is towards your body.
  • Again, count to the third strand to the right of the open slit. Take that strand and move it to the open slit. Rotate the disk. Repeat these two steps until your braid is the length you want.
  • To end the braid, remove the yarn from the disk. Tie a knot in the end.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Kumihimo is a Japanese braid-making technique which dates to about 550 C.E., when the Buddhist religion spread in Japan and people began to use decorative cords in religious ceremonies. Later, people used brightly colored braids to decorate clothing, to hang banners, to lace samurai armor together (esp. in late SCA period, 1400-1600), and to hang knives.

Although kumihimo is particular to Japan, other cultures in history have used similar braids or braid ‘stools’, including the sling braiders of the Andes and hair-braiding stools from Scandinavia. Research is ongoing into the origins of kumihimo and similar braids. There are some similarities between kumihimo and the fingerloop braiding practiced in western Europe during mid- to late-SCA-period.

Except for those who aspire to putting together a set of period Samurai armor, most people who make kumihimo in the SCA use it for decorative purposes. Oddly, it is not usually used in Japanese garb in the SCA, possibly because we don’t have much documentation as to how it was used in costume. (The modern practice of using a kumihimo belt with an obi (sash) on a kimono does not date back to SCA period.)

Some uses I have seen kumihimo put to in the SCA include: site tokens, laces for pouches, trim on Mongolian or other garb, a lacing to keep a hat on or to lace up clothing, closure for a box or instrument case, or as purely decorative pieces for gifts (a piece of kumihimo looks nice tied onto the handle of gift baskets). They can also be given to Royalty to be used as part of Their gifts to individuals or other Royal couples.

There are several different stands used to create kumihimo braids. They are of varying price, complexity and SCA “periodicity”. Due to its simplicity and comparative cheapness, most braids done by SCA members are made on a wooden stand (a marudai or "round stand"), allowing the threads to be draped over a flat doughnut-shaped top called a kagami (Japanese for "mirror"). The individual threads are weighted with wooden bobbins called “tama”, and a bag of weights is tied to the finished braid to produce a balanced tension. Although it is not known how long the Japanese have been using the marudai to create braids, most estimates place it very late in SCA period (around 1575) or later.

In the SCA, many people also use a cardboard disc loom to make maru dai braids. While not a documentable period tool, this disc has the advantages of:
a) obviating the use of weights, since tucking the threads into slots on the edge of the cardboard maintains adequate tension, and
b) being portable. Instructions for a cardboard loom, as well as a homemade cardboard/wire maru dai. I often draw a compass star on the top of my cardboard discs, both for patriotic and practical reasons: with many braids, you need to know which way is up.

With cardboard looms so cheap and easy to make, and so portable, why buy a marudai? My opinion is that you miss out on the tranquillity of this art if you never use a marudai. Unlike the jerky rhythms of moving threads in and out of carboard slits, the flow of braiding on a marudai is very fluid and relaxing. Your body quickly memorizes the movements for your particular braid, and braiding goes much faster. During a two-hour movie, I can easily braid several feet of a simple 8 or 16-strand braid. There is no danger of fraying your threads when they are not abraded by cardboard slits. Marudais are also fairly ergonomic; you can hold them between your legs, put them on the floor or on a table or stool, or purchase an adjustable one so you can shift your position as you go.

Traditionally, untwisted silk threads, in bundles of a certain number of threads or “ends”, would be used in making kumihimo braids. It is possible to buy prepared kumihimo silk, packaged to be unloaded from the pack onto winding posts attached to your table, for minimum accidental twisting. Cotton embroidery floss is a good solid substitute for the silk for our purposes, but you can experiment with other fibers too. Cotton will work well with a cardboard loom; rayon will fray.

The stitch I was first taught was the simple 16-thread rotating stitch, kongo gumi, directions for which were published in Handwoven magazine. This is simple enough for small children, especially if you cut it down to 8 threads, and creates a smooth, even-looking braid without much effort. I have taught this in classes and given away many kits with the stitch pre-set so the recipient can simply pick it up and braid. The recipients are often seen braiding all the way through Court that evening.

Japanese Braiding the Art of Kumihimo

The Japanese concept of combining function and beauty becomes obvious when you consider the Art of Kumihimo. These beautiful braids were used to lace the many small plates of Samurai armor, to attach swords to their sashes and even to wrap the handles of their swords. Braids were also used in temples, shrines and tombs as edging for Buddhist flags and as attachments and ties for scrolls. In late period we see braiding used to tie the obi to prevent slippage.

The earliest evidence of braiding in Japan was in the Jomon period (400 BCE-300 CE). The word Jomon means “rope pattern” and describes the pottery dating to that era. The cords, made from plant fiber, were rolled or pressed into the wet clay to leave decorative impressions. In later periods, pottery figures and paintings showed men and women dressed in clothing adorned with braided cords used as belts, ties and hair adornments. Actual fragments of braids have been found as early as the Nara period (645 CE-784 CE). The Heian period (784 CE-1184 CE) saw the emergence of two types of braids. The Karakumi, a wide flat braid made from plied silk and edged with diamonds and decorated with birds and flowers, was worn by the Emperor and high ranking officials. The other braids, found hidden inside statues in temples, were round braids. The Saidai-ji, a 56 bobbin braid, is an example of these early braids.

In the Kamakura (1185-1333) and the Muromachi (1333-1575), Japan experienced a long period of unrest and many wars. The demand for armor was great which meant the demand for braiding was also great. The braids for lacing armor were usually made of one color, while the braids for wrapping and attaching swords were patterned. The Kikko design, a hexagonal pattern representing the shell of a tortoise, was favored because it symbolized a long life. The Monoyama period (1575-1614) was peaceful, decreasing the need for armor and lacing. More aesthetic uses were found for braids, as in the tea ceremony, in temples and shrines and clothing.

Much of the information on how to make braids and the equipment used was kept secret by the family businesses and it is only in recent times have schools been opened in Japan and other parts of the world to teach this beautiful and useful Art.

Japanese Braiding Terms:
dai - a stand
fukuro - small bag
gumi - to plait or braid (same as kumi)
himo – string, cord, braid
kagami - mirror, the top of a maru dai
kumi - to plait or braid (same as gumi)
kumihimo - plaited or braided cord
kumikata - braiding method
maru – round
marudai – round stand
tama – weighted wooden spools or bobbing

Equipment and Materials:
Traditionally, kumihimo is made on a round-topped loom using bobbins, a silk warp counterweighted by a bag with lead weights calculated on the total weight of the bobbins.

My marudai is made from two wooden plaques and a dowel from AC Moore. My bobbins (tama) are made from wooden spools with round lead fishing weights inside and wooden disks glued over each end. My counterweight bag is made of cloth, with a draw string, a fishing swivel and more lead weights. It was built by my friend Halfdane of Hawkwood.