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, …