Kumihimo cord was first created centuries ago by a form of finger-loop braiding. Later, tools such as the marudai and the takadai were employed to make more complex braids in a shorter time. For photos and information on these braiding looms, check out the American Kumihimo Society. Here is a YouTube video of a braider demonstrating the use of a takadai for making complex flat braids. The most prominent historical use of the braided cords was by Samurai as both a functional and decorative way to lace their armor and their horses’ armor. Contemporary Western use includes jewelry making, with or without beads.
A modern kumihimo disk made of firm but flexible foam plastic with notches can also be used as a portable marudai. The disks have 32 notches that create tension on the cords. The foam kumihimo disk is lightweight, portable, and significantly more affordable than the traditional marudai. Braiders can create complex braids up to 24 bobbins and incorporate beads. There are many sizes and shapes of foam disks available. Look for a disk that is sturdy and doesn’t bend easily, otherwise the braider will experience uneven tension.
A variety of materials can be used in kumihimo. Here are some examples, one using leather cord, one using 1/4″ satin ribbons. When braiding with beads, I generally use a nylon cord such as S-lon.
Braiding with beads is the same as braiding without, but adjustments need to be made regarding the weight of the beads. The added weight creates a different tension on the cords. Depending on the type of braid being made, e.g., round or basketweave, beads are generally “dropped” into the center of the disk prior to moving the cord. Beads can pop out of position, so it is important to frequently check your braid and repair the error before getting too far along.
This just scratches the surface of kumihimo jewelry. I hope to have time to post more examples. I particularly enjoy discovering new ways to finish the jewelry. I’m not crazy about having the thick braid go all the way around my wrist, so I often finish with a more narrow braid or even use a chain finish. Watch for more ideas.
What is your favorite way to braid: with beads, without beads, type of braiding material, finishes, etc.? Comment below.