7 Kumihimo Tips and Tricks
Hello to all my fellow kumihimo enthusiasts — both experienced and newbies! Over the past few years I’ve learned a few kumihimo tips and tricks that have made my experience more rewarding. By sharing these tips with you, I hope I can help make your next kumi project more enjoyable and successful.
1. Ironing Your Cords
Always steam iron your cords before use. This takes out the kinks and curls, making the cords much easier to manage. I use a cotton setting and pull the cords underneath the iron in an even manner. Don’t allow the iron to rest on the cords for any length of time — you’ll end up melting the cords together.
Another advantage of steaming is that it makes the cord ends stiffer and more resistant to fraying. This is important when you’re loading beads. It’s not as important if you’re using a big-eye needle for seed beads. However, many beads have holes that are too small for a needle. Among these are stone chips, all the new two-hole beads, and most Czech glass beads.
2. Understanding Kumihimo Disk Numbers
On BeadSmith kumihimo disks (affiliate link), the number is printed to the right of the slot to which it refers. Other manufacturers’ disks might be different — just be sure to learn their slot numbering system before you use their disk.
3. Winding Cords on the Bobbins
Cutting a 1/2″ slit in the back side of each bobbin gives you a perfect way to anchor the cord and keep the bobbin from falling off. Just slip the end of your cord through the slit and snap your bobbin closed. No more tying and untying knots! Just be sure to cut the slit in the back (flatter) side rather than the front (curved) side.
A thread burner (affiliate link) is an essential part of a kumihimo kit. I always list a thread burner as one of the tools necessary to complete my kumihimo projects. It doesn’t matter what brand you have; they all work in pretty much the same way. A thread burner creates heat in its wire tip that you then use to melt off your cords. The wire tips are small enough to make them a precision tool. Most brands use a AA battery for power and come with replacement tips.
I know that some beaders like to use small butane lighters — but beware! It’s harder to control where the flame is going. You could end up burning more cords, and even beads, than you intended!
5. Marking Your Place
We all get interrupted when we’re braiding, whether we like it or not! I’ve found that I can easily mark my place if I complete only half a sequence. For example, because I move the bottom left cord up first, this photo shows how I “park” my cords. Using this method lets me know that my next move is always a “top right down.”
Some of you might braid in the opposite direction — this doesn’t matter. Whatever your sequence, just stop after the first cord is moved. This will always leave three cords together, with no doubt about your next move.
6. Maintaining Correct Tension
If you’re a beginner at kumihimo braiding, it’s very important to determine your braiding tension. The easiest way to do this is by choosing a pattern that lists the gauge (just like a knit or crochet pattern).
If you don’t have a pattern with a gauge guide, you can use my gauge guide for size 8° seed beads. Set up a test project with four 24″ cords folded in half, with a knot tied in the middle. This will give you eight 12″ cords. Hang a weight from the knot and place the 8 cords on your kumihimo disk in the appropriate slots for a spiral braid (Kongo Gumi). String 12 size 8° seed beads per cord on all 8 cords. Braid all the beads, then measure the length of your braid. It should be 2″ (within 1/16″–1/8″). If it’s significantly shorter, you have “tight” tension. If it’s significantly longer, you have “loose” tension.
To change your tension, continue practicing until you can get a 2″ braid. If you don’t change your tension, you’ll have to adjust every pattern you use in order to get the correct length of braid.
7. Braiding Without Beads
Some patterns call for a length of braided cord without beads. Whether it’s at the beginning, end, or somewhere in the middle of your project, always be sure to stretch this braided section before measuring it. If you don’t stretch the section beforehand, it will undoubtedly stretch after you’ve completed your project. This will make that particular section longer than the pattern called for. Keep in mind that the project designer had a reason for specifying a particular length of braid. Changing this length will definitely change the outcome of your project.
I hope you find these kumihimo tips helpful. Happy beading and braiding!
Explore Maggie’s kumihimo projects in the Interweave store!