Do You Kumihimo?

Necklace by Giovanna Imperia. Image from Kumihimo Wire Jewelry. Photo by Jack Zilker.

Kumihimo is one of those things that has been on my "got to learn it" list for a very long time now, and the more I learn about it, the more eager I am to try it! Last fall, a friend visiting from Florida showed me a handful of kumihimo ropes that she had made using silk fibers and dazzling crystal beads. Touching those braided ropes and wrapping them around my wrist made me want to know more about kumihimo and learn how to make my own beaded braids.

Photo by Jack Zilker from Kumihimo Wire Jewelry.

Just like beadwork, braiding fibers is something common to many different cultures around the world. Braids have been used for both decorative and functional purposes for centuries, and in Japan, the art of kumihmo braiding has seen a wonderful resurgence in popularity during the last decade. In Japanese, the term kumihimo translates to "coming together (of) threads" and it was originally used for securing armor of the samurai and their horses and for prayer scroll ties. Kumihimo was later adapted to be used as embellishment for Buddhist statues and as a way to fasten the traditional Japanese kimono while adding another artistic element to the garment.

Traditionally, kumihimo has been done on a stand called a maru dai that consists of a large, open circle attached to four legs for stability. The fibers to be braided together are wrapped around wood bobbins, and as the kumihimo braid is created through the center hole (also called the well), it is held in place by a counterweight. There are also larger, more intricate kumihmo stands that resemble floor looms used for weaving, and these create braids that resemble flat pieces of tapestry. Most beaders who do kumihimo use either a stand that resembles a maru dai or a simple foam disk. The foam disks are widely available and more portable than the maru dai.

Like other forms of beadwork and beadweaving, kumihimo has a distinct Zen element to it. Just like beading, it's easy to lose yourself in the soothing, repetitive motions of the braiding as your creation takes form. And just like beading and beadwork, kumihimo takes a pile of threads or fibers and beads and turns them into something unique and beautiful. For artists who create lampwork beads or large beaded beads to be used as focal beads, kumihimo is a way to create a lovely necklace from which to hang these focal beads.

Necklace by Giovanna Imperia. Image from Kumihimo Wire Jewelry. Photo by Jack Zilker.

Kumihmo has come a long way since the days of the samurai, and Kumihmo Wire Jewelry by Giovannia Imperia is the perfect example of what happens when innovative jewelry and fiber artists take ancient techniques and give them a modern twist. This beautiful book draws inspiration and technique from an international panel of artists and includes a comprehensive guide to kumihimo braiding techniques, finishing techniques and twenty cutting-edge kumihimo and wire projects to challenge your skills. Get your copy of Kumihimo Wire Jewelry and see how ancient inspirations mix with modern materials to create classic jewelry.

Have you tried kumihimo yet? What advice would you give someone who wants to get started with kumihimo? Leave a comment here on the blog with your most useful kumihimo tips and techniques!

Bead Happy,


Post a Comment