Kumihimo is a centuries-old Japanese technique for braiding silk strands together. In beaded kumihimo, beads are strung on the cords before braiding. You can use various types of stringing materials, as well as a variety of bead types, to create kumihimo designs. Read on to learn the basics of this popular technique.
The following instructions are for using a round kumihimo disk with 32 slots. Other kumihimo tools include a kumihimo weight, kumihimo bobbins, and a big-eye needle. A kumihimo stand is optional but very useful.
1. Hold the disk parallel to the floor with number 32 held away from you. Tuck the cords into the slots around the disk and place the wire/knot/button through the center hole (Fig. a).
Add a weight to the wire/knot/button below the disk to maintain correct tension. The braid will form at the center hole, extending below the disk as you work. Do not allow the cords to tangle, and keep the weight suspended.
2. Move the bottom left cord between notches 16 and 17 up to the notch between 30 and 31. Move the top right cord between notches 32 and 1 down to the notch between 14 and 15 (Fig. b).
Rotate the disk one-quarter turn clockwise so number 24 is now at the farthest (top) position where number 32 used to be (shown at the top of Fig. c).
3. Move the bottom left cord between notches 8 and 9 up to the notch between 22 and 23. Move the top right cord between notches 24 and 25 down to the notch between 6 and 7 (Fig. c).
Rotate the disk one-quarter turn clockwise.
4. Using the cords that are now the farthest and closest to you after the turn, repeat Steps 2 and 3 until the braid is the desired length.
5. When making beaded braids, slide each bead to the center hole and tuck it firmly under the cord that crosses to the right or left to lock the bead in place. Do not allow the bead to pop up.
Maggie Thompson has offered numerous kumihimo tips over the years. Here are the most basic tips you should know.
- If your nylon cords are curly, lightly steam them to straighten. Doing so will make stringing your beads much easier.
- Use a big-eye needle to string beads onto the cords. Alternatively, dip the cord ends in Super Glue gel and let dry to string beads without a needle.
- Cut a ½” slit in the back side of each bobbin to anchor your cord ends.
- Using a kumihimo stand allows you to use both hands for braiding instead of using one hand to hold your disk while stringing beads and braiding with the other hand. Your tension will be more uniform, and your project will look more professional. In addition, using a kumihimo stand gives you a tangle-free way to store your project if you are interrupted.
- If you get interrupted while braiding, move the bottom-left cord to the top position and leave it there. You’ll have three cords at the top position and you’ll always know exactly where to begin again when you resume your project. When you start again, pull the top right cord down, turn the disk a quarter turn, and continue.
- Gauge note: All beads are not created equal! While the gauge for size 8° seed beads is usually 6 per braided inch, there will be times when this formula doesn’t work. The only way to be sure a certain color or finish will fit this formula is to actually do a test braid. Make note of any necessary changes to gauge and adjust your pattern accordingly.
For more in-depth discussion of some of these tips, see “7 Kumihimo Tips and Tricks.” And for even more tips, including information about types of kumihimo disks and instructions for using the other essential kumihimo tools (bobbins, weight, big-eye needle, stand), see “Kumihimo 101: 5 Easy Steps for Braiding Beads, and More Kumihimo Tips.”