Kumihimo Made Easy: Get Started Making Beautiful Braids
Maggie Thompson is one of the queens of kumihimo and she has ideas galore to share. In her Kumihimo Made Easy: 10 Beautiful Projects to Braid eBook, you’ll explore the design possibilities of kumihimo braids with projects using spikes, ovals, teardrop beads, and more to make stand-out braided jewelry. She’ll lead you through how to make jewelry that fits your style, so you can easily alter the projects to be the color and size you want.
A Minneapolis artist, Maggie is an avid crafter who has made jewelry, done needlepoint, knitted, crocheted, and many other hobbies. She did this all while working as a bookkeeper and raising her kids. Once her kids were grown, she left bookkeeping and spent many years working at Beadville, USA, where she traded counting numbers for counting beads.
Maggie says, “It really was serendipity. I stopped at the bead store to look around and happened to have some jewelry samples with me. Next thing you know, I started teaching classes there a couple of times a month.” Those classes led to working full-time in the store and teaching many classes over the years, where she cultivated her own favorite techniques and jewelry styles. Now, she concentrates on her own business and teaches about four times a year across the country.
Figuring Out Kumihimo
One day, Maggie’s boss handed her a kumihimo foam disk and said, “you figure it out.” As they say, the rest is history. Kumihimo appealed to Maggie–and still does–on a couple of levels. She says, “It makes my little detail-oriented heart glad when all the beads line up as planned. There’s just something about the circular nature of this technique that never ceases to fascinate me. Kumihimo continues to challenge me in the same way as a jigsaw puzzle. How can I get a particular look or use a new type of bead within the braid structure this technique offers? I enjoy putting those puzzle pieces together in a pleasing way to create a new jewelry design.” She admits that two-hole beads were a game-changer. SuperDuos, Bricks, and Lentils led her to new patterns, and she has graduated to using GemDuos, Tangos and Tiles now, too.
Before she started teaching beading, Maggie was doing bead weaving as a hobby. You might not be surprised to hear her say, “I never followed a pattern exactly, I always changed it to suit my own taste.” Now that she creates patterns and jewelry of her own, Maggie bases 99% of her designs on the fundamental eight-cord spiral. She says that if you put your mind to it, you can really do a lot to make it yours. She has spent so much time teaching herself the possibilities of kumihimo that she invented The Traveller, a tool for making kumihimo easier and more portable.
Ready to Learn?
For classes, Maggie advises, “It’s important to come as prepared as you can possibly be. I think this eliminates a lot of unnecessary ‘retro-fitting’ before the class even begins. But most importantly, come prepared to have a great time learning something new.” She says, “many of my beginner students find it helpful to draw an arrow onto the front side of the foam disk indicating the direction they should be rotating as they braid. Also, people rely on the ‘three in the tree’ move that positions three cords together at the top of the disk as a place holder.”
Design Inspiration & Studio Organization
When asked where she finds inspiration, Maggie shares a great tip for studio organization, “Everything inspires me – colors, ideas, bead shapes, challenges. You name it and I think there’s probably some inspiration in it! This attitude is so obvious to anyone who happens to see my project ‘conveyor belt’ in my studio! Each time a new design idea occurs to me, I make a kindergarten-level drawing. I place it as well as the beads and findings I want to use into a snap top plastic box. My boxes are lined up roughly in order of ‘importance’ depending on deadlines, etc. When one design is completed and made into kits, that box gets emptied out and the next one moves to the head of the line. This technique helps me to remember all the ideas that pop into my head at any given moment.”
Focal Elements & Braids
Maggie says, “My favorite design in Kumihimo Made Easy: 10 Beautiful Projects to Braid is my C-Koop de Ville Bracelet because I got to use a C-Koop element to create an elegant yet fairly easy design. Sara Lukkonen, the artist behind C-Koop, creates unique elements each with a different color palette. So, while the particular elements are the same, the colorways are always individual.” Maggie has taught this bracelet many times, and it never fails to please her students. She says, “This is one of the classes I’ll be teaching in Tucson on February 6, 2020. It’s the design that just keeps on giving!”
You’ll love to make your own braids with expert instruction from Maggie. Read 7 Kumihimo Tips and Tricks from Maggie Thompson for ways to make your braiding easier and more successful. If you’ve never tried kumihimo braiding before, Maggie will lead you every step of the way. She also presents 10 special projects that will help expand your skills. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with kumihimo and I think you’ll like it, too. It’s a fantastic skill for your jewelry-making toolbox.
Interim Managing Editor of Beadwork