Learning Kumihimo at Bead Fest with Maggie Thompson
I was lucky enough to attend Bead Fest for the first time a few weeks ago. And even better, I was able to take a class with one of my favorite Beadwork contributors, Maggie Thompson. I signed up for Maggie’s Oh! Bead Kumi Bracelet class, excited to learn kumihimo but nervous about looking like a newbie while representing Beadwork magazine.
I had never attempted kumihimo, the ancient Japanese art of braiding beads. However, I had worked on several of Maggie’s eBooks (managing the content — not editing it!). I thought the technique seemed fairly straightforward, and I found Maggie’s eBook instructions easy to follow. But the real proof would be trying to make an actual project.
Before leaving for Bead Fest, I assembled the kumihimo tools I’d need for my class:
- 6″ round foam kumihimo disk
- 50-gram weight
- 8 bobbins
- Big-eye needle
- Thread burner
- Super Glue gel
- Chain-nose pliers
I also brought my own kumihimo stand, which I knew would make the braiding easier.
Bead Fest was a busy event, and I didn’t have a chance to connect with Maggie before I arrived at her class on Friday morning. I was a bit star struck at meeting such a revered beadwork designer, but I was humbled when Maggie said SHE was nervous to have ME in her class!
Like Maggie’s eBook instructions, the instructions for her Oh! Bead Kumi Bracelet were clear and easy to follow. I strung my beads onto the cords and followed Maggie’s basic kumihimo instructions to start the braiding.
I quickly got into the groove and started happily braiding my beaded strands. Before long, I had a nice kumihimo rope dangling from my stand.
During the class, Maggie wandered between tables and patiently helped class members correct their mistakes. One A+ student finished her bracelet long before anyone else; she actually left the class early!
I finished my bracelet during the class, but just barely — I had to attach the clasp later, on my own time. Luckily, I knew where to find Maggie (in her Bead Fest booth!) when I needed a bit of guidance.
A New Beading Technique to Love
My first time attending Bead Fest was overwhelmingly positive, as was my first experience with kumihimo. I love that most of the “work” is done on the front end, stringing the beads in the correct order. After that, you can tune out a bit and just braid. And the finished result is nothing less than gorgeous!
Now I’m trying to decide what to braid next. Fortunately, Maggie’s eBooks are full of beautiful designs to choose from:
- 10 Kumihimo Patterns to Braid: Kumihimo Bracelet & Necklace Patterns with Shaped Beads
- Elegant Kumihimo: 10 Projects to Braid with Seed, Shaped, and Crystal Beads
- Kumihimo Made Easy: 10 Beautiful Projects to Braid
What kumihimo designs are you working on? Tell us in the comments, or add a note to the Beading Daily Facebook page!
Happy beading and braiding!
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine