Quick and Easy Kumihimo Braiding with Beads

Quick and Easy Kumihimo Braiding with BeadsMaggie Thompson has been beading for many years but only recently learned kumihimo. This technique combines the ancient Japanese art of braiding with beadweaving. Although kumihimo looks difficult, it’s actually fairly easy to learn. Maggie shares her kumihimo journey with us, including the inspiration for her fabulous new Kumihimo 3 Ways project.

Falling in Love with Kumihimo

Q: How did you get started beading?
A: I’ve always loved making things, whether it’s sewing, knitting, cross-stitch — anything with details. So when I first saw a beadwoven piece of jewelry, I was fascinated and knew it was something I had to try. That was about 30 years ago. Then about 4 years ago my employer, Bobbie Wikre, owner of Beadville USA in Chaska, Minnesota, showed me a kumihimo disc and wanted me to figure out the technique. Wow, she had no idea what she’d started! It was love at first sight for me, and the creative juices have flowed ever since!

Quick and Easy Kumihimo Braiding with Beads

An in-process kumi project

Q: What do you love about kumihimo?
A: I love the challenge of putting together a new piece. It’s like solving a puzzle with infinite possibilities and infinite solutions!

The Design Process

Q: Where do you get your design ideas? What inspires your creativity?
A: I get inspired by anything and everything around me. Sometimes it’s a color, sometimes a shape, sometimes a concept.

Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?
A: When I get a brainstorm, I make very crude pencil drawings with some notes attached. I put these drawings in my “idea pile,” which is literally a big pile! Later, I’ll select an idea from this pile and choose the beads/colors/components I want to use. Then, I put the design in my “conveyor belt” of projects.

Quick and Easy Kumihimo Braiding with Beads

Maggie’s idea pile (bottom left, circled)

Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?
A: I grab a project from my conveyor belt and dig in. I usually find myself without enough time to create all my ideas!

Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?
A: I love the jewel tones best and usually design with those colors in mind. However, I also love pastel tones and matte finishes and try to combine all of them together. Some designs seem to appear in my head in a particular color palette, whereas others seem to translate more easily into various colorways. I don’t know why — the design process just happens that way for me.

Q: What was the inspiration for your Kumihimo 3 Ways project?
A: The trend towards tassels and the 1920s flapper styles in the fashion world gave me the idea. Then my problem became how to translate my vision into a kumihimo creation.

Good Advice

Q: What advice do you have for other bead artists?
A: If you’re pursuing a career in any art form, don’t ever give up. You never know who or what will cross your path and give you the boost you need! Also, if you’re going to do anything professionally, be sure you do it well. Always pay attention to detail and technique.

To see more of Maggie’s work, visit her website, Maggie T Designs.

Kumihimo 3 Ways

Maggie’s Kumihimo 3 Ways project is easy enough for a beginner but equally interesting for advanced beaders because it includes instructions for a variety of interchangeable components. You can create a long flapper-style necklace or a shorter bib-style necklace that consists of a rope section and a detachable stone chip bracelet. You can also create a beaded tassel to wear with either necklace.

Bib-Style Necklace/Bracelet and Tassel

  1. Combine the rope necklace section with the stone chip bracelet extender for a long bib-style necklace with double the visual appeal.
  2. Wear the rope necklace and stone chip bracelet separately for distinct but coordinated pieces of jewelry.
  3. Add the tassel to the rope necklace for an interesting focal, and wear it with or without the matching bracelet.
Quick and Easy Kumihimo Braiding with Beads

Styling the Kumihimo 3 Ways bib-style necklace with detachable bracelet and tassel

Flapper-Style Necklace and Tassel

  1. Wear the flapper-style necklace with the tassel for a long and ultra-stylish accessory.
  2. Create a trendy combination of choker and lariat by looping the flapper-style necklace twice around your neck and adding the tassel.
  3. For a classic, elegant look, wear the flapper-style necklace alone.
Quick and Easy Kumihimo Braiding with Beads

Styling the Kumihimo 3 Ways flapper-style necklace and tassel

The Ultimate Kumi Combo

Create all the Kumihimo 3 Ways components and combine them for a truly bold statement!

Quick and Easy Kumihimo Braiding with Beads

The ultimate kumi combo

Lavon Peters
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine

Explore Maggie’s kumihimo projects in the Interweave store!


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