The Best of Both Worlds: Kumihimo + Beads with Jill Wiseman

Kumihimo is everywhere right now – at Bead Fest, all over the Internet, and of course, basking in the limelight here at Interweave. If you’re new to kumihimo, let me introduce you (virtually) to Jill Wiseman, your steady guide to this entrancing art form. Her online workshop Kumihimo with Beads, based on her best-selling video, will treat you to a solid foundation in this traditional braiding technique with a modern beaded twist.

From the Japanese words kumi for “braid” and himo for “cord,” kumihimo is an ancient braiding art. Originally created with silk thread on a large wooden loom called a marudai, it has been adapted over time. Modern kumihimo artists often use small, portable foam disks and incorporate an endless array of materials, from beads and crystals to ribbons and wire.

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Jill Wiseman walks you through the entire kumihimo process: braiding, adding beads, and finishing

Kumihimo Basics, Beads, and Beyond

I absolutely love Jill’s calm, humorous teaching style. She covers the basics, making it look like the easiest thing in the world to braid with eight strands. In the next section of the workshop, Jill gets to something near and dear to our hearts—adding beads. I love Jill’s advice on troubleshooting common problems. As someone who has learned from years of trial and error, she knows exactly what to look for to make sure your braid stays on track, and how to fix it when it doesn’t.

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For the most secure finish, Jill prefers to use beading wire, glue, and end caps for her kumihimo designs.

It can be all too easy to create dozens of braids before even thinking about finishing them. You’ll appreciate that Jill takes the time to demonstrate three ways to finish a braid: by using end caps and beading wire (her favorite), by using end caps with 22-gauge wire, and by using crimp ends. She also has tips to make sure you end up with a project that is the length you need.

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Jill inspires us with beautiful examples of her kumihimo braids.

Finally, she gives her students a taste of fun variations to try, from using Rattail cord to trying different types of beads. She also shows patterns you’ll want to experiment with by arranging the cords a certain way on your disk.

I was inspired. Impatient to start and lacking kumihimo supplies at the time, I scrounged up random bits of yarn and fashioned a temporary disk from card stock. After a few minutes of clicking the strings into place (a satisfying process, I must say), I peeked beneath the disk and got a delightful surprise. An intricate kumihimo braid was forming, the fuzzy strands magically interlacing. That flimsy homemade disk was immediately confiscated by my kids, and one morning shortly after, I found myself hurriedly making another because my son wanted to teach kumihimo to a girl who rides the same bus to school. It was time to commit—now I’m just waiting for my official kumihimo disc to arrive in the mail.

Jill’s Top 5 Tips for Kumihimo

Throughout the workshop, Jill is a constant source of great advice. Her tips came in handy to me multiple times – especially tips two and three! Here is a sampling of her kumihimo words of wisdom, but believe me, you’ll find that her entire tutorial is a fountain of knowledge.

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Lost your place? No problem! Notice which cords sit on top of the others to regain your bearings on your kumihimo disk.

1. The perfect length

Cut each of your cords three times the length you want your finished project to be. Remember, you can never add more cord later!

2. Note to self

Don’t be afraid to write yourself helpful reminders on your disc, such as “Down right, up left.” And to make sure you rotate the disc in the same direction each time, why not draw an arrow pointing the way?

3. Finding your place

If you set down your work only to come back to it to discover that you’ve lost your place, don’t fret. Look for two cords, kitty-corner from each other, that are sitting on top of the other cords. When those upper cords are in the horizontal position, you’re ready to start from the top. (See image above.)

4. Be vigilant for errors

Stop periodically and look at the braid you’re creating beneath the disc. Catching mistakes early makes them easy to correct by undoing your work to the problem point.

5. Play with options

Kumihimo offers so many possibilities! Enjoy experimenting with different fibers and beads to create unique textures and patterns in your designs.

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Getting the correct length for a bracelet can be tricky, but Jill has a helpful formula.

If you’re curious about this exciting way to create beaded cords, Jill’s workshop will get you up to speed in no time. Come find out what the kumihimo craze is all about!

Go be creative!
Tamara Kula
Producer, Bead & Jewelry Group

Featured Image: Once you know the basic of braiding, you can easily add beads to your kumihimo designs.


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