How to Do Kumihimo with Beads
Lots of my friends made beaded Kumihimo bracelets, and they couldn’t stop! I resisted for a long time, not needing another vice, but inevitably started down that slippery slope. I fell fast and hard! Once you start, it’s hard to stop! I think I now have a piece of Kumihimo jewelry to go with every outfit.
Kumihimo is an ancient Japanese braiding technique, traditionally done on a wooden loom called a marudai. Today we have looms in the form of light and portable foam discs, and once the beads are strung on the cords (usually eight of them), the project can go anywhere with you. These bracelets have been on planes, ships, and automobiles (but no trains, yet). I wish I had known about Kumihimo when my kids had practices and rehearsals!
Browse the many books and tutorials out there. Many local bead shops teach classes for great hands-on help. I recommend a class – you can ask questions and get immediate feedback and tips! ‘Tweens and teens also love Kumihimo! Beginners often start with bracelets.
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Adding beads to your Kumihimo braids kicks the projects up a notch! Depending on the beads you choose, your finished piece can be earthy and organic or filled with sunglass-inducing bling! So you need to know How to Do Kumihimo with Beads to make jewelry that reflects your style.
Do you want a scattering of beads to let your fibers share the spotlight? Add beads to just one or two strands. For full frontal beadery, string beads on all eight strands of beading cord and let the beads tell your story. You can mix bead sizes for interesting texture.
The basics of the Kumihimo stitch/weave/braid are the same (including the length of cord needed), whether you have a naked cord or one with beads. Find those instructions on How to Do Kumihimo.
String your beads on the cord before beginning to braid. A Big Eye Needle is very helpful for stringing the beads. Available in most bead shops, this needle has an eye that runs almost the entire length of the needle. Begin stringing your beads with the point of the needle, then push the beads onto the flexible cord and wind each strand on a bobbin just as you would for a plain braid.
The number of beads you will need is an approximation. Because there will be slight variations in bead size (even with beads from the same package) and the braiding tension will vary from one weaver to another, you may need to add or subtract beads. On average, you will need the following number of beads on each strand to achieve your chosen finished length:
- 6 beads per inch on each strand for size 6 seed beads and size 8 Delica beads
- 7 beads per inch on each strand for size 8 seed beads
- 9 beads per inch on each strand for size 11 seed beads
- 11 beads per inch on each strand for size 11 Delica beads
Begin by weaving about 1/4-inch of braid with just cord. This will allow you to finish with a clasp. You will repeat this plain braid at the finishing end of your piece.
Move one bead into your Kumihimo braid with each “stitch”. Pictures are worth a thousand words, or so I’ve heard, so check out Fusion Beads’ step-by-step guide with color-coded diagrams.
Finish with your chosen end treatment or clasp, and have fun. Some clasps are super easy to attach with a strong glue like E-6000. But you do have to wait for the glue to dry. For immediate gratification, attach a clasp with a wrapped wire loop. Now you know How to Do Kumihimo with Beads!
Here are some projects made with beaded kumihimo.
Beaded Kumihimo Necklace with Unicorne Drop Beads
How to use a strand of small Unicorne lampwork drops to make a gift for a bride-to-be? Perfect for kumihimo, but how to scatter and center the little lampwork focal beads? This Beaded Kumihimo Necklace with Unicorne Drop Beads was fun to make and was a perfect gift for the bride-to-be! I shopped for Unicorne beads in her wedding colors. True confessions time: Unicorne Drop Beads are so pretty and they nest together so well that I admit to personal bead stash purchases, as well.
The 25 glass drops strung on one of the eight cords dictated the length of the center section. I decided an eight-bead segment on either end would work, with sterling silver chain completing the necklace. So on each of the eight strands of beading cord, I strung eight size 6 seed beads. Then I added 25 beads to each strand with (one strand was the Unicorne beads). Finally, I strung eight more size 6 beads to each strand.
I added sterling silver cones and chain to make the Beaded Kumihimo Necklace with Unicorne Drop Beads just the right length.
Go Saints Kumihimo Bracelet
Sometimes I just have to be a Saints fan in a Seahawks town. I can get away with it when I wear this Kumihimo bracelet made from Czech pressed glass drop beads. The holes are small, so micro cord was the way to go. And I can channel my inner Saint. Who Dat!
Czech pressed glass beads come in a gazillion colors and shapes, so you can really make your Kumihimo bracelet one of a kind. If you live in a multi-team household like I do, you may want to make several. Playoff season can be painful, but there is some solace in cute jewelry!
For this bracelet, I selected three different glass beads. The drops nest into one another smoothly with Kumihimo, and the leaf shapes create spikey fun. When using space hogging beads like drops and leaves, try the bracelet on before finishing the ends – you will need a longer bracelet to wrap those big beads around your wrist. And remember that the clasp adds length, too.
Peaches and Cream Flower Kumihimo Necklace
Peaches and Cream Flower Kumihimo Necklace works up fast with size 6 seed beads in creamy and peachy colors. What dresses it up is the side-drilled Czech pressed glass flowers worked into two of the eight strands in the center section.
To begin, I braided enough size 6 seed beads to measure 10 inches for the first section. I threaded 6 strands of beads on regular S-Lon Beading Cord. But, for the strands that would carry the flower beads in the center section, I used micro cord because the holes of the flower beads are smaller than the seed bead holes.
Then I added a section with the flower beads on the two micro cord strands. An equal number of seed beads went on each of the 6 “regular” cords. This made a 4 inch center section. Finally, size 6 seed beads made up the last 10 inches. Of course, the cords strung with beads measured much more than 24 inches before braiding on the Kumihimo Disk! Bobbins kept all of those cords from tangling while braiding.
I don’t usually wear such soft colors, but I wanted to play with these shaped beads, and this is the color I could find when I was ready to start. It has become one of my favorite pieces!
Satin Kumihimo Unicorne Bead Necklace
Gotta keep hands busy during a long drive! Kumihimo braiding is a great project for travel – the pieces stay put, and it’s easy to take a break and pick up right where you left off. Hand dyed satin cord and Unicorne lampwork drop beads in two sizes combine to make this to-be-finished-later Satin Kumihimo Unicorne Bead Necklace posing for its close-up on the passenger side SRS.
Kumihimo braided projects can take on just about any look, depending on your choice of materials. I wear a lot of earthy neutrals, so the softness and subtle color of these Unicorne Teardrop beads play nicely with much of my wardrobe and the necklace dresses up a casual outfit. There are LOTS of colors to choose from.
The process is easy once you get the hang of it. There are lots of tutorials online. Here is one for a plain 8-warp braid. (Each thread is a warp.) It’s good to practice a bit with a simple braid before moving on to weaving with beads.
I used two strands each of large and small teardrop beads. One quick lesson: the hand-dyed satin cord I had chosen did not fit through the holes of the smaller beads. I really, really wanted to use that cord, so I needed a solution. If I added a length of S-Lon microcord to every other warp, I could string the beads onto the light cord and weave the two cords as one.
I loaded the beads (12 per strand), stringing the large beads directly on the plain cord in the alternate warps. I strung the smaller beads on the microcord and ran it in the same position as its satin cord partner.
The rest was Kumihimo 101. I wove about 10 inches with just cord, then added a section with beads, which turned out to be about four inches. I finished with another 10 inches of cord. That gave me some extra plain braid on each end to adjust the length before finishing and adding the clasp.
New to Kumihimo? Check out How To Do Kumihimo.