Kumihimo – the name for this ancient Japanese craft is complicated, but the basic technique is easy so let’s learn How To Do Kumihimo! (There are more complicated variations, but those are for another time!)
The traditional Kumihimo loom is made from wood and called a marudai. It consists of a disk with a hole in the middle, mounted on a stand so that both hands are free to work the fibers. Excess lengths of fiber are wound on wooden bobbins and pulled out to use as needed.
There are no markings on this loom, so the artist must pay careful attention to her work.
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Lucky for us, there are beginner-friendly modern tools available to us in many bead and yarn shops.
The Kumihimo Loom (often called a “Kumihimo Disk”), usually made of foam with numbered slots around the perimeter. There are several brands available. They are inexpensive, light, sturdy and portable.
You will need enough cord to yield your finished length X 8 strands X 3 (For a piece that finishes 6 inches long, you would need 6 X 8 X 3 = 144 inches total, or about 4 yards.)
S-Lon cord is easy to use, comes in many colors and is readily available. There are four weights – medium is used most often.
Start Your Weave. (If you can count to three, you can do this!)
To start, gather 8 strands of your chosen cord and tie an overhand knot at one end.
With your knot suspended in the hole at the center of the loom, place your cords in their beginning positions – one on each side of the four dots printed at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions of your disk. If your disk is numbered, look for the dots at positions 32, 8, 16 and 24.
You will need 8 bobbins. Wind each long tail of cord around an open bobbin to prevent tangling, then close the bobbin to secure. Some prefer to wind their cord onto the bobbins first, especially with longer lengths, then tie the knot and set up the loom. Either method works, so do what’s best for you.
Start Your Weave (If you can count to three, you can do this!):
- Place your Kumihimo loom in front of you with the threaded slots at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. (Refer to photo.)
- Count 1 – With one hand, grasp the cord on the left side of the 12 o’clock dot and bring it down, placing it in the slot to the left of the 6 o’clock cords. You will have one cord at 12 o’clock, three cords at 6 o’clock and two each at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. The photo shows the correct position of the cords after the move.
- Count 2 – Now grasp the cord on the right side of the 6 o’clock position and move it up to the right of the 12 o’clock cord. You now have two cords in each position again. The cords you have just moved are now one position over from where they started. The photo shows the correct position of the cords after the move.
- Count 3 – Turn the disk one quarter turn. You can go either direction (I go clockwise), but you MUST be consistent with this step throughout the project. I found it very helpful at the beginning to draw a directional arrow on the foam disk with a Sharpie marker.
- Now do it again – Left up, Right down, Turn.
- Repeat until your braid is one inch or so longer than you need.
Finish the Ends of your Kumihimo:
- Using strong thread (nylon beading thread is excellent), tightly tie and wrap one end of your braid. Make several tight parallel wraps until the eight cords are secure – about 1/8 to ¼ inch.
- A dab or two of jewelry glue (Hypo Cement is a good one) will secure the thread wrap without adding lumpy bulk.
- Trim away the loose cords close to the thread wrap, but be very careful to leave the threads intact. They are holding your braid together!
- Allowing for your end finish/clasp, measure from the wrapped end and repeat the process, securing the other end of your braid.
- Attach your end treatment. There are lots of options! Glue-in endcaps are popular for Kumihimo braids, but wire wraps and crimp ends also possibilities.
The process is exactly the same even if you choose to use different materials! So have some fun and experiment!
I am eager to try Kumihimo with these fibers! They are sari ribbon and sari yarn, both made from recycled sari silk. You can make kumihimo braids with anything, as long as it fits in the slots on the loom!
Browse through more Kumihimo projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.