Kumihimo means braided cord. It started in Japan in 7,500 BC. The styles and uses of these braids have changed over time. But, it was during the Middle Ages when Kumihimo was at its peak of popularity.
During this era, the Samurai needed 1,000 feet (305 m.) of braided cord to lace their armor suits. Also at the time, people use Kumihimo as obi ties for their kimonos, sword hilts, and make horse harnesses.
The Japanese use a specialized stand called Marudai to these braided cords. Marudai means a circular or round stand. Braiding the threads starts from the top of the round disk and finishes down at the center.
The Japanese use silk in making Kumihimo. If you are going to mimic the Kumihimo silk, then use silk in size 00. Aside from silk, they also use Biron threads.
However, the Biron Kumihimo cords were often used as Japanese Obi-jime. These are belts they put around their Kimono.
A lot of people are adopting this technique. They have used different threads to make their versions of Kumihimo. Some use embroidery floss, while others use the Super-Lon braid cord.
If you want to use embroidery floss for your Kumihimo, start with cotton or pearl cotton floss. You may also use silk, metallic, and fluffy yarns. But before doing that, make sure that you are familiar with the braiding technique.
Before you begin, you might want to estimate the number of threads you need. You may put your threads together and twist them to get the rough estimate of its thickness. You can add more threads or remove some if you are not satisfied with the thickness.
If you do want to mimic the traditional Japanese Kumihimo, you can use any embroidery floss. But if you want to create a Kumihimo comparative to the traditional ones, use silk floss.
Nowadays, crafters have been using the Kumihimo technique to braid other materials. They use it to braid jewelry wires and leather strips, and more. This gives Kumihimo a broader use and application.
List of Contents:
What is Kumihimo?
Kumihimo is the braiding technique from the Japanese. It was a form of finger-loop braiding before the use of tools like Marudai and Takadai. These braided cords were first used by the Samurai. They used them as decorative lace on their armors and their horses’ harness.
In recent years, Kumihimo became part of the Japanese haori and kimono obijime. Haori is jackets while obijime is the kimono sash or belt.
When you make a Kumihimo braid, a Kumihimo loom or disk is necessary. So, what exactly is the Kumihimo disk?
This Kumihimo disk or loom is the portable version of the Marudai stand. This was the original Japanese loom that they used in making Kumihimo cords. This technique became popular which inspired crafters to devise an alternative to Marudai. They have come up with the so-called Kumihimo disk.
A Kumihimo disk is a round flat pattern that has 32 slots on the edge and a hole in the middle. The disks that you buy in craft stores often have soft cushion bases. Although, you may also find disks made of wood and plastics.
These days, Kumihimo disks are also available in square and octagon templates. Do you have to buy a disk to make Kumihimo braids? You need this loom or disk, but you can make one yourself.
Here is how you make your DIY Kumihimo disk.
Prepare the following materials.
Craft Knife or Cutter
Pencil and Ruler
- Glue your foam sheets together to create a 1/4″ (0.64 cm.) thick foam base. Leave them for a while to dry.
- Once dry, draw a circle around your foam sheet at about 10 cm. in diameter. Then cut out the circle template.
- Draw a smaller circle about 2 cm. in the middle of the cut-out circle.
- Then, get a ruler and divide the round foam into four equal parts. Mark the measurements on the edge of the circle. After marking, slit these 4 markings on the edge.
- Once the 4 cuts are complete, make another set of markings between these first 4 cuts. Make sure that they are even. Cut these another set of 4 markings. At this point, you already have 8 markings.
- Continue the process until you reach 32 cuts or slits on the edge of your round foam template.
- Once you get 32 slits on the edge, you now have your DIY Kumihimo disk. You can start making your braids.
Here is how you make a simple Kumihimo braid.
You will need these materials.
4 strands of embroidery floss about 45 inches (114 cm.) long
You may choose 4 coordinating colors of your choice.
- Gather all your embroidery floss and fold them in half. This will give you 8 strands of floss. Then, make a slip knot. This will be the loop of your Kumihimo bracelet.
- Trim one strand off. This will now give you a total of 7 strands.
- Put the loop into the hole of the Kumihimo disk or wheel.
- Put one thread on each of the long dashed lines on the Kumihimo disk. The one long dotted line should stay open.
- Hold the disc in your left hand and determine the open dotted line on the disk.
- Then, count three thread strands to the right and pick up the third strand.
- Rotate the disc in your left hand clockwise. Do this as you move the third thread counter-clockwise. This must be in a position going into the open dotted line on the Kumihimo disk.
- Continue this process until you reach your desired bracelet length. The usual length is 7 inches (18 cm.)
Once done, remove the braid from the disc and knot ends together. You may also put end caps, instead of plain knots.
Kumihimo braids are a great technique for making friendship and string bracelets.
What Thread Do You Use For Kumihimo?
The traditional Japanese Kumihimo uses Silk and Biron threads. But these days, you can use embroidery floss and Super-Lon braiding cord. You can also use your usual crafting yarns, satin rattail, and more to make Kumihimo.
For beginners, you may start with cotton or pearl cotton floss. These threads are not divisive and are good for braiding. Before you make your Kumihimo, consider the following tips.
- The Kumihimo disks are convenient but the slots can get stretched out after several uses. This happens when you use the same disk for different sizes of yarns. To avoid this, make sure to have several disks for braiding different yarn sizes.
- You may use the bigger disk to braid thinner yarns. But, do not use a disk with smaller slots to braid thicker yarns. A good option to have a durable Kumihimo disk is to get the wooden type.
- Keep in mind that your thread thickness affects the finished Kumihimo. If you have a 2 mm. cord at 7 inches (18 cm.) length and it fits you well, the same length with 3 or 4 mm. thickness may be too tight for you.
- The Kumihimo braid will stretch, but it will not return to its original length. This is why you need to give it a stretch before securing the ends. This will give you the right size that fits you well. If you don’t do this, the cord will stretch out over time and can look bigger.
- Most Kumihimo braids have these beautiful end caps. These end caps add extra length to your braid cord, so trim the needed excess before putting these caps.
- When you put the cord ends into the braid, use a wooden skewer tip or toothpick. This will help you shove these thread strands into the cap.
- Once you get the hang of making Kumihimo, try to explore using other threads. Aside from embroidery floss, you may also use craft cord, satin rattail, baker’s twine, and more.
- Explore colors. When you make you Kumihimo, choose coordinating colors. This will give your braided cord a unique style. You can use bright or dark colors, but make sure they make a great combination.
- Keep your Kumihimo disks away from pets. These disks, especially those with foam bases are like magnets to pets. These disks are prone to wear and tear. Pets hair fibers also stick to these foam bases.
How Long Should Kumihimo Strings Be?
The length of your Kumihimo cord depends on where you intend to use it. If it is for clothing accents, you may need longer Kumihimo. In case you will use it as a bracelet or necklace, you may need shorter lengths.
The key point is to determine your desired finished length. Then, you multiply it by 4 and add 12 inches (31 cm.) more. The number that you will get will be the length of your threads to start your braid.
The regular size for a Kumihimo bracelet is 7 to 8 inches (18 to 20 cm.) long. Say your desired length is 7 inches (18 cm.), then multiply it by 4 and add 12 inches (31 cm.) extra. The computation goes (7 X 4) + 12. The answer here is 40 inches (102 cm.).
This means that to make a 7 inches (18 cm.) long Kumihimo braid, you need to cut your threads in 40 inches (102 cm.) long each.
Say you want a finished cord of 8 inches (20 cm.). Again, use the formula (8 X 4) + 12 and this gives you 44 inches (112 cm.). This will be the length of your thread to begin your braids.
You also have to consider if you are going to use end caps. These end caps will add an extra length to your Kumihimo bracelet.
What Do You Do With Kumihimo Braids?
Kumihimo braids and cords have a lot of uses. You can make bracelets, necklaces, and anklets with these braided threads.
If you are into Kumihimo braids, you can use them as the following.
This technique is great for braiding craft yarns, leather string, and jewelry wire. This is why you can make a wide variety of fashionable accessories. You can make bracelets with adorable charms and necklaces with nice pendants.
Because you can use other materials, it is easier to make different accessories out of it.
Some furniture makers use Kumihimo cords as lining on their furniture. These cords add a touch of luxury to any furniture piece.
You can also use these braided cords as design to your fabric bags and purse. They also make great ornaments for your scrapbook cover.
Tapestries cords and lining
Your Kumihimo braids make stylish hanger ropes for your tapestries. You may also use them as lining materials for your throw pillowcases.
Your braided cords are beautiful borders for table runners and linens. You can also use them as curtain tassels and tiebacks.
You can make long Kumihimo cords and coil them to make beautiful coasters. You may add a faux leather base where you glue the cords. You may also the cords as is. All you need is to coil it and stick each coiled layer to the next.
Shoulder bag handle
These braided cords are perfect replacements for your torn out bag handles. You can also use them as cords for your drawstring bags and totes.
Since you can apply Kumihimo to any materials, you can use them as embellishments to your clothes. You can shape them into letters and figures and stick them to your jeans and jackets.
You can also embellish your hats using these braided cords. You can also use them as drawstrings for your pouch or soft pants. These braids will also make stylish shoelaces for your sneakers.
The Kumihimo is a unique and versatile braiding technique. It has more uses than your usual braided cords. This ancient Japanese technique has been popular because of its unique process.
It allows crafters to use a wide variety of threads from embroidery floss to jewelry wires. Many fashion accessories and jewelry makers use Kumihimo to make unique pieces. This braiding technique is still an acclaimed Japanese culture.
So, if you want to add something new to your crafting skills, try making Kumihimo braids today. You can make gorgeous bracelets and accessories for yourself and your friends. And who knows you might make a great sale, too!