I've been having discussions with some online friends about learning Kumihimo. Now, I’m no expert, but I do believe that I've got the basics down pretty well—and the basics are what a beginner needs to know. There is an incredible amount to be learned about Kumihimo and there are so many variations on this technique. You can probably spend a lifetime learning new ways to work with it.
Personally, I love beaded Kumihimo, but I’m not going to talk about that here. If you’re just learning, you want to start by creating simple, round, Kumihimo braids, like the ones above. Once you’re comfortable with those, it will be easier to learn how to add beads. Start with what’s simple, practice until you’re comfortable with it, and then learn the more complex techniques.
First, what is Kumihimo? It’s the ancient Japanese art of combining fiber cords to create a braid. Depending on the source, Kumihimo translates as “gathered threads,” “come together,” or “braided cord.” The braids were used by ancient warriors on their armor and swords. Later the braids were used as belts on Japanese kimonos.
Traditional Kumihimo is created on a wooden stand called a marudai, which is rather expensive and too large to carry around with you. What we’re going to be talking about here is braiding Kumihimo on a foam disk loom. The disk costs only a few dollars and is small and lightweight, which makes it very portable. Many people like to take their Kumihimo projects with them to work on while riding the bus or while waiting for an appointment.
Kumihimo braids can be round or flat. Colored Kumihimo cords can be combined into hundreds of beautiful patterns depending upon how many cords are used and how the colors are loaded onto the disk. I have read that braiding can be done with as few as 4 cords and as many as 100 cords!
This blog series will be about creating a basic, round braid, which is made with 8 cords. That round braid can be made into bracelets, necklaces, key chains, purse handles, and dog leashes. I’m sure there are many other possibilities.
|This is a 6-inch disk that is 3/8 inch thick from www.sallybeadjewelry.com. The quality is top-notch. It is very firm, which helps with the tension of your braiding. Above the disk you see two bobbins. The one on the left is closed and the one on the right is open and waiting to have a cord wrapped onto it.|
Kumihimo disk loom: The round disk can be about 4¼ to 6 inches in diameter. The thickness can vary from ¼ inch to 3/8 inch. Thicker disks promote better tension. There are 32 slots around the edge of the disk, which are used to secure the cords. Thicker cords will stretch out the slots, so it's good to have two disks. Use one for thicker cords and the other for finer cords.
Cord: This can be any strand of fiber used for Kumihimo braiding.
Warp: This is another name for a cord. The term is adapted from weaving.
Bobbin: This is typically a plastic spool that folds onto itself to hold a long cord, thus keeping it from getting tangled with the other cords. The weight of the bobbins also helps with the braiding tension.
Braid: A braid is the product of Kumihimo weaving. If it’s round, it is sometimes called a rope.
Weight: Hangs from the start of the braid to help keep the tension even.
Tension: A weight is attached to the start of your braid. This weight works with the weight of the bobbins and cords to keep tension on the braid. That makes the braid snug and even.
|Here are two similar cords. The green is is Petite Satin Cord from www.whataknit.com. It is about 1mm or 1/16 inch in diameter and is known as bugtail. It has a wonderful feel to it! The blue cord comes from Hobby Lobby and is 1/8 inch, about 2mm in diameter, and is known as mousetail. Rattail is slightly thicker.|
This is a list of supplies that you will want for creating a basic, round, 8-cord braid.
· Round Kumihimo Disk
· 8 Kumihimo Bobbins
· A Kumihimo Weight for the start of the braid. You can make your own. I've used a few keys that were attached to a clip as well as some fishing weights on a clip. I've heard of others who use a small bag of pennies tied to the start of the braid. I plan to buy a real Kumihimo weight from www.glitznkitz.com.
· Cords—see below.
· Fray Check—to seal the braid ends before cutting.
· E6000 glue—to attach the end caps.
· Very sharp scissors for cutting the ends of the braid.
· End caps—either glue the braid end to the end cap or attach wire to the braid end and make a wrapped loop through the end cap.
· Clasps—when the clasp and end cap are one unit you must use glue. This is also true when the end cap has an open end and a totally closed end with a built-in loop.
· Thread—you can wrap the braid ends with thread before cutting the ends.
· Tape—you can tape the braid ends before cutting the ends.
· 26 or 28-gauge wire—you can wrap the braid ends with wire before cutting the ends.
· 20-gauge wire—for making wire-wrapped loops. This can be done with cones or end caps that are open on both ends.
· Round-nose pliers for wrapping loops.
|These are the ribbons I used in the braids at the top. They are the 50 cent spools from Michaels and they work very nicely. The ribbon with the picots is a little wider and the braids from this ribbon are larger than the braids from the plain ribbon.|
There are many types of cords that you might use for your braid:
· Rat tail, mouse tail, bug tail—here’s a great description: http://www.satincord.com/a_1_cord_satin_rattail.html
· Ribbon—try the 50 cent spools of narrow, satin ribbon from the craft stores.
· Yarn—especially the fancy specialty yarns.
· Embroidery floss—don’t separate the threads. When braiding without beads, you might want to double up, putting 2 strands in each slot, because floss strands are finer than bugtail. Metallic embroidery floss is wonderful when working with beads that are somewhat transparent.
· C-Lon and S-Lon—these cords are the same but from different manufacturers. They come in multiple sizes (buy cord, not thread) and are for use with beads. As a rule, I don’t recommend them when braiding without beads, unless you’re trying for a special effect.
That's it for now.
Part II will deal with setting up the disk and making the braid.
Part III will address several techniques for finishing the braid.
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