What is Kumihimo braiding?A Brief History: Kumihimo braiding is an ancient Japanese art which roughly translates into English as braided cord. Often used as a belt over traditional Japanese clothing. The braided cords are also used as ornamentation on festival carts, tea containers, as ribbons for fans and as closures for clothing in place of buttons. The braids were traditionally created using wooden braiding tools, called marudai, although there are a variety of loom like structures also used to create the braids. The history and development of Kumihimo braiding is undocumented until around 645 – 784 A.D, as it was considered a small part of textile tradition.
A wooden loom used for braiding.
A traditional Japanese sash tied on with a kumihimo belt
Here we are in 2014 and kumihimo braiding is now a hot trend in jewelry designs.
I've been adding seed beads, fibers, lampwork beads and sterling silver beads to kumihimo braids to create unique pieces of art jewelry. I'll share with you a few of my own pieces for inspiration and then give you a tutuorial so you can create your own beaded kumihimo jewelry.
This is my very first kumihimo braided bracelet. I created this bracelet using rattail cord. Rattail is a good beginners choice to learn the rythym of kumihimo.
I quickly progressed to using seed beads in my braided designs. I just love the sparkle of seed beads!
I added sterling silver beads into the weaving process. Adding beads directly into the kumihimo braid is a bit more complicated. I thought I'd share these pieces with you to show you where you can evenutally head with your braiding if you choose.
Lampwork beads were added to the kumihimo braid using various techniques. Again these focal beads have been woven directly onto the kumihimo braid.
In this case a lampwork bead was added after the braid was complete. A much more straightforward method, using basic jewelry making skills, to add a bead to the kumihimo.
Here is a design combining fibers and beads.
As you can see the possibilities are endless!
So let's get to the tutorial. I'm going to show you how to create a beautiful kumihimo braid using seed beads. You may want to create a practice piece or two using inexpensive rattail before you begin using seed beads. The basics of the braiding techniques will be the same.
Your first task is to decide on the focal and the seed beads you'll be using in your design. So many wonderful options! Forgive the not so great picture. I tend to spread out on my floor when I'm pulling out various materials to consider my options.
A kumihimo disc and 8 spools
30 - 35 grams size 8/0 Miyuki Delica seed beads
C-Lon thread in color to match your seed beads
2 sterling silver end caps (8mm outer diameter - 6 mm inner diameter)
2 - 4 or 5 mm sterling silver rounds
1 sterling silver toggle clasp
2 - 4-6 inch lengths 22 ga sterling silver wire
Jewelers glue - I prefer G-S Hypo Cement
A measuring tape
A weighted clip
basic jewelry making tools (pliers, cutters)
1 bail - 10 mm inner diameter
2 - 5 mm sterling silver rounds
1 balled headpin
Kumihimo Braiding Supplies
Supplies for the lampwork focal piece
Decide on the length of your finished piece. In this case we will be making an 18 inch necklace. I will subtract 1.75 inches from the finished length to accomodate for the end caps and clasp to determine the actual length of woven beads we will need. 18 - 1.75 = 16.25 inches woven seed beads.
The length of your cut thread will be 3x the finished length (this is a basic kumihimo guideline but I always find I have a substainal amount of extra thread left on my spool - just an fyi). In this case our finished length of an 18 inch necklace, 18 x 3 = 54 inches + 'just in case' inches = 57 inches. Cut (8) pieces of C-Lon thread, 57 inches each. Gather one end of all eight cords and tie together into one big knot.
On the opposite ends of your threads string 11 - 12 inches of seed beads onto each of the 8 cords. Tie a knot on the end of each thread after you have added the seed beads and immediately roll onto a spool. Spooling before you begin to add beads to the next thread keeps your work nice and neat so your threads don't tangle up on each other. A needle is not necessary as the C-Lon thread is sturdy enough to pick up the seed beads. This is the tedious, time consuming bit. Find a sunny spot, put on some good tunes and get each thread loaded with beads and wound onto their spools.
Tie a knot on the end of each thread. You definitely don't want those seed beads sliding off unexpectedly.
Wind each cord onto a spool.
Snap the spool closed.
Finish adding seed beads to the remaining 7 threads.
You're work will look something like this. You're now ready to to add the work to your disc.
Insert the knotted end into the center of the disc. The weight is optional but I find it extremely helpful in the early stage of the braiding process. Not only does it give you something to hold onto but it also adds weight to help your work pull down through the center.
Place two threads, into adjacent slots of the disc in of the north, south, west and east positions of the disc. Set up as you see in the photo below.