For the people out there who are looking for a creative outlet during these slow times, kumihimo is a fantastic artistic medium to try! This Japanese art of braid-making is complex, colorful, and fascinating. These ties and braids are strong, making them not only an aesthetic form of media, but a functional one too. Whether you are just learning about kumihimo or you are a veteran braider, this list of tips will help you make your best work.
The first step anyone attempting to try kumihimo should undertake is ironing their cords. These cords can curl and tangle fairly easily, so you need to make sure to iron your cords before using them. They become much easier to manage once you do so, including the fact that their ends become a little more stiff, making them easier to control. The cotton setting on your iron should suffice well, just as long as you don’t rest the iron on the cords for too long. Keep the iron moving across your cords, otherwise they’ll melt together and become unusable.
2) Use A Disc
The kumihimo disc is a common tool to assist you in making your kumihimo cords. This disc has slots for seperate strands of your cord, with each slot being numbered. This way, you can easily keep track of all your separate strands, and know which is supposed to go where. The key to kumihimo is that many, many strands can be used, whether this is to increase the strength of the cord or for the variety of color combinations you can make. Either way, you’ll need to keep track of your strands and their order, so be sure to have a disc of your own, with every section properly labeled. Keeping your work organized is the best way to keep it on track.
Your kumihimo thread should be wrapped around bobbins, for the sake of convenient storing. But what you use for bobbins and how you customize those gives you plenty of freedom to improvise and make your bobbins more convenient. You can use the more expensive, higher quality wooden bobbins, or you can make your own using whatever you have around the house. Whatever you use, you’ll want to make sure it has a notch in it. That way, you can stick your thread through the notch and use it like an anchor, so your spool doesn’t unwind accidentally. Get creative with your bobbins!
4) Thread Burner
Another tool you should have for kumihimo is a thread burner. This is a basic necessity, since you will be needing to cut thread ends fairly regularly. Without a thread burner, the ends of your cords will split and become mangled, and might even ruin your entire braid. It is simple enough to avoid this, just use a thread burner to sear the ends into a smooth tip. You can even use your thread burner to reinforce nots by melting it together, ensuring it won’t come undone.
5) Marking Your Spot
The more complex Kumihimo braids can take a long time, and you may not want to do it all in one sitting. If that’s the case, you should find a way to mark your progress that somehow reminds you on where you were. One efficient way to do that is stop mid-sequence. That way, you have the foundation ready to guide you and remind you on what to do. You can also braid in the opposite direction, making a clear indicator on your braid on what is different.
An important factor in braiding is how tightly wound your braid is. This becomes important when you braid in other objects to your cord, like beads. Beads actually make a useful frame of reference for how high or low your cord’s tension is. By placing beads in regularly and see how far apart they wind up, you can tell how tense your thread is. If your beads are close together, then your cord is extremely tense, while a wide difference in space means your cord is loose
7) Beads vs No Beads
If you want to create something that has a mixture of pure woven sections and sections with beads, you’ll need to be careful. The purely braided section will very likely stretch out once your work is finished, making the end result different than what you may have intended. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, be sure to stretch any purely braided sections before you finish your work, and measure them only then. These braids could easily become too loose, so be careful.
Kumihimo might end up being expensive, especially if you wind up wasting cords in trial and error. You can easily avoid this by practicing using yarn or common thread. This is a great way to test out your color palette, technique, and overall design. Practice making a few cheap braids and then you can move on to your final product, ensuring you have all the skills and capabilities to finish it to the best of your ability.
9) Tip Ends
You can give your kumihimo a variety of uses and appearances by ending them with different caps. There’s a large variety of cap ends you can find out there, which can transform your kumihimo braid into a bracelet or necklace. Find some that you like and try matching them up with your different cords. With plenty of colors from both cords and ends, this allows you a whole new level of customability and aesthetic possibility.
10) Kumihimo Stand
Make your kumihimo process all that much easier and use a kumihimo stand. If you purchase one, you can be ensured excellent quality for your braid-making process, but if you’d rather go cheaper, you can use a homemade stand just as easily. These stands are basically a small table with a hole in the center, so you can make a cheap, simple one at home. Either way, these stands will make your braiding process a lot more convenient and relaxing, so be sure to try it out.