Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kumihimo - Part 1 - By Sue (Flamin'Eck)

For a while now, I've been playing with kumihimo braiding.  I started off as many do now, with one of the flexible discs, which are numbered and have slots that you use to place your threads.  The slots provide tension, so generally you only need to weight the central braid.

I was very fortunate in that a friend of mine recently gave me a traditional style Maru Dai (thanks to Blue Box Sue), which is a wooden table, with a hole in the centre, four legs and a base; this is what the Japanese have been using for braiding for centuries.

So, what to do with this mysterious piece of kit?  Buy a book! I eventually plumped for this one

This is a really well written book with good clear instructions of how to set up your Maru Dai, a basic history of braiding,and a design section which helps you create your own patterns as well as give instructions for loads of designs. There are other great books out there, this was simply my choice :)

The history behind kumihimo is fascinating.  Braiding is bound up in religion and ritual, from burial ceremonies in Peru to securing Buddhist scrolls in Japan, from the use as sling weapons to the obi, which ties the kimono.

So, time to have a go.  First of all, I needed bobbins to wind my thread around.  Being a lampworker, that part was relatively easy, I made them out of glass.  Of course.  No lampworker can resist the opportunity to use the flame in whatever project in which they might be involved.  A tube of borosilicate glass with wound ends did the trick, and I can make larger ones if I need to, though the book gives various options.


I decided to try to braid without weights for my first braid.  I bought some recycled sari silk which looked gorgeous, but was completely unsuitable for this, it fell to pieces as soon as I tried winding it on the bobbin, boo, hiss.  So back to using what I already had.  I used eight equal lengths of Superlon, wound them on the bobbins, and cussed royally for a while why I tried to master (or mistress) a larkshead tie ... which is not what I ended up with!  Still, I persevered, and braided a simple pattern.  Which resulted in this:

As you can see, although pretty, the braid is quite loose - it may have worked a lot better with beads.  Over the next week I will be making weights myself, and attempting to braid with those.  Wish me luck ;-)

Sue - Flamin'Eck


  1. Oh goody, I am visiting today so am going to have a go at that too! Love the wooden thingy, that is fab. Lx

  2. Brilliant first post Sue, looking forward to reading part 2. Glass bobbins sound brilliant.