Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kumihimo Bead Weaving

Woven Jewelry
Part 2 of 3
Feature Designer

Kumihimo is the Japanese art of braiding. The literal translation of kumihio is "coming together/plaiting (kumi) of threads (himo)". This beautiful artform/craft goes back to about the 6th century CE. The braids are both decorative and functional. They were first used by the Samurai warriors to lace together and decorate their lacquered metal armor and scabbards. Apparently some armor styles required 1000 yards of silk cord for lacing! Braids (obijime) also help secure the obi (sash) knot on traditional kimonos.



Jewelry artisans also use the kumihimo technique either with fibre or wire - like Bev Carlson of Bev's Jewelry who frequently comments on this blog. Bev has been making jewelry for nearly 10 years and is based in the Boston area.

She uses a round dense foam kumihimo disc (below) to create her lovely jewelry. The slots around the edges helps secure the yarn or wire as you work. Bev belongs to a group of beaders rather like the Bead Sisterhood, called the South Shore Beaders. The small group of 8-9 beaders frequently shares supplies, sources and ideas. They all learnt kumihimo together! Bev finds this weaving technique portable and relaxing like knitting only you don't have to put together pieces, which she hates!




How is it done? Well, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and kind souls who upload videos, you can see a kumihimo braider in action . As you can see, it is not difficult at all. If you are using yarn, the bobbins like those Bev uses helps keep the lines taut. If you are using wire, twist them to start. When adding beads, make sure you push it down the hole. Hold it down whilst you do the yarn/wire cross-overs making sure it is going to be held down by the yarn/wire crossing over.



Bev says she can't yet afford the marudai - I sense she really wants one - which is rather like a stool. You can see pictures of one here. The takadai is much larger, a floor standing model which reminds me of a loom. It is used for creating wide sashes and thus not appropriate for jewelry making. Having said that, if you've been following all the unusual jewelry I feature on this blog, anything is possible!

You can also buy a square kumihimo plate which produces a wide, flat braid like a ribbon, not a round one. I bought one to experiment with as I was inspired by another form of wire weaving which I will blog about tomorrow.

References & Resources
Kumihimo tutorials
Weavershand
Rosalie Neilson.com
What is Kumihimo.com
How to Kumihimo.com

For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips

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7 comments :

Kokopelli said...

I tried kumihimo just for fun and found so many possibilities to use the braided cords: jewelry, a strap for my bow to keep it from slipping out of my hand while shooting, straps for sewed bags, a dog collar etc. It's very versatile.

Jonara Blu Maui said...

wow..I never knew they used an apparatus like that to make that type of bead weaving. I would think you could make your own disc too!

The Beading Gem said...

Yes, it is possible to make it yourself! Thanks for pointing that out.

Bev's Jewelry said...

Just got back from Cape Cod and a week's vacation. (all without internet - oh, the withdrawal!)
Thanks for the nice article on Kumihimo and showing some of my pieces. I made three more bracelets while away and when I can put the finishing touches on, I'll post them on my blog.
Thanks again, Pearl.
Bev

The Beading Gem said...

Glad to hear you had a great holiday although I fully understand what it feels like being away from the internet so long. I look forward to seeing your new pieces on your blog!

Almost Precious said...

Several weeks back I had visited your interesting post about friendship bracelets; it was an enjoyable trip down memory lane. While there I noted that one of the "you might also like" was about Kumihimo braiding, which I dabble in. I had every intention of doing my notorious Beading Gem post hopping but got side track with making lunch for my starving hubby. Afterward the kumihimo post slipped my mind (a lot of things seem to slip my mind now-a-days) and was forgotten. Just now I ran across this forgotten post and am so glad that it found me. :) Love the look of the beaded kumihimo braids, so far I only make the silk braided cords and though they're lovely I truly would like to try making the beaded versions.
I can't begin to tell you just how grateful I am for your wonderful blog-website. All your efforts in maintaining it with up-to-date post, tutorials and items of interest is certainly appreciated by all the many beaders and crafters that visit here.

Anonymous said...

Hi, found this blog and love it! If anyone is interested in kumihimo, you might like to know that the takadai is used for braiding flat braids, usually narrow though it can be used for up to sash/necktie width, and therefore is fine for flat bracelets etc. The square kumidisk was developed to allow a limited range of takadai-like braids to be produced. The takadai costs about 100 times as much as a kumidisk though.....

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