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
Rosalie Neilson.com
What is Kumihimo.com
How to Kumihimo.com

For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips

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