So what is Kumihimo?

posted in: Arts & Crafts | 0
Until a few months ago I had never heard of Kumihimo, and now the disks used to practice this ancient Japanese craft are top sellers on my Etsy shop.

Kumihimo is a Japanese form of braid-making. Cords and ribbons are made by interlacing strands. Kumi himo is Japanese for “gathered threads”. source:Wikipedia

Kumihimo 64 slot disk
Kumihimo 64 slot disk

I designed and developed my Kumihimo disks after coming across the craft of Kumihimo braiding on my internet travels. I watched a few video tutorials on YouTube, but didn’t like the look of the foam disks that appeared to be the main purchasing option for this craft.

The origins of this Japanese craft appears to be making finger looped cords, then tools like a marudai were used. A  marudai is a circular wooden disk without grooves, but with an open centre. I thought it would be good to try to make my own slotted disks from plywood, echoing the material of the original marudai frames.

Wanting to try this new skill out straight away I designed myself a disk using CAD software, and printed it on my laser cutter. This was my first Kumihimo disk – a 32 slot small disk measuring 9.5cm in diameter. I always enjoy using tools made from wood, and found the lightness of the plywood combined with it’s rigidity soon had me braiding away using embroidery silks.

Small 32 slot Kumihimo disks

Once I got the hang of braiding on my small disk, I wanted to try thicker yarns than just embroidery weight thread, and designed a disk with slightly wider slots to take a lightweight cord, or Rattail as its often called. This worked well, and I liked the speeded up braiding process as well! I called this my Medium Kumihimo disk.

Medium 32 slot Kumihimo disks

 

Then I was asked if I could make a square braider

After some research, I realised that square braiders are often used to make flat braids, like wrist bands and belts, so I designed the square medium braider with the same width slots as my medium weight cord 32 slot round disk.

My design process is to sketch out the look of the disk first, then transfer it to CAD where I can accurately arrange all of the slots with mathematical accuracy. I then print out a prototype on paper – to check it looks OK. But I have found through experience that its not until you transfer the design to a laser cutter and cut out the disk from plywood that you get a real feel for the way your item has turned out.

The square braider is my personal favourite, I like the flat braids it produces, and find I can follow a square braider pattern easily.

Medium square 32 slot Kumihimo braider

Supersize me

My inspiration for projects often comes from materials, I’ll buy a new paint colour and work out how to incorporate it into an artwork, or I’ll buy some material and then work out what to sew with it. I the case of my large Kumihimo disks I bought some chunky cotton cord – the type used for drawstrings on hoodies and sweatshirts. Then I thought how good it would be to use this yarn for braiding and making some really chunky cords.

48 slot & 64 slot Kumihimo disks

Selling the disks through my Etsy shop I soon realised there were some super talented braiders out there, and I have been asked to make some more ‘advanced’ disks with 48 slots and 64 slots.

The beauty of designing with a laser cutter is the speed I can develop a design from concept through to finished product.  If I’m on a roll I can literally design something in the morning, and have it made, photographed and listed for sale online by the end of the day.

 

I just love being able to produce exactly what someone is looking for, and have honestly found an unexpected joy in making tools that others can be creative with.
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Follow karen:

Karen Smith Freelance Designer. I’m a Melbourne based designer, with over 20 years experience specialising in design. I enjoy working in a variety of mediums, including pen & ink, acrylics, watercolours, ceramics, wood and also textiles.

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