Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kumihimo 101

My last post showed off the beginnings of a tubular peyote-stitched gold beaded necklace that I said would be for my daughter's high school's silent auction. After stitching a few more inches on it, I realized it would take forever to make the long rope I had imagined, so I set it aside for something that would materialize a bit faster. Behold my kumihimo-beaded rope.

For those not familiar with kumihimo (which is just about everybody, duh), it is an ancient Japanese braiding technique traditionally done on a wooden stand called a marudai. However, several years back, an ingenious Japanese artist (I can't recall her name, and I'm too tired to Google it), invented a handheld loom made of foam. That is what I'm holding in the photo. Kumihimo is normally used to make textile braids, but when you add beads to the thread or cord and drop a bead at every pass, it creates a beautifully textured beaded rope that looks a lot like beaded crochet.

Although it takes forever to load the beads onto the eight strands (I'm using size 8 beads in two finishes of teal; the stringing medium is C-lon cord), the braiding goes relatively fast--a lot faster than the peyote stitching, anyway. (Thanks to Adrienne Gaskell for giving me the tip to stiffen the beading cord using Fray-check. This allows you to thread beads onto thick cord without a needle. If you use a needle, you have to use much thinner cord in order for it to fit through the beads doubled up).

If you want to learn more, check out the works of Jacqui Carey and Rodrick Owen, whom I believe are considered the foremost authorities writing in English on the subject. However, I want to give a shout-out to a series of posts on the Stone Heart Beads blog I discovered that led me to want to learn more about this fascinating but obscure art. The four-part series led me to the book Braiding for Beaders by Anne Dilker of Moss Hollow Pottery. There is also a Yahoo group devoted to kumi.


  1. Oh it looks lovely! Time consuming but well worth the effort. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Hi! I'd like to try kumihimo with beads and I'll follow your advices. Thanks!


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