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Kumihimo in three easy lessons!


Kumihimo in three easy lessons!

Gepa of Sundragon


Do not expect this to be a history lesson, or a “period” correct endeavor.  Like the inkle loom, the outcome will be close enough to the “real” thing.

Kumihimo is an ancient Japanese Art.  Kumi means a gathering or a collection and himo means threads, so kumihimo would be a gathering of threads.  In no way should one limit kumihimo to just round cording, it is much  more, but for the purpose of these simple lessons, we will go into only one aspect of kumihimo, the braiding of a basic round cord.

These lessons are to help the beginner get started without a great deal of cash flow.  

Supplies needed:

Pair of scissors – to cut paper, foam sheets and yarn

 Exacto knife – to cut foam sheets

One 8 X 11 inch sheet of self adhesive foam found at most craft stores – any color

Pen or pencil – to mark off cutting lines

One sheet of paper – to draw pattern and fold

 Yarn –  cut a 6 foot length in four different colors

Weights – about the weight of 20 pennies and able to attach to cord with a safety pin or hook.  Heavy washers or keys work well.


Lesson 1: Making the Board


With pen or pencil, draw three equal circles on the sheet of foam board.  HINT: Use a CD or DVD disk and trace the center hole as well.

With scissors, cut roughly around your circles.cut

You should have six pieces of self adhesive foam sheets.  Place the three pieces without the circle pattern to the side for now, you will use them in Lesson 2.



Take pieces 1 & 2, align the corners together, then peel off the adhesive backing and place the two adhesive sides together.


Remove the backing from piece 3 and place on top of pieces 1 & 2.


You should now have three layers of foam circles stuck together.  With your pair of scissors, cut out the outer circle, then with your Exacto knife, cut out the inner circle.


Set your round foam disk off to the side for now.

Take the piece of paper, pen or pencil and the CD or DVD disk you used earlier and trace the disk onto the paper.  No need to worry about the center hole this time.

With scissors, cut out the disk you just traced on the paper.

fold the circle in half. open and fold in half once again (quarters) . open and fold in half once again. open and fold in half once again


(eighths). Open and fold in half once again. Continue until you now have the circle marked off into sixteen sections

At this point it gets harder to fold your paper to make 32 sections, so just “eye” in the middle point of each 16th fold.

Place the folded paper circle over the foam circle and mark each fold on the edge of the foam circle, don’t forget to “eye” in the center so that you have 32 evenly spaced markings on the edge of your foam circle.

With a pair of scissors, cut the 32 marks about ¼ inch from the outer edge of your three layer circle toward the center. *NOTE: None of this has to be precise; it will NOT affect kumihimo cord you will make in Lesson 3.

At this point you have a three layered foam circle with an inner circle cut out and 32 slits along the outer edge.  Congratulations, this is the board on which you will place your yarn.

Why do I choose the foam sheet?  After having used foam board, leather disks, wood circles, cardboard and yes, CD disks, I find the foam sheets give a good tension to the threads as I braid the cord.




Lesson 2: Setting up the Board


Medium: Which to use?  Yarn is great for beginners but other threads such as, crochet thread, embroidery floss, nylon thread, nylon cording, and hemp, are also good to use.  For those of you who wish to stay more “period” may wish to use silk thread, or silk floss.  The width of the cord depends on several factors, two of which are the number of threads used and the type of thread used.  Yarn is thicker than crochet thread and therefore your kumihimo cord will be thicker with yarn than with crochet thread.

Length: As a general rule, your thread should be twice as long as your finished project.

C olors: One can work in one color or a myriad of colors.  In this lesson four colors are used, which will be referred to as colors A, B, C & D.

You should have a 6 foot length of yarn in colors A, B, C & D . 

Cut each length in half giving you two, 3 foot lengths in each color.

Gather all the ends together (16) and tie a knot at the “loop” end

Pull all the threads through the center hole of your foam disk, stopping when the knot touches the bottom of the foam disk.

don’t worry about the order of the threads at this point.

*Tamas:  A tama is a bobbin and can be anything used to wind your unused thread around so that it will remain untangled.  You can use DMC bobbins made of cardboard and plastic, as well as wooden ice cream spoons, cardboard, cards, or scrap pieces of foam sheets. 

Remember your foam scraps? You might not have enough to make all 16 tamas but you can make a few.

To make your tama from your foam scraps make a rectangle approximately 1 ½  X 1 inch.  Use the following diagram as a guide.  Choose the design that works best for you.

Make 16 tamas.  The straight lines are slits cut in the foam so that the thread will “hold.”  Wind each thread around one tama until you are about 3 inches from the kumihimo board.  You should have four tamas of each of the four colors 


8.         Using the following diagram, place the threads around the board, leaving two empty slots between the colors.  Each letter stands for a different color.


Lesson 3: How to Braid Your Yarn

1.         Take the bottom left “A” and move it straight up to the left of the “A” on top.



2.         Take the top right “A” and move it straight down to the right of the “A” on the bottom.               

.3.        Take the bottom left “B” and move it straight up to the left of the “B” on top.                  


4.         Take the top right “B” and move it straight down to the right of the “B” on the bottom.               


5.         Take “C 5” and move it straight over to the top of the other “Cs”


6.         Take “C 6” and move it over to the other “C”


7.         Take “D 7” and move straight over to the other “Ds”


8.         Take “D8” and move it straight over to the “D”


9.         Repeat the rotation.

HINT:  Most find it easy to turn the disk counter clockwise as they work the braid



Another way to state the pattern then becomes:

From the left of 6 o’clock you go straight up to the left of 12 o’clock. 

From the right of 12 o’clock you go straight down to the right of 6 o’clock.

Start with “A” at 6 and 12 o’clock, then turn it so that “B” is at 6 and 12 o’clock, and so on.

Thus in doing so, you can follow the simple “mantra”: “When LEFT UP to me it’s DOWN RIGHT fun!”

Remember not to cross from left to right.  In this pattern it is left to left and right to right.

Your pattern will end up being a four color swirl, or “barber shop” swirl.




Ashley, Clifford W.  The Ashley Book of Knots  ISBN: 385040253

Carey, Jacqui. Beads & Braids ISBN: 0-9523225-2-8

Carey, Jacqui. Beginners Guide to Braiding: The Craft of Kumihimo ISBN: 0-85532-828-2

Carey, Jacqui. Creative Kumihimo. 0-9523225-0-1

Carey, Jacqui. Japanese Braiding: The Art of Kumihimo. ISBN: 9781844484263

Martin, Catherine. Kumihimo: Japanese Silk Braiding Techniques. ISBN: 0-937274-59-3

Owen, Roderick. Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru and Beyond. ISBN: 9781883010065

Owen, Roderick. Making Kumihimo: Japanese Interlaced Braids. ISBN: 9781861083128



http://www.weavershand.com/ handspinners.com

Beginning Kumihimo


Kumilist Swap Four

http://www.qvade.dk/paulette/Swap4.htm  (Christmas Hearts) a flat braid

Pattern Generator for Mitake Gumi Braid – 16 tama


All Fiber Arts


Talzhemir’s  Kumihimo Page


Flickr photostream by Lady Gepa - my own website: pictures of the cord with the pattern



Belts:  knot or buckle, tie or thread through waist pouches/purses 

Straps:  watches, sandals, sundresses, guitar, camera

Handles:  baskets, woven bags 

Webbing:  chairs, campstool, luggage rack

Cases:  glasses, comb, recorder, pencil 


Curtain ties

Key chain

Jewelry: bracelets, necklaces, lanyards – make them in school colors!

Clothing:   Closures:  gather in a wide sleeve or neck, “frogs”, sides of tunic, cording to make fancy buttons, lace up corsets, hat bands, neckties, wedding garter, circlet for a veil

Dog leash, dog collar

Hang a picture, string up decorations, tie down a tent

the list is virtually endless.

Enjoy!  I find it very relaxing and take it with me when I know I will have to wait in line.