Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Making Kumihimo braids using a disk

I was asked what I meant by using a Kumihimo disk to make braids, so here are a few notes and pictures!

Braid making can be found throughout the world, but as with many other subjects, the Japanese braids have a distinctive character of their own.  Kumihimo has been an integral part of the Japanese culture for many centuries, used for both function and decoration.  These braids were used in all walks of life but notably in the construction of Samurai armour.  There were no buttons or zips then, so braids were used instead.

Kumihimo braids can be made using a wide range of equipment including the wooden Marudai.  This is not very easy to carry around and demands good dexterity and tension.  Enter the Kumihimo disk.  It is easy to carry around and so simple to use, as well as being very cheap!

The disk is primarily used for round braids but flat ones can be made on it too.

The above pattern can be found by clicking here.  You can print out a copy too.

I used a card disk to make many, many braids and it was fine.  It is possible to buy foam disk (look on eBay, Amazon etc) but I’d suggest you don’t bother until you decide to make braids seriously.  Save your money!  Click here to see an example of a form disk.

For long length of threads, I wrapped the surplus around a piece of stiff card.  Again if you want to make a lot of braids you can buy bobbins to wind your thread around.  Click here to see an example of a bobbin.  They do some in different capacities.

Using Beads on your thread
If the yarn/thread is not strong enough for the bead, you can use nylon thread of bead-stringing thread in a matching or toning colour for the beads and use it together with your braiding thread.

You will need to push the beads down at the point of braiding so that the next move will lock them into place.  You move the bead up when it is needed.

1      Creative Kumihimo, Jacqui Carey, 1994, ISBN 0 9523225 9 1 - for use with a maradai but some of the patterns can be used on the disk; best book I have used
2      More Braids on Card, the green book from Shirley Berlin, £4.00 + P&P; order by email to (note she is in the UK).  Full of handy hints and tips for the starter and more adventurous braider.
3      Beautiful Braiding Made Easy Using Kumihimo disks and plates, Helen Deighan, 2006, ISBN 0 9540333 5 3; a good book.
4      Beads and Braids, Jacqui Carey, 1999, ISBN - 0 9523225 2 8; for the person who really wants to be inspired
5      200 Braids, to Loop, Knot, Weave and Twist, Jacqui Carey, 2007, ISBN - 1 84448 652 48; for the person who really wants to be inspired


Jacqui Carey                  
Kumihimo supplies       
Kumihimo supplies          (US based company)
YouTube                                 for videos on all aspects of using the Kumihimo disk, marudai etc

Yarns to use

1      Wool, any colour/thickness/type, eg, mohair, cotton, DK, Aran, fancy, chenille
2      Embroidery thread
3      Silk
4      Ribbon, knitting or otherwise
5      Garden twine
6      Anything that can be roughly classes as a yarn

Uses for braids

Use braids in any circumstance where you might ordinarily use a cord, or a ribbon, or a trim, or a woven band.

1      Bracelets
2      Necklaces
3      Earrings
4      Bag handles
5      Wrapping a gift rather than using ribbon
6      Key rings
7      Curtain tie backs
8      Coiling to make a basket
9      Light pulls
10    Jewellery - broach, neckpiece, cord for a pendant
11    Choker or Necklace
12    Coiled to make Earrings
13    Bracelet
14    Ankle Bracelet
14    Glasses Cord
16    Watchband or Wrist band
17    Purse handle or strap for a handbag
18    Hair ribbon or headband
19    Hat band or strap
20    Belt
21    Strings for a drawstring pouch
22    Trim for the edges of clothing
23    Attached to front of clothing in loops as closures, with buttons on the other side
24    Closure for a box or instrument case
25    Obi: a sash used with modern traditional kimono dress in Japan
26    Tie-closures on little sacs
27    Straps for lingerie
28    Twisted, couched and knotted to make a closure on a jacket
29    Decoration on a garment (edging on a collar, along a seamline as piping)
30    Trim for the edges of cushions
31    Curtain tie-backs
32    Edge trim for lamp shades
33    Hiding seams on upholstered furniture
34    Lamp or Bell pulls
35    Bolo tie/cord
36    Hanging plant holders
37    Coiled for rugs or floor mats
38    Bookmark
39    Camera or Binocular strap
40    Guitar strap
41    Keychain
42    Dog collar or leash
43    Horse reins, lead rope, headstall
44    Napkin rings
45    curtain tie-backs
46    gift wrap ties rather sellotape, etc
47    Let your imagination run wild!

Other useful websites - mostly UK based      designing braid colours  The Braid Society   Jewellery findings and beads

Beads - very many places to find them, including charity shops.  Beads used in the examples shown were seed beads, size 6/0.

Now for loads of pictures!

I bought a leaflet from the Braid Society called More Kongo Gumi (round braid)
patterns for your card.  I do not know if this is still available.  
It has 19 different patterns, which I made and use the above stand
to display them, as a reminder of each one.
I had the foresight to label each one!

Turning the stand round to show more braids.

Yet more braids.

Last twirl of the stand!

Beads used on this one.

Interesting yarns, of unequal weight etc were use to produce this bumpy sample.

Some of the braids produced using yarn of the 'same' weight.

Another close up of some of the braids.

Another close up of more braids!
The pattern for the top braid (yellow and green) is given later on in this post.

Yet more!

Last lot!

The stand I use to store/display my samples.

A typical label.

These were the instructions/yarn layout and I used 10 yellow and 6 green, with 2 of the green
yarn threaded with beads and placed where shown above on the disk.

Why use a disk?  Look at my marudai below!

Beloved made it for me, including loads of wood bobbins.
It is not easy to carry around!  On it is a sample in progress
so I can demonstrate when necessary.

Looking down onto the top; the pencil is there to stop the braid made popping out through 
the hole as the wooden bobbins want to pull down!

I made this rather fine braid on the marudai; took forever!

This flat braid (my sample piece) was also made on the marudai.
It is possible to make flat braids on the disk but I don't think I've tried!

Now compare this to the foam disk!  It is small, portable and can easily be taken
out with you if you have time to fill while travelling, waiting somewhere, etc etc.

If you look closely you will see at the 6 o'clock position there are three threads!
I leave it like that so when I come to pick it up I know to select the white thread
(left most) and move it up to the left of the single yellow thread at the top.

Remember the movement is        Right down, left up

So in the above picture I brought the purple thread down (from the 12 o'clock position)
originally at the right of the yellow thread  and moved it down to the right side
of the red thread; I will take the white one up when I continue.

The card is then rotated and the right most thread of the next pair moved directly down.
You just keep repeating this process whilst keeping slight tension on the braid
emerging from underneath the card/foam disk.

Braid beginning to emerge.  This is only a demonstration piece so I've used short
pieces of yarn and there was no need to wrap them round card or use my bobbins.

Well I hope this had been helpful.  Don't hesitate to ask questions!



  1. Wow, lots of info there, I remember this lovely cords you have made, I am in awe of your patience and creativity xxx I meant to comment yesterday about your heart on a kumihimo cord yesterday - it looked really good :)

    1. Glad you spotted my heart on my kumihimo cord yesterday; I actually remembered to wear it.