Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kumihimo Braiding

To pass the time here at home & to keep my fingers busy, I'm working on some braiding work. I discovered Kumihomo braiding about 2 or 3 years ago. A project was featured in the book, You Can Weave: Projects for Young Weavers.

I wanted a project that was clean and cheap but that was more than just a craft project. This filled all the qualifications. Materials are simple - cardboard square and yarn. I use a basic 8-strand braid successfully with 4th graders but there are far more intricate patterns that could be used with older students. I recommend the book Braids: 250 patterns from Japan, Peru & Beyond if you are looking for the intricate patterns and a more in-depth text of the braiding practices found around the world. Get a copy quick - it's out of print!

Now, for the historical background: Kumihimo is a method of braiding silk threads developed in Japan. It is traditionally performed on special wooden stands called Maru Dai and Takadai. The literal translation of kumihimo means the "coming together (kumi) of threads (himo)". Kumihimo braids were originally used as ties, cording and belts for clothing, and closures for Samurai armor. The Samurai training and culture included the expectation that the warriors be able to make and mend their own kumihimo cords. The Samurai warrior was able to make a living from his kumihimo skills when his fighting abilities were not in demand.

There are online PDF's to be found on Talzhemir's Kumihimo Page or get a free round marudai template here. Like me, you'll probably develop one of your own based on your students after seeing the variety out there.

There is also a foam version that I purchased at Joann's after seeing one of my students with one - she scored hers at Goodwill at a fraction of the price I paid! You can find it here (on sale right now!) under the name Weave Wheel. Although it is sold as a lanyard maker, it is perfect for kumihimo. I LOVE mine! Of course the cardboard version is much more reasonably priced (FREE) while the foam version is much more durable.

You can use a variety of materials to braid. I use yarn in my classroom for the assignment - the first one is always done with only 2 colors, 4 pieces of a light color and 4 of a darker, contrasting color. Once students are proficient at the process, encourage them to use a variety of thicknesses and colors in their braids.

At home, I usually use embroidery floss. Here are some pix of what we're working on here:

This is one my son (teenager) is working on - he's using the foam loom with 7 black threads and one blue.

Hopefully he won't lose another house key now that he can wear it around his neck!

This is a cardboard (matboard) loom used for a flat braid. I'm making this braid for son #2 in his college colors - Go Mizzou!

If you're interested in specific braiding procedures, send me an email!


  1. That looks so cool! I will do a weaving unit toward the end of the year, but I will be adding this type of braiding now too. Can you please send me the braiding procedures via e-mail? kszwahl@live.com
    Go Mizzou! (fan of Mu too)

  2. I've done kumihimo w/kids too. So easy!!! I'm just never sure what to do with all the braids when they're done...

  3. Phyl - We make the braids into bracelets or braid onto a keychain. Some of my students became entrepreneurs and sold bracelets to siblings & friends to make money to buy supplies for MORE braiding...such clever fellows!

  4. I would LOVE more specific instructions. My fourth graders would totally dig this project. Would you mind sending me the information? My email is sages7@gmail.com

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Sure, Heather. Watch for them via email. Please send me back some pix of your kids' finished work...

  5. Please send me any info you have! One of our fourth grade teachers does a Japanese study because her son lives there so I would love to tie it in! Yay! So glad I found you!

  6. I would love info on this!


    I am an art teacher 1-8th grade--weaving rocks!


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