Kumihimo is a braiding technique from Japan, a unique method of interlacing strands. “Kumi himo” is Japanese for “gathered threads”. In present day, artists make beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and other decorative items using this technique. Kumihimo braiding was originally done with the hands. As the demand for it increased, the use of a disk, with clearly designated points or numbers (similar to a clock dial) indicating where the cords should be placed, has become the norm. The threads are braided on a light-weight foam disk using, as few as 4 or as many as 32, threads to create intricate patterns. Diverse materials are used as cords for the braiding, such as cotton or silk, and the cords vary in thickness and evenness. Beads are sometimes added to the braiding as part of the design.
Kumihimo cord was initially a form of finger-loop braiding. Over time, instruments such as the marudai ("round stand": see image) were created to make more complex designs in less amount of time. Historically, the most prominent use of kumihimo cords were for the samurai, who made the cords to tie on or to secure their own armour and the armour of their horses. The cords were both functional and, importantly, decorative. In Japan now, kumihimo cords are used as ties for jackets and kimonos.
As marudai are expensive and hard to transport, kumihimo discs of foam plastic with 32 notches are used in place of marudai. The discs are inexpensive and easily transported. The cords being braided are secured in the notches of the foam disc, recreating the tension on the threads that is attained on a marudai; the marudai is still considered the better and more versatile tool.
Kumihimo using a foam disk.
Kumihimo on the Maraudai