by Patricia W Lloyd
As a result of a chance encounter several months ago, I was introduced to the ancient Japanese art of kumihimo braiding. Having been temporarily sidelined from woodturning due to a back injury, my creative spirit was ripe for the challenge. I was immediately intrigued and began the journey to learn everything I could about this ancient and mysterious (to me) art.
Kumihimo is the Japanese name for the art of cord making via braiding. Kumu means “to braid” and himo means “cord”. Kumihimo is a culturally significant Japanese art form that dates back to the 6th century, and in the 16th century and later, was used in Samurai armor and for the traditional “obi” kimono sash.
In its simplest form, kumihimo is easy to learn and very accessible (friendship bracelets). But, taken to more advanced levels, the braids become quite complex and elaborate. Kumihimo was traditionally performed using a wooden stand (loom) called a Maru Dai. Accessibility and portability was greatly increased in 2002 when Makiko Tada introduced a handheld portable disk loom made of firm but flexible foam.
The art of kumihimo braiding, using many strands and materials, and using a variety of simple to complex braid patterns, creates endless possibilities of size, color and textural combinations. Bead embellishment in braided jewelry design is a contemporary twist that adds a touch of elegance and enhances the braid structure.
My braiding cord of choice is Made-in-America petite satin (rayon) rattail. Most of my braids use the eight (8) strand round braid design, but I also use an assortment of fibers and braid other eight (8) to (16) strand patterns such as spiral, octagonal, square and half round. I often add embellishments in the form of seed beads, and local or American made focal beads and pendants, to enhance the braid design. However, the focus is always first on the beauty and pattern of the braid itself. I seek out the best quality cast pewter end caps and clasps.