In Japanese crafts, braids are referred to as "united cords" or Kumihimo. All over the world, craftspeople have braided cords for thousands of years. In Japan, braided cords were not just a decorative craft or a clothing accessory, but a military technology used to fasten weaponry and armor. Several methods of making braids were developed, and dozens of types of braid were created.
Personally, I have been braiding since 2008. On average, I've made about one braid a week since then. I specialize in using the round marudai braiding stand. Some braiding patterns I have only tried once, but others I have used to make dozens of braids. I have constructed much of my own equipment.
Most of the braids I've made are constructed of eight strands or fewer. When I want something more challenging or interesting, I'll try a braid with sixteen or twenty-four strands. There are thirty-two strand braids I have yet to try, and odd-stranded braids that are not often seen.
View some of my favorites below.
Standard braids of four or eight strands are the meat and potatoes of Kumihimo. They provide a variety of shapes and textures, while being relatively fast braids that are more accessible to beginners.
Braids that use twelve, sixteen, twenty-four, or even thirty-two strands are capable of producing much more interesting effects and complex color patterns.
Few books explore braids that have an odd number of strands, but three, nine, and seventeen strands braids do exist, and make useful, attractive braids.
As with any specialized tools, kumihimo equipment can be expensive to buy, so I've come up with ways to make my own.
The marudai is the round-topped braiding stand that looks somewhat like a stool.
Tama are the weighted bobbins that hold the strands before they are braided. I have an inexpensive way to improvise tama, and a straightforward way to make wooden tama.
You can get by without these items, but they can be helpful if you start working with more traditional materials. See my bodai, kowaku, zaguri, and tondo.
Browse a gallery of materials I have braided. I don't sell these, but it helps to know what to ask for if you go shopping.
Once you've acquired equipment and materials, you just need instructions to get going.
Simple diagrams for some of the braiding patterns I've tried. These graphics are suitable for printing on notecards as quick references.
More detailed instruction sheets that are suitable for printing on letter-size paper for a notebook or album.
Some printed reference books in my library, with short reviews.