Kumihimo Definition

Kumihimo is a braiding technique that is used in the making of long decorative strands. These cords are used in a variety of decorative ways. Some people wear them as bracelets or necklaces. Others use them as functional laces or simply let them swing free. Basic strands are made by looping thread through the fingers in a repetitive manner. Ancient samurai warriors used to decorate their armor and sometimes hold it together using kumihimo cords. Kumohimo is a fun and colorful part of Japanese heritage.

The first kumihimo were made entirely by hand. These cords were strong but very visually simple. To meet high commercial demand for unique cords, Kumihimo techniques evolved to a degree that necessitated the use of large wooden stands that resembled the looms used to weave cloth. These stands sped up the process of making thick, colorful strands. Kumihimo became an integral part of traditional Japanese dress.

These days, simple kumihimo braids are made by affixing thread of different colors to different points around a disk that is made expressly for this purpose. Complex cords can be made using up to 24 different pieces of thread. There is no right way to make kumihimo. Each cord is comprised of threads of varying colors and thicknesses. Some look like uniform braids and others look like series of well-placed knots. Some people have turned their kumihimo hobbies into luxury fashion trades. They make their cords out of strands of silk and other expensive materials.

The literal meaning of the word kumihimo is “come together.” The name suits the braids, which are painstakingly connected by their makers. Designs do not appear in kumihimo by chance. Expert braiders have learned how to place their pieces of thread around their tools to create the patterns they desire. With experience, kumihimo enthusiasts develop braiding techniques that are so complex as to border on engineering. They swap colors and thicknesses around in the midst of making single cords to deliberately disrupt their carefully planned patterns.