Author Topic: Kumihimo  (Read 218 times)

Offline 13thMuse

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Kumihimo
« on: 2017-05-14 00:53:32 »
The movie Kimi no Na Wa has set off a resurgence of interest in kumihimo, or traditional Japanese braiding, both in Japan and abroad. I dug into this a little bit and I was amazed that it can range from the ridiculously easy to the amazingly complex. I've talked to Franklin about doing a presentation and how-to event next semester, but I thought I might share some thoughts here as well.

You may be surprised to learn that you've probably already made or at least seen a kumihimo bracelet in the past; it's one of the most popular methods of making friendship bracelets in the US and Japan, and I know my friends were all over it in middle school. The bracelets are made using a small wheel with notches in it; this image illustrates the most popular patterns:

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The arrangement of the threads at the beginning determines what the pattern will be; they are all braided the same way regardless. After setting up the wheel (which can be bought at Micheals for $1 or made using cardboard) with thread (embroidery floss, crafting string, or slim crochet thread) measuring 2-3 times the desired finished length, the threads are braided as shown in this tutorial. This page goes into more detail, and additional types of round braids can be found here. It is also possible to make flat braids using this method, though it is considerably more difficult and you will need a square wheel.

These are all modern derivatives of the traditional marudai loom. If you'd like to see someone using a marudai, this video is a good example:


The other method of braiding uses a takadai loom, and I've found it to be more similar to macrame. It's more challenging than marudai braiding, so traditionally apprentices would need to master the former and several other methods before moving on to takadai. In these pictures, you can see that Mizuha is using a marudai loom while her grandmother uses a takadai.

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If you're interested in the kumihimo braid that Mizuha wears as a hair tie, I've found a youtube video with detailed how-to instructions:


Warning: this takes some skill and 30+ hours to complete. It is worked in takadai style. I plan to try it at some point, and if/when I do I will post pictures.
« Last Edit: 2017-05-14 00:57:56 by 13thMuse »

Offline 13thMuse

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Re: Kumihimo
« Reply #1 on: 2017-05-14 01:13:48 »
Additionally, a few extremely lucky fans were given a one-on-one kumihimo lesson by the craftsman Shinkai commissioned to make Mizuha's hair tie in real life; you can read an article about it here.

I've also made my own simple braid inspired by the movie. If you'll forgive the bad lighting, I've enclosed a picture:

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I used red and orange embroidery thread in pattern 3 below, though for some reason it insists on twisting instead of lying flat as shown. It's approximately 1 foot long, but it's too short to tie a bow like Mizuha does in the movie, so if I made another I'd make it at least 2 feet.

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I'm also planning to use a small flat loom I have at home to make a takadai braid. I believe this pattern is technically macrame, but as it's worked in a very similar style I think it will be good practice.

I'm in the process of making a flat marudai braid using this pattern, but it's a lot more challenging than I anticipated; I don't know if it's my inexperience or my homemade cardboard wheel but the tension is all over the place. I might see about ordering some real wheels online; they tend to be around $10.
« Last Edit: 2017-05-15 23:40:51 by 13thMuse »

Offline 13thMuse

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Re: Kumihimo
« Reply #2 on: 2017-07-26 17:30:37 »
I've learned a lot since I last posted here. I won't bore you guys with all the details but basically if you actually want to learn real kumihimo and not just friendship bracelet stuff, you need to buy books. Specifically books in the series by Makiko Tada, because she is THE expert source on kumihimo in America. Here is a list of her books, though some are cheaper secondhand on Amazon marketplace. I bought book one, Comprehensive Treatise of Marudai Braids, because I'm building a marudai loom (I special-ordered the top, but the rest can be made with easily-sourced materials) and takadai looms are more difficult to work with and tend to run upwards of $500 so that's a strong nope from me. The book has side-by-side English and Japanese text, and though the English is flawed it does communicate all the important details. Many of the patterns in the book can also be adapted to the kumihimo wheel, and that's what I've been doing until I can get my marudai set up. She did also write several books for the wheel, but that's not really my area of interest so I didn't spring the $30-$50 for those.

I also learned why my first braid wouldn't lie flat; the picture I linked was for color placement for a different braid pattern than the one I used. It's extremely difficult to find instructions for that pattern (or actually any alternate round braid pattern) online, but now that I have the book I might try to re-make it or design my own Your Name-inspired color pattern.

Lastly, I have some information resources about buying or making a marudai loom on the off chance that anyone else is interested. This post outlines the importance of a dipped "well" on the braiding surface around the center hole; many of the cheap looms I found on Etsy, etc. don't have that well, and according to the Japanese experts it's vital. Carving this well requires a lathe or similar woodworking tool, and since I don't have that kind of skill I ordered the "mirror" surface on Etsy and now I'm working to assemble it according to my own height. Here's a measured drawing of the required dimensions of an official Japanese marudai, if anyone's curious:
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