Kumihimo actually means braiding with three or more cords. The original braiding loom was the Marudai, something that looks like a wooden stool with a hole in the middle of the seat! It’s actually quite handsome, as seen here:
This photo is from Kathy King James’ A Complete Guide to Kumihimo on a Braiding Loom. In this wonderfully instructive book, she begins by clarifying the difference between working on a Marudai and the Kumi. On the Kumi, one cord at a time must be moved around the loom, rather than two. In recent years, various portable braiding looms have been fashioned out of foam, and the Kumi Loom is one of them. But because it must be held, you only have one hand to work the chords. I’m constantly reminding myself to do this, as I tend to keep switching hands, only slowing down the entire rhythm.
I’ve completed a few braids now, working with one of the most basic patterns, the round-braid 8-strand. In preparation for a braid, each chord of yarn or ribbon or whatever you like really, is wound around a plastic bobbin. All the ends from the bobbins are tied into a knot to be slipped down through the middle of the loom. Depending on the braiding pattern, each chord is assigned a starting slot on the foam loom, a simple disk. Here is how the pattern for the 8-strand can wind up looking:
What I find thrilling is the range of effects that can be achieved just by varying the placement of the original chords around the loom. Here are some different effects in my early braids:
The complexity of the different braiding patterns are beautiful. I’d decided that I wanted to try a line of braided necklaces because the intricacy of their design would be better appreciated than just as shoulder bag straps. So, as I am entirely self-taught at this, maybe you can learn with me along the way!