Tools for the Japanese Art of Braiding

Written by michelle powell-smith
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Tools for the Japanese Art of Braiding
(several bobbins of multicolour cotton threads image by Maria Brzostowska from

Japanese braiding, or "kumihimo," is a form of weaving that can be used for jewellery, garment trims, or home decorating projects. The key to successful kumihimo lies in the tools used to achieve beautiful and elaborate braids. Expand your fibre skills to include this historical and beautiful craft.

Braiding Disks

While not the traditional tool for kumihimo braiding, affordable foam or cardboard braiding disks are an excellent way to try out the Japanese art of braiding. A Japanese braiding disk is a circle with a hole through the centre and numerous slits along the outside edge. You can purchase these braiding disks or simply make your own using cardboard, foam or lightweight plastic. The braiding disk does limit you to 32 or fewer strands of thread or fibre for your braid, but is quite portable.

Marudai or Braiding Stands

The most useful tool for Japanese braiding is a "marudai," or mirror stand. This stand has open sides and a round top with a central hole that the work hangs through. Typically constructed of wood, the marudai allows you to use as many strands of thread as you would like for your kumihimo braid. A "kakudai" is a square stand, also an option for the Japanese art of braiding; a kakudai lets users suspend the braid above the stand.

Threads, Weights and Bobbins

Kumihimo braids are traditionally crafted of silk threads; modern kumihimo may use hemp, cotton, wool, silk, or even modern novelty fibres. The braiding threads for Japanese braiding are wound onto bobbins called "tama." The bobbins must be weighted to counterbalance the braid. Each thread for your kumihimo braid should be wound onto its own bobbin. The braid itself is pulled through the stand by a weight, or "omori." The weight can be a large metal nut or a small bag filled with glass beads.

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