Kumihimo is a Japanese form of braid-making where multiple strands of cords, beads and/or wire are interlaced into thick braids. Kumihimo is Japanese for "gathered threads". Kumihimo cord was historically used by the samurai as both a functional and decorative way to lace their amor and their horses’ armor.
Traditionally, kumihimo was done on a wooden form called a marudai. The wooden tama create the tension that is needed to keep the braid taut. Marudai are more expensive and less portable than the foam disc. The marudai does not have the numbered slots that makes it easy to follow the patterns. On a marudai, any thickness or amount of string can be used, can make many types of braids, such as flat, four sided, and hollow. Many braiders still use the marudai today.
A modern kumihimo disc, made of firm, but flexible foam plastic with notches, is more portable, and less expensive than the marudai. The notches in the disc create the tension needed to keep the braid taut. Braids can be simple utilizing the common 8 bobbin set-up, or more complex with up to 24 bobbins and can incorporate beads and/or wire. With very fine gauge wire, the braider will create bundles of wire, sometimes up to 10 or more strands per bobbin. The most complex braids, as in some of my bracelet designs, can incorporate over 120 strands of fine gauge wire.
Many patterns and designs can be achieved by using different sizes and color combinations of beads, or mixing copper, colored copper and fine silver wire.