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Kumihimo Instructions

Kumihimo is the ancient art of Japanese braid making. The most popular piece of equipment in use today is the marudai (round stand). The traditional marudai is made form smooth, close-grained wood, with the top surface, the kagami or mirror, supported by four legs fixed to a base plate. The mirror is the most important feature of a marudai. The surface and all edges must be perfectly smooth so that the threads can flow over them without snagging
Tama (Bobbins):  Traditional tama are made from wood. A set of tama of equal weight is usually used so as to provide an even tension of the threads. Lighter tama are used for making finer braids and heavier tama for thicker braids.

Attached to each tama is a cotton leader about 16" in length to prevent wastage by allowing the tama to hang while braiding the end of the warp.

Counterbalance Weight: To offset the tama weight, and to provide the correct tension in the braid, a counterbalance weight is used. these weights are usually held in a drawstring bag attached to the end of the warp. As a rough guide, the counterbalance weight should be half the combined weight of the tama. The more weight, the looser and softer the braid. The less weight, the tighter and more compact the braid.

Warp (or thread): Any type of thread, yarn, or ribbon may be used for the warp, depending on the effect you want. Cut the desired length and number of warp threads for each tama. Holding the end of the warp together, attach them to the tama leader using a reef knot. Keeping the warp taut, wind the warp smoothly on to the tama. Stop winding about a foot from the end of the warp. Tie a slip knot in the warp threads to stop them from unwinding.
To tie a slip knot, hold the tama so the warp threads are underneath. Place the palm of your right hand on top of the threads and tuck your thumb under them. Twist your right hand so that the warp threads make a loop around your fingers. Bring the tama into the loop from underneath and arrange the loop around the center of the bobbin. Slide the bobbin down to tighten the slip knot. Continue until all the tama are wound.

Marudai setup: Grasp the free ends of the warp together and tie around them with a length of thread. Tie a short length of thread into a loop. Attach the loop around the warp with a reef knot. Using an "S" hook, attach the weight bag to this loop. Place warp on marudai with tama arranged around the outside of the mirror and the end with the weight bag going down through the hole in the middle of the mirror.

Braids are created by moving pairs of warp threads simultaneously to new positions on the mirror and shown in the pattern below. When moving warp threads, lift the threads (not the tama), letting the slide across your fingers. After each sequence the tama should be in their original position. Readjust the tama to keep the symmetrical arrangement. Slide the tama down releasing more warp to braid by turning the tama. Slide the weight bag up your braid as necessary to keep the tension.

When finished braiding for the day, place a bobble, chopstick or small dowel rod above the braid but below the mirror to prevent the braid from coming off the marudai and lower the weight bag to release the tension on the braid.

To finish the braid, first tie a temporary securing knot over the end of the braid to stop it unraveling. Finish off the braid by making tassels, attaching hardware, or whatever your creativity wishes.

Setup and sequences: The large circle represents the mirror which is divided into four compass points, with south nearest to the braider. The small circles represent the warp tama, and the arrows show the movement of tama.



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Finniwig Studios

Ariadne's Threads Guild
Chuck and Nancy Tubbs
19500 Co Rd 14
Bristol, IN 46507-9405

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Last modified: 10/11/09