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Kumihimo is a string-based craft that produces beautiful braided cords.  This is a Japanese art, not an Italian one, and it's a lot of fun!  I like to work on them while watching TV because once you get the hang of it, the simple kumihimo that I practice doesn't require a lot of concentration.  If you're not otherwise occupied while making kumihimo, I've found it to be a relaxing, meditative activity.  

Kumihimo is traditionally created on a marudai, but I use a conveniently portable foam disk that I ordered online from Weir Dolls and Crafts.  I also bought 8 plastic bobbins and a weight-on-a-string from them. Aside from some sort of string or yarn to make the braid out of, those are all the materials needed for kumihimo.  

For the string, I've used the following:
  • Size 10 cotton crochet thread
    • This takes a very long time to work up
    • Regular craft stores seem to only stock a  limited range of colors, but it is possible to find all of the heraldic colors from online sources
  • DMC Embroidery floss
    • Also made of cotton and takes a while to work up, but not as long as the size 10 crochet thread
    • Readily available in stores in a rainbow of colors
    • The skeins are small; it will take several skeins to make a lanyard-length cord
  • Fingering weight yarn
    • Yarn is a bit heavier than thread or embroidery floss, so it works up more quickly
    • It is challenging to find solid heraldic colors in regular craft stores (It might be a lot easier in a knitting specialty shop!)
    • I use 100% wool palette yarn from
      • Needless to say, cords made of this won't be so great for people with a sensitivity to wool
    • This is currently my favorite kumihimo material
  • #5 perle cotton
    • This is my husband's preferred kumihimo material
    • Readily available in craft stores in a rainbow of colors
    • The cords made from this material do look very good, I might switch! 
For the time being, all of the cords I produce are made with the same technique - four strings doubled and arranged on the disk in a cross: two at the top, two on the left, two on the right, and two at the bottom. I'm 5'5" tall, and to get a lanyard-length cord I measure out a length of yarn that is twice my armspan. After measuring all four strands, I fold them all in half and tie them into a single knot about half an inch above the fold.  I attach the weight to the loop and drop that end of the bunch of string through the center of the foam disk, then either set each strand into the disk according to an existing diagram, or make one up as I go.

What pattern the braid will develop is always a mystery to me, so I'm compiling a catalog of pictures with a description of the initial string configuration so that in the future I can deliberately create cords with a certain pattern.