More kumihimo

Since I was in no hurry to buy a kumihimo disk, my boyfriend got me one for my birthday last year. It’s a 6-inch diameter disk, which I felt was a bit large for my hands. A 4-inch disk would have been more comfortable to hold, so he got me one (actually it came in a pack of 3) for my birthday this year. I’ve noticed that the slots of foam disks will get stretched, so after using them with thicker cords, they no longer hold thinner ones as tightly.

Now that I finally had a “real” disk, I wanted to give more complicated patterns a try. I was confused about how to read a kumihimo pattern, because I was used to only using eight strings. Then I found this video by Marekitty Bracelets showing how to do the lattice flower pattern.

I made this braid in the lattice flower pattern with 1mm diameter Chinese knotting cord. I’m not happy with how elongated the design became. The braid is 6-7mm thick.

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I tried it again with C-Lon (Tex 210), and like the result much better. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find cord ends that will fit it. The width of the braid is 4.5mm.

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Later I bought a thick 4-inch diameter disk. The thicker disks can hold thinner cords, which will just slide through a regular disk. (Surprisingly, my cardboard disk actually has an even tighter grip than the thick foam one.) I intended to use it with micro C-Lon and 15/0 seed beads. At first I attempted to do the same flower lattice pattern, but it would not work! The beads kept popping out of place—there was too much going on—so I gave up. Then I came across this tutorial by CSLdesigns showing how to do a flower kumihimo pattern with beads. I ended up making a wrap bracelet with it, because I thought one strand alone looked too thin.

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The beaded part of the braid is about 4mm wide.

I have since made another beaded flower braid with 11/0 seed beads and fine C-Lon. Again, I’m having some difficulty finding cord ends for it. I am also exploring more designs with kumihimo. There are quite a few elaborate ones out there. Since kumihimo is simple enough that nearly anyone can do it—and those that can’t or don’t want to can easily find someone who will—I would need to come up with something unique or more innovative if I ever were to sell it.

My second kumihimo bracelet

I decided to make a second kumihimo bracelet with blue and silver beads. Many years ago I would have preferred this color combination over the other one, but my tastes have evolved. I now think having them both be silver-lined makes the colors blend together in one shiny mess.

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Then I found other kumihimo patterns and decided to try the wider spiral. I think it works better with these colors because they are farther apart so there is more contrast. This bracelet looks better from a distance.

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This time I used a disk template from CraftDesignOnline.com and glued it onto a cardboard circle. Having evenly spaced slots made it easier to work with.

I cut each string to 15″. I don’t remember if I put 36 beads on each strand. I ended up using all but the last ones. The beaded portion of the braid is 5 3/8″ long, but the entire braid is 6″ long including the end caps. (This information probably isn’t useful to you unless you also have 5.5″ wrists.)

I have a correction to state about the desired length of the bracelet. The length of the bracelet alone does not determine its size. The width also matters. To illustrate, if you had two identical lengths of string and strung large beads on one and small beads on the other, the one with the larger beads would result in a smaller bracelet than the one with the small beads. That’s because the “inner circumference” of the bracelet determines the size. Since the larger beads take up more space than the smaller ones, they reduce the inner circumference of the bracelet. Here’s a diagram that I painstakingly made, to show this. Pay attention to the purple dashed line.

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From this, we know that having a 7 inch long braid does not guarantee it’ll fit a 7-inch wrist, because the width of one of these kumihimo braids with beads is 7.5 mm.

After my first experience with gluing the end caps on, I knew to cut off more of the cord so that it will all be hidden inside the end caps. I did a better job this time.

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I had actually made this bracelet about a year ago, and had this draft saved for months before finally posting it now. I have since made more elaborate kumihimo, which I will show in posts to come.

Giving Kumihimo a try

I first learned about kumihimo from a book on making jewelry. It looked confusing, so I didn’t think about it again until I was looking for portable crafts. At the time, it didn’t seem that portable, with all the strings and bobbins, so I didn’t think about it again until recently.

One morning last December I woke up with a desire to make my own kumihimo disk out of cardboard. It wasn’t my idea. Several months earlier I had seen a tutorial for making a braiding disc out of cardboard on Homemade Gifts Made Easy. I made the braiding disc according to the tutorial, and gave it a try with some Chinese knotting cord. It was fairly quick and easy. Then I wondered if I could do kumihimo with that, and found some video tutorials. The disk used was more complicated, as were the braiding patterns, so I made my own 32-notch disk out of cardboard.

I read here that kumihimo isn’t traditionally done with beads, but I’ve been wondering if it’s a faster way to make a spiral bracelet than beadweaving. This video by Beadaholique shows how to make a kumihimo spiral bracelet with beads. It’s very clear, which is how I was able to follow along with supplies that I already had.

I happened to have a spool of green S-lon that I had bought for a commissioned repair job. It’s not a color that I would normally use, but since I didn’t have any other use for it, I decided to try it for kumihimo. That’s why the color of the string doesn’t quite work with the beads, but it’s a test, so it’s okay. In case you were wondering, the beads are both 8/0 TOHO #223 and #2117.

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Seeing how much extra string and beads she had leftover in the video, I decided to go by the tip of 3 inches of string makes 1 inch of braid, and give myself extra for the beads. Since I have a 6 inch wrist, I would only need a 5 inch braid, because clasps usually add 1 inch. I cut each string at 2 ft, and only strung on 40 beads per string. The length was manageable so I didn’t need bobbins. I simply looped the string through the last bead again, like a stopper bead.

The cardboard disk actually works, though I’m sure a machine-made foam disk would work better. I might buy one if I get more serious about kumihimo. I basically eyeballed the spacing for the 32 slits, which is why they’re not even. For that reason, I need to be careful to keep the beads under the string when the spaces are smaller. Edit: Since writing this post I’ve found Friendship-Bracelets.net has a printable kumihimo disk template.

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When I finished, I measured the lengths of the remaining strings. They were about 13 inches each, which meant I used about 11 inches for my 6.25 inch bracelet. I think approximately 15 inches would be enough for me next time. (I’m giving myself 3 extra inches for holding the strings in the disk.) I used 36 beads from each string to make the beaded part 55/8 inches long. It looks like it takes 12 or 13 (size 8/0) beads on each string to make 1 inch. Keep in mind, the numbers I’m giving here pertain to one string, so multiply them by 8 to get the totals. Or, if you don’t like doing math, just give yourself a ton of string and beads. I like to be precise to minimize waste of materials (and the time it takes to string on extra beads).

I was able to find simple cylindrical end caps with loops for finishing the ends. (For this particular bracelet, I used the 4mm antique brass ones.) I wrapped the ends with tape as shown in the video, but I had no idea how short the end caps were, so I had to trim the ends some more so that they’ll fit. In the process of fitting it, the tape came off and the braid started to unravel. I quickly coated the ends in E-6000 and pinched the strings together, and stuffed them into the end caps. Some of the green string still shows. Oh well.

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Since I didn’t have any antique brass jump rings, and the only brown wire that I had was 22 gauge vintage bronze, I decided to try making my own split rings. Even though I gently hammered them to work harden the wire, I might replace them with real jump rings in the future. The clasp is very beautiful, but it adds 5/8 of an inch to the bracelet, making it 7.5 inches. I might switch it out for a smaller clasp, and save this one for another bracelet that is done nicer.

Edit: I just bought some 20 gauge antique brass wire, so I made jump rings and switched the clasp for a smaller, simpler one. It really changes the look of the bracelet. Before, the flower clasp was drawing attention away from the braid, but now the beads are the main focus.

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The smaller clasp only reduced the size of the bracelet by 0.25 inches, though. Now that I know the length of the end caps and jump rings are 0.75 inches, I will subtract that from my desired length to determine how long the braided portion should be.

I read that S-lon and C-lon are basically the same thing, so I bought some aqua C-lon (because it cost less than S-lon) for future projects.