Find Your Jewelry-making Mojo with Kumihimo Braiding

Leslie Rogalski Mutual attraction: beads and wire

My passion for all things beady has taken me to new levels of determination, levels of obsession . . . and I know you all know what I’m talking about. We practice and practice an element of our craft to get it right. Who knows why we are attracted to one thing or another, but who cares? Enjoy the seduction. My latest obsession is to bring beads and wire together in harmony, and my path recently brought me to play with a new weaving technique and an intriguing tool––the kumihimo loom.

Crossed wires
Since you all seem to be amused when I share my goof-ups (my burnt polymer bead post got a lot of comments!), go ahead and chuckle at my first attempt at kumihimo braiding. Using this round loom reminds me of a game that claims, “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.” It is a simple technique, a low-tech tool. So, though it’s more common to find kumihimo cords woven from more pliable fibers, I dove right in with a more challenging material.

kumi_moregrapes My first efforts used 24-gauge gunmetal Parawire and crystal pearls on a clear acrylic cord maker from Fiber Goddess. This picture shows the first wired cord coming out the bottom of the loom's center hole. Didn't I make a nice little bunch of grapes? Hmmm. Not my desired results.

Like riding a bike
And then I saw the pattern emerging. Aha, I thought, now I had it, the rhythm and balance. Self-delusion is such a rush while it lasts. I goofed up fast enough! It took me several tries to find my mojo. Each time I saw a goof I had to undo everything back to the beginning, since I didn't know the stitch pattern well enough yet to pick up from the last correct wire crossing. I had to undo all the wires, remove the pearls, use a nylon-jaw pliers to straighten the wires, restring the pearls, and start again.

But at last, by really paying attention, I had a good length going well. See how it makes a nice spiral of pearls? That's the way it all should look, though my wire tension could be more consistent. It didn't take nearly as long to fix as I thought each time, either. It's pretty fast.

A free project is looming in your future
I am still practicing, playing, twisting, and untwisting. Kumihimo braiding is my allure du jour, so naturally, I want to share and hear what you think.


Try this ancient Japanese technique, revived by today's artists, with ribbon, cords––or beads and wire, as I did. Find additional kumihimo instructions for using beads and wire in today's free project, Kumihimo Crystal Bracelet, designed by Vanessa Blevins.

I think I'll indulge my glorious obsession with beads and wire and try every technique I can learn. You can too, starting with a whole year of wire how-tos on one CD, with the Step by Step Wire Jewelry 2007 collection. All those diverse and inspiring projects in one place. Yay!

Which wire techniques do you most enjoy using with your beadwork? Tell us here on Beading Daily.

Related Posts:


Beading Daily Blog, Kumihimo

About Leslie

Leslie Rogalski, born and bred in Philadelphia, holds a degree in illustration and design from the University of the Arts, and has been “making stuff” since childhood. She was editor in chief of Step by Step Beads before becoming editor of Beading Daily in 2009, and is currently busy making her own designs, teaching, making videos, and writing. She's contributed original designs to Step by Step Beads, Beadwork, Creative Jewelry, and many Interweave books including 101 Wire Earrings and Chain Style. A teacher at many Bead Fest shows, she's a featured presenter on the PBS TV series Beads, Baubles and Jewels. Her lessons, called DoodleBeads©, were first created as videos for Beading Daily, and are a method of drawing thread paths that makes learning beadstitching easy. DoodleBeads is available on DVD. Leslie is known for playing with different materials, though seed beads remain top of her list. Prior to all this Leslie was a freelance writer, illustrator, and sold her original art clothing at national craft shows. She loves all things beady, making iMovies, tap dancing, her wonderful husband, illustrator, book designer, and owner of Eyewash Design, Mike Rogalski, and especiallybeing a stage mother to her Broadway-bound daughter.

17 thoughts on “Find Your Jewelry-making Mojo with Kumihimo Braiding

  1. Kumihimo is great fun; the possibilities are endless! I’ve made chunky necklaces with multi-colored knitting yarn, teardrops from Unicorne Glass, and seed beads as well as finer pieces with wire, lots of Swarovski bicone crystals, bicone pendants, Czech daggars and seed beads. Search Kumihimo on Facebook for a fan page.

  2. Thanks for the “nudge” to remind me that I have wanted to try Kumihimo in the past, but the initiative to learn the technique I’ve let fall by the wayside: too many fun and new things to do with beads & wire; too little time!! But thanks to your post, and the accompanying little chuckle from seeing your first attempt (gosh, do I know what that feels like – like practically every time I try a new technique!!), PLUS the new free project, I’m reminded again that I NEED to learn this one — such neat outcomes! Thanks, Leslie!!

  3. I downloaded the PDF for this beautiful project and it only came out partially. The main photo was only 1/3 there, and I think some of the materials list was missing. I have never had this happen before and I have downloaded quite a few. I re-downloaded several times and it came out the same. Did anyone else have this problem?

  4. Leslie,

    Thanks for sharing. Your instructions are always right on, but your goofs give me courage to try new things, knowing that boo boos are just part of the process even for the experts. I especially appreciate that you shared that you couldn’t start where the problem occurred because you aren’t familar with the pattern. I’ve always felt so frustrated to have a nice piece going and then see a mistake about mid way, but have to pull out the whole thing because I don’t really know the pattern yet. So it the same is true for you, I won’t get so frustrated with that 🙂

    And I loved the little black-eyed- pea polymere clay beads you made. I made some hearts not long ago that were melted into fiberfill. It looked like the cocoon of a prehistoric bug. Thankfully, I had my oven out in the sun room with all the doors open to deplete the fumes. What a mess.

    I’ve been trying to steer away from this one for awhile as I have so many new things I am working on learning, but now you’ve started the fever and I’ll have to buy a disk and see if I too can make grape clusters 🙂 Free project bracelets are just too tempting.

  5. Leslie, I believe that the mark of a true beader is someone who can laugh at themselves with others about their boo-boos!!

    That being said, when the articles first came out in Bead & Button last year about Kumihimo I couldn’t find the Kumihimo wheel for less than $15 and it went up from there. Being the tight-wad that I am I REFUSED to pay the price for a little foam wheel! And Leslie, I can’t imagine what you paid for a clear acrylic one!! Well, one day last November I was in Hobby Lobby and as I walked by the end of an isle something caught my eye. I went back to look at it and low and behold!!! it was a Kumihimo weave wheel but by another name. I picked it up and looked at the price. I wasn’t sure if it was me or the person that priced the thing, but clearly….someone had fallen and bumped their head!! It was a FOUR PACK of looms and some plastic lace with some findings to make four lanyards! ALL FOR $4.99!!! I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t care if it didn’t say Kumihimo on it! It still had all the numbers on it 1 – 32. At first I thought well dang! I don’t need four of them. I bought it anyway. I came home started on one bracelet and while I had one project in the works I suddenly had the epiphany that having four of these little wheel looms could NOT POSSIBLY be a bad idea!

    If you don’t have a Hobby Lobby near you here’s the URL to go straight to the product:

    It worked great and I got a beautiful bracelet out of it! YEAH!!!!!!!

  6. Might I suggest trying it with beads strung on thread first, not wire. It is much easier to undo if you need to. It also gives you a nice supple rope when done correctly. I love Kumihimo, but always do it with the beads strung on thread. There are many lovely braid patterns available, and each rope is unique, depending upon the bead combinations of colors and sizes.

  7. A note about the comment that it looks like crocheted rope….That’s only one available weave. Kumihimo one-at-a-time does look like crocheted rope, but there are many other weaves that give entirely different looks.

  8. I LOVE that everyone is trying this in different ways. I know fibers make gorgeous ropes and will try those next. I was feeling wired when I did this one.

    And I’m more than happy to share my bloopers. Learning and laughing!
    And–see some of you in Santa Fe. I will have to pop into Jill’s class, but will be set up at Meet the Teachers night, too. (My class is 5-8 Saturday, seed beads of course.)

  9. I’m very new to your website as well as Kumihimo beading. However, I took a class in Kumi beading and completed a bracelet within two hours. I am in love with Kumi beading. BUT – perhaps to quickly I boast of confidence…I made two more bracelets and upon completion I noticed gaps in both of them. My problem is how to retrace my steps & undo the weave until I find the mistakes or must I take the bracelets apart completely.

    I realized my mistakes occurred when I paused in the weaving process….I forgot where I left off.

  10. I have now taken a simple to use idea and made it more challenging by adding chunky beads to the mix by feeding the bead onto all strings and then continuing with the “weaving”. It takes longer but the look is really great! I love that I can pre-load the string and take it on trips. We just spent 3,000 miles in the car and I made many strands that I finished when we returned home. Great way to pass the time … if you don’t have problems with getting car sick.

  11. I have now taken a simple to use idea and made it more challenging by adding chunky beads to the mix by feeding the bead onto all strings and then continuing with the “weaving”. It takes longer but the look is really great! I love that I can pre-load the string and take it on trips. We just spent 3,000 miles in the car and I made many strands that I finished when we returned home. Great way to pass the time … if you don’t have problems with getting car sick.