Cords and Braiding – Japanese Braiding (Kumihimo)

Mills didn’t just make fabric and stockings, they also manufactured cords and braids.  During a visit to Masson Mill, I saw a machine that gave me an idea for something else we could make.  I have made a disc to make some braided cord for a bracelet, but you can buy an inexpensive Kumihimo disc for this purpose.  To be honest, if you do not have the materials around the house, it would be cheaper to buy the disc.  I just like the idea of being able to make something out of things I already have.


Different cultures have made threads and materials in similar ways.  The Japanese gathered threads to make cords and braids for clothing as far back as 600 AD.  Firstly, by hand and later on wooden frames like the Marudai.  What fascinated me was the fact that braids were used by Samurai Warriors, to fasten their armour together and bind their sword handles.  The way that Samurai armour is made is incredible.  Braids were used for all kinds of things, from horses harnesses to silk ‘obijime’ – a braid used to fasten a Kimono.  Go look it up – amazing!

There was a decline in braiding as an art form and ‘craft’ because, you guessed it, machines took over.  However, people love to make things.  You can make or buy a Kumihimo disc to make your own braid.  It’s very easy and it’s fun.  You can use different types of yarn, leather, even wire – and beads.  There are people out there making some beautiful Kumihimo jewellery.

Below is the machine I saw at Masson Mill.  It has a hemp like material on the bobbins, to make a type of rope.


There is also a similar machine at the North Mill in Belper.  I have seen that one working.  It’s like a beautiful dance – the bobbins spin and twirl, intertwining the threads as they go.  It’s fascinating to watch.  The North Mill machine uses a more delicate thread, and so produces a more delicate product.


I thought we could do a basic braided cord to make the bracelet above.  It is make out of a silky looking type of yarn called rat tail.  It’s inexpensive and looks very professional.

You will need the following:


  • Strong Grey board or cardboard
  • Adhesive backed craft foam (optional)
  • A CD
  • A ruler
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Cutting mat
  • A fine marker pen & pencil
  • Tape
  • Rat Tail in two colours
  • Something to use as a weight (I used two magnets – you could use a small fishing weight, or some coins – if you take up this craft you can buy weights)

Take the grey board/cardboard and foam sheet (if you are using it) and cut around your CD.  Cut them out, and stick the foam onto the grey board – trim the edges if necessary.  Cut a hole in the middle, slightly larger than the one in the CD.  Then you need to mark at 11mm intervals around the edge. I’m showing you on the cardboard as it is easier to see.


Cut into the edge at each 11mm mark.  This should be around 1cm in.  I snipped off the edges so that it would be easier to insert and remove the yarn.

Number the tabs 1 – 32 – with 32 at North, 16 opposite at South, 8 at East, and 24, opposite at West.  Below is the disc I made and the disc from the craft shop.


You are now ready to thread your disc.

Cut 8 equal lengths of yarn.  For Rat tail, your lengths will need to be approx.. 3 times longer than the length of  your bracelet.  Cut four in one colour, and four in the other.

Holding the strands together, tie a knot about 10cm from one end.  Pass this knotted end through the hole in your disc.

You now need to separate out your colours – I have pink and blue.  Keeping the knot in the centre – take two blue threads and slot them in either side of 32.  Take the other two blue threads, and slot them in either side of 16.  Do the same with the pink threads – either side of 8 and either side of 24.


Attach your weight on the knotted end of the threads.  This will give you some tension.

Now that your bracelet is threaded up, we can start braiding!



Remove the blue cord between 16 and 17 (at the bottom left) and insert it in between 30 and 31 (at the top left) (see above)



Remove the blue cord between 1 and 32 (at the top right) and insert it in between 14 and 15 (at the bottom right) (see above)

Turn the disc anti-clockwise to the next set of cords (pink).


Continue in the same way with the pink cords – bottom left cord to slot at top left – top right cord to slot at bottom right.  Then turn the disc anti clockwise to the next set of cords (blue)

You continue in this way moving around the disc until your bracelet is of the required length.  It is important that you remember where you are, as mistakes are quite obvious.

Once you have reached the required length, pinch the cords together at the top of the braid, at the back of the disc.  Remove the cords from the disc and knot the ends.

To finish the bracelet, you can leave it as it is, or buy some fasteners for the ends.  Once the ends have been cut. they have to be glue in place with jewellery glue.  This must not be used by children – and I cannot stress enough that adults should use it with care.  It is like superglue, and will stick your fingers together.  You must not get it near your skin and eyes.

If you like this craft, there are lots of other designs you can make.  I need to start thinking about what else you can do with it!

I bought some thread that was made on a machine at Masson Mill.  You can see, the braid that I made from this yarn looks very different.


I love it and will be using it around the edge of a new cushion for my garden chair.  Can you see the raspberry and cream colours?  I can’t wait for summer!

Happy braiding!

It’s Saturday, so I am off to do some printing now.

We might make a flat braid tomorrow – drop by.


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