Basic Kumihimo Tips and Tricks

October 4, 2013Allison Murray

Today I’m sharing a handful of basic Kumihimo tips and tricks. These are pretty simple things that I’ve encountered while braiding my heart out. I hope at least one or two prove useful you on your exploration of this fun and incredibly addictive craft!

1. The foam discs used for Kumihimo are really convenient, but after time the slots will begin to stretch out. For example, if you braid a lot of 2mm cord and then try to use the same disc with embroidery floss, the floss will not stay well because the foam has conformed to fit the much larger cord.

To keep this from being a problem, I have several discs and only use them for one size or type of cord. I have a wheel for 2 mm, a wheel for 1 mm and a wheel for very fine cords. I mark them on the back to keep from getting confused.

2. Different sized cords will require different finished lengths because of the added bulk. As a example,  a bracelet out of 2mm cord, the length of 8.5 inches fits me well but when using the much smaller craft floss I only need a length of 7 inches for a good fit.

Basic Kumihimo Tips and Tricks

3. A finished Kumihimo braid will stretch out, but not back. Before preparing a braid for a bracelet, it is best to give the cord a good pull to stretch out fully. If you don’t, the cord will stretch over time and become way too large to wear.

The cord in the picture above measured about 5 inches when taken directly off of the disk, but after stretching to its full length became about 6 3/4 inches long. The cord can be stretched while on the disc, just hold the cord in the center on the top of the disc to keep from pulling your cords from your slots.

4. Remember that adding end caps adds length to a finished piece. Keep this in mind when creating a beaded braid since you can’t just trim as needed once complete.

Basic Kumihimo Tips and Tricks

5. When placing tight cord ends onto a braid, have a wooden skewer or toothpick on hand to shove stray strands into the end cap.

6. Sometimes I’ll cut a single cord shorter than the others by accident. I only notice when I get down to the end of my braid and one piece won’t fit in the slot anymore. To remedy this, I’ll take a small piece of tape and place the cord in line with the slot that it would be sitting in if it wasn’t so darn short.

7. Experiment with different cords and fibers for different looks. I tend to prefer satin rattail for my braids but it can be expensive. You can also braid craft cord, embroidery floss, jewelry wire, leather cord (as suggested by a reader – thanks!), baker’s twine, yarn, fancy yarns (like the furry stuff), plastic cord… the list could go on and on I’m sure.

8. To keep costs to a minimum while I’m trying to work out a pattern, I use cheap acrylic yarn.

Basic Kumihimo Tips and Tricks

9. The best way that I have found to save my place when working with my disc is to make the first move and bring the cord up and then leave it. When I have one extra cord on one section of my wheel, I know that is where I need to pick back up at.

10. When working with patterns, color choice can make all of the difference. When attempting to make a braid I use colors that always go well together and are different enough from one another. My scheme of choice is black, white and red. I toss in orange or blue when I need more colors.

11. The foam is like a magnet for pet hair. If you have pets (like I have a whole freaking pride of cats) you’ll need to keep a close eye on your disc as you work to prevent from braiding in any hair that might become attracted to the disc.

Basic Kumihimo Tips and Tricks

12. And last, but not least, cats are insane for Kumi projects. Be careful where you place your stuff because cats will walk clean off with braids and even braids that are still being worked on and left in the foam disc. Look at Max up there. He’s clearly not right while he’s slinging that  braid around.

Want to get involved with Kumihimo? I suggest buying a kit like this one, or if you have a lot of cord or just want a cheaper way to see if you like this braiding method, buy just the foam disc.

Comments (23)

  • Natasha

    October 10, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    I’ve never heard of this before, it looks really interesting. I have a lot of yarn I bought on sale because I thought I’d learn to knit. I don’t know when that’s ever going to happen, so this might be a better way to use it.

    1. Allison

      October 10, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      It would be a great way to use up some of that yarn. It’s so simple and I bet you’ll just love it!

  • Rose Drummond

    October 12, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    I bought a disk already and appreciate the hint about different size cords-guess I’ll go back and get a couple more disks. Thanks, Rose

    1. Allison

      October 12, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      No problem, Rose! I had no clue and only had one disc at first, too. You’d think the foam would bounce back but it doesn’t :)

  • Pat Denning

    October 26, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Great tips Allison! Wish I had found these 5 months ago when I started Kumihimo. Oh well, we all learn from our mistakes.

    Another great tool for designing is at Lytha Studios ( This is really great when you want to try a couple of different colors but don’t want to waste a lot of your thread. Unfortunate thing is that it is only for 8 cord.

    Thanks again, Pat

    1. Allison

      October 26, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      That’s the way things always go for me, too. It’s like, now you tell me! Thanks for the tip :)

  • Karen

    October 27, 2013 at 6:09 AM

    Hi, any tips for finishing off the ends neatly please? I have recently mastered kumihimo with seed beads but then spoil the effect by getting glue on the cord ends when putting them on or the ends not sticking properly!

    1. Allison

      October 27, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      Absolutely, Karen. I’m not sure if you checked out this post for putting on end caps but it might prove helpful:

      Also, I’ve found that when I have problems with the caps staying on it is for one of two reasons. Either I put too much glue into the cap (it really doesn’t take a ton and I apply a dab inside of the cap with a wooden skewer) OR I didn’t let the cap set long enough before I started wearing it. I now give my braids 2-3 days after putting on caps before putting them into the rotation and that has seemed to help immensely. Best of luck!

  • Alana

    November 6, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    I found this most interesting. Many years ago at a Girl Guide camp, I was taught what was called “Chinese Weaving” or “Friendship Weaving” using a cardboard circle with a hole in the center, and little slits cut all around the outside. For years I taught this to little girls at any camps I staffed, having made 24 of these circles for each camp. Now I find out that this has an official name and that there are manufactured weaving looms to do it on.

    Thank you for expanding my knowledge of this fun craft.

    1. Allison

      November 7, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      You’re so welcome and I’m glad that you like Kumihimo! When I was a kid they sold the paper discs with cord that I got for friendship bracelets and I could never figure out what to do with them! I didn’t know the disc had a purpose, let alone a name :)

  • Maria Tenorio

    November 23, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    Great tips, Allison. I’ve started braiding cords with kumihimo a couple of weeks ago and find your advice really useful. Thanks!

  • Linda

    May 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Thanks for the tips on kumihimo with cats. I have two Maine coons with lots of hair that I would not want to weave into my project.

  • Stacey

    November 12, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    Any tips for keeping everything in place as you’re working? I find myself straightening out the center after every couple of moves and it’s making me crazy.
    I used to make friendship bracelets in high school with a pin on my jeans.

    1. Allison Murray

      November 13, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of getting around it. After some time you will start to feel yourself pulling the cords as you move them so it stays straight with minimal finagling but it takes a while to start to do that naturally. It will save time, though!

  • alexis bean

    November 28, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    thanks for the helpful hints, especially the one about using separate discs for different sized braiding materials. I hadn’t thought about that! do you know if they make any discs out of different materials, like maybe plastic? I bet that would work nicely because then you could keep even tension without stretching the disc. and maybe you could mark your place with a dry erase pen when it’s time for a break…

    1. Allison Murray

      November 29, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      I don’t think they make any out of plastic, but you can make them yourself out of cardboard. A quick Google search and you can have several :)

  • CJ

    December 8, 2016 at 11:24 PM

    Great tips, thanks so much! I’ve been braiding for a few month with 1.5mm satin cord. Would love to find an inexpensive source for large spools. I’ve order all the colors I want from Fire Mountain, but I need additional colors. The 1.5 mm is hard to locate, do you have any suggestions? TY

    1. Allison Murray

      December 12, 2016 at 1:12 PM

      The company that I purchased my spools from has gone out of business, but they suggested this site to purchase in the future. Once you buy a spool that business lasts for ages!

  • Jennkfer

    February 16, 2017 at 9:26 AM

    Hi! I have end makde a “test” braid so far with the basic disk. What I really want to do is use one to make braids for my crochet purses/bags. I plan on making my own board so it will hold 4-ply yarn & make cords or flat braids that that are several inces wide. Do you think this is doable? Have any tips?

    1. Allison Murray

      February 17, 2017 at 9:20 AM

      I’ve seen lots of discs made from cardboard that work perfectly well! I do think it will be difficult to make such a large braid but you never know until you try! You might try making your own wheel out of that really thick foam you find in the kid’s craft section near felt sheets in craft stores. I’d glue a few pieces of that business together to make a good, sturdy wheel that will last through the end of your cord. I worry that a cardboard version might get bent out of shape quickly with that large of yarn going through it.

  • Robert Bird

    January 5, 2018 at 9:11 AM

    Can this be done with paracord?

    1. Allison Murray

      January 9, 2018 at 8:06 AM

      Yes, it can! When using a foam wheel the thicker stuff is going to permanently stretch each of the grooves so that you won’t be able to use a thinner cord after, so keep that in mind, but paracord absolutely does work!

  • Jean BH

    January 25, 2018 at 7:10 AM

    Thank you for sharing. Great information. I learned two new things. Yeah!!!!

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