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Kumihimo basics: Kongoh gumi on the marudai - Braiding

Figure 1
Figure 2


1. Slide the beads off the mirror down to the tama. Remove the chopstick from the split ring below the mirror, and attach your counterweight to the split ring.

2. Work in kongoh gumi with no beads for 1⁄2 in. (1.3 cm):

Movement 1: Lift cords 2 and 6 simultaneously. Hold the cords, not the tama; the tama should hang freely. The cords hang over your fingers about 1 in. (2.5 cm) from the mirror. Working in a clockwise direction, place cord 2 to the right of cord 5 and cord 6 to the left of cord 1 (figure 1). Using both hands simultaneously, adjust the top and bottom pairs to look like figure 2.

Figure 3
Figure 4

Movement 2: Lift cords 4 (right hand) and 8 (left hand) simultaneously. Working in a clockwise direction, place cord 8 above cord 3 and cord 4 below cord 7 (figure 3). Using both hands simultaneously, adjust the east and west pairs to look like figure 4.

Repeat the two movements until the unbeaded braid is ½ in. (1.3 cm) and all the cords are back in their original positions. 

Note: The cords switch positions as you braid but the active cords are always the ones in positions 2 and 6 and 4 and 8. It takes a total of four pairs of movements for the cords to return to their original positions. While you’re learning the braid, it may help to label the tama so you can easily tell them apart (putting a labeled sticker on one end of each tama is a great way to do this!).

iDROP_i drop
Photo i (DROP)
jSKIP_j skip
Photo j (SKIP)
3 Continue working as in step 2, but now add beads using the “Drop, skip, jump” method: Lift cords 2 and 6. Isolate the top bead on each cord. While lifting the cords, drop the beads toward the point of the braid (photo i). Lower the cords down to touch the mirror, and “skip” the cords into their new positions (photo j).
kJUMP_k jump
Photo k (JUMP)
Photo l

Watch as the beads slip under the previously braided cords all by themselves! Lift the cords slightly, and “jump” the cords into their new positions (photo k).

Continue to add beads on each move and keep braiding until you’ve reached the desired length. As you braid, your cords will get shorter and you’ll need to adjust them as the tama get too close to the mirror. To do so, lift the tama slightly to release the tension on the cord, and rotate the tama toward you a bit (photo l). The slipping hitch will release the cord, giving you more cord to work with. To release more beads onto the working cord, remove the slipping hitch from the tama. Slide more beads toward the mirror, and make a new slipping hitch.

4. When your beaded braid is the desired length, work ½ in. (1.3 cm) with just the cords.

5. Using pliers or a hemostat, grasp the unbeaded end of the braid just under the point of braiding. While securely holding the pliers or hemostat, use your other hand to remove the counterweight. Lift the braid from the marudai, and rest the braid and the tama on your work surface. Bind or seal the ends of the braid (see “Binding or sealing the end of a braid”).

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