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Kumihimo: A guide to supplies & terminology, pt. 2

Learn the terminology that you’ll encounter when learning this wonderful braiding technique. 
Kumi tools hero

As with any discipline, it is important to learn the terminology associated with it in order to communicate with others and advance one’s own knowledge. However, identifying a common kumihimo language has been a challenge due to the reluctance of many to use Japanese terms combined with the fact that braiding does not have its own English lexicon. This has resulted in some confusion and misinformation about kumihimo terminology. This guide is intended to help clarify concepts and enable the kumihimo community to share knowledge more easily through a common terminology.


At the present time, there is no “Universal Kumihimo Terminology Council,” so the terms shown here are those most commonly used by the kumihimo masters. When there was no consensus among them, and multiple terms were used for the same thing, I used the term that has proven to be most easily understood by my students. In some cases, I coined my own term while making every effort to use descriptive and easy to understand words and phrases. For example, “2-drop kongoh” and “continuous beaded braids” are both terms that I created for easier communication which have now become accepted kumihimo terminology.

Don't forget to view the accompaniment to this article, part 1 of our kumihimo series, all about the tools and materials you'll encounter when learning kumihimo!


Beaded braid or fully beaded braid
A braid where only beads are visible. This is not the same as a fiber braid that uses beads as accents, which are called partially beaded braids and usually have beads on some of the warp cords or the beads are only worked into the braid on certain moves.

Braid structure
The specific pattern of movements used for creating a braid. Most braid structures have an original Japanese name that doesn’t necessarily translate easily to English. Example: Yatsu kongoh gumi (aka kongoh gumi) is the name of the braid structure most often associated with beaded kumihimo braids. In Japanese,”yatsu” means “eight,” and refers to the number of cords used in the braid; “kongoh” means “strong”; and “gumi” means “group” or “braid.” In English, it is commonly known as the round braid.

2-drop kongoh (also spelled kongo)
My term for the kongoh gumi braid, this is the most popular beaded braid technique and produces a braid that resembles a bead crochet rope. The kongoh braid is also known as the round braid, however since there are many round braid structures, that term can be confusing. I created the term 2-drop kongoh because two beads are moved, or dropped, with each step or move. Whether using a round disk or marudai, a step or move equals two hand movements. Once the beads have been dropped into the braid, they slide under the previously worked warp cords, forcing the beads to the outside of the braid.

The kongoh braid, including its variations, is the predominant braid structure used with the 2-drop technique.

Continuous beaded braids
These braid structures are worked in the same manner as fiber braids, using long continuous strands of beads in place of the fiber cords or group of threads. Unlike fiber, bead strands can be difficult to work on the disk or plate so a marudai is usually recommended for continuous beaded braids. Most braid structures can be used to make a continuous beaded braid. However, braid structures with eight, 12 or 16 warp cords are most commonly used.

Point of braiding (POB)
This is the spot where the braid is being formed and what you see in the center hole of the marudai mirror or disk. Each braid structure can have several unique points of braiding, resulting in a different look after each step or move. It is very important to watch the point of braiding and to become familiar with what it should look like while you are braiding so that if you make a mistake it will be possible to unbraid and correct it.

Slipping hitch
This is the slip knot that is used to hold the warp cord on the tama. As the braid is being worked, the warp cords will become shorter and the tama will need to be moved down from the mirror. The slipping hitch allows the tama to release the warp cord so that the tama can routinely be adjusted down or away from the mirror.

A complete series of moves for a braid. For instance, kongoh has two moves in the braid sequence. Sometimes the word sequence is used in place of the term step or move.

Step or move 
In most braid structure diagrams, both hand movements are shown. Whether you are working on a disk or marudai, one step or one move equals two hand movements.

Warp mates or warp pairs
These are the warp cords that are worked together during a step or move. For many projects, warp mates will also have the same color of beads and type of beads. 
Kumi cord cropped
A wide variety of fibers are used in kumihimo but for beaded kumihimo, the cords must work with the beads used in the design. Most of the projects in this issue use S-lon or C-lon, which are two different names for the same type of bonded nylon cord. Other brands of cord are suitable for kumihimo, including Tuff Cord, Amiet, and Conso, but for simplicity’s sake, we have listed only S-lon and C-lon in the materials lists. The chart below shows the four sizes these cords come in and what bead sizes to use them with.
How to select cord for kumihimo
*Caution! The #18 designation is sometimes applied to Tex 210 cords but this should not be confused with #18 crochet cords, which are considerably thicker.
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