Since Kumihimo braiding has become so popular in recent times, you could perhaps be forgiven for thinking it a relatively new craft – far from it! We’ve just made an instructional video for anyone learning to braid and have some great new Kumihimo projects and clasps, so here’s a little more on the history of this technique.

The Japanese term Kumihimo actually means ‘gathering of threads’; the braids were first used to secure clothing during the Nara period (645-784 AD). The growth of Buddhism then saw the braids take on a new importance, as they were often created by monks to decorate their temples.

During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (1185-1333 AD and 1333-1573 AD) the braids were used to join together the iron plates of a Samurai warrior’s armour. As much as 300 metres of braid could be needed to secure a single suit! They were also used more decoratively on their swords and horses.

It wasn’t until the Monoyama period of 1573-1614 AD that Kumihimo braids were needed by kimono wearers, to hold the wide obi sash in place. These braids are called obijime, still in use today they may well be what many people will most associate with Kumihimo.

The earliest braids were created by finger-looping, however tools such as a marudai and a takadai were later used, to make more complex braids in less time. The traditional techniques can still be learnt today in Japan, where methods and patterns of the individual schools are closely guarded secrets. Luckily for us the foam disc was invented by Makiko Tada in more modern times. Being cheap, portable and simple to use it has made Kumihimo braiding a possibility for anyone – have you tried it yet?

We've gathered some amazing designs together on Pinterest if you need some inspiration!

In association with The Fairy Tale Fair