S Spiral or Z Spiral?

Over the past several months, I’ve braided many 16-Ridged Spiral braids.  Sometimes I braided Z-Ridged Spirals, and sometimes I made S-Ridged Spirals.  I thought I knew which was which, but when posting a few on social media, I confused a Z with an S and simply ended up describing them as 16-Ridged Spirals.  I should have referred to my notes before posting, but it’s really not hard to tell one from the other just by looking.

One of these braids is an S Spiral and one is a Z Spiral.  Can you tell which is which?

ridge spiral double

To tell them apart, just visualize a letter Z or letter S over the braid or use your finger to “draw” an S or Z over the braid, like this:

Like an S, the angle of the spiral runs from top left to bottom right on the S spiral. On the Z spiral, the angle runs from top right to bottom left, just like a letter Z.

This principle also applies to other braids, ropes, twisted threads, yarn, and more.

If you want to learn about 16-Ridged (S and Z) Spiral braids, see Makiko Tada’s wonderful book, Comprehensive Treatise of Braids VI: Kumihimo Disk and Plate.  You can find it here at Braider’s Hand.


Big Clasp, Tiny Cord

16 ridged S spiral turq-brownI had planned from the start to use an acrylic magnetic cylinder clasp for this new Kumihimo necklace. It gives a sleek look to the ending, is very strong and lightweight, and continues the diameter of the 16 S-Ridged Spiral braid.

But the bronze clasp I chose has an inside diameter of 10mm. Pretty large. The braided cord end is tiny at just 1.5mm diameter.

Here’s how I was able to secure my skinny cord end into a large opening.

First, I braided an extra-long cord end. This one is about 1-3/8″ (3.5cm) – not the usual 1/2″ (1.25cm) nub.

Big clasp small cord1

I twisted it around a small chopstick to make a spiral. A small dowel or toothpick would work, too. You could also just bunch up the cord or, if the cord end is long enough, make a loose knot in it.

My goal was to create more surface area for the cord end to engage with the adhesive and the clasp. It will now fill more of the clasp than a short, straight end would do, and parts of the braid will be able to reach the sides of the interior of the clasp.

The key here is to use 2-part epoxy. I don’t recommend using E-6000, super glue, or craft glue when you have a large clasp opening and a thin cord end. The epoxy will hold the cord end within the clasp opening like an insect trapped in amber, and will give a nearly permanent hold. I applied the mixed epoxy to the interior of the clasp opening and to the braid along the twist, and inserted the cord end.

I like to hold the end into the clasp for 5 minutes (the initial set time for 5-minute epoxy). I hold the braid both in and against the clasp with the opening facing up so the epoxy won’t leak out. Then I let it rest for 24 hours to completely dry and cure.

One side finished!  The 10mm acrylic magnetic cylinder clasp fits the larger braid nicely, and I didn’t need to worry about the cord end thickness.

Big clasp small cord4

Kumihimo with Beads

“When the cords have returned to the starting position, begin dropping beads…”

Great – but what does that mean exactly?

I correspond with a lot of braiders. Occasionally I’ll hear from someone who tells me she had a hard time braiding to the point that the cords are back in the original, starting position so she could begin dropping beads with each movement. “I really had to maneuver the cords around to get them in the right place.”

If you are following a typical counted pattern for an 8 warp cord Round Braid (Kongoh Gumi) and load the beads in a specific order, you need to start dropping beads with the cords I call Cord 2 (North, Right) and Cord 6 (South, Left).  All the cords must be in order, with Cord 1 next to 2, Cord 3 next to 4, etc. around the disk.

My disk set-up looks like this: Disk set up – Version 3

At first, I was puzzled by the confusion, but finally realized that the dots and numbers on a disk were the confusing factors.

Here’s what you need to know to braid your cords back to the original, starting position:

Ignore the numbers: It is NOT necessary to return the cords to any particular place on the disk, as designated by a number or a dot. The numbers are quite handy for other braids, but for 8 warp Round Braid (Kongoh Gumi), just ignore them!

Ignore the dots: The dots are convenient for setting up your disk for a Round Braid, marking the quarters. A cord on each side of one of the four dots tell you the cords are in the proper relationship to each other. After the disk is set up, ignore the dots, too!

Count each move: To get the cords into the original, starting position, count each time you move a cord, like this:

  • Move Cord 6 up and count “One”.
  • Move Cord 2 down and count “Two.” Turn the disk.
  • You’ll count “Three” as you move Cord 8, and “Four” as you move Cord 4 . Count “Five” and “Six” as you move Cords 1 and 5, and finally count out “Seven” and “Eight” while moving Cords 3 and 7.
  • Keep going until you reach Sixteen.

(You might prefer to move Cord 2 down first, followed by Cord 6 up. That’s fine. Your Kongoh Gumi Round Braid will work either way.)

Back to the starting position: When you count “Sixteen,” your cords are back in the original, starting position! Cords 1 and 2 are at the North, right where they started, Cords 3 and 4 are to the East, and so on. You have just moved each cord twice.

To braid about one-half inch (1.2cm) “nub” of plain braid, you’ll need to repeat counting out the 16 moves about 4 or 5 times. When you hit “Sixteen,” start counting again at “One.” Repeat that 3 or 4 more times.

Digging Deeper: When you count to “Eight” (meaning you have moved each cord one time), you can start dropping a bead with each move. Your cords are in the starting position, just ‘upside down’. Cords 1 and 2 are now at the Bottom/South on the disk, and Cords 5 and 6 are at the Top/North. You’ll still be moving Cords 2 and 6 first when you start to drop beads, whether 6 is at the top or the bottom. So long as Cord 6 is diagonally opposite Cord 2, you’re good to go.

Whether you count in Eights or Sixteens, you can begin dropping beads when Cords 1 and 2 are next to each other in either the South or the North positions, and Cords 2 and 6 are the next two cords to be moved.

Tip: If you find it hard to ignore the slot numbers, use the back of your disk (the side without writing, dots, or numbers). It’s helpful to mark the 4 dots for the starting positions with a permanent marker, but it’s not necessary.

Happy stress-free braiding!

Little Beads, Big Beads – Part 1

Kumihimo Crystal Pearl NecklaceRSD-Crystal Pearl

Combining large and small beads on the same braid can be a great way to add texture and interest.  I could randomly put beads on the cords and see what happens (and it’s always great to experiment!), but I prefer to have a plan.

I like order and structure, so I try to formulate a strategy for the result I want.

There are many strategies for organizing large and small beads so that they fit nicely in the braid. Large beads can cause cord to show, but there are ways to reduce it.

One simple strategy is to work with a stripe pattern: one size, shape, or color bead on the North and South cords, and a different size, shape, or color bead on the East and West cords.  Using all seed beads, it looks like this:


By changing out the some of the seed beads, I created this Crystal Pearl necklace with the same basic pattern idea. (See below for printable pattern).

RSD-Crystal Pearl

For this pattern, I used 8/0 seed beads on the North and South cords.  On two East/West cords, I used 4mm crystal (glass) pearls. On the remaining two East/West cords, I used 3mm crystal (glass) bicone beads.  This pattern works nicely with 5mm pearls, too.

The cords are pretty well hidden, the larger pearls add texture, and the bicones add some sparkle.

Download the pattern here:

Kumihimo Crystal Pearls Necklace Pattern

Happy Braiding!

Kumihimo Tip: An Easy Way to Measure the Depth of a Clasp

When making a beaded braid, we usually start with an unbeaded length of braid. If using a glue-in clasp, this will go into the opening.

But how deep is the clasp opening and how long should I burn or cut the cord end so it fits right into the clasp?

Here’s one easy way to measure:

Insert a toothpick into the clasp opening. Mark the toothpick with a pen at the point where it emerges from the clasp. This is the depth of the clasp.

Measuring 1

Use the marked toothpick as a guide against the cord end. I burn my cord just a bit below the marked length. That will make sure the cord end is just shorter than the depth of the clasp and unbeaded braid won’t show.


All done and ready to wear.

Turquoise Lentil Kumihimo Cuff

Arranging the Drops

I often hear the question, “How can I arrange my drop beads in a specific pattern in a Kumihimo braid?”

It’s not difficult! Here’s how:

First, you’ll need a pattern calling for drop beads on two opposing (opposite) cords (the most common).

Next, arrange your beads in the order you want them to appear in your braid. I recommend using an odd number of drops. The example below uses 13 etched daggers.

Dagger 1 cropped

Read the bead loading pattern carefully, and you’ll notice that one of the two cords will begin with 2 more seed beads than the other.

I like to put the drop beads on cords 3 and 7 (3 at upper east/right and 7 at lower west/left). Let’s say the bead loading pattern for cord 3 calls for 12 seed beads before the drops begin and cord 7 calls for 10 seed beads before the drops. That means the first drop bead will come from cord 7 since it has fewer seed beads. The second bead will drop from cord 3. They will continue to alternate between cords 7 and 3.

To make this easy, separate your single row of drops into two rows, as shown below. The first dagger moves down for cord 7 since it will drop first, the second dagger moves up to the row for cord 3. The third dagger moves down, the fourth moves up, and so on, alternating along the line.

Dagger Edge 2 new anno copped

Hurray! Now you have the order in which to load the daggers on each cord. You’ll load them from left to right, if that’s how you arranged your pattern of drops. My sample uses four colors of Etched Crystal Copper Rainbow daggers (silvery, copper, lavender, and dark blue-purple).  You can use any number and variety you want, and they will always land in the braid in the desired order.

When you load the beads, the pattern will call for seed beads between the drops.  Don’t forget to load them!

Bonus tip: For alternating just two styles of drops (different styles, colors, sizes, etc.), load one style drop on cord 3 and another style on cord 7.

You can find bead loading patterns using drops on two cords on the internet, Bead & Button magazine (May 2016 special Kumihimo Fiber and Bead Jewelry issue), and Rebecca Ann Combs’ book Kumihimo: Basics & Beyond.  You can find a kit with the pattern and beads at R. Sherman Designs.


Dagger Necklace-Copper Rainbow