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!


4 thoughts on “Kumihimo with Beads”

  1. R, I have never been able to master getting the cords back in the same place once the ½” plain braid is done. So, I braid the ½” first and the n load the cords. That way everything is in order and the design works out beautifully. Jane Petersen Brass Egg Studio

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


    1. As you can see, it’s easy to get back to the starting position…just move each cord 1 time. But loading after can work fine. If you load your beads after braiding the nub, be sure you are starting to drop beads with the correct cords (2 and 6 at top right and bottom left). In a counted pattern, starting to drop beads from the wrong cords can cause the pattern to fail.


  2. So, it makes no difference if I start with 2 down then 6 up (rather than 6 up, 2 down) even if the pattern calls for the beads to be loaded in a specific way?


    1. Technically, 2 down plus 6 up equals 1 “move.” Then you turn. If you use a marudai, you would be moving both cords simultaneously using both hands. But with a disk, you can only use one hand (the other is holding the disk!) so you can only move one cord at a time. It doesn’t matter which cord goes first. They both must move – in any order – before you turn the disk. I hope that makes sense!

      Liked by 1 person

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