What Is Edo Kumihimo?

What Are Kumihimo?

Kumihimo are traditional Japanese braided cords. Artisans make a thick and strong cord is made by combining several cords.

Marugumi (round cords), such as Netsuke cords used for attaching ornaments, are made using multiples of four cords. For example, 
Yotsugumi (made of four cords), Hachitsugumi (made of eight cords), and Junikumiai (made of twelve cords).

Hiragumi (flat cords) such as those used for Obijime (holding a Kimono sash closed) use three, five, seven, and nine braids. These are hand-joined, but the artisan's skill varies more with the simpler four-ply than with the more complicated ones because it is more difficult to cheat.

Dyeing in Edo

Raw silk threads are used for Kumihimo. Since they are initially white, the first step is to dye them. Various dyeing methods are done while envisioning the shape of the finished braid. Dyeing in Edo is generally austere. For example, to match a kimono called "Edo Komon," which has only one color seen from afar but has a detailed pattern, it is dyed in a slightly dull color rather than a bright color.

The Difficulty of Dyeing

Dyeing is more challenging than it looks. Raw silk is first bundled. From there, they are prepared into strings that can be braided. If the raw silk is simply dipped in the dye, it will become tangled and messy. Craftsmen of kumihimo treat raw silk as if it were a living creature. They gently dye the threads produced by silkworms so that they do not get out of control. If the cords get tangled, they cannot be used, so the craftsman's skill is tested during the dyeing process.

Beautiful Braids

The key to the braiding process is not to concentrate too much. Relax and repeat the process as your hands remember it. The same action is repeated hundreds of times to assemble the cord, but your hands naturally move when you touch the threads. Edo kumihimo is characterized by its beautiful braid. Combined with the austere dyed colors, this results in Kumihimo with a distinctly Edo flavor.