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February 7th, 2015 at 08:08 am

Braiding Disc – Part I – Time Line

Draft Last updated: 2015-Feb-08

Although this “timeline” is about Braiding on a Disc History, it would be remiss not to mention a little history of “beaded braids”

My goal in this article is to be as objective as possible – but I do have opinions and so some are going to leak thru. But yes, some of the links will lead you to pages at our online shop for Kumihimo “stuff” .

Braiding Disc & Square Plates are like any other tool – each of us will decide for the same and different reasons why we prefer one over the other. What may be worth mentioning while Kumihimo – The Art of Japanese Braiding dates back centuries – Braiding on Disc & Plate is a “modern” innovation and Beaded Braids are barely into its tweens as a mainstream craft technique.

Braiding on Disc and Plate is not the same as using a braiding stand – either the Marudai or a “flat top” or improvised equipment.

There are limited examples of beaded braids found in various museums in Japan and perhaps other places.

Until the late 1990’s when two things happened, most beaded braids where braided with traditional types of threads with beads sewn onto the body of the braid or used in tasseling finished work.

A few things happened that changed all that.

A Sample Swap on Compuserve with more than a dozen participants each prepared samples for the members of the study group and documented use of beads with braids. The shared experience created a niche of traditional braiders – using non-traditional materials.

Carey: Beads & Braids Inspired by the 1999 release of Jacqui Carey’s Beads & Braids, several “hot glass” beadmakers began to make, use and under duress, sell to their friends, some wonderful focals with large enough openings to allow them to be “threaded” onto traditional Fiber Only Braids.

Owen: Braids-250
The first place I “heard” about “Braiding On A Card” was in Rodrick Owen’s Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru, & Beyond – this book was published in 1995. It was a bit later, during a class with Rodrick, at the Weaver’s Place in Baltimore, Rod said that he had been introduced to the idea of using a card when studying in Japan.

My impression at the time was that he viewed the cards (round and square) as a tool to understanding a braids structure and as a means to work some braids – particularly the Inca (Peruvian) braids originally worked without any sort of tool to be more easily made.

2000: Makiko Tada showed the first Foam Disc and Square Plates when she came to the US for the Handweaver’s Guild of America Conference.

Somewhere in this time range, Shirley Berlin first offered “the red book” Kumihimo On A Card – sparking more interest among the traditional braiders who wanted portability and a simpler solution to sampling color and textures.

The term “MobiDai” was first used by Makiko Tada and she confirmed in the original Kumihimo group (after Compuserve – before Yahoo) that she had “invented” the term to describe the ability of the disc to be “mobile” It is my understanding that “Mobidai” could be considered the intellectual property of the Hamanka company of Japan. With this in mind, I now only use it when referring to the Disc or Square Plate designed by Makiko Tada to be used with the instructions she has developed specific to this braiding tool. and of course her Comprehensive Treatise Braids: Vol VI & VII teaching braids for Disc and Square Plate are expanding the possibilities

For about 2 years only two distributors – Lacis & Helby Imports offered these products. Both distributors were already “involved” in supplying related books and tools in the US.

Beginning in about 1998 – several braiders began “translating” braids intended for the Marudai (Japanese styled braiding stand) to be comfortable worked on the Disc and later the Square Plate. That process continues today.

Somewhere in this time frame (late 1990’s – early 2000’s) Toner Crafts introduced its “weave wheel”. Because it was/is intended as a “Kid’s Craft” it was both smaller and less expensive. It is apparently still a viable product for Toner Crafts and proved there was/is a viable market for a smaller disc.

NOTE: maybe include the Craft & Hobby Association story & discussion with Jeanette Crews Designs about the craft

The combination of demand for a less expensive, but closer to Makiko Tada’s MobiDai Disc and Plates led to the production and introduction of the BeadSmith Disc beginning approximately 2002-2003.

Shortly after, under the influence various designs used in Owens: 250 and after speaking with some already involved in beaded braiding – BeadSmith introduced its version of the Square Plate –

Over the years, several of us have advocated to BeadSmith for changes – I personally have emails going back and forth with Larry Weiss since early 2000 (not quite the first of which was me sending him two discs “glued” together with a larger center opening to allow for fully beaded braids. I know there are others long active in the both the bead and fiber art communities who have provided input.

With the possible exception of the product first introduced at The National Needlework Association in (I think) 2005 or 2006 – With an unfortunate choice of name (I did say some opinion would slip in here )

Inspired by nagging from many and providing my sales data of the smaller Toner “Wheel” BeadSmith added the 4.25 inch size and some bulk options that was about all that happened until 2010 This pretty much where it has stayed.

In 2011, BeadSmith, working with Ann Dilker created a pamphlet showing some beaded braids and put together some finding sets packaged as “Kumihimo Findings” really stuff they were already offering to their independent retailers but it really seems to have proved to be the missing link.

Since 2011, it seems like every one with a toe in the bead and jewelry business is offering their own version of the Disc and some also the plate. Beadalon was likely the next to create its own private label disc about the same time they began producing their version of the Kumi-Weights in China for sale in the US – Another interesting story in itself.

Among the innovations is a 64 slot disc (not recommended), some smaller approximately (7.5cm to 8.5cm) = both okay with fine threads, but not comfortable use for even partially beaded braids without significantly enlarging the center opening and awkward to use with even the smaller size 1 & 1w Bob EEZ or embroidery floss cards, etc.

Keeping in mind personal preference – sometime in 2012 Sally Battis introduced her thicker disc – it was interesting recently to read her explanation for the beveled opening – I like the concept because it encourages beaded braiders to use the same technique traditionally taught by the master braiding teachers where braiding if often done a disc or plate relying on good technique to keep the tension adjusted rather than a weight. Again personal preference.

Most recent (announced to its Retailers in January 2015) BeadSmith has also introduced a thicker “double density” disc in both sizes with a significantly larger center opening – 35mm (approximately 1 3/8 inches). along with a “handle” that may prove to be useful for some.

…. To be continued – or revised or added to as time and energy allow

P.S. All with interest in beaded braiding are welcome to join the conversations at my small FaceBook group for Braids Beaded Kumihimo & More at:

P.S. Jr: With thanks to Makiko Tada, Carolyn910, Larry Weiss,Janis Saunders,and Sally Battis for their assistance in assembling the facts and chronology. And to Hamanaka, BeadSmith and Beadalon for providing product to “confirm” the details. To Brad Colisomo of eXtremePara.com for his technical assistance in the development of the speciality disk for use with wire and paracord.
Other brands of Disc and Plate were purchased “at retail”.

  • 1

    You are off to a good start here. I look forward to seeing the next part!

    kathy poston on February 7th, 2015
  • 2

    Thank you for this wonderful read! I have so much to learn and so appreciate all your info!!!

    Terri on September 1st, 2015


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