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August 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Kongo Gumi & Bead Placement

Kongo Gumi & Bead Placement – In a “conversation in the Kumihimo Braiders International group, especially having to do with how not knowing the “language” of braiding leads to stunting the growth for new braiders.

Shirley Berlin - Kumihimo On A Card

For the curious, it had to do with the somewhat confusing use of warps when referring to the material placed in each slot of the MobiDai (Disk). Much can be attributed to the rather short history of Japanese braiding in the US. For a very long time mot involved were a part of the weaving community and so those attempting to educate us used some weaving terms because it might have been hopeless to teach us Japanese.

But what happens when you want to move on, or that blinding flash of the obvious moment when you realize there is so much more to be discovered and you lack the basic in language and skills to advance. This was the thought shared in KBI – so much is missed by those who come into the craft without access to the basics.

It is fine if folks, particularly the “Bead People” are satisfied with only using one of the many basic braids, the Spiraling 8-strand Kongo Gumi braid to make a cord or in many cases an embellished cord. However I sincerely wish those who teach would make it clear that they are only talking about a single braid of the thousands possible.

One of the reasons I started braiding was related to glass, beads, fused, diachronic, – pretty much all that glitters. The ability to coordinate or complement the colors in the glass using the rich sheen of rayon threads (still can’t afford silk) was pretty much irresistible.

After some conversation in the Kumihimo Braiders International, there was a consensus that, for English, we should use the term “Element” – whether a single strand or a gathering of multiple threads – We agreed that Naomi Speiser’s Manual of Braiding was likely the best resource for “details”

So what does this have to do with Bead Placement. Once I got my mind to move past how to “change” the Beaders use of a term that did not really help them in the long run, it got easier.

One member of the bead cord oriented FB Kumihimo group asked about a way to plan bead placement so she could design a beaded cord “her way”. Another mentioned wanting to begin moving on past the simplest structure (yes, I know there are four element braids, but they are often more difficult than you might think)

In my never humble opinion, the next step “ought” to be
Shirley Berlin’s RED Kumihimo On A Card Booklet

Perhaps the most important thing this course of study will do is to enable you step back and realize that Braids can be utterly wonderful in their own right OR are an excellent vehicle to enhance a focal piece of beadwork.

Next it moves you on to the 16 Strand version of Kongo, AND has the color placement for 18 different color combinations. Not to mention lots of other useful information. Using inexpensive cotton YARNandTHREAD it is easy to make samples that can then be “translated” for pre-stringing beads onto your elements to create beaded areas on your braid (or if you must, entirely bead braids.)

Then WHAM before you know it, you will be looking at the samples and illustrations the “other three” best books for use with Disk and Plate wondering why it took so long to get here. Especially once you see the possibilities of the shaped braids like ZigZags, circles, ovals and loops found in CTB: Disk & Plate

P.S. I need to make some revisions for the 16 Element version – mean while you may find the
8 and 16 Element Kongo Gumi Record Sheets and “coloring page” aka/Record Sheet helpful in starting the process.

  • 1

    The 16 element record sheet has been added to the Kongo Resource at:

    Anonymous on September 3rd, 2013


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