Kumihimo Braiding Art, History, and Mathematics Together

Braiding Art, History, and Mathematics Together
Topics: Braiding,
Patterns, Japanese Art
Materials List
Matte board or stiff
Yarn, smooth and
thick, 7 different
Permanent marker
Scissors or die
cutting machine &
dies (available at
This simplified version of an ancient braiding technique ties together, art, history, and
mathematical patterns in a fun activity suitable for all ages.
1. Hand or die cut a circle (10 cm (4”) works well) out of matte board or foam to
create a loom. Other shapes will also work. Cut a hole in the center of the loom.
2. Cut eight evenly spaced slits around the edge of the loom. Mark the slits with a
permanent marker to increase visibility.
3. Cut 7 pieces of yarn, ~1 m (3 ft) long. (Recommendation: use 7 different colors.)
4. With the ends even, knot the 7 strands together, about 5 cm (2”) from one end.
5. Push the knot down through the center hole of the loom.
6. Hold the knot below the loom. Pull each piece of yarn from the hole, across the
top of the loom, and down into an empty slot. One slot will be empty.
To Do and Notice - a sample 7 strand braiding pattern
This activity can be used
to teach:
CO Visual Art Standard: 4
Relate and Connect to
• Visual Arts in Past
and Present Cultures
Grades: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
CO Math Standard 2:
Patterns, Functions and
Algebraic Structures
• Describe and Extend
Simple Repeating
Grades: 3, 4, 5
1. Hold the loom so that the empty slot is in the 6 o’clock position.
2. Counting counterclockwise from the empty slot, take the third piece of yarn and
move it over the 2 intervening strands into the empty slot. Tug down on the knot.
3. Turn the loom clockwise until the now empty slot is in the 6 o’clock position.
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until the braid (forming below the loom) reaches the desired
length. To prevent tangles, run a hand down each piece of yarn as it is moved.
5. When the braid is finished, detach the yarn from the loom and tie a knot which
includes all the pieces of yarn; leave a 5 cm (2”) tassel, if desired.
6. Create additional braids, experimenting with various combinations of colors and
varying the sequence of thread movements.
The Content Behind the Activity
Kumihimo, “braided cord”, is a Japanese art which has been practiced for centuries.
Originally created by finger-loop braiding, a number of looms and stands have been
created that allow for braids with complex patterns using dozens of threads. The
braided cords have been used as part of religious ceremonies, as ornamentation, and
to lace together samurai armor. Braiding techniques have been used in many cultures
around the world. The Andeans in Peru have many similar traditional patterns. The
variations in the number and colors of strands combined with the braiding patterns
combine to create designs of both mathematical and artistic complexity.
Taking it Further
Create a loom with more slots; vary the number, types, & colors of yarn/threads.
Web Resources (Visit www.raft.net/more for how-to videos and more ideas!)
Information on the history, looms, & braids - http://www.gflower.org/kumihimo.htm
and http://www.englisch.kumihimo.de/html/history.html
Introduced to RAFT by Margaret More, written by RAFT Education Department
Copyright 2008, RAFT