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Sayoko Hirano
KUMIHIMO SILK BRAID
Sayoko Hirano creates kumihimo braid products, a technique which dates back more than 1500 years. She has been interested in knitting ever since she was a child, and began running her own knitting art classes in 2010. Because she wanted to master a skill that could be passed down to future generations, she began a career in Japanese traditional kumihimo braiding. Her skill is based on a traditional braiding technique in Kyoto (Kyo-kumihimo style), and now utilized in the creation of everyday fashion items.

PRODUCT CONCEPT

Kumihimo silk braid has historically been used as a decoration for Buddhist altars and manuscripts, and as kazarihimo for clothes kimonos and tea sets. (Kazarihimo is a decorative string, similar to ribbon – practical and fashionable) The technique adds a sense of beauty to a variety of different settings and scenarios. For this collection, she has selected a bracelet that combines glazed strings of silk in traditional Japanese colors in a sophisticated braid design. The bracelet brims with artisanal technique; silk’s versatility makes it a match for a variety of outfits and occasions, whether as formal or casual wear.

PRODUCTION PROCESS

Over 3000 patterns to braid

Kumihimo braid’s principal feature is the sheer variety of techniques used. Ms. Hirano learned kumihimo (kyo-kumihimo style) in her hometown of Kyoto. There are approximately 40 basic braiding techniques. Building on these 40 basic techniques, there are more than 3000 varieties of kumihimo patterns and designs. kumihimo artisans use a special stand (kumidai*) and bobbins. In the left hand picture above, she is using the kaku-kumidai criss-crossing technique on a stack of silk strings tied with bobbins. It takes an hour to make braids of between 5-10cm. A braid of only 5cm will incorporate over 100 criss-crosses, enhancing the beauty of the braid.
*Kumidai is a special stand used for kumihimo braiding. The artisan selects which stand to use (marudai, kakudai, takadai, ayatakedai) according to the number of strings, and the patterns to be used (e.g. round, square and flat shapes).

God is in the detail

Kumihimo braiding uses simple steps that can be followed by anyone who has studied the art for a certain period of time. However, keeping the braiding surface smooth and ensuring that the patterns remain even, is something which requires long, painstaking craftsmanship. We invite you to take a closer look and appreciate the exquisitely Japanese beauty of the braid in her everyday use bracelets.

  • Can you see the twists in each string of silk? This pattern (azuma-ryukou gumi) is a fine example of a hand-made piece of exquisite beauty. (Not all patterns have these twists).

  • Bobbins come in many sizes, and weigh between 70g to 1kg. Artisans select the bobbin size according to what they are making.

  • These are some different Kumihimo silk braid designs. With 3000 braid patterns and color variations, the number of possible designs is endless.