Kumihimo can be translated as ‘gathering of threads’ and the earliest Kumihimo in Japan is generally believed to date back to the Nara Period (645-784 AD). Braids were used for securing clothing.
In the Heian period (784-1184) the braids became more complex and elaborate.
A major a major change in use came with the rise of the Samurai Warrior class which happened during the Kamakura (1185-1333 AD) and Muromachi (1333-1573 AD) periods. Samurai armour was made up of lacquered iron plates joined together with braids. As much as 250-300m (800-1,000ft) of braid was required for a single suit of armour and in addition kumihimo braids were used for binding on swords, horse armour and horse harnesses. The braids were produced in a wide variety of designs and widths, with interesting details and textures.
It was in the Monoyama period (1573-1614) that kumihimo started to be used in Kimono wearing. With the introduction of the wide obi sash a braid was needed to hold it in place. This braid is called the obijime and it is still in use today.
During the Edo period (1616-1867) most of the traditional patterns were developed. The earliest published patterns date back to this period.A serious decline in the production of kumihimo braids took place towards the end of the Meiji period (1867-1912) when samurai culture saw a decline and it was forbidden to wear armour.