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The History of Kumihimo

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.

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