DIY: Camp Crafts~ Making a Japanese Braid Friendship Bracelet

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on May 27, 2012

For this month’s Walmart Craft Challenge we were tasked with coming up with a craft suitable for a Vacation Bible School or Summer Camp.

Friendship bracelets and lanyards are both classic “summer camp” style crafts–but for this challenge I wanted to kick things up a notch.  I was excited to see a “Weave Wheel Lanyard Maker” (also known as a Kumihimo disk) in the craft aisle at my local Walmart for around $4.  I also picked up a craft lace pack that had beads, findings and lace an a big box of “friendship thread”.

Kumihimo is a Japanese form of braiding.  Typically these days it is done on a plate or a disk made of thick foam-although traditionally it was done on a wooden stand with bobbins.

Using the disk creates a pretty round braid or cord.  The thickness varies depending on what materials you use-and you can change the patterns by how you set up your thread and how many threads you use.

All of these were created using a basic 8 thread pattern:

Although it looks a bit complex the braid is actually very easy to create.  It’s a soothing, repetative project that can be done while your attention is partially somewhere else-like watching TV or talking.  This makes it a great “camp” craft because you can be teaching the kids something else while keeping their hands busy, or they can be chatting amongst themselves while doing it.

You don’t even need to use the store bought foam disc (although I think that it is easier and sturdier).  You can easily create your own disks out of cardboard:

I taught Princess how to use the braid maker and she decided to teach the ladies who work at the after school program she attends.  She was able to whip these discs up in just a few minutes out of cardboard and teach them how.  She’s now got all of them completely addicted to making them-whenever I got to pick the kids up one of the adults is working on a braid!

Now on to the process.

How to Make an Eight Strand Japanese Braid

(8 Strand Komikimo Braid)

Since we are going to make an 8 strand braid we need 4 pieces of floss, 2 in each color.  Fold them in half and tie a knot in the middle.Feed the knot through the middle of the braiding disk.

Set up your disk.  You are basically making a +.  Put two strands of color A (in this case yellow) to the top, and two directly opposite on the bottom.  With color B (green) put two to the left and two to the right.Now on to the braiding pattern.  This may seem a bit confusing but trust me, it’s super easy once you try it–one of those things that is easier to do than to explain.  You start at the top and take the right hand string and bring it down and to the right of the strings that are already there.

Now take the left most string from the bottom and bring it up and to the left of the single string that you had left on the top.  There, that’s basically it!  Now all you do is rotate your disc counterclockwise (ie to the left) until the next set of strings is on the top:Then you repeat the same pattern.  The right most string goes down and to the right:The left most string on the bottom goes up and to the left:Then you rotate it again to the left. 

Just keep repeating!  Eventually you’ll start seeing the braid building :)

The only little trick you need is a way to remember where you stopped so you know where to pick up again.  Once the braid is as long as you want it to be (or you run out of thread/yarn/floss/ribbon/cord) then you tie a knot.You can vary the thickness of your braid by changing the materials.  Here you can see from left to right:

Pink and white plastic lacing, blue and light blue lacing, Friendship bracelet floss (doubled up, so each strand is actually two strands), friendship bracelet floss (single strands) and yarn.

This is an easy and fun project that would be great for any Vacation Bible School (VBS), Summer Camp or just rainy day project.  There are more advanced methods that use more strings (in multiples of 8-so 16, 32 etc), ways to add beads, and even ways to create flat braids using a square plate instead of a round disc.  Give it a try and see what you think!

Wondering what you can use the braids for? Friendship style bracelets are just a start.  By adding actual jewelery findings you can create a stylish cord for a necklace or pendant (ditto for a more classy bracelet).  You can make purse straps or belts if you make them larger/thicker.  The options are just limitless!

Additional Resources:

Instructions for a 16 strand braid.

How to finish the braid end.

Adding Findings to a Kumihimo braid.

Flat braid using a Kumihimo Plate

****This is a sponsored post****
Disclosure: This is a sponsored review I am participating in with the Walmart Moms. Walmart has provided me with compensation for this post. My participation is voluntary and opinions, as always are my own.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaye Swain May 28, 2012 at 11:16 am

How fun! And great timing as I’m headed to Walmart this week AND babysitting grandchildren after that! Thanks for your fun ideas AND fun family memories – as I remember making these types of things in vacation Bible school when I was young!

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lanyardstore May 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm

These are awesome! Great job putting together the instructions and detailed photos. You’re right, these are perfect for VBS or summer camps. We also put together a craft walk-through about how to make neck lanyards if kids wanted to make something to hold their nametags.

http://www.lanyardstore.com/how-to-make-lanyards.html

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate May 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm

My daughter just can’t stop making them!

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Kate May 30, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Thank you so much for posting this! My daughter has one of these that came in a “friendship bracelet” kit and neither of us knew what to do with it. There were no directions. Can’t wait to share this with her and try it out!

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate May 31, 2012 at 6:46 am

I can’t wait to hear how she likes using it Kate. They are strangely addictive ;)

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