Kumihimo is a traditional Japanese cord braiding technique. Kumihimo cords are usually braided on a marudai, which looks a bit like a stool with a hole in the middle. But for small-scale, portable braiding, a kumihimo disk works just fine, and why should you shell out for one made of foam or carve one out of wood when you have several dozen perfectly-sized disks in your home, and they already have holes right there in the middle?
That's right, I'm talking about CDs (or DVDs). Those things your kids won't know how to use. If you think I'm dippy for suggesting that you turn valuable CDs into crafting tools, all I can say is what the hell else are you going to use them for? Your phone probably plays MP3s. Spotify and Netflix will let you stream basically everything ever. You're not "retro" by insisting upon owning physical media, and if that's your angle, go vinyl or go home.
Oh man, an LP would make a gigantic kumihimo disk!
Anyway, if you're still with me, go dig up a shitty mix CD an ex made you years ago, or if you're like my in-laws and you used to own a music store, just get one of your seven copies of Dido's No Angel. Time to cut that crap up.
Step 1: Materials
YOU WILL NEED:
A kumihimo wheel template, printed from here. Set it for however many strands you will want to braid, and 12 cm diameter.
A CD or DVD. Probably not one of your Japanese Radiohead imports, but what about that old copy of Baldur's Gate in the basement? Alternately, get some crap media from the dollar store or thrift store.
A permanent marker.
A hacksaw or small handsaw.
Step 2: Mark!
Line up your kumihimo disk template with the edge of your CD or DVD. Take your permanent marker and go all the way around, making small marks where the notches are on the template. Pretty simple so far.
Step 3: Cut!
Now it's getting intense. Take your saw and start cutting where you just made your marks. Shoot for making each notch about a quarter of an inch deep.
This is a time consuming step, but don't rush it. It's really easy to snap your disk while cutting, so you'll want to do a few things to keep that from happening. Cut at the edge of your work surface so the disk doesn't bend too much. Cut slowly, only in one direction, and don't turn the blade while you cut.
When you're done, flip the disk over and note the abundant burrs on the other side. Do not fret--this is why we have the next step!
Step 4: Sand!
Obviously, a kumihimo disk covered with burrs is hardly ideal. Your strands will snag and it will be an all-around unpleasant experience. So let's get rid of them! First, get your sandpaper out and attack the notches on the shiny side of the CD. The good thing about cutting from the matte/printed side of the disk is that we don't have to sand that side down so whatever design is there won't get messed up. My little sanding wand thingy made short work of the individual notches, and then it was time to go deep.
Tear off a bit of sand paper and fold it in half, and stick this into a notch. The goal here is twofold: smooth out the inside of the notch, and also slightly widen and round the place where it meets the edge of the disk, which will make it easier to notch your strands while braiding.
Do this until you think your fingers will fall off, then do it some more, and eventually you'll be finished. Then it's time to braid!
Step 5: Braid!
String that puppy up. There are loads of kumihimo directions and patterns on the Internet, but sherrycayheyhey's marvelous 'ible will get you started with the basics (and it even has a video!). I followed her directions for braiding (with eight strands rather than sixteen): right down, left up, turn counterclockwise. My first bracelet was a wreck because I didn't keep an eye on my strand tension, but my second took maybe twenty minutes and I couldn't be happier with it.
That's all there is to it! A super-cheap kumihimo disk with whatever rad design you want. If you're wondering how to store it and all the thread, yard, and embroidery floss you will undoubtedly accumulate for the purpose of braiding, why not dig out your dusty old Case Logic? It was made for keeping these things from getting cracked, after all, and the pockets can hold string and finished cord, too. Happy braiding!