Beforehand: This is not a detailed tutorial for fingerloop braiding or Kumihimo. You can find a lot of them for free in the internet. I will write about the pros and cons of each technique.

I use lacing as a closure for my clothes quite often. And there are only rather modern versions in the shops. Additionally they don’t have such great quality. And then I found not only very beautiful late medieval clothing patterns, but also a lot of handcrafts descriped in Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns. One of them was fingerloop braiding.

Usually my limit is at normal braiding with three cords, but fingerloop braiding helps a lot in that respect, since the cords are always sorted on my fingers. And then there is the small, but significant difference that you get a braid with a round cross section with fingerloop braiding. While you get flat braids with normal braiding. I like the round braids better for lacing.

While researching braiding techniques I stumbled upon Kumihimo. Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding technique that works with a similar principle as fingerloop braiding. But they are using a Marudai (similar to a braiding star) which allows for much more elaborate techniques and patterns.

Maximallänge des Bandes bei Fingerschlaufenflechten & Kumihimo

Maximal length of the braid with fingerloop braiding & Kumihimo

Until now I am only using braids made from unicoloured wool. So the braiding of patterns from Kumihimo isn’t that interesting for me right now. But Kumihimo has another advantage to fingerloop braiding: it is theoretically possible to make a braid with infinite length (or at least as long as your cords are). With fingerloop braiding you can only reach your own arm’s length without an assistant. You have to tighten the braiding – which you are holding with your fingers – regularly. With Kumihimo on the other hand the cords are fixed on a wooden disk and the braiding is automatically tightened by a weight.

I tried different versions. The blue braids are fingerloop braided with three, five and seven loops (which means twice the number of cords). On the version with seven loops you can see where my arms were too short and I couldn’t tighten the braid properly. This doesn’t happen with Kumihimo, since the weight always pulls evenly.

The white braids are made from undyed wool and I braided them with a temporary cardboard Marudai. I’ll build a wooden Marudai soon. But for testing the technique they work wonderfully. They just bend sometimes. I used a metal letter opener as a weight. Otherwise you can use a cloth bag filled with sand or stone. It doesn’t have to be very heavy. In the last image you can see the braid version with eight cords that is on the Marudai and anotehr one with six cords (foreground of the image).

For me Kumihimo is my favourite. The problem with historically accurate clothing now is that Kumihimo wasn’t very commin in medieval Europe of course. It seems there is a Flettehjul (Danish) or braiding wheel find from Tønsberg, Norway from the year 1100. But that one was very big (for braiding ropes). This of course allows speculation about the existence of smaller versions. (Source (German blog, but the answer is in English): especially the comment of Elin Bendtsen) I couldn’t find a publication about this Flettehjul from Tønsberg, so you have to take this source with a pinch of salt as well. But in the 17th century it seems the braiding wheels actually existed.