Kongo Gumi A Cacophony - Book Review, Complex Weavers
I highly recommend Rosalie Neilson’s book Kongō Gumi A Cacophony of Spots – Coils – Zags - Lines as a fine addition to any Art Library. In addition to being an amazing learning tool, it is a pleasure just to flip through and look at -- from the embossed design of the cover to the photographs and illustrated diagrams, all so beautifully done. The instructional text is clearly written and easy to understand. The only thing missing for me was a photograph of the author as I like to see what the creator of such an elegant book looks like. --- P. S. Ryan 

Your beautiful book is an impressive gathering of everything you need to know about 16-strand Spiral braid patterns. You have presented a life time puzzle for the braidermakers who will be wondering what colors to place in the white thread positions. "Now, what would happen if I used................Hmmm".

Rodrick Owen, author of Braids: 250 from Japan, Peru and Beyond says:

This comprehensive book covering Kongō Gumi has 1,157 designs, instructions for braiding Z-ply and S-ply braids on the marudai or the foam disk. It also includes history, structural characteristics, template development and bibliography. Full color and 142 pages.

I love books like this because I like having some of the work done for me. A wise teacher once told me that "we don't have to reinvent the wheel every time we do something." So to get a quick idea of what my braid will look like before I begin my own version is very satisfying. I also enjoyed reading about how she got her results. -- Janis Saunders, Braidershand
Cover of Handwoven Magazine, January/February 2014 featuring 12 silk projects.

Reviewed by Razine Wenneker

Rosalie Neilson and I recently had some engaging conversations. Inasmuch as I had experimented with a variety of Kumihimo patterns, her Kongō Gumi book whet my appetite even further. The cover with the colorful binary patterns elicited a subtle tactile experience. The inscription read “For Ray – Enjoy these designs! Rosalie Neilson – and enjoy I did.
The author studied this art form in Japan in the 80’s and subsequently passed down her expertise to many new braiders throughout the years. As she proceeded with the exploration of the 16 element braid structures, she concluded that in order to avoid a very expensive outlay of funds for the silk threads, a template would have to be created replicating the movement of the 16 element design opportunities. Rosalie consulted with Bob Keats, developer of a weaving software program. Together they came up with the definitive number of two color designs for the 16 element braid known as Kongō Gumi.  The total number is 1,157 designs consisting of both 1 and 8 spot configurations.
This book “Kongō Gumi” contains an amazing collection of braids featuring spots, coils, zigzags, and lines. The historical bibliographical sections are very informative. A tremendous amount of thought, concentration, and observation produced this book of discovery. It further enhanced my thoughts about the multitude of paths one’s threaded adventure can take.

Rosalie Neilson has truly outdone herself with her newest endeavor, Kongō Gumi: A Cacaphony of Spots - Coils - Zags – Lines.  It is a marvel of ingenuity and hard work, and here is why.As Shirley Berlin says in her introduction, Rosalie writes from a long history of braiding and “her books and articles always rise above the banal.” This book is certainly no exception and, in fact, enters the realm of the sublime. It is a geometric expansion beyond her two previous studies, The Thirty-Seven Interlacements of Hira Kara Gumi and The Twenty-Four Interlacements of Edo Yatsu Gumi, this time encompassing a stupendous 1,157 “interlacements” which comprise every possible two-color design for a 16-element Kongōgumi braid!
The fascinating preface of the book gives a detailed overview of the intricate (and tedious!) process of arriving at this number - not for the mathematical faint of heart, but it gives a clear view into the working mind of this amazing woman. This is followed by an excellent historical view of the Kongōgumi braid itself.
Rosalie Neilson is noted for her analytical mind and ability to generously pass on information about braiding. This, her third braid book, analyzes one particular type of kumihimo braid in detail: a sixteen-element braid called “kongō gumi. The words in the title - spots, coils, zags, lines - refer to the “spots” in the design template, which create patterns. This book is a treasure house of information. Even if you are mathematically challenged, Neilson’s description of the proof that there are 1,157 unique patterns for the kongō gumi will give you enjoyable insight into her thought process ad study methods. Reviewed by Terri Bryson, Decatur Georgia

Excerpt from Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot magazine, Volume XLV, No. 1, Issue 177, Winter 2013/2014, 15-16. Copyright © 2014. Reprinted by permission of Handweavers Guild of America, Inc.

Google Books Reviewers

Cover of handweaving magazine Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot featuring a blue and white scarf.
Rosalie Neilson's new book, Kongō Gumi A Cacophony of Spots-Coils-Zags-Lines, combines all the things that are wonderful about kumihimo. Ms. Neilson's excellent taste in color and design is backed up by her skills in using math, reasoning and computer programming to find all the possible combinations of two colors for the sixteen element marudai braid.
For those who just want to braid, Ms. Neilson has done all the math and thinking. All a braider needs to do is thumb through all the pictures of two color combinations until the perfect one is found. A little study and experimentation with the braid template in the book will allow you to design braids in three or four colors.
For history buffs and those who love all things Japanese, this book will have many additional delights. Ms. Neilson talks about the Japanese characters used to write the term Kongō gumi. She also discusses the modern use of Kongō gumi from modern machine made rope to decoration for Noh theater masks.


As a Thanksgiving diversion a couple years ago, my sister Rosalie Neilson, a noted weaver and Kumihimo enthusiast who was visiting, taught me and my daughters how to make the 16-strand Kongo braid on the foam braiding disk. We chose four different colors of rayon cord, lining them up as color opposites. After a half hour, we all looked at the beautiful barber pole striped braids we had made. It was such fun. Easy, repetitive, rhythmic motions, changing color combinations, and seemingly by magic, a beautiful but functional braid appears. Mine holds the front door keys, another became a bracelet, another a garland on a doll’s Christmas tree.

When Rosalie sent me the book Kongo Gumi: A Cacophony of Spots - Coils – Zags - Lines, it at once appealed to me, striking all the notes that make a book worth its weight in gold. Included are an in-depth review of her study of the Kongo Gumi Braid; a fascinating discussion of how her study of Kanji influenced that of the braid; an extensive bibliography; clear instructions on the breading technique, photographed by her son, Cameron Neilson, a professional photographer; and the numerous braid design templates. Rosalie invested over a year in study, and writes clearly in explaining the complexities, aided by the editing of her husband, Duncan.

But it is overwhelmingly the templates that fascinate. I was shocked at how a simple barber pole striped braid could produce so many different 2-color designs. As a budget analyst for the federal government, I am used to working with numbers, large numbers. But my own experience pales when it comes to Rosalie’s investigations into the mysteries of numbers. When I realized that there were potentially over 65,000 different starting layouts for the Kongo Gumi braid, (sixteen for each color layout), I was amazed at the logical system she devised to visually determine the actual number of unique 2-color braids. 
When I look at the design templates I see hidden within the geometrics the letters of the alphabet, numbers, Scottie dogs, camels, fish, turkey feet, the Sphinx, robots, flowers, so much more…and I can envision jewelry, purse straps, belts, fan pulls, braid on decorative pillows, curtain tie backs, gorgeous ribbons on special packages, head bands, the possibilities are unlimited. But practical uses aside, the tactile experience of making something so beautiful is fulfillment enough.

Now that I've played with some of these 2-color designs, I can't wait to try changing some of the "spots" into a third and fourth color. The templates are all there in the book...1,157 designs to choose from. It’s like opening the cover to one’s imagination.--- Marilyn Bechtold

Cover of the book Kongo Gumi- A Cacophony featuring a red braided motif on a white cover Cover of the book on kumihimo design called Kongo Gumi A Cacophony, featuring a red braid down the right side and across of the bottom of the book.
The braiding instruction section is simple and clear, and shows how the numerical ordering of the elements corresponds to the template. The next section carefully leads you through the template design process, then explains how to read and utilize the templates to follow; she also includes a section for those who use a disc.
The 1,157 designs follow - every single one! It is the ultimate visual compendium, and as you progress from one to eight spots, you will see the spots, coils, lines and zags begin to converge to create a myriad of lattices, filigrees and motifs. Add a third or fourth color and the sky’s the limit! Kongô Gumi: A Cacaphony of Spots - Coils - Zags - Lines  is a must-have for any kumihimo enthusiast and is an invaluable contribution to the braiding world at large. -- Michael Hattori -- excerpted from Handwoven Magazine, issue 168, January/February 2014

Cover of Complex Weavers Journal, October 2013
For the beginning marudai braider, the explanations and diagrams will make learning a new braid structure quite easy. Braiders who like problem solving or who are interested in how interlacement occurs in a braid will find Ms. Neilson's story of how she reasoned out the structure of the braid and then proved that she had all the possible combinations with no repetitions to be very interesting.
Kongō Gumi is the author's third published work exploring a single braid structure in depth. Braid Runner, a computer program, was her first effort. This was followed by The Twenty-Four Interlacements of Edo Yatsu Gumi in 1998 which deals with an eight strand braid and all its permutations.
Braiders who enjoy exploring Japanese culture and history will find a great deal of interesting material in this book. Ms. Neilson studied braiding in Japan in the 1980s. She is one of the few English speaking braiders to have been taught in Japan. She has managed to do something very Japanese in her book. She combines good taste with great technical skill to thoroughly explore a very specific topic. There is something for every braider in this book. -- Collyer Ekholm for Complex Weavers Journal, Issue 103, October 2013