If you are already comfortable braiding 7-loop square braids, this seven-loop spanish braid might be fun to try next. It has twice as many loop transfers as a square braid (and they are done differently than you might expect!)
[Video tutorial below; Text instructions for the 7-loop (single braider) and 14-loop (two-braider) braids here; My 14-loop solo-braider method here ; Why "Spanish?" structural and historical musings here]
Move the bubble under the screen to the point you want to see.
0:00 Intro and setup (overly long! Skip to 5:45 for braiding moves for a divided braid)
5:45 Basic braiding moves, making a divided version of the braid (the loop is not turned over while being moved). This creates a loop/ buttonhole into the start of your braid.
17:47 Beginning of braiding a “solid” braid (each loop gets a turn when it is moved). This connects the upper and lower layers of the braid, making a solid, rectangular braid, twice as wide as a square braid.
In the video I am making the “Lopsided Crowns” color pattern. In the picture of the two sample braids below, the lowest braid has an example of the “Lopsided Crowns” pattern: At the far right (upper) end of the braid, beside the biggest bunch of loop-ends.
This post now has instructions for making all the color-patterns in these two sampler braids.
Text instructions for 7-loop “Spanish” braid, shown in above video. I learned this braid from Speiser/Boutrup’s Instructions for Letter Braids in 17th c. Manuscripts (I do the first loop transfer slightly differently than Joy Boutrup describes it, but the result is the same.)
See notes below braid instructions for info on color set-up. Give all loops a half-turn when transferring them (for a solid braid), or no turn for a two-layer, divided braid (both shown in video). Other combinations will make different braid shapes.
La, b, c, d = left index, middle, ring, little finger, or the loop on that finger.
This is similar to most loop braiding notation systems, goes back to the 15th C. manuscripts.
In these instructions, La= the left index finger; La =the loop on that finger
3 loops on the left hand: 1 each on La, b, d (no loop on the Lc-finger)*2
4 loops on the right hand: 1 each on Ra, b, c, d
1. Ra (operator finger for this move) goes through Lb, takes La and places it onto Lc. First left-side transfer done.
2. Lb shifts up to La.
3. New operator finger Lb goes through Lc and Ld, takes Rd. Second left-side transfer done.
4. Rc shifts down to Rd, leaving the Rc finger empty. Loops are now in mirror image of original starting position, ready for the 2 right-side loop transfers.
Repeat above moves in mirror-image fashion:
5. La (new operator finger) goes through Rb, takes Ra and places it onto Rc. First right-side transfer done.
6. Rb shifts up to Ra.
7. New operator finger Rb goes through Rc and Rd, takes Ld. Second right-side transfer done.
8. Lc shifts down to Ld, leaving the Lc finger empty. Loops are now in original starting position, ready for the 2 left-side loop transfers.
One braiding cycle done.
For the 7-loop braid, just keep repeating these steps. Skim through notes below for info on color setup and new info on loop-turns. Most of the rest of the notes are for the 14-loop, doubled version of this braid. After you learn this 7-loop braid, check out the bicolor pattern set-ups below for several fun color patterns.
For the 2-person, 14-loop version of this braid, this is the point where the 2 braiders would exchange their nearest a-finger loops, one through the other, being careful that the loops didn’t get a twist or turn during this process. The shanks that were in upper position on each braider’s hand should end up in upper position on the other braider’s hand with no twist to the loop. This can be tricky, review the info and video in my 2-person braiding tutorial for a way to do this with a 10-loop braid. However, in this Spanish braid, the two braiders’ neighboring hands will each be holding four loops when it comes time to exchange. Because of this, one of the two braiders will probably have to temporarily place a loop onto her other hand in order to free the index finger for the exchange (see suggestion in Joy Boutrup’s letterbraid book)…
To turn or not to turn: In my 7- and 14-loop braid samples, each transferred loop was turned. (“reversed” –15th C, “crossed” –Speiser and Kinoshita). This interconnects the upper and lower layers of the braid fabric. It also creates a color change if you are using bicolor loops.
For the 14-loop letterbraid, however, all transfers are done without turning the transferring loop. This results in a two-layer braid fabric, the top layer should be one color, the separate bottom layer another color. The top and bottom layers are not connected at all unless loops are turned over on the fingers (before the loop transfers occur) to change colors for the letter-shapes. This has the side benefit of connecting the two layers of the braid. (photo)
In the video I am turning the loops from below, unlike the way I showed in my square braid videos—in those I turned the loops from above. Either way works fine, but you should stick to one way within a braid
New info 2-14-12: Au contraire! ~ The following is not necessary in making this braid, and was apparently not traditional, but it turns out that this type of braid will be much straighter and flatter in cross-section if you turn the first and third transfer from above, but turn the 2nd and 4th transfer from below. (Outer transfers from above; inner transfers from below.) Or vice versa. Thanks to Gary in the Canary Islands for pushing me to confirm this. [I demo this in a video here.]
However, no extant surviving “spanish” type braids or double braids had this type of mixed turns. [Joy Boutrup told me this at Braids 2012, and she has done extensive research on surviving European loop braids]
2-braider method: For making either the 14-loop letterbraid, or my doubled 14-loop samplers in the traditional method, 2 braiders would be standing side-by-side, braiding from one fixed point.
What I described in the directions above are the LEFT braider’s moves—the right braider mirrors everything the left braider does.
For example, the right braider starts with 4 loops on his/her left rather than right hand (and would then begin braiding at steps 5-8, followed by 1-4, since these two sections are the mirror-image of each other).
Bicolor loops set-up: The 14-loop letterbraid, and the 7-loop sampler braids in this post, have all-bicolor loops –each loop is of two colors, having one light and one dark-colored shank. (See my Bicolor Loop Magic tutorial for an introduction to bicolor loops)
For the letterbraid: at the start of braiding, all the dark shanks are in upper (or all in lower) position on all fingers. The color of the upper shanks forms the ground color; the color of the lower shanks will be the color of the letters.
For the 7- and 14-loop sampler color-patterns: each of the various patterns starts out with a different arrangement of dark and light-colored shanks in upper position on the fingers, described below under How to set up…
Of course, this braid can also be made using single-color loops, or a combination of single and bicolor loops, just like square braids. Below are photos that reader Dan Gaiser sent me of his 7-loop Spanish braided bookmarks—most of these are flat versions of this braid, btw. He experimented with color patterns using bicolor loops and fewer or just one contrast single-color loop(s). (Thanks for these great examples, Dan!):
Color sequencing: For setting up your own color arrangements, if you want to line up colors in a certain order in this braid, you’ll need to know the loop sequence (the order of how the loops follow each other in the braid itself). Two loops that are next to each other on your fingers might not actually be next to each other in the braid. I describe the loop sequence for the 7-loop spanish braid here in my post on color-pattern planning.
How to set up for the bicolor patterns in my 7-loop sampler braids:
(many other patterns are possible—try other set-ups; single-color loops; and combining bicolor and single-color loops)
For these patterns, use all bicolor loops. When you are about to start braiding, set the loops up on the fingers as I describe below for each pattern.
In the directions below, “Black” means: dark shank in upper position, whereas “White” means: light shank in upper position on the finger. (All the loops are of the same two colors).
All colors will return to their starting set-up position on the fingers at the end of each pattern repeat—7 full braiding cycles—as long as you haven’t made any mistakes!
The “Edge” pattern is an exception. With this set-up, the loops will return to the same color distribution on the fingers after each braiding cycle (4 loop transfers), so the “Edge” pattern repeat is only one cycle long. That makes it a good pattern to practice the braid with—you can error-check to make sure the color distribution is correct after each cycle, instead of counting 7 cycles before knowing if you’ve made a mistake.
If you’ve made a mistake and (after one full pattern repeat) one loop is in the wrong orientation, the easiest way to fix it is just to turn it on the finger to be in the correct color-orientation, and continue braiding. (The fussy way to correct is to unbraid back past the mistake.)
[new: Gary's online pattern planner for this braid can show how the loops should look on your fingers after each cycle of any pattern! see note **** ]
a, b, c, d = index–little finger
Edge pattern—first pattern in each braid (and repeated between the other patterns)—lengthwise stripe outlining the edges of the braid:
Left hand loops: a-black up, b-black, (no loop on c), d-white
Right hand loops: a-black, b-black, c-white, d-white
a, b, c, d = index–little finger loops. Each loop is bicolor–half light, half dark.
In Gary Mitchell’s new interactive pattern-planner for this 7-loop spanish braid, the Edge pattern’s ID # is 585—if you enter that # into the box on the first page of the planner and click on “submit,” you will see a chart for this color-pattern.
Dom’s Edge-pattern bracelet
“One loop wrong” pattern—the first pattern after the “Edge” pattern, lower right end of both braids:
Start with the Edge setup above, except have one loop—any loop— “wrong” (opposite color than I list). I always turned the La loop to be “wrong”, but it shouldn’t matter which one you choose. [braid ID 586 on Gary's planner]
Next very busy pattern to the left on lowest braid (black)
(the result of a mistake):
L hand loops: a-black, b-black, d-white
R hand loops: a-white, b-black, c-white, d-black
[braid ID 589 on Gary's planner]
Lowest braid’s last pattern—upper right end of braid (lopsided “Crowns” pattern):
Start with all white OR all black shanks in upper position on all fingers.
[this is the pattern I am braiding in the video for this tutorial]
[OR, start with the set-up shown in the planner for this pattern—i.d. #595. Different set-up, but same pattern.]
Pattern to the left of that one (after Edge pattern—mottled black and white):
L hand loops: all white shanks upper position
R hand loops: all black shanks in upper position
(white color areas connect, black patches are separated—reverse the colors for the opposite effect. Or turn the braid over after finishing–colors are reversed on the other side.)
[OR, start with the set-up shown in the planner for this pattern—i.d. #590. Different set-up, but same pattern.]
Navy braid, middle pattern on lower half (navy irregular “M’s”):
L hand loops: all black shanks upper position
R hand loops: a-black, b-black, c-black, d-white
[or start with the setup shown in Gary's planner for this pattern—i.d. #592. Different set-up, but same pattern.]
(for irregular white “M’s”, reverse the above colors)
–I forgot to try doubling this pattern in a 14-loop braid.
Top rightmost pattern in navy braid (sampler photo) is simply the Edge pattern, alternating with the same pattern but with all the colors reversed—switching Whites and Blacks in starting position.
How to switch DARKS & LIGHTS seamlessly:
To alternate between any pattern and its opposite–meaning the same pattern but with the dark and light reversed– do the following:
1st braiding cycle (4 loop transfers): do all 4 transfers STRAIGHT (unturned/unreversed/open)
2nd braiding cycle (4 loop transfers): do the first 3 transfers STRAIGHT, but the last transfer TURNED (reversed/crossed).
After these 2 cycles are done, the colors should be reversed. Check to make sure that they are. Resume braiding normally—turning all the loop transfers—until you want to switch again. For patterns other than The Edge, you will need to braid 5 more normal cycles (with turned transfers) before being able to check that you are in the exact opposite color set-up. That’s because, after making the switch you will be 2 cycles into the pattern repeat, so the colors you see on your fingers will not be in cycle-start position. If you want to be able to check immediately, learn how that pattern’s loops should look on the fingers once they have progressed two cycles from your starting setup. Gary’s online planner can now show this, see note: ****
Do try out single-color loops with this braid, too. As well as combinations of bicolor and single-color loops. I was on a roll with finding bicolor patterns when I made this series of posts, but you can use as many colors as you want, of single or and/or bicolor loops. I would love to see any that you make, either these patterns or your own…
What is a “spanish” braid, exactly???
Several braids were referred to as Spanish in the 17th C. loop braiding manuscripts, not just this particular 7-loop one. Some were single-worker braids and some were multiple worker braids, and they had varying numbers of loops. This one is the first Spanish braid I learned how to make —from Joy Boutrup and Noemi Speiser’s recent monograph—though I had read about “Spanish” braids much earlier, without really understanding what they were (in Noemi Speiser’s Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding).
When I finally learned one I was amazed to find out that it was essentially the same as my solo-braider double braids, though with only 7 loops. It may seem different to you, if you’ve followed my double braid tutorials, but that’s just because I teach them as doubled A-fell structures, rather than doubled V-fell ones…Even though this 7-loop braid was taught as a solo-braiding technique in the 17th C manuscripts, the braid itself is actually very similar to 2-worker braids like the 10-loop Medieval and 17th C. double braids—done by loop braiders in other parts of the world as well as Europe. There are 4 loop transfers in each cycle of braiding. Surprisingly unlike European two-worker braids, the braid grows on a VV-shaped fell.
Here’s how 2 braiders could make this exact same 7-loop braid using a two-worker technique:
At the start of braiding, one braider holds 4 loops and the other holds 3, yet each braider will (in turn) do all the braiding moves of a 4-loop braid (the way I teach square braids – the V-fell method).
There are at least two ways this can happen.
One way: the braider with 4 loops starts, braids two loop transfers as for a 4-loop square braid, and then passes the closest index loop over to the other braider—waiting with 3 loops—who then braids two transfers with 4 loops, and passes a new index loop back to the first worker. There’s no reciprocal “loop-exchange” swapping move as in regular double braids. Noémi Speiser calls this a “giving-taking” type of loop exchange.
The exact same passage of loops can also be accomplished in another, more efficient way: The braider holding three loops starts the braiding, and in one of the two loop transfers, goes through his/her own loops and takes a loop directly from the other braider’s closest index finger—and ends up holding 4 loops. Then it’s the other braider’s turn to repeat those moves in mirror-image fashion. That’s essentially what’s happening to the left and right hand loops in the 7-loop spanish braid directions above, across the two hands of a single braider instead of the four hands of two braiders. ***
And since this hypothetical double braid only has 7 loops, it’s fine to do it that way—there’s no need for it to be a 2-worker braid. All four loop transfers done by one braider, just as in my solo-braider double braids.
My assumption is that 17th C braiders used the term “Spanish” for any braid in which each braider makes four loop transfers per braiding cycle, rather than two (the more usual case). Noémi Speiser never said that anywhere in her description of “Spanish” braids in Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding. But from what I can glean from Joy Boutrup’s instructions for all 3 “Spanish” braids that form the three letterbraids, and from Noémi Speiser’s descriptions of the structure of the braids called “Spanish”, that seems to be thing they all have in common. Some were one-worker braids, some multiple-worker braids. But all seem to have 4 loop-transfers per braider, in each braiding cycle. [update - Joy Boutrup corroborated this when I asked her about it at Braids 2012].
In OEPBforLB, Speiser defines Spanish braids by their weave structure rather than their method—as being plain weave, or occasionally a mix of plain weave and twill, rather than pure twill. But that’s a given with 4 loop transfers and a limit of 5-7 loops per braider. An all-twill braid would require a minimum of 9 loops per braider, which isn’t possible without using thumbs, or carrying multiple loops on some fingers. I’m guessing that braiders in the 17th century gave this name to certain braids based on their unusual method, not on the necessary result that such braids were plain-weave or mixed plain weave and twill. [By this definition, my solo-braider, all-twill double braids of 9 or more loops would also be "spanish" braids.]
So then there’s the question Why did they call it “Spanish?”… Did this braiding method come to England from Spain, or maybe from even further away originally? In the few traditional spanish braids I’ve learned, loops are always transferred “outside→inward” in direction, which is the direction loops are transferred in the V-fell braiding method, not the A-fell method that was common in Europe. This seems a little strange to me, because you can just as easily make them the opposite way. [which is the way I usually make double braids, actually -- in a doubled A-fell shape rather than a doubled V-fell one]. V-fell braiding pulls outer loops to the center of the braid, while A-fell braiding pulls center loops to the outer edges of the braid. If European simple square braids had later evolved into spanish braids—doubled square braids done by one braider—then why didn’t these braids have the typical European A-shaped fell, doubled into an AA fell?
In India, and the rest of Asia and the Pacific, square loop braids are made with a V-shaped fell. To me it seems possible that this 4-transfer “spanish” braiding method—known only from 17th C. England—actually had its origins in India or Asia, and was eventually introduced into England, maybe via Spain, sometime in the 17th C. [new note: Loop braiding has been documented in Asia as long ago as 3 or 4 thousand years, cf Mari Omura.] There is no mention of ‘spanish’ braids in the English loop braiding manuscripts of the 15th Century, that term only appears in the 17th C manuscripts.
FOOTNOTES , REFERENCES, & BOOK REVIEW
* European Loop Braiding: Investigations and Results–Part II Instructions for Letter Braids in 17th Century Manuscripts by Noémi Speiser and Joy Boutrup
Parts I through IV are available separately or together. Only Part II deals with letter braids. Available from BraidersHand in the U.S., from the publisher in the U.K.
Please note: The actual instructions in the monograph are very brief, with no pictures or diagrams of the moves. I suggest learning the braiding method here first! The monograph is primarily a structural analysis of the letterbraids, not an instruction manual for them. This series of monographs is a supplement to Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding, and it assumes that the reader already knows how to make 2-person braids, and other basic info covered in the earlier book.
(More info about the Letterbraid monograph here).
*2 Joy Boutrup’s set-up is slightly different from mine—she starts with a loop on the Lc finger which she later moves down to the d-finger. I start with it on the d-finger. (I do that move down from the Lc finger at the end of the previous cycle, as a loop-shifting move). This makes no difference to the braid structure, and might not be any more efficient, it’s just a personal preference. The exact way braiders in the 17th C. did the moves isn’t known–they may well have also had individual differences like this.
*3 The unequal loop transfers should be made such that the two “through 1 loop” transfers (plain-weave) are done at the outer edges of the braid and the two “through 2 loops” transfers (twill) are nearer the center of the braid.
*4 Gary’s planner can now show this progression—on any pattern’s chart, click on “cycle +”. With each click, the loop setup shown on the chart’s lower left will change to show the color arrangement on the fingers after one more braiding cycle has been done. This is a really great feature! (thanks, Gary!)
*5 Other spanish braid-shapes (flat, hollow, etc): My more recent series of tutorials on the various possible shapes of double braids apply to ‘spanish’ braids as well.
I would love to see photos of any braids you make! (Email through my contact form up top and I’ll let you know how to send them.)
Please let me know where the instructions aren’t clear enough, it’ll help others who might not ask. Leave comments / questions here, I check every day when I’m in town.
My [recently edited and improved] solo braider method for the 14-loop braid. Below are guidelines for how to translate the 7-loop Spanish braid above into its doubled version—the 14-loop letterbraid—as a solo-braider method. The trickiest parts are the inner two loop transfers of each hand. These are the ones that involve the three loops held on the d-finger. This method is doable if you have worked up to it. It would make no sense to try to learn it if you haven’t already done the following steps:
First learn how to use thumbs, and multiple loops on the little finger, as well as my method for making double braids as a solo braider. The 13-loop square braid would also be good to learn first, since it’s an easier braid that also requires holding 3 loops on the d-fingers.
Also, memorize the 7-loop Spanish braid above — you’ll need to be able to picture those moves in order to translate them into the same loop movements done while holding all 7 loops on a single hand.
[To figure out the correct way to insert your operator finger and move loops in this complex braid, I recommend that you try to make a divided braid first, keeping the upper and lower layers of the braid completely separate. If the braid does not form as two separate layers, that means you are moving the loops wrongly in some way---possibly turning them while thinking you are not turning them, or poking the operator finger through a loop in the wrong direction ("backwards" - which can superficially seem like the right direction in this braid), or transferring loops in some other way that prevents them from passing cleanly through each other.]
Each hand holds all 7 loops of one of the two hypothetical cooperating braiders of this doubled braid. I hold 3 loops on each d-finger—1 at each joint—and 1 loop each on all the other fingers, including the thumbs. There are 4 loop transfers on each hand in one braiding cycle. All loop transfers on one hand are performed by the a- or b-finger of the opposite hand, as taught in my double braid tutorials. After all 8 loop transfers (both hands) are done, the tip-most of the three d-loops are exchanged between the left and right hands (see my double braid tutorials).
All 7 loops on a hand perform the same movements, in the same order, that they do when they are held across the two hands of a braider making a 7-loop spanish braid. The braider performs whatever motions are necessary to get the loop to go where it should!
For example: first move: Left hand’s “leftest” loop (The outermost left loop, which now happens to be the thumb loop, but would have been the left index loop of one braider holding the loops of a 7-loop spanish braid across both hands) must go through only the loop next to it, the L index loop. Look at those two loops and figure out how to accomplish that, using your Ra finger.
I find it simplest to do any loop-shifting before the transferring loop is placed onto its new finger. The transferring loop is temporarily held by the operator finger (a-finger of the other hand) until the loop shifting is done.
The second transferred loop moves in the opposite direction of the first transfer. This is exactly equivalent to the second loop transfer of the 7 loop Spanish braid. If you review the second transfer in the Spanish braid, you’ll see that this time the taken loop must be pulled through two loops, the second of which is the loop that was just transferred in the first move. So the next loop to be transferred has to be the the loop on the left ring finger. It will end up on the index finger (after the two loops it went through are shifted down to make room).
The third loop transfer on each hand is the one in which the tip-most of the left 3 d-loops goes through the middle d-loop. (This is the same move as the 3rd loop transfer in the 7-loop spanish braid—there it is done to the index loop of the other hand—a mirror image of the first loop transfer.) I do this by using an “outside-around” move. The middle of the three d-loops is lifted and brought over/around the outermost d-loop. The net result is that the outermost d-loop moves through the middle d-loop. (so the ‘transferring loop’ here is not the loop you actually move! The real transferring loop traveled “upward”—toward the thumb—one position. The next transferred loop will travel in the opposite direction—away from the thumb.)
After that third loop transfer, I don’t set the “outside-around” loop down right away. Instead, the operator finger (Ra) temporarily holds it all the way through the fourth transfer, with the B-finger acting as the operator for the fourth loop transfer, which the B-finger then holds temporarily. The same B-finger then also does a “regular” temporary-hold of the outermost of the two D-loops, so the inner D-loop can shift up one position. Finally, all three temporarily-held loops are set onto the now-empty D-finger in one move. (During that fourth transfer, a loop is transferred from the ring finger through the two remaining loops on the D-finger, is temporarily held during the loop-shifting, and ends up as the new middle d-finger loop after all three temporarily-held loops are replaced.)
For even tension in this braid, it’s important to tighten at least twice: after the 4th transfer of each hand, as well as or even instead of after the final loop exchange.
Leave a note below or send a mssg thru my contact form if you are trying this braid and want some more details on the way I do it. Try it out first, though! There are more ways than one to accomplish the same loop movements. I used to do them slightly differently than I do now. You may find a way that works better for you than the particular method I use.
© 2011–2014 Ingrid Crickmore
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