This post now includes the color set-ups for almost all the braids shown in photos. Some additional color set-ups for square braids can be found in a more recent post (click here). (if you have a favorite square or flat braid color pattern you would like to share, I would love to post it here!)
It’s really fun to try out different color patterns in a braid. A little 7-year old at one of our regular music campouts used to spend hours at our camp every day making 3-loop braids, and for each one the color combination was a big deal—she would pick it out quickly, but then dwell on, admire, and talk about it before, during and after the braiding process.
It was very funny to listen to, because it was essentially no different from many of my own (more interior) monologues when I’m braiding…
My square and flat braid tutorials don’t have much info about color patterning, so this post is an attempt to fill some of that in.
I’ll show the color set-ups for some nice color patterns for square and flat braids, but mainly I want to explain how to set up the loops on your fingers to get any particular color order you want in your braid.
(Skip straight to the loop/color order for square and flat (V-fell) braids here )
Square, flat and 3/4-flat braids of 5 loops:
(braiding moves are taught in the 5-loop tutorial).
The first 3 braids in the photo below are square, flat and 3/4-flat, and are made with pink, pink, gray, white, black loops—in that order. It’s a circular, repeating order. You could also describe it as pink, gray, white, black, pink, or start with the white or the gray loop. (see set-up below)
The middle two braids are a square and a flat braid made with bicolor loops—each loop having one blue and one yellow shank, same starting set-up of colors for both braids, described below.
The three braids on the right are made with 4 bicolor loops of orange+white, plus one single-color black loop (braids are square, flat, and 3/4-flat, all with the same initial color arrangement on the hands).
All are five-loop braids (braiding method taught here).
The descriptions below tell you which colors to put on which fingers at the start of braiding, for each color pattern.
Fingers: A = index, B = middle, C = ring
The three pink and black braids:
5 loops—1 gray, 1 white, 1 black, and 2 pink.
Left hand: A pink, B pink, C gray
Right: A white, B black.
Depending on how you braid, the result will be:
(left to right) a square braid, a flat braid, or a 3/4-flat braid (overly-tightened flat braid)
See tutorial for the braiding methods for all three.
The two yellow and blue braids:
5 loops, all bicolor yellow/blue
Left A, B, C yellow shanks all uppermost
Right A, B blue shanks all uppermost
Left braid is square: right braid is flat
The three orange, white, black braids:
1 black loop, 4 bicolor orange/white loops)
Left A and B: orange up and white down; C black
Right A, B: white up and orange down
Left to right: square braid, flat braid, 3/4-flat (overly-tightened flat braid)
For the orange/black/white flat braid and this color set-up, you must do the single turned transfer on the left hand loops, the way I demo’d in the 5-loop tutorial. If you do the single turned transfer on the right hand’s loops instead, the color pattern will turn out differently.
A square braid with single-color loops will show chevron patterns on the two sides, and alternating “zigs,” for lack of a better term, on the top and bottom surfaces (see chevrons on pink square braid, black zigs on orange square braid—on the sides of the braid these ‘zigs’ connect to form the chevrons).
On a flat braid with single-color loops (like all the loops in the flat pink braid, and the one single-color black loop in the flat orange and white braid), there will be central chevrons, with a slanting pattern on the outer edges. 3/4-flat braids are missing one central column of the fully flat braid (it’s hidden under the one visible center column)—this makes a big difference to the color pattern. See more info about 3/4-flat braids in the 5-loop tutorial.
Braids made with bicolor loops are another story—they have a wider range of color patterns. Square ones can have lengthwise columns of color, as in the two above (the orange/white/black, and the blue/yellow square braids), or various busier patterns, depending on how you set up the loops before you start braiding.
Counting the pattern-repeat:
In a 5-loop braid, all the loops will come back to the same fingers after every 5 braiding cycles (=10 loop transfers). That will usually make one full pattern-repeat on your braid—after which the same sequence of colors will repeat itself down the braid. In the pink braids above left, you can count this 5-strand color repeat down any of the vertical columns. (Click on images to enlarge.)
Bicolor loops are a different case—i.e. where two yarn colors are tied together into one loop. The color pattern of the blue-yellow square braid above has a one-row (one-cycle) repeat. The flat and 3/4 flat bicolor loop braids have a doubly-long pattern repeat of 10 full braiding cycles.*
You’ll see the pattern repeat itself very clearly if you make a 2-color braid with 4 dark loops and one bright contrast-color loop. Watching that one contrast-color loop make its way around all your fingers will give you a good feel for what’s going on when you braid. It also makes a nice braid pattern. You might try it with a shiny contrast yarn of a completely different type of yarn. Or a contrast-color yarn that’s thicker than the other yarns. A recently discovered 17th C. loop-braiding manuscript called “The Nun’s Book” describes a thick-thin 6-loop square braid (the Rose Breed).
Seven-loop braids (tutorial here):
These usually have a 7-cycle pattern repeat (7 cycles = 14 loop transfers).
Most of the wool braids below are 7-loop square or flat braids, made out of fairly thin weaving yarn. Being wool, they are already fuzzy, which is not helping the bad photo!
A few of these braids have all single-color loops, but most have a mix of bicolor and single-color loops.
Fingers: A = index, B = middle, C = ring, D = little finger
The pink-grey-blue square braid in the center has blue chevrons from 3 single-color loops (blue, light blue, blue). Its other 4 loops are each bicolor (pink + gray). This “chevrons with vertical bicolor stripes” is one of my favorite types of color-patterns for square braids.
Left: A,B,C,D all bicolor (pink shanks up and gray shanks down).
Right: A blue, B light blue, C blue
Square braid—all transfers turned.
[note: my Bracelet with Chevrons tutorial teaches this pattern.]
Blue, white and brown square braid to its left is another one of my favorite square braid color patterns. It can only be made with 8 loops, which requires using the thumb of one hand to hold a loop, as in 9-loop braids. (Check that tutorial for correct way to shift loops to the thumb, and how to tell which is the “upper” shank of a thumb loop. Shown in photos as well as in the video.)
4 white loops, 2 blue loops, 2 brown loops
Left: A and B white; C and D blue
Right: A and B white; C and D brown
Square braid. First move is to shift Right loops up to Thumb, A, B, C so right D finger can be the operator for the first transfer.
Here’s a close version of that brown, white, blue braid but with only 7 loops (no thumbs):
3 white loops, 2 blue loops, 2 brown loops
Left: A and B white; C and D blue
Right: A white; B and C brown
Orange, black, and white flat braid further right—“Kaitlyn’s pattern”
1 black loop, 6 bicolor orange/white loops
Left: A black.
All other loops, both hands: bicolor with the same color up.
Flat braid—only the loops on the LEFT hand are transferred with a turn (or the pattern will not be as shown)
On the right side of the photo, the first braid has same pattern with different colors: red instead of black and brown instead of orange. (Not a good shot of this braid, hard to see the pattern)
1 red loop, 6 brown/white bicolor loops
The blurry black, white, and gold square braid towards the left side is another ‘chevrons over bicolor stripes’ pattern of 7 loops.
2 gold loops, 5 bicolor black/white loops.
Left A, B gold; C, D bicolor (black up)
Right A,B,C bicolor (white up)
square braid, all transfers turned
To its right is a version with only one single-color loop:
1 red loop, 6 bicolor white/light brown loops
Red loop can be on any finger.
Left hand: bicolor loops white up/ brown down
Right hand: bicolor loops brown up/ white down
Oops! I was wrong about this braid, sorry! I assumed it was one of the 7-loop braids, but it’s actually an 11-loop square braid of fine linen, with 2 consecutive red loops, not one. However the setup above that I crossed out does produce a nice braid with a similar look!
Here’s the correct set-up for the 11-loop braid:
2 red loops, 9 bicolor white/light brown loops
Left: Thumb and A red. B, C, D-low, D-high all bicolor (white up)
Right: Thumb, A, B, C, D all bicolor (brown up)
2nd braid from right edge is a flat 7-loop braid.
1 black, 2 purple, 2 dark blue, 1 light blue, 1 off-white loop.
Left: A black, B,C purple, D dark blue
Right: A dark blue, B light blue, C off-white
3rd braid from right is flat, with color-linking to keep the purple and gray colors in separate columns:
5 bicolor purple/gray loops, 2 orange loops.
Left: A,B orange C,D bicolor (gray up)
Right: all bicolor loops (purple up)
Flat braid, but each time a loop is to be turned, turn it twice, ie give the loop a 360º turn instead of a 180º turn.
4th braid is an 8-loop flat braid that was called Lace Dawns, or Daunce in the 15th C. loop braiding manuscripts. Link goes to my tutorial for this braid. Requires using the thumb of one of the two hands.
Here’s another humble little wool square braid with different colors, but the same pattern of chevrons+bicolor stripes as the first 7-loop pattern above. The only difference is that in this braid, the lengthwise stripes switch sides in each section (the first video in my Bracelets with Chevrons tutorial shows how to do that).
Reproducing a braid’s pattern
It can be fun to set loop colors up on your fingers at random to make a braid, but if you like that random braid pattern and you want to reproduce it later, or maybe try it with different colors, you have to know how to set the colors up in the right order on your fingers to get that particular order of colors in the braid.
The simplest way is to make a note to yourself of the color order on your fingers each time you make a braid. Even if you forgot to do this at the beginning of a braid, you can still do it while you’re in progress, once you see that it’s going to be an interesting color pattern. Just push the loops back up to your knuckles, close to the palms of your hands (for safekeeping) and jot down which loops are on which fingers:
L: A white, B white, C white, D black
R: A red, B red, C black
L and R mean left hand/ right hand–see my diagram for the finger codes. That’s all there is to it—after you finish braiding you can add the date and a note to remind yourself which braid this was. (For any bicolor loops be sure to also note down which of the two colors is in upper position on the finger.)
Don’t worry if the colors you see on your fingers seem to be in a different order than you remember starting out with. The circular order among the loops stays the same as you braid, but they shift onto different fingers with each cycle of braiding. Any of those 5 or 7 arrangements of loops on the fingers will work as the set-up position for making the same braid pattern.
Below is another possible set-up for the exact same braid pattern, which is a little easier to write down:
L: A black, B red, C red, D black
R: A, B, C all white
The lower of the 2 braids below is how this 7-loop pattern turns out when braided as a square braid. I should have twisted the braid slightly for the photo to show the front side as well—this braid pattern looks great from all sides, has a rather heraldic parti-colored look on the front and back:
Above it is a 9-loop square braid with a similar color pattern, though more white than red. (two more white loops than the 7-loop braid.)**
But what if you have a color pattern idea for something you haven’t tried yet, and don’t have instructions for? Say for example that you want to line up very close shades of blue, from light to dark, so the colors seem to meld together.
The colors in any column of the braid will line up in the same order that the loops rotate onto each of your fingers as you braid. For 5 and 7-loop square and flat braids, here is that order:
Loop #1: left A-finger (index) loop. This loop will be the first to move from the left to the right hand.
Loop #2: left B-finger (middle). As you continue braiding, this will be the second loop to “jump off” the A-finger over to the other hand. In the finished braid, this color will always be immediately after the color of loop #1.
Loop #3 will be the third loop to leave the left hand’s A-finger. Currently it is on the left C-finger (ring).
Loop #4 : Number 4 is either the left D-loop (little finger)—or, when there is no loop on the left D-finger, #4 is the loop on the right hand’s A-finger (index finger). Even though it’s on the right hand! By the time its turn to make that jump comes round, it will be back on the left hand’s A-finger.
Loop sequence for a V-fell square or flat braid: (the type of square braid I teach on this blog)
Left A, B, C, (D), followed by Right A, B, C, (D)
This will be followed in the braid by Left A, B, C etc.
(keeps repeating down the braid)
The color that follows the little finger’s color (or other lowest loop) will be the color on the index finger of the other hand—the highest loop of the other hand.
If you know the color-order you want in your braid, follow the sequence above in placing the loops onto your fingers at the start of braiding. In each column of your braid, the colors will follow each other in that order.
Say you want to set up for a 7-loop braid of light-to-dark blues:
Put the lightest blue loop on the left index, or A-finger.
Then keep loading slightly darker loops onto B, then C, and then D.
The next-darker blue loop goes on the right hand’s A-finger.
You might keep going with darker blues all the way to a midnight blue on the last loop.
Or you might want to make the last loop or two a contrast color like gold or red…Or maybe you want a gradation of 4 light-to-dark blues followed by a gradation of 3 light-to-dark yellows… etc etc!
Once you know the loop sequence on your fingers, you can plan any color sequence you want. Also, you can look at a braid you’ve already made, and probably be able to figure out how to reproduce it—just count the colors down any of the 4 vertical columns (ridges) of the braid, and then mount those loops onto your fingers in the order I show above.
(Planning gets more complicated when you use bicolor loops. A bicolor loop’s two colors will alternate at every point in the braiding cycle where the loop is turned. When planning color-patterns with bicolor loops, be prepared for surprises!)
9 and 11-loop braids’ color-order
Left: Thumb, A, B, C, D, (D-high)
Right: Thumb, A, B, C, D, (D-high)
For A-fell and Slentre square and flat braids, it’s the opposite order: D, C, B, A of one hand, followed by D, C, B, A of the other hand. For planning purposes that doesn’t make a big difference. If you used the V-fell order to set up an A-fell braid, the color pattern would just map onto the braid heading UP the braid instead of down the braid.
Double braids (2-worker braids), and other braids with more than 2 loop transfers per braiding cycle, do not necessarily rotate around the fingers in either the A or the V-fell order. The 7-loop Spanish braid of some of my earlier posts, for example has a very different loop sequence than an A- or V-fell braid. If you want a particular color-sequence in that braid, you’ll first need to figure out the order of the loop movements. [or see below] This is the order that the loops all rotate onto any one finger, or most visibly, the order in which they will move from one hand to the other. Each of the loops will follow each other and make that “jump” across from left to right in the same, constantly repeating order, including the loops that are currently on the right hand.
Color / loop sequence for the 7-loop Spanish braid (as taught on this blog—if you do the loop transfers in a different order than I do, the color sequence will probably be different, too.) This 7-loop braid is the component braid of the 14-loop Letter braid:
Ld (little finger), a, b; then Rd, c, a, b
Or, if you prefer to start counting with the Right hand’s loops:
Rd, c, a, b; then Ld, a, b
If you wanted to set up, say, a loop sequence of light-to-dark shades of blue as a color-pattern for this braid, you would follow the sequence above when placing the loops on your fingers at the start of braiding. So you would put the lightest blue on Left d, and then darker and darker loops on La, b, and Right d, c, a, b. The sequence is circular, so it is actually identical in both options above.
In fact you could put your “first”/ lightest loop on any of these fingers. But it might seem a little strange if you didn’t start with a d-finger!
Here’s how the loops follow each other if you started with the Left a-finger (the first loop that will be transferred, but not the first loop that will move to the other hand):
Left a, b, Right d, c, a, b, Left d
To me it seems easier to start the sequence with the loop that will be the first one to move over to the other hand—in this braid, one of the d-loops. That way, you can load all the loops of one hand before moving on to the loops of the other hand.
Color / loop sequence for an 8-loop double braid—as taught on my blog (if you do the loop transfers in a different order than I teach, the loop order/ color order would be different, too):
1st: Lb (middle finger loop is first!),
2nd: a (index),
3rd: c (ring finger),
4th: d (little finger);
Followed by the same order of loops on the other hand:
5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th: Rb, a, c, d (middle, index, ring, little finger).
Here is Dan Gaiser’s photo of an 8-loop flat double braid, showing two different patterns, that he kindly allowed me to share:
I started out with solid color loops, alternating blue, white, blue, white on one hand and all light blue-grey on the other. Somewhere along the way the order got switched and the whites were together. The accident made a nice braid.
Accidents make the best patterns! I like both patterns, myself, though in these fairly light colors the pattern with all the whites together works much better, definitely stands out more.
But if you look closely at the middle-top section, I think that’s a very nice pattern too, where the blue is outlined with white. The original color/ loop order in the braid was: white, blue, blue, white, followed by the 4 blue-grey loops.
Dan’s first pattern:
As listed above the loop/ color order for this braid is:
followed by: Rb, Ra, Rc, Rd
On the hands, that order would be set up with the first white on the left B finger, the second color (blue) on the left A finger, the 3rd color (blue) on left C, and the 4th color (white) on D. And 4 blue-grey loops on the right hand.
Here’s how that looks on the two hands, from the a-finger to the d-finger
Left: A blue, B white, C blue, D white
Right: A, B, C, D blue-grey
This order looks like alternating blue, white, blue, white (on the left hand)! But it won’t look that way in the braid, because the B-finger is first in the sequence, not the A-finger. (It holds the first loop that will go over to the other hand, to be followed in the next successive cycle by the loop now on the A-finger).
Dan’s second pattern:
Left: A and B blue, C and D white
Right: A, B, C, D: blue-grey
Thanks for sharing the photo, Dan!
© 2011-2013 Ingrid Crickmore
I’ve found that a really good way to get ideas for colors and patterns is to look at other people’s braids! I know this sounds very unoriginal, but actually I think it jolts me out of my ruts and opens my eyes to new possibilities.
I like many different types of color combinations, but with braiding I tend to get stuck in certain ones. I have gotten a lot of ideas for new color combinations from other braiders, including first-time braiders using yarn and colors I had provided—but putting them together in ways that never occurred to me.
Braids are so small compared to larger textiles, or paintings, clothing etc. This means that colors that would stand out separately in a larger piece will not necessarily contrast as much in a braid. Which can be nice! But may initially be a surprise/ disappointment to the braider expecting that pink and light blue would stand out from each other more than they do in a braid.
I used to quilt, and I loved piecing together interesting and unusual color combinations. But with braids, I find I tend to stick to my tried-and-true color combos, and just assume that, say, close shades won’t work well together. Or that a “jumble” of many different colors won’t work, either. I guess it’s because I am so interested in the structure of braids, and a simple, but high-contrast color scheme tends to emphasize the structure.
Then along comes a student who makes a wild rainbow braid and lo and behold I love it! Or one who puts several very subtle, close pale colors together and gets a shimmery, subtle braid like nothing I’ve made before. These have been great lessons for me (that I still have trouble remembering!).
Janis Saunders of BraidersHand and WeaversHand reminded me last month of a really good way to expand your color range: Try using a color that you think you hate. An “ugly” color can sometimes be fantastic in combination with another color or colors. This is something that I loved to do when I was into quilting/ piecing fabric (to me, combinations of just “pretty” colors get a little boring in quilts).
Making a braid for someone whose favorite color is one you rarely use yourself is one way to stretch your color-appreciation. I’ve been participating in the Braid Society’s swaps and other activities—these sometimes have a color theme. “Black and white”/ “citrus”/ “just white”/ “rainbow girl” have been some recent color themes. Some of these were easy for me and others were a real stretch.
I’ve always tended to use highly contrasting colors in my braids. One of the things that I’ve been noticing lately in other people’s braids is how gorgeous a braid can be with subtle, close colors that merge together. Here’s an example:
It’s a kumihimo braid, not loop-braided, but that has nothing to do with why the colors work so well—that’s due to the aesthetic of the braider. The knotted finishings are beautiful, too.
These photos make me want to take a new look at my braiding materials and see if I can come up with some subtle color combos!
It might seem strange to suggest this in a post about color patterns, but it can also be very interesting to make a braid in one solid color. Particularly if it’s a lightish color, you’ll really notice the texture of the braid structure, and of the type of yarn or thread you use.
The tiny 9-loop tan-colored square braid in this photo is made out of linen shoemaker’s thread and I love the way it feels—it’s almost like quicksilver, incredibly light and supple. It doesn’t come across well in this photo, but I also love the color. I think it may be the natural color of the linen. It sometimes looks brownish, sometimes greenish, and has a great luster. Linen and hemp braids have a wonderful bounce and softness after you wash them, and seem to get better with age (unlike cotton!). Both these braids are well-worn hat-strings.
Another fun thing to try is an almost-one color braid with just one contrast-color loop. Or maybe one loop that is bicolor—with one shank the same color as the rest of the braid, and a contrast color for the other shank. In the same vein, if I’ve been making a lot of braids with bright colors it’s nice to shift gears and make some with just 2 natural, undyed-looking colors—a light and a dark shade.
I’d love to have a bigger gallery of color ideas for braids from readers. If you have links or pictures you’d like to share, please leave a note.
* For this type of flat bicolor braid, it takes 10 whole cycles (20 loop transfers), for the bicolor loops to return to the same fingers with the original shank-color facing up—the first time around the loop will come back to its starting position finger with the opposite shank-color facing up.
**This type of pattern is great for 7- and 9-loop square braids. It might not work as well with 11 loops. I find that one loop by itself—like these single black loops surrounded by other colors—can occasionally sink into an 11-loop square braid’s surface and briefly disappear, which makes the pattern a little spotty.
[Since making this blog post, I've noticed that my caveat above about 11-loop braids is not always true. It seems to depend on the type of yarn or thread—it's mostly a problem with fine, thin, slippery thread like silk buttonhole twist, or fine linen, and especially when using a mix of fiber types. Most of the 11-loop square braids I've ever made have been with these types of thread! But in my 11-loop tutorial video's braid, the single contrasting white loop never "disappeared"—stood out crisply throughout the braid. All the loops in that braid were of sport-weight mercerized cotton.]
© 2011–2013 Ingrid Crickmore
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