So far, most of my loop braiding tutorials teach braids, or methods, that aren’t taught anywhere else. These include very basic beginning level tutorials, and range up to some that might seem ridiculously difficult before you’ve “worked up” to them. (Check out my tutorials page.) But there are lots of other great loop braids that you can find instructions for online.
Except for the basic square braid, I first learned classic 15th and 17th C. loop braids from a site officially called Fingerloop Braiding. Most people seem to call it “fingerloop.org,” after its URL. I have a permanent link to it in my sidebar, under “Loop Braiding Links.” On their homepage go to their link “the braid patterns.”
Above is a really fun 15th C. braid called Grene dorge, (spelled in many ways), which means Barleycorn. The braiding moves incorporate the moves of a square braid and the moves for a Spiral braid. This one is made out of navy-colored wool (the square braid part), and orange and white silk yarn (the “spiral” move part).
This braid can also be made double-width by two people co-operating on one braid, or by one braider managing a lot of extra loops (the ‘Grene Dorge of 12 bows’—seventh braid from the left in my header picture).
Fingerloop.org is a real treasure, a very generous offering by Lois Swales and Zoe Kuhn-Williams, the site-authors.
My first year or so of braiding I spent making 9-loop square and flat braids, and learning a whole bunch of fun braids of up to 8 loops from fingerloop.org.
The first photo in this post is of a page from my binder of braid samples from back then.
On fingerloop.org’s Braid Patterns page, the braids are organized by difficulty, easiest first. Each braid instruction is first shown in the original archaic wording, and then in a word-for-word translation—which still comes out a bit different from modern English.
Last—and best for learning the braid—comes a complete set of directions by the authors along with a chart of the moves. Usually there is a photo of a sample braid as well.
(I recommend following the sequence given and trying them all. It is really well-organized for learning these braids.)
Check out their new (since I first learned) introductory video, and don’t be scared off by the directions for the various braids, once you get down to them. Abbreviations always look opaque and unreadable at first glance, but these are actually very easy to follow. Especially after you’ve made the first braid. All you need to know:
A, B, C, D mean index, middle, ring and little fingers (or the loop on that finger). And L means left hand and R means right hand.
On fingerloop.org they are combined like this:
AL means the index finger of the left hand (or its loop)
DR means the little finger of the right hand (or its loop)
Right or left always comes second and is underlined.
Oh–and two other terms: Reversed means “with a turn” or “turn the loop”
and “Unreversed” means the loop does not get a turn.
The little video on fingerloop.org’s “basic braiding instructions” link shows loops being taken ‘reversed’ (the loop gets a half-turn as it passes over to the other hand).
As to why “their” way looks different than “my” way of loop braiding: Fingerloop.org (and just about everyone else in print or online) teaches the basic braids in a “backward” direction from how I teach them. (Or else it’s me, along with the braiders in Asia and the Pacific, that are backward.) The way they do it, the index finger is the “getter,” and it reaches through the loops of its own hand to fetch the opposite hand’s c- or d-loop. This is not hard to learn, even if you’ve already learned the opposite method I teach on this blog. The two ways are easy, interesting, and will teach you how to undo the braids you’ve learned here, and vice versa—good for quickly correcting a mistake. (If you want to know more about these two opposite ways of braiding the same braids, see my info page about the A-fell, V-fell, and Slentre methods.)
There are also some great braids that are made by completely different methods, like the Spiral braids (video links for these are at the bottom of my tutorials page). Fingerloop.org also teaches this braid. The 15th C term for the Spiral braid is “lace bend round.” There are other cool braids made with the lace bend round type of braiding.
Also the Hollow Lace [braid] of 7 bows [loops], along with its several variations, has its own odd and oddly pleasant method, which is very different from the “regular” square braid methods. Plus several other great braids—all the twined braids like the 2 ‘Lace Endented’ braids on the right side of my second photo…
Just keep calm and remember your A, B, C, D + L and R and you’ll do fine!
It really is pretty amazing how many beautiful little braids people had figured out in the 15th and 17th Centuries. The braids I mention above are just some of the ones that could be made by a solo braider. I’m not even getting into any of the amazing multiple-braider braids—the 17th C manuscripts had over 20 of these. (Fingerloop.org teaches some of these, too).
If you get really interested in these braids you may want to consider getting the “big book” —the ultimate reference on loop braiding in general and on all the braid instructions in all the 15th and 17th C manuscripts (known as of 1999): Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding, by Noemi Speiser. It costs in the $55 -$60 range. I love this book—I keep learning more from it all the time.
There is another book out that covers all the braids in one of the 15th C manuscripts—which is a lot of braids. I don’t have it yet, but I want it. The cover is gorgeous, and I’ve read great things about the book, including that it is more approachable and easier to learn from than Old English Pattern Books:
Tak V Bowes, Departed by Elizabeth Benns and Gina Barrett. It’s less pricey than OEPBforLB, $36 currently. (U.S.A. listing here, carried in some textile-oriented bookstores). Its glossy, full-color illustrations give a lot of incentive for learning the braids! Since I already have OEPBforLB, I’ve dragged my feet about buying Tak V (pronounced ‘Take Five’), but I hear very positive reports about it, and often meet people who have learned loop braiding from it.
By the way, “Tak V bowes, departed” translates as “Take 5 loops, bicolor.” These are words that begin more than one 15th C. braid instruction!
Fingerloop.org’s info is available in print as a very handy and extremely inexpensive booklet (see their homepage). I think it’s not quite as complete as the website—the whole lower section of braids in the “Braid Patterns” were added to the website later (be sure to check that section, it has some pretty single-worker braids). Although maybe the booklet has been revised since I got mine. Check the “errata” for the booklet on their home page.
Apr 26, 2012
[update: See my more recent post for another great loop braiding site with instructions]