Doug’s braid

[A more recent post has a video for learning this braid, and a new color pattern for it, but this original post has the text tutorial , and includes more color pattern set-ups. NEW: I just spelled out the color-pattern setups for all the braids in the photos, see below the braiding method.]

Over 6 months ago Douglas Grant sent me instructions for a braid he had come up with. I meant to try it right away, but somehow it’s taken me this long to get around to it. I’m glad I finally did!

round "spanish" finger loop braid

(1) Spiaggian Eagle braid, designed by Douglas Grant

The braid is an unusual variation of a 7-loop spanish braid, with extra twists that cause the braid’s shape to end up firmly rounded rather than rectangular in cross-section.  In some color patterns, the braid looks more square than round.

finger loop braiding, 7 loop round 'spanish' braid, embroidery floss and rayon thread

(2) Same braid structure, different colors: 5 bicolor loops + 2 single-color loops (doubled embroidery floss and rayon thread)

Like the 7-loop spanish braid, it has 8 lengthwise columns, or ridges, of slanting threads rather than the 4 of a basic square braid. This braid was a big surprise to me!  First because it would never have occurred to me to try making the loop transfers this way, and secondly, because instead of being “wonky,” the result is wonderful!

round "spanish" finger loop braid

(3) Both braids made with embroidery floss. Upper braid with doubled strands, lower braid with single strands.

None of the several “normal” shape-variations that can be made with the 7-loop spanish braid are round or square.*  Apparently, the twists in Doug’s variation add bulk to the center of the braid, without causing any obvious surface irregularity.  Without the twists/linkings, this braid would be rectangular in cross-section, with a slight groove into each of the two edges.

round 7-loop spanish finger loop braid bracelet

Doug did not intentionally base his braid on the spanish braid. He makes the braid with quite a different order of operations than the braid in my tutorial for the 7-loop spanish braid.  He just came up with it, somehow. This is a little bit mind-boggling! Spanish braids are twice as complex as a square braid. (They have 4 loop transfers per braiding cycle as opposed to two.)  They are not a type of braid I would expect someone to just “come up with!”

round "spanish" loop braids, bicolor patterns

(5) Bicolor variations on Doug’s braid: Upper braid 6 bicolor loops, 1 single-color purple loop. Lower 2 braids have 7 bicolor loops. Lowest has the “one-loop-wrong” pattern. Middle braid has various patterns, including “Edge.” Cotton yarn (elann.com “Lara”)

Doug calls the color-pattern of the white/purple/black braid in the first photo the Spiaggian Eagle braid, based on the eagle-like shape of the white areas, and the name of his shire in the SCA. SCA stands for Society for Creative Anachronism, an international Medieval-period reenactment society—this is probably the main group promoting and practicing loop braiding today, at least in the West.**

I’ve noticed a similar eagle-like pattern in other spanish and double braids.*** See the first braid (black, orange, gold) in the upper right in the photo below, also the flat version of this braid in the center—eighth from the upper right. These are 8-loop double braids, but 7-loop spanish braids are very similar.  (If you click on the photo to enlarge it, the eagle motifs will be more visible.)

finger loop braiding, 8-Loop Double Braids

(Not Doug’s braid here, these are 8-loop double braids–some with eagle-like designs.)

Doug uses slightly different braiding moves, but the exact same braid can be made by following the written directions in my earlier tutorial for the 7-loop spanish braid, with one basic change:

In each loop transfer, the transferred loop is pulled through one more loop than the directions in my earlier tutorial called for. (This is what causes the unusual twisting/ linking of loops within the braid.)

Text instructions follow for the way I make Doug’s braid. A video tutorial is here, in a more recent post.
(Click here for the text tutorial for Doug’s preferred method for making this braid.)

Don’t pick this as your first loop braid—see my tutorials page for my intro tutorials, and learn the 7-loop square braid, and 7-loop Spanish braid before this one.

Doug’s Braid, my method:

Start with the left hand’s 3 loops on A, B, C-fingers. No loop on D.
The right hand holds 4 loops, one each on A, B, C, D.

1st loop transfer:
Right A-finger goes through left C and B and takes left A (with no turn/open/ unreversed) and places it onto left D.  Then the left B-loop shifts up to the A-finger, leaving B free of loops.

2nd loop transfer:
Left B reaches through neighboring C and D, and through the right hand’s D-loop, to take C of the right hand (with a turn/ reversed/ crossed).  Right D then shifts up to the empty C-finger.

Tighten loops.

3rd loop transfer:
Left A-finger goes through right C and B and takes right A (with no turn/open/ unreversed) and places it onto right D.  Then the right B-loop shifts up to the A-finger, leaving B free of loops.

4th loop transfer:
Right B reaches through neighboring C and D, and through the left hand’s D-loop, to take C of the left hand (with a turn/ reversed/ crossed).  Left D then shifts up to the empty C-finger.

Tighten loops.

One braiding cycle done.

Note 1:  Shifts should not be aided by the other hand—when a loop is shifted, or “walks,” the finger next to it is simply inserted and the original finger is removed.

Note 2:  An almost identical braid can also be made by turning/reversing ALL the transfers. With bicolor loops, turning all the transfers will give very different pattern results  than those that I describe here (including some pretty ones!). With single-color loops, the color patterns will not change if all loop transfers are turned. I think the original version “lies” a bit better, but the difference is very slight.

[Doug's method for doing the loop transfers is very different—or rather, mine is very different than his!  If you don't like using your middle finger to fetch loops, you might prefer his way. It involves holding two loops on the middle finger, though, so one difficulty is substituted for another one.]

To get the eagle motif (first photo), use single-colored loops, not bicolor loops. Pick the color you want for your eagle shape (I used white), and set 3 loops of that color together according to the sequence I show below. It’s easiest (but not required) to put them all on the hand that holds only 3 loops. You can actually put them on any three fingers that follow each other in the list below.

Take note: “In a row” on this list might not look like “in a row” on your hands!

For setting up the colors onto the fingers in the order you want them to follow in the braid, the finger sequence is:

1. Lc
2. La
3. Lb

4. Rc
5. Rd
6. Ra
7. Rb  (followed by  Lc,  La,  Lb,  …)

(see my Color Pattern-Planning post for more about color sequencing.)

The Spiaggian Eagle pattern (first photo in post) has 3 white loops, followed by purple, black, purple, black. That’s how I did it, anyway—Doug may have intended the sequence to be “black, purple, black, purple”. It’s easiest to place the three white loops on the hand that only holds three loops. That way, it doesn’t matter what their order is on those fingers.

Left: A,B,C all white
Right: A purple, B black, C purple, D black

My two red and white versions of this eagle pattern (photo 3) have 3 white loops for the eagle shape, and a gradation of 4 red loops of different shades. Again, it’s simplest (though not required) to start by setting the 3 white loops on the hand with only three loops. If you want  a dark-to-light order in the red loops in the braid, be sure to follow the finger order shown in the list above when setting up the 4 dark-to-light shades of red onto the rest of the fingers.

Left: A,B,C all white
Right: (reds) A next-to-lightest, B lightest, C darkest, D next-to-darkest

Bicolor patterns in 5th photo:
To get the lengthwise dark and light striped “Edge” pattern (middle of middle braid), use bicolor loops of 2 colors—one dark and one light, and start braiding with the light shanks in “upper” position on one hand, and the dark shanks in “upper” position on the other hand. Check after each loop transfer to make sure that this color distribution hasn’t changed. This is a great pattern to practice the braid with, since you can see right away if you made a mistake in turning or not turning the transferring loop. If you do make a mistake, you will probably find yourself making the following color pattern!

To get the pretty “one-loop-wrong” pattern (lowest of the 3 braids, red and white), set the loops up as for the Edge pattern above, but on just one hand place one loop so that it’s contrary—light and dark shanks in the opposite order from its neighboring loops.

For the upper of the 3 bicolor braids (the purple + white braid), use 6 bicolor purple+white loops and one all-purple loop. Set up the loops as for the Edge pattern. The all-purple loop can be on any finger.

The purple, black and gold bracelet (photo 2) has 5 bicolor purple+black loops set up as for the Edge pattern, and two single-color gold loops. These need to be next to each other in the sequence I show above. For example, the two gold loops could be placed on Lc and La. Or they could be on Lc and Rb. Those pairs of fingers aren’t next to each other on your hands, but their loops are next to each other in this braid!  Of course, putting the 2 gold loops on La and Lb would also work, and would “look” right on the fingers, too.

Note:  Bicolor patterns require being very consistent with turning and not turning the transfers. This is not as important for the patterns with only single-colored loops—a mixup might affect the shape of the braid at that point, but not the color-pattern.

(Next I want to try my last pattern with just one gold loop, and also with 3 in a row—I think they might all look quite different!)

—————Notes————————————————-

*Spanish braids are essentially reduced double braids, and there is one other double braid variation that is round, but it looks totally different. And it doesn’t turn out well with fewer than 8 loops. That one is a double tube in shape—like one thin, flat braided tube surrounding another one. (2nd and 3rd braids from the upper right in the photo above.)

**Loop braiding as an unbroken tradition keeps turning up in parts of Asia and the South Pacific—as well as in South America, which is part of “the West,” come to think of it.  See L-MBRIC for references. In Europe and North America it’s mostly a revived technique—recently resurrected from 15th and 17th C. English loop braiding manuscripts.

*** Doug’s eagle forms in the opposite direction from the eagles on my double braids.  That’s because his braid, like the 7-loop spanish braid of my earlier post, grows on a VV-shaped fell, whereas I tend to make my double braids on an AA-shaped fell. Either way is possible. The resulting braids come out “upside-down” from each other.

————Doug’s method———————————-

These moves might seem quite different than my method (above), but they accomplish the same interlacing of loops. I prefer to follow the way that I’m already used to making the Spanish braid. Doug finds his original way easier than mine, and you may, too:

Start with 3 loops on the right hand on  B, C and D-fingers. No loop on A.
The left hand holds 4 loops, one each on A, B, C, D.

1st loop transfer:
Right A reaches OVER (not through) the right B-loop, then through right C and D, and through the left hand’s D-loop as well, to take C of the left hand (with a turn/ reversed/ crossed).
Left D then shifts up to the empty C-finger.

Tighten loops.

2nd loop transfer:
Move left A-loop onto left B, above the loop already there (i.e. put it closer to the tip of the finger).
Right A goes through left C and upper loop on B, takes lower B-loop through both loops and places it on left D (with no turn/ unreversed).

3rd loop transfer:
Left A reaches OVER (not through) left B, then through left C and D, and through the right hand’s D-loop as well, to take C of the right hand (with a turn/ reversed/ crossed).
Right D then shifts up to the empty C-finger.

Tighten loops.

4th loop transfer:
Move right A-loop onto right B, above the loop already there.
Left A goes through right C and upper loop on B, takes lower B-loop through both loops and places it on right D (with no turn/ unreversed).

One braiding cycle done.

Note 1:  Shifts should not be aided by the other hand—when a loop is shifted, or “walks,” the finger next to it is simply inserted and the original finger is removed.

Note 2:  Doug reports that taking the lower B-loop through the upper one gets very easy with practice. He says it helps to slightly relax the tension of the loops just before pulling it through. He also inserts the neighboring A-finger (of the same hand) into the upper B-loop—holding the upper B-loop around both B and A, while the lower B-loop is pulled through—after which the helper-A-finger is removed. This ensures that the upper B-loop doesn’t “come with.”

Note 3:  An almost identical braid can also be made by turning/reversing ALL the transfers. With bicolor loops, turning all the transfers will give very different pattern results  than those that I describe here (including some pretty ones!).  With single-color loops, the color patterns will not change if all loop transfers are turned. I think the original version “lies” a bit better, but the difference is very slight.

When following Doug’s method, you need to set the colors onto the fingers in a different order than the one I showed above (the A and B loops are switched in the two methods). For Doug’s version the loop sequence on the fingers is:

1. Lc
2. Ld
3. Lb
4.
La

5. Rc
6. Rd
7. Rb  (followed by Lc, Ld, Lb, …)

See my color pattern notes above. Just be sure to load the colors onto the fingers by following the order I show here if you are using Doug’s method. (If 3 loops of one color are to be together, it’s most straightforward to start with them all on the right hand—that way you won’t need to think about their order on that hand.)

—–[Obsessive structural musings beyond this point!]————-

I haven’t seen other loop braids in which loops link around other loops in this way. You can see the linking—at the end of every cycle a middle finger loop of one hand is linked around the C-finger loop of the other hand (at the fell of the braid, after tightening). That C-finger loop is actually following the middle-finger loop it is linked around—it will be the next loop to come over to the other hand, by which time it will also be linked around the next loop in the braid sequence.

The linking occurs because in each loop transfer, the taken loop is pulled through one more loop than it ‘ought’ to be pulled through (for a 7-loop braid of 4 loop transfers in one braiding cycle).

I sometimes use another kind of linking of loops in a braid. That is where 2 loops that would normally cross each other, are instead linked around each other, in order to send each one back in the opposite direction. The only purpose for doing this is to keep certain colors in one area of the braid. This is done in all kinds of braiding—free-end braiding, kumihimo, etc—including some of the loop braids in the old English manuscripts. (I did it a lot in the orange, yellow, and brown braid in my right sidebar.  →)

In Doug’s braid, though, all the strands keep traveling across the whole braid. And the linking in this braid doesn’t connect two loops that are at the same level of the braid, it links loops vertically, to the preceding and following loop, in a continuous chain of linked loops. It almost reminds me of a vertical column of knit stitches. (The column in which a ‘run’ can occur—where each stitch is linked onto the stitch below and the stitch above.)

At this point in the braid, two successive and parallel strands—like two parallel weft threads in a weaving—are linked around each other, rather than moving only in parallel the way they ‘ought’ to in a normal braid. This verges on being knotting rather than braiding! It makes sense to me that these links would create a thickening of the braid where they line up. I wonder if this structure is so different that Noémi Speiser would be amused (or horrified!) that I’ve been calling the braid a “spanish” braid!

You can see one slight oddness in the surface structure. Where the loops link around each other, the two lengthwise ridges that form at that junction (on both sides of the braid, so 4 ridges altogether) have the opposite slants than they would have in a normal spanish braid with no linking of loops.  That is, the slants of the threads forming the ridges lean in the opposite direction than normal. This creates interesting patterns in the finished braid.


© 2012–2014 Ingrid Crickmore
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