A reader of this blog has come up with the first interactive braid-pattern generator for a fingerloop braid that I’ve ever heard of! A few months ago Gary Mitchell contacted me to tell me that he was working on a pattern planner for the 7-loop Spanish braid.
This was a huge surprise! I didn’t think many braiders had even tried the tutorial I had posted for this braid. I learned this 17th C. loop braid from a recent monograph by Joy Boutrup,*1 and last year I posted a video-tutorial on it. It is a really fun braid, flatter and more intricate than the 7-loop square braid, but requiring no more loops (or fingers) to braid it.
Other than that monograph and my tutorial, so far there is no other info in print or online about this braid. I never got much response to the tutorial, even after I added a video to the instructions. Before Gary contacted me, Dominic was the only reader I knew of who had tried the braid—here are two photos of his spanish braid bracelet, in what I call the “Edge” color-pattern (along with a beautiful star knot fastener):
So I was completely blown away to find out that someone else had not only tried it, but had figured out a mathematical model for planning color patterns for it!
When Gary first contacted me, he sent me some charts of patterns that he had come up with using his planner. I had a lot of fun—and a few surprises—trying these out. I guess I had somehow assumed that I had already tried out most of the 2-color pattern possibilities for this braid!*2
The very first of Gary’s patterns that I braided was a stunner, and was quite different from any of the sampler patterns I had made previously. What I really like about it is that the upper and lower surface of the braid have totally different patterns, both very striking. Below is a shot of how it looks charted out on Gary’s planner (the finished braid looks even better than the chart):
The image above is just a screen shot, not the planner itself, but Gary’s planner is now on-line and interactive! The patterns can even be printed out. Gary says the planner is still a work-in-progress, but it’s totally functional—all that’s missing are labels for its various parts, so I’ll explain them below.
Gary’s interactive pattern-planner (Click on “submit” on the first page to go straight to the planner)
So far it is set up for two-color patterns only—which, to me, are the most important. In a narrow piece like a 7-loop braid, the dark-light contrast is often the most visible pattern, regardless of how many colors you use.
The default tile colors are black and white, but you can change either of these to blue, red, or green. (Gary has provided some static, non-interactive charts of multicolor patterns as well, see below.)
The planner can be used in two different ways:
Every possible dark-light color pattern already has an I.D. number in this planner, so you can enter any number from 1 to 596 on the first page of the planner, and then click “submit” to go to the planner’s interactive chart of that particular color pattern. (There’s a default number already entered, so you don’t actually have to enter a number—just hit “submit” to go straight to a chart.)
Or, if you want to start with a blank slate to make your own pattern from scratch, you can enter “1″ before clicking “submit,” which will give you a chart of an all-dark, one-color braid that you can then alter as you wish, just by clicking on any of the tiles.
When I first did this, I thought the planner wasn’t working, because the cursor doesn’t change when you hover over or click on a tile, so at first I thought nothing was happening. But sure enough, a millisecond later, the chart had altered to reflect that change in the tile.
Since any pattern you come up with has its own Braid ID number, you can simply make a note of the number of any pattern, and enter it into the planner later to see it again. Or you can print out the chart for any of the patterns. I enabled “print background” as suggested, so the white tiles would be set off from the background. This is under “file”, then “page setup” on my browser’s toolbar.
The chart shows a tiled representation of the upper surface, lower surface, and one side surface of the braid, and—at the lower left corner—2 short columns of tiles (one column for each hand) that show a possible starting set-up of loops on the fingers for that particular braid pattern.*3
Left column = left hand’s loops; Right column = right hand’s loops
In these two columns, each pair of tiles represents the upper and lower shanks of the loop on that finger—so this planner works for bicolor loops! For a loop of one color, be sure to set both tiles of the pair to be the same color.
At the start of braiding the left hand holds only three loops. So, in the left column you will see a blank space for the ring finger, since it holds no loop.
Counting from the top of each column, the fingers are Index, Middle, (Ring), Little finger
[btw, you don't have to pay any attention to the letters on the tiles to use these charts. In case you are interested: Gary labels the loops from the left index down as P, Q, (no code for the Left ring finger), R; and the right loops from the index down as S, T, U, V. The second letter is U or L, meaning the upper or lower shank of the loop. This system saves him from having to label the tiles with Left and Right. The codes correlate any shank of a loop in the finger-columns to where that shank ends up displaying on the braid.]
Whichever chart you start with, you can then “play” with that pattern. Clicking on any of the tiles will switch it to the opposite color—and the whole braid will change to reflect that, including the starting set-up on the fingers at the lower left.
This planner is specifically for the braid taught in my first tutorial on the spanish braid. The planner will not work for other variations of this braid, like Doug’s round variation, or the flat variation of this spanish braid (I’m planning to make a video tutorial for the flat, wide variation of this braid in the near future).
Note: Any two patterns that are just dark/ light reversals of each other (darks and lights flipped) have the same pattern id # in this planner (one will display with REV next to the number). To make the “opposite” graph for any pattern, just use the “REV” button:
New info: Gary has just added some great features to his planner. At the lower right of the charting page, there are now buttons you can click on to reverse the darks and lights (REV), switch the upper and lower surface’s patterns (SX), and—my favorite!—you can click + or – to go forward or backward through all seven cycles of each pattern repeat! (This will show you all seven possible starting setups of loops on the fingers for each pattern. This is worth checking! One of these possible alternative starting setups for the same braid pattern might be much more “user-friendly” than the first one the planner automatically generates.)
Some multi-color patterns from Gary:
These are static charts, showing a few multicolor patterns that Gary has come up with, using 3-5 colors. The first two designs are multicolor variations of the Edge pattern (see Dominic’s bracelet pic above). In all 5 of the patterns, all the loops are bicolor. In charts u006 and u007 very few of these bicolor loops are identical—pay close attention in cutting and setting up your loops!
Why the top and bottom surfaces look different:
The two long diagonal stretches of tiles represent the upper and lower surfaces of the braid, and the narrow diagonal line of tiles between them represents one side surface of the braid.
[Most of the following probably falls under the category of "TMI"!--it is not necessary info for making the braid or for following the charts. I'm just throwing it in for those who may be interested...]
You might notice that the top surface is configured with longer central tiles than the bottom surface. Gary chose to do this in order to reflect a visible difference in the appearance of the two sides of the finished braids. One surface of the braid is always wider, depending on which direction you turn the loops. Turning loops from below, as I did in the video, will cause the upper surface to be wider. Turning them from above (as I did in my square braid videos) will cause the lower surface to be wider. Both ways make the resulting braid curve a bit—end up a bit convex/ concave. This affects the look of the pattern on the two surfaces. (Gary’s planner assumes the “turns-from-below” method that I demoed in the 7-loop spanish video.)
Plus, in braids that have any bicolor loops, the color patterns of the two surfaces can already be very different, even before taking into account the distortion caused by the size difference between the two surfaces.
Because of this, it can be interesting to try any pattern with bicolor loops twice, to see what the upper and lower surface patterns look like when the narrow side and the wide side are switched…In other words, switched so that the pattern on the narrower side is expressed on the wider surface. It can make a much bigger difference in appearance than you might expect… There are two ways to do this: you can either make the turns in the reverse direction, OR you can reverse the ‘up’ and ‘down’ orientation of the bicolor loops on your fingers in the starting set-up. Either option will have the same result (though with a different surface facing upward as you braid): the pattern currently shown on the planner as being the “lower” (ie shorter-tile) surface will instead form on the “longer-tile” surface—whether that surface happens to face upward or downward as you are making the braid.*4
How to make the two surfaces more equal: To further confuse the issue!—if you make the outer transfers (1st and 3rd loop transfers) by turning from above, and the inner transfers (2nd and 4th) by turning from below, neither surface will be wider overall, and the resulting braid shape will be quite straight and rectangular, rather than slightly convex.*5
I really like this flatter, more square-edged version of the braid. Gary and I both arrived at this “mixed” turns idea in discussing the upper – lower surface discrepancy in the spanish braid. It feels a bit odd to do at first, but quickly becomes routine, and gives a very nice result. In braiding this way, the two surfaces of the braid will not have the same type of size difference as shown in Gary’s charts. But, except for tile-size, the patterns on the two surfaces of the braid will still match those shown on the charts.
Gary has expanded his site to include links to more braid planners. The link in my post above still works, but it’s now part of a larger site. Gary’s new homepage includes that link, and also includes links to new and in-progress braid planners. One is a planner for the flatter “mixed turns” version of this Seven-loop Spanish braid. It’s basically the same as the original planner but with the size of the tiles slightly readjusted.
The 14-loop letterbraid:
This 7-loop braid was actually described in the 17th C. manuscripts as one half of a 2-person, 14-loop braid that could be made with alphabet and other symbols to form braided inscriptions. It’s one of three known “letterbraids” notated in 17th C. English manuscripts that have now all been decoded by Joy Boutrup. (The other two letter-braids are both 10-loops braids.)
*1 This so-called “spanish” braid is a 17th Century braid that Joy Boutrup recently decoded from (up-to-now) almost unintelligible notations in 300-year-old English loop braiding manuscripts. I learned the braid from the monograph that she and Noémi Speiser published in 2009—part II of their 4-part series on recent European loop braiding historical research and discoveries.
*3 Most patterns actually have several different possible starting set-ups. (my post on color-pattern planning explains this.) In my tutorial for the spanish braid, I gave a different starting set-up than this planner does for #595—the “lopsided crowns” pattern—but either set-up creates the same pattern. The set-up I gave for this pattern was to start with all the dark shanks in upper position on the fingers, and all the light shanks in lower position (or vice versa). If you click + or – on the planner to go through the seven loop-set ups for this braid, you will see the all-dark-up and all-light-up starting set-ups. To me, these are the most user-friendly set-ups for loading the loops onto your fingers for this pattern.
[new: Gary's planner now has + and - buttons that will show each successive set-up of loops on the fingers—which is also the way the loops will look on your fingers after each successive braiding cycle! This could be very helpful for checking to see if you have made a mistake---if the loops are in an incorrect order on your fingers. It is also helpful if you want to find a more "user-friendly" initial color set-up than the one the planner happens to show first. Any of the 7 successive set-ups can be used to start the braid.]
*4 In Gary’s planner, any 2 loop set-ups that result in the same pattern, but with the patterns of the two main “faces” switched from one surface to the other, will share the same ID # (however, one number will be displayed with the code SX beside it, for “surfaces exchanged”).
Any 2 patterns that are simply light-dark opposites of each other also share the same ID #. One option will display with the code REV beside the number, for “reversed”.
*5 There will still be a difference between the two surfaces. Even though overall the upper and lower surface will be equal in width, on each surface there will now be a slight difference in the relative size of the 2 inner columns of slanting threads versus the 2 outer columns. So the expression of a color-pattern will still be slightly different on the two wide surfaces of the braid.