This is the photo-tutorial on 3-loop braids that I made last year  for the Braids and Bands yahoo group. You can scroll through the tutorial in the small thumbnail window, or click below the window to read it full-screen. It can also be downloaded as a free pdf file (see newly working link below!). Video supplements and suggestions for materials are below the photo-tutorial.
If a magnifying glass icon is visible in the window’s toolbar, clicking it once and then re-centering the text (click with your cursor within the window, then use your right-arrow key) should make the tutorial readable without having to go full-screen.
The color set-ups for making all the braids in the cover photo, including the 2 textural/bumpy braids, are taught at the end of the document—after the instructions for the braiding moves.
This tutorial (as well as all my spiral braid pdf photo-tutorials) is also available for free through the Braids_and_Bands yahoo group, see end of post.
[This earlier post has more photos of 3-loop braids, along with Spiral braids and 2-loop braids.]
Younger children—down to age 8 or so—can learn the 3-loop square braid, as long as an adult learns it first and then teaches the child. They learn better by example than from pictures. Kids under 7 usually don’t have the necessary independent finger development. Even if they can already knit or crochet—the fingers work together in those crafts, not separately the way they do in loop braiding. (Of course it partly depends on how determined the child is!)
Yarn for 3-loop braids:
You can use almost anything, but a great choice for 3-loop braid bracelets, key fobs, etc would be a smooth, mercerized cotton sport-weight yarn like Paton’s “Grace,” Elann.com “Lara,” or “Aunt Lydia’s” size 3 crochet cotton, also “Royale” brand size 3. “Anne” by Circulo (not available in the U.S.) is supposedly also a #3 crochet thread but is 2-ply rather than 3-ply, and thinner and weaker than the brands above. It comes in a much better range of colors, though.
If you are making utilitarian braids rather than decorative ones, use a firmly plied—ie twisted—yarn like Paton’s Grace or crochet cotton. They are more rugged and hard-wearing than untwisted, floss-type yarns like Lara.
If you would like to get an assortment of colors in smaller amounts than full-sized balls of yarn, there is a new assortment from Lion brand called “Bonbons.” (Click that link, then scroll down the WhatAKnit page for ordering info.) It’s a plied yarn of a good weight for 3- and 5-loop braids. If you buy it from another store than What_A_Knit, be sure to get the cotton version of Bonbons, not the acrylic or microfiber versions.
Embroidery floss comes in great colors. It’s a bit fine for 3-loop braids, but is a nice size if you double the strands. You can buy color-assortment packs of embroidery floss very cheaply from most craft stores. Perle cotton is a plied yarn, in a similar weight, and comes in small amounts like embroidery floss. What you don’t want at first is slippery yarn, or bumpy/textural yarn—both are very difficult to braid with. Cotton is good because it is strong, smooth and holds well when tightened.
The videos below were originally made for this Braids and Bands tutorial. They’re shorter than some of my later videos, but as usual I go on too long in some of them…I’ve added a timeline to a couple, to help you skip past the boring parts.
A different “no loose-ends” way to start the braid.
There are a few different ways to start braids with no loose ends at the top, and often with a loop at the top. The second-to-last video demos one of these ways. It can be done with any number of loops, by the way, not only with three. I show it in the photo-tutorial above, too. (Another way is the Handshake loop start that I demo in my bracelet tutorial. In that method, you make each side of the loop separately. Here, both sides of the loop get braided at the same time.)
You can also use this “divided-braid-loop-start” method to braid two narrow braids at the same time, joined in the middle, for one double-long braid! I did that for one of the braids in the first photo in the above article, 3rd braid from the right (the thin purple-and-gold braid tied in a loose knot).
The 1st video below shows the basic braiding moves for a 3-loop braid, but not how to set up the loops, those videos are further down (the pdf photo-tutorial above shows this step-by-step)… See timeline under video to skip to the part you want to see. (slide bubble under video)
Three-loop Braid, round version (made like 5 and 7-loop square braids, but looks more round than square)
1:42 Set up of loops on fingers
2:24 Start of braiding moves for a round braid, followed by slo-mo practice moves.
Below, Part 2 of the three-loop braid:
How to make a flat, ribbon-like braid, also how to split your braid and make “two-braids-at-once”—a way to make a loop or buttonhole in your round or flat braid. Skip ahead to the parts you want —see timeline under video.
0:00 How to take stored loops off pegs or comb to keep on braiding. Then I go on too long talking and continuing with the round/square version.
2:22 A trick for tightening 3-loop braids very differently than other square braids. Makes a nice firm braid that doesn’t crumple up while you are tightening it.
5:00 Divided version(for making a loop in the braid), and flat version (for making a wider, ribbon-like braid). Learn divided first—it’s prerequisite to the flat braid.
Setting up to braid–1, a quick way:
The quick set-up above is a good one if you want a fringe/ tassel of ends at both ends of the braid. If you only want that tassel at one end, there are several ways to start a braid with no loose ends. Below is one of them, a ‘divided’ loop start.
Setting up to braid–2, a less-quick way that starts with a braided loop at the top of your braid, and no tassel of loose ends:
In the above video, even though I begin with the left hand’s loops linked around the right hand’s loops, this is not the same type of start as the “handshake” looped start I demo in my Bracelet with Chevrons tutorial. This is a “divided braid” loop start—both sides of the loop/buttonhole will be braided at the same time, not separately.
Below—Another color pattern for a 3-loop braid, using bicolor loops: (this video is also in my Bicolor Loop Magic tutorial)
See a way to unbraid 3-loop braids in my Unbraiding post—it’s very easy to do with a 3-loop braid, and is a great way to undo if you want to change something or fix a mistake.
Once you’ve made a few 3-loop braids, you’ll have no trouble at all making the 5-loop version. It’s an even nicer braid, very square-shaped and neat, with a great-looking chevron design on the sides.
I originally made this photo-tutorial (and videos) as part of a series for the Braids_and_Bands yahoo discussion list. That series also included photo-tutorials for the Spiral braids of 4 to 10 loops, and also for the amazingly simple 2-loop braid. These tutorials are all available in the Braids_and_Bands’ files.
(Join the group to access files; the link to the files section is in the left sidebar of the group’s homepage.)
At the bottom of my “Tutorials” page you can find links to just the videos for all those tutorials. The full photo-tutorials are still only available in the files section of the Braids_and_Bands yahoo group’s home page.
Thanks for visiting and for reading this far! I probably won’t be able to post much for the rest of August, will be busy and then gone til early September. I’m very excited about my upcoming trip, and I know I’ll be excited to come home from it too, digest what I learned, and report here about it.
[update: click link for part 1 of my report on Braids 2012!]
*¹ This embedded document has a slightly less restricted copyright than the rest of my blog content. Compare © notices at the end of the document, and in my blog’s light-blue “footer” area at the very bottom of every page. This 3-loop pdf tutorial may be shared/embedded online, as long as you have a non-commercial site—ie don’t make any money from your site.
*² Anyone have any suggestions for other alternatives to Scribd, for making a pdf or word doc visible on a website? I didn’t look around much, Scribd was the first result that popped up when I searched…It isn’t possible to just paste a pdf or word document directly into a blog-post—it’s a completely different format.