This is a 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 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.
See my Tutorials page for links to all my loop braiding tutorials—once you learn this 3-loop braid, the five-loop version will be a snap, and the 6-loop Spiral braid is another beautiful (and very different!) easy-to-learn braid.
Download this tutorial as a pdf file for free here from me, not from Scribd. Please read my copyright info.
[Don’t download from the Scribd toolbar, they apparently charge a fee for ‘free’ downloads!]
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.
Younger children—down to age 8 or sometimes 7—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! Update: An extremely determined 5-year-old learned it this summer from a combination of me and his 8-year-old sister…He does the braiding moves in very “unorthodox” and reversed ways, but it comes out as some kind of a braid every time.)
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 any of the following (btw, it’s fine to use a mix of different types of yarn within the same braid, even if they aren’t of exactly the same thickness):
Paton’s “Grace” knitting yarn, or other all-cotton mercerized knitting yarns (mercerized cotton is much smoother and silkier than non-mercerized). At a knitting store, ask to see their mercerized cotton yarns. I use several nice brands that are now discontinued, but I know this type of yarn is still being made under other brand names.
“Aunt Lydia’s” size 3 crochet cotton (also called Aunt Lydia’s Fashion Crochet, size 3), and “Royale” brand crochet cotton, size 3. Those last two yarns seem identical even to their colors. These are great for either pretty, decorative braids or for more rugged-looking nautical/ manly type braids. They are usually cheaper than cotton knitting yarns for some reason. I use them for teaching, for braids of up to 5 or 7 loops, and for heavier-weight straps. It’s good quality strong, smooth, 3-ply cotton, but it only comes in about 10 colors. Your best bet is to order online, as the stores usually only carry two or three of the colors.
“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 is thinner and weaker than the others. It has broken on me a few times while braiding. It comes in a much wider range of colors than the U.S. brands, though.
Most yarn comes in larger amounts than you might want for braiding, but there’s a new color assortment of small balls of yarn from Lion brand called “Bonbons.” This is a good choice for getting several colors in smaller quantities, as getting several colors in larger balls can be quite pricey. I only buy the two assortments called Beach and Nature, these two color packs are the only cotton ones (despite what the Joann.com website says!). Joann.com’s product details for Bonbons are completely inaccurate–you can check this (and also purchase) on the Lion brand yarn website.
The other color packs of Bonbons are synthetic yarns that to me don’t look as nice or braid as well, but that’s a matter of taste, you or your child may love them…(some are sparkly!)
Embroidery floss comes in great colors and in smaller amounts. It’s on the thin side for 3-loop braids, but is a nice size if you double the strands. It’s the thread I use most often myself for 5 loops and up. 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, also available in craft stores in small packets like embroidery floss. What you don’t want at first is slippery yarn, or bumpy/textural yarn—both are very difficult to braid with. Stretchy yarns are probably not a good choice either—might be hard to tighten evenly. Cotton is a good choice because it is strong, smooth, and holds well when tightened.
I made the videos below ages ago, they were some of my first videos. They’re shorter than some of my later videos, but as usual I go on too long in some of them…I’ve added some timeline info below a couple of them, to help you skip past the boring parts. Most of what they demo is also covered in the pdf document with step-by-step photos. However, the second video shows a really helpful way to tighten 3-loop braids so they will be crisp and firm, yet not crumple up while you are tightening them – not covered in the pdf. This is the way I always tighten 2 and 3-loop braids.
A different “no loose-ends” way to start the braid.
I use 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, so it’s a faster method.)
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 files section can be accessed through a menu tab just under the header image on the group’s homepage.)
NOTE: The 2-loop braid photo-tutorial pdf is actually part 1 and a necessary prerequisite for all the spiral braid tutorials–it’s the only one with step-by-step photos of the basic move for all the spiral braids. Those photos are not duplicated in the spiral braid pdfs.
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!]
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© 2012–2015 Ingrid Crickmore
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