Two-worker loop braids; multi-person fingerloop braids; team braids, double braids—whatever term you use, these are the braids that are tantalizingly out of reach for most loop braiders, because the traditional methods for making them require two (or more) braiders working together on one braid.
It’s not hard if you can find another braider—for most doubled fingerloop braids, each braider essentially does the same moves as for a regular square braid. The problem is finding that other braider. In the six years that I’ve been loop braiding, I’ve only had two opportunities to do this!
Back about five years ago I bumped into Sarah Goslee’s method for making 10-loop double braids as a solo braider on her Phiala’s Stringpage site, and was blown away by the very idea that these braids were possible to make on one set of hands.*¹ I made a few, which was very exciting. But the braids seemed very slow to make—I think because the loop-shifting had to be performed by the other hand, rather than by the fingers “walking” their own loops. So, although the method worked, I didn’t end up using it very often.
The idea preyed on my mind, though, and eventually I figured out a way to make double braids using all ten fingers to do the braiding. At that point the braids became very straightforward to make, with fluid, mostly “same-hand” loop-shifting moves. And they were just as easy to unbraid as to braid (which I love, since I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m always going to make mistakes when I braid).
I used to think of it mainly as a technique for 10 loops or more. I only recently started teaching 6- and 8-loop double braids, which don’t require using thumbs.*² These are reduced versions of the classic 10-loop medieval and 17th C. braids, not quite as filled-out, but beautiful braids nonetheless.
[I'll try to add some pics of 6 and 8-loop double braids after I get back from my trip. Most of the photos are of 10-loop braids]
Until recently, I hadn’t been planning to put double braid tutorials up here on the blog, because I halfway thought that I might want to, like, publish the method someday – or at least reserve it for my workshops, so the hordes of eager braiders would come flocking to them (!) But the fact is, there really aren’t any ‘hordes’ when it comes to loop braiding. So I’ve decided to post video tutorials on my method for anyone who is interested. I would love to hear from you if you try any of them!
Happy Holidays, and Happy Braiding in 2013!
[note: All these videos are made in super-slow-mo speed as any can be an intro to double braids, depending on how many loops you can already use (easily) in making square and flat braids. Despite my advice at the beginning of the ten-loop video, if you are already very comfortable making square braids of 9 loops using my 'thumbs' method, you could start with the full ten-loop video.]
Solo-braider tutorials for 6, 8, and 10-loop double braids.
To get your fingers ready for double braids:
Learn 5-loop square braids before learning the 6-loop double braid (this 6-loop braid is a doubled version of the super-easy 3-loop braid). Learn 7-loop square braids before learning 8-loop double braids. Before learning my 10-loop double braid method, learn how to use your thumbs in braiding a 9-loop square braid.
Six-loop double braid tutorial:
1:23 Slow demo of a divided braid (loops transferred without a turn/ i.e. unreversed / open).
11:40 Slow demo of the ‘solid rectangle’ variation (all loops turned while being transferred).
Start watching at 15:54 or 19:15 for slightly faster moves, and less talking.
8-loop double braid tutorial:
3:06 Divided braid—all loops transferred open/ unreversed/ with no turn (skip to 8:18 to see this with less talking.)
12:10 Solid rectangle braiding. The transferring loops are all turned (reversed, crossed). (I started explaining this @ 11:13)
Skip ahead to 20:56 to see it with less talking.
24:10 The color-order for this braid–how to set the loops up in the color-order you want for your braid.
10-loop double braid tutorial, part 1:
(Start watching at 17:43 to see the braiding moves with less stopping and explaining.)
1:38 Loop set-up (all dark shanks in ‘upper position’). Showing upper vs. lower shanks on the thumbs.
3:18 Explanation of ‘divided’ braid moves in a double braid.
3:36 Explanation of ‘inner’ vs. ‘outer’ loop transfers in double braids.
4:16 Start of the first actual braiding moves for a divided braid. Skip to 17:43 to see this with less talking and pausing.
17:43 Divided braiding moves, less pausing/more braiding.
19:32 Tips on how to manage the thumb loops to keep them from falling off.
22:42 Back to braiding
24:04 Faster braiding moves
26:00 “Solid rectangle” double braid moves–here you will turn all the loops when transferring them. This creates the “solid rectangle” form of the braid. Note: the second and fourth transfers are done differently in this 10-loop braid than the way you did them in 6 and 8-loop double braids. Turning or not turning a loop when it will end up on the thumb has to be slightly different, because thumbs hold their loops in a different orientation than the rest of the fingers. It will help if you have already learned how to make 9-loop square braids. (On that tutorial, look at picture #3 to see which of the two shanks of a thumb loop corresponds to the “upper” shank of a finger-loop.)
See below for the color set-ups for 10-loop “Crowns” and “Edge” color patterns, and also for the loop order for this 10-loop double braid. The loop order is good to know for planning your own color patterns. (For 6 and 8-loop double braids, that info is given in the videos.)
10-loop double braid tutorial, part 2:
0:00 Examples of finished braids.
2:38 Lifting “parked loops” off a peg-type holder.
5:07 Braiding: Solid rectangle (all loop transfers are turned/ reversed/ crossed).
The color pattern was called Crowns in the 17th C. loop braiding manuscripts.
12:24 Unbraiding back to beginning.
19:51 Starting over (braiding the Crowns pattern starting from beginning again).
25:42 Switching to the color set-up for the pattern called “Edge” (also known by other names).
Sorry, I ran out of time, and the video cut off at the end. See below for the loop set-up for making the 10-loop Edge pattern.
All the video-tutorials begin by showing how to make the braid in its simplest form—divided into two separate layers. The second variation I demo is the “solid rectangle” form of the braid, which is equivalent to two square braids joined side-by-side. I plan to make another video showing a third variation: the wide, flat form of the double braid. This is the same thickness, but twice as wide as a flat ‘square braid.’
Those 3 forms were all you got with square braids. But, believe it or not, double braids have at least nine more shape variations! That’s why I teach this braid as a two-day workshop—there is so much that you can do with it. Each of the twelve forms has some distinctive color patterns that can’t be made in the other braid shapes, so aside from being very-to-slightly different in shape, the twelve different types of double braids also offer a lot of color pattern possibilities.
Color planning and loop set-up:
To plan a color sequence for any loop braid, you need to know the order that the loops on your fingers follow each other in the braid. That tells you which fingers to load your loops onto for getting a particular color sequence in your braid. (Say you’re using 10 shades of blue that you want to line up in dark-to-light order in your braid, or any other particular color sequence). If you are following the exact sequence of loop movements that I demo for the 10-loop braid, the sequence is this:
B (middle finger)
D (little finger)
B (middle finger)
D (little finger)
Notice that the middle finger loop is followed by the index finger and thumb loops, and then by the ring and little fingers—then on the other hand by the middle finger, etc, etc. It’s a very different sequence than the one for square braids (see my post on color pattern planning for square braids).
Loop set-ups get more complicated when you use bicolor loops. The upper and lower colors of a loop will switch when—and only when—the loop is turned (you’ll see this change both on your fingers and in the braid).
Color set-up for “Crowns”:
All loops bicolor, same two colors.
Start with all light (or all dark) colors in upper-shank position.
Color set-up for “Edge”:
All loops bicolor, same two colors
Both hands: Thumb, A, B—Light shanks up, dark shanks down
Both hands: C, D—Dark shanks up, light shanks down
(Or you can set it up with the opposite dark-light configuration)
In the second 10-loop video, I got cut off at the end. I was in the middle of braiding my way from the Crowns pattern to the correct set-up for making the Edge pattern. This is done by choosing to transfer loops with or without a turn in order to bring them to the new color-order. (A simpler way would be to stop braiding, and manually turn any loops on the fingers that aren’t already in the correct color configuration for the Edge pattern…This works fine, but doesn’t give quite as smooth a pattern transition.) Once you reach the Edge setup (described above), you then resume braiding with all the transfers turned. The Edge pattern has a one-cycle pattern repeat. The loops will all be back in the same color-distribution on the fingers after each braiding cycle, rather than after 5 cycles as for the ‘Crowns’ pattern.
The resulting Edge pattern will have light edges on the side facing the braider, and dark edges on the side facing the floor as you braid. (Colors are reversed on the two faces of the braid.) The lower surface will be slightly wider than the upper surface, so you might want to consider that lower side the “good” side, and plan accordingly. This is because of the direction I do the turns—transferring loops are turned as if the hypothetical two braiders of a team braid were turning their loops “from above”. If each of the turns were done in the opposite rotational direction than I show in the videos (“from below” for both braiders), the wider surface would be the upper surface—the side facing up toward the braiders. This makes no difference to the braid once it’s done, and to me, the so-called “turn from above” is a lot easier for the thumb transfer. *³
The 12 different double braid shapes:
If you want to know more about the 12 different variations of double braids, the article I wrote for Braids 2012′s conference proceedings explains all of them, with color photos of each one.
The Proceedings book can be purchased from the Braid Society. I’ve had a lot of positive fb on my article!
I think it succeeds pretty well in teaching and illustrating these braids in a way that is easy to follow, and not overly wordy—even though it’s 12 large-size pages. I honed it a lot more than my writing on this blog, plus I had amazing editors to work with (thanks, Shirley and Ruth!!!)
Btw, this isn’t a real commercial, more of a fyi. I and the other contributors donated our articles—all sales benefit the Braid Society.
I’m so glad I managed to get this post up before the end of the year! We are heading out of town for a week or so but I will check the blog as soon as we are back, so please let me know if you have any questions or corrections. I won’t have time to go over it all looking for the glaring errors I usually find right after I post.
Happy Braiding and Happy New Year!
*¹ Phiala’s String Page teaches a solo-braider method in which the braider holds 2 to 3 loops on the index fingers. Joy Boutrup makes double braids by herself using hand-held loop braiding, and kute (handles) to hold the loops. Click here for fingerloop.orgs’s instructions for two co-operating braiders (surprisingly, for double braids only, fingerloop.org teaches teach a V-fell method, which wasn’t the method actually used by the writers of the old loop braiding manuscripts—they braided with A-fell moves, like the ones fingerloop.org teaches for square/round braids). Noemi Speiser’s OEPBforLB teaches two-worker braids in more detail, and alludes to her own method for making them solo, but doesn’t teach it. The book Tak V Bowes, Departed teaches how to make two-person braids, and does it well, judging from two of the loop braiding participants I met at Braids 2012.
‘Double braid’ is my own rather inexact term. (Note: the term ‘double braid’ is also used by some kumihimo braiders, but with a completely different meaning.)
*² I still highly recommend learning how to use thumbs in braiding first—ie right after learning 7-loop square braids. To me, loop braiding is even more rewarding if you can use those two extra digits, instead of letting them go to waste. And then you would be able to go from 8-loop double braids right up to the full, classic 10-loop double braids of the old braiding manuscripts.
You don’t need to have exceptionally limber hands to use thumbs in loop braiding. I was almost 50 (with stiffer fingers than when I was younger) when I first learned how to loop braid using my thumbs. Thumbs are naturally adept. Try resting all your fingertips on a table, then test one finger at a time to see how easily you can lift it, or trace circles with it on the table without moving the others. The thumb and index finger will probably be about equal.
If you’ve only recently learned how to make 7-loop square braids, go ahead and learn 9-loop braids after you’re fairly comfortable with 7 loops, but before the moves have become completely automatic (in other words, you still need to pause your braiding in order to carry on a conversation, or to look up during the loop-shifting). When long-time loop braiders first try learning to use thumbs, the simple fact that they have to slow down can be a shock. The contrast between the ease of braiding they are used to, and their clumsiness in the not-yet-acquired skill can make them feel that the new skill must be impossibly hard. (It’s not!) Relatively newer loop braiders don’t yet have that perception—they are still braiding slowly and methodically, plus they still clearly remember progressing quickly from clumsiness to competence with 5 and then 7 loops.
*³ In the videos, I demo the traditional ‘countered’ manner that the loops would be turned if the double braid were being made by two co-operating braiders (loops turned in opposite directions within each of the two component square braids). However, I have found that the braid will actually be flatter and more evenly rectangular if, instead, each of the two braiders were to turn the loop on the left hand from below the loop, and the loop on the right hand from above the loop…(but switch the ‘right and left’ above for one of the braiders—they should mirror each others’ moves). This is almost certainly not the way the ‘solid rectangle’ braid has ever been made traditionally. It feels very unintuitive to do it that way when team braiding. But it feels fine to do it as a solo braider (or rather, both ways feel equally unintuitive!)
With my solo-braider method, this non-traditional way would be done by turning the two transfers of one hand in the same rotational direction, say counterclockwise. And both loops of the other hand in the opposite rotational direction, so clockwise. This is what I almost always do now for the solid rectangle form of the double braid (though sometimes I prefer the traditional way, where one side of the braid is wider and more emphasized). I make the thumb transfer (the outer transfer) the way I demo it in the videos, but I turn both the INNER transfers from below—that is, in the opposite rotational direction from the way I demo it in the videos.
© 2012-2013 Ingrid Crickmore