- friendship bracelets
- flat bands
- textile jewelry
- warp finishes for weaving
Fingerloop braiding, or more technically “finger-held loop-manipulation braiding,” is an off-loom, no-equipment technique for braiding cords and bands, using yarn or thread doubled into loops and held at the ends of the loops by the fingers. It has been done all over the world for thousands of years, and uses individual fingers to hold the loops. Hand-held loop braiding—known only from Oman, ancient Japan and Peru—is essentially the same process, but is done with loops mounted around the whole hand rather than on separate fingers.
Holding the braiding strands as loops over the fingers (or hands) makes it easy to tighten the braid with one large simple motion. It also allows an amazing step up in efficiency of braiding—almost like the effect of heddles on a loom. In simply holding the loops, the fingers make a shed of the upper and lower strands of each loop. Loops are moved by the braider as if they were single elements, yet in most loop braids, the two strands of a loop don’t end up together in a braid, they interlace separately. This is much more complicated to explain than it is to do. And in fact there is no need to understand it in order to make the braids!
Loop braiding is a very easy technique for making fairly complex braids. A simple, basic 5-loop braid has ten separate braiding elements—as compared to a pigtail braid, which only has three. Adults down to 11-year-olds can learn it in a quick demo. The square braid is the first one I usually teach, but loop braiding can be used to make many types of braided cords and bands—square, flat, round, hollow, triangular and more, with a wide range of patterning possibilities.
My goal for this blog is to promote loop braiding in general, introduce beginners to loop braiding, and also to share some of my techniques for braiding comfortably with more loops than are normally used in fingerloop braiding.
My introductory tutorial is on 5-loop square and flat braids. The first video will walk you through from the beginning, from set-up to slo-mo moves for learning a square braid. (See my tutorials page for links to all my tutorials.)
There are also other sites and books where you can learn many other great braids (see links in my sidebar). None will show you my methods for braiding with 9 loops and more. Most other sources will teach a slightly different method for making basic square braids—the “A-fell method.” Its upper limit for comfortable braiding is 7 loops. I prefer to teach these basic braids using the method that is mainly known from Asia—the “V-fell method.” It allows using up to 9 loops. (See my info page on the A-fell, V-fell and Slentre methods for more about these 3 different methods for making the same basic loop braids.)
Loop braiding is faster and more efficient than free-end braiding, but it has some inherent limitations. The main ones are the number of loops one person can braid with, and how long this braid can be. In the past, braiders got around both these limitations by loop-braiding in teams. Two or more braiders would stand next to each other, and link their braids together to braid a wider braid of many loops. For longer braids, an assistant (or director) would hold the developing braid, and tighten the fell (the base of the braid) each time the braider or braiders completed a cycle of braiding.
Team loop braiding is an ancient tradition–there are surviving fragments of European 2- and 3-worker loop braids that are almost 1,000 years old. There is even older evidence for it in Asia, including a statue of two braiders working together that is over 2,000 years old (of the second type–one at each end of the braid, a way to make the braid longer). Team braiding is still a living tradition in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
But these days it just isn’t likely you’ll have another braider handy when you want to make a 10-loop double-square braid like the medieval “Crowns” or “with the wave” braids; a 10 or 14-loop “letterbraid;” a “double barleycorn” braid of 12 loops; the lacy 3-worker braid called “Katheren Wheele” of 15 loops; or many other braids that used to be made by teams of braiders.
I make these braids as a solo braider, and while the 3-worker ones are rather slow, the two-worker ones get quite comfortable and relatively quick to make, even versions with up to 18 loops. I derived most of my “too-many-loops” techniques from braiding with the V-fell method, which is relatively unknown in the West, and allows using thumbs as well as fingers to hold loops in braiding.
These multiple-loop techniques have made it possible for me to figure out workable ways to braid larger and more complex braids as a solo braider. Some of these braids may never have been made before. Some are traditional braids that used to be made by teams of two or more loop braiders working together. I hope to share some of them in this blog.
I’d also like to share some techniques I use for braiding lengths that are much longer than my reach—up to several yards in length.
But even if you are not interested in learning how to braid with “extreme” lengths or numbers of loops, you will be able to learn many easy and beautiful loop braids here! Check out my “tutorials” page for links.
(For more about braiding with more loops than 7, see my “Too-many-loops” page.)
Thanks for visiting Loop Braiding!
© 2010–2014 Ingrid Crickmore
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Page 1: About Loop Braiding
Page 2: A-fell, V-fell, Slentre, and hand-held loop braiding
Page 3: Too-Many-Loop Braids
Page 4: Unorthodox Braids
Page 5: Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding
Page 6: Alphabet braids of the 17th Century
Page 7: About Me
Page 8: Terminology