Too-many-loop braids

The V-fell method for finger-held loop braiding is very useful for braiding simple 2-transfer braids of more than 7 loops, because it’s possible to use all 10 fingers to hold loops. This isn’t possible with the equivalent A-fell method, as the thumbs are on the wrong side of the active finger. Braiding 9-loop V-fell braids using thumbs was done in Finland, and in China, as well as by the person who first taught me loop braiding here in California.

Another advantage of V-fell braiding (when braiding with more loops than nine) is that the active braiding finger is on a different hand than the loops it reaches through. This makes it much easier to reach through multiple loops in one pass, especially if 2 or 3 loops are stacked on a finger.*

This 9-loop tutorial shows how to hold and shift loops on the thumbs.

This 11-loop tutorial shows how to braid through multiple loops on the little finger.

Those 2 techniques are the basis for most of my “too-many-loops” methods for making fingerloop braids of up to 18 or 20 loops.

Note: There are at least two other ways to braid with “too many loops”:
Hand-held loop braiding:
as in Kute uchi (Japanese loop braiding), and Andean loop braiding (see photo of one person braiding with over 50 loops at end of post.)

Braiding as a team with other loop braiders: (photo of 3 braiders co-operating with 15 loops) See also my team loop braiding post.

My solo-braider nine- and eleven-loop square braids can become very easy and automatic to braid. They allow longer pattern repeats and more colors in square and flat twill braid patterns.  What I find even more interesting are the complex and varied unorthodox braids that they make possible. 13 to 17-loop 2-transfer braids are possible, too, though the 15 and 17 loop ones are slower to make. I only make them as Unorthodox braids, or as one-layer plain-weave braids. As square braids, they aren’t much different in appearance from square braids of fewer loops, and at that point, the four twill passages (over the same 4 ridges as any square braid) are so long that they can end up looking messy and uneven. Unorthodox and plain-weave braids of many loops are a very different case! They can be very attractive, and very different in appearance from braids of fewer loops.

Double braids:
Once you’re used to using thumbs, it also becomes possible to make what I call double braids of 9 to 18 loops. These have four loop transfers, twice as many as a square braid. These also become very automatic to braid, even the 18-loop version. Oddly, an 18-loop double braid seems about as straightforward to make as a 13-loop square braid. And much easier to braid than a 15-loop square braid. That’s because the loop-shifting is more awkward in a 15-loop square braid. It isn’t simply the total number of loops in a braid that determines how many is “too many,” it’s also the types of moves that will be done with those loops…

I hold one loop on each finger – including thumbs – for the classic 10-loop double braid. For double braids of more than 10 loops, I hold any extra loops on the outer fingers (little fingers and thumbs). This might sound strange since those are the shortest fingers! But it makes the loop-shifting moves much easier.

The traditional method for making double braids requires 2 people braiding together on one braid. It’s much easier than any solo-braider workaround—can be learned immediately after learning a 5-loop square braid. Each braider does the same left and right moves of (typically) a regular square braid, and then they do a swapping move, in which they exchange their neighboring index-finger loops. That connects the two braids into one. ***

My solo-braider method entails holding all the loops of the left braider on the fingers of my left hand, and all the loops of the right braider on the fingers of my right hand. I do the two ‘left braider’ moves first, then the two ‘right braider’ moves, then an exchange move to link the left and right braids together. So, unlike a square braid, there are two loop transfers with the left loops—in opposite directions, and two transfers with the right loops. (Very similar to the traditional “spanish braids”!)

Update 1-12-’14: A few loop braiders in my area (s.f. bay area, CA) have recently started getting together every few weeks to braid together, including practicing some of these techniques. Please join us if you are in this area! Contact me for details.


I have occasionally been asked for the names of my braiding methods, I guess on the basis of the so-called A-fell, V-fell and Slentre methods. I guess you could call them “thumb methods” since I use my thumbs in making any braid of more than eight or nine loops. I figured out how to use thumbs on my own, but others have done it before me–it has been done in Finland, China, and probably elsewhere, as well as by the braider who first taught me a five-loop square braid here in the U.S.

There are many traditional loop braiding methods besides the A-fell, V-fell, and Slentre methods, btw, and most of them don’t have names other than the name of the braids they make…which can often be made by more than one method, in fact. (twined braids like many of the medieval “bends” and chevrons, the “hollow lace of 7″ braids, spanish braids, Spiral braids, etc)

*With the more widely known A-fell braiding method, the index finger reaches through the loops of its own hand to perform the braiding moves. This works fine for reaching through only 3 loops (one each on middle, ring, little fingers). More than that becomes problematic.

It’s especially problematic when the index finger starts out holding one of the loops that it must reach through—as in the classic A-fell method for the 8-loop Lace Dawns/ Daunce. See my post on Laces Dawns and Piol for a more efficient, V-fell method for making these braids.

Lace Dawns, wool

**It’s not uncommon for loop braiders who have already become very proficient at loop-braiding with five, or with seven loops to feel (initially) more slowed-down by adding two more loops than braiders who have learned more recently.

I don’t think it actually takes experienced braiders any longer to learn the new step—probably the opposite in fact—but they often do seem to feel more stymied by it to begin with. When they add two more loops, and suddenly find that they can’t braid automatically, they feel as if they have come up against an insurmountable physical problem: “See?!! My little finger is too short!”— or “My ring finger is physically incapable of lifting high enough”, or “My thumb bends the wrong way”, etc. Yet the initial difficulty quickly passes with a little practice.

But that’s why I suggest, if you enjoy loop braiding, that you go ahead and try a 7 loop braid fairly soon after you learn to braid with 5 loops, and try a 9-loop braid after a few successful 7-loop ones. (This is what I did, myself—I was still a slow and deliberate braider when I moved on to 7 and 9-loop braids.)

11-loop braids would be better to learn after your fingers have become very automatic at braiding with 9 loops. With 11 loops there is no new finger to train. Rather, all the fingers need to have smooth, automatic control over their loops, so you can focus on the new step in the loop shifting, and on carrying two loops on the little finger.

Double braids are a good next-step after 9-loop square braids. Start with 6 loops and add loops up to the full 10-loop version. Like a 9-loop braid, it can be made with simple and efficient loop transfers and loop-shifting moves if the thumb is used along with the other fingers.

When I braid double braids that have more than ten loops, I usually carry extra loops on the little fingers first, as I show in my 11-loop square braid tutorial, and in the 13-loop tutorial (in the same link), then on the thumbs (using similar braiding moves).

***The combined braid has a total of four loop transfers per braiding cycle, and can have either a W- or an AA-shaped fell.

© 2010–2014 Ingrid Crickmore
See full copyright restrictions and permissions at the bottom of the sidebar (if you are on a small screen, the ‘sidebar’ may appear somewhere other than at the side!). Content of this website may not be posted or “reposted” online, sold, or used in fee-based workshops without my permission. It may be shared off-line with certain restrictions – see full copyright info.

Info pages:
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

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