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.
Another advantage to V-fell braiding 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 I hold and shift loops on the thumbs.
This 11-loop tutorial shows how I braid through multiple loops on the little finger.
[more on learning these techniques here**]
Those 2 techniques are the basis for most of my “too-many-loops” methods of making braids of up to 18 loops.
Nine- and eleven-loop 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 rather slow to make. I only make them as Unorthodox braids [update: also as one-layer plain-weave braids]. As square braids, they aren’t structurally different from square braids of fewer loops, and at that point, the twill floats (over the same 4 ridges as any square braid) are so long that they can look messy and uneven.
Once you’re used to using thumbs, it also becomes possible to make what I call double braids of 9 to 18 loops. These are not slow to make, even the 18-loop version. I hold one loop per finger for the classic 10-loop double braids. For double braids of more than 10 loops, I hold any extra loops on the outer fingers (little fingers and thumbs). This makes the loop-shifting moves much simpler than if the extra loops were held on inner fingers.
Double braids have traditionally been made by 2 people braiding together, each doing the moves of (typically) a regular square braid, plus a swapping move in which the two braiders exchange their closest index loops to connect the two braids into one. The combined braid has a total of four loop transfers per braiding cycle, and can have either a W- or an AA-shaped fell.***
Traditionally, both braiders would use either the A-fell or V-fell braiding method when cooperating on a double braid.
When one braider makes a double braid, the method used is neither the A-fell nor V-fell braiding method, regardless of the shape of the braid’s fell. Those methods are 2-pass braiding methods—in which a braider makes a single left-hand loop transfer, and single mirror-image right-hand loop transfer, after which the whole thing repeats.
With double braids made by a solo braider—as well as the so-called spanish braids of the 17th C. English manuscripts (which have W-shaped fells), the braider performs two loop transfers on the left hand’s loops—in opposite directions, and two transfers on the right hand’s loops, before the whole cycle of moves repeats.
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. But apart from those three different ways for making the same simple, 2-transfer braids, the many different loop braiding methods for making other types of braids don’t have separate names from the braids they make. The old loop braiding manuscripts from 15th and 17th C. England described many other methods for making loop braids besides the A-fell method: the method used for the hollow-braid-of-7-loops family of braids, the so-called “Spanish” braids, all the many twined braids’ various methods, and the “lace bend round” types of braids that are made by exchanging loops between pairs of fingers on each hand, etc, 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 becomes especially problematic if the finger that’s supposed to do the fetching starts out by holding one of the loops that needs to be reached 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.
**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 can’t braid automatically, they become convinced that there’s an insurmountable physical problem: “My little finger is too short”— “My ring finger is physically incapable of lifting high enough”, “My thumb bends the wrong way”, etc. 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.)
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).
***AA and VV are somewhat simplified descriptions. Within both of those overall fell shapes are other, finer distinctions, which I only realized after reading Joy Boutrup’s analysis of the Alphabet braids.
© 2010–2013 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