The V-fell method (a.k.a. Method 2) for finger-held loop braiding is very useful for braiding 2-transfer braids of more than 7 loops as a solo braider. With the V-fell method, you can use all 10 fingers to hold loops, which you can’t with the A-fell method—thumbs are on the wrong side of the active finger.
The other big advantage of V-fell braiding (for a solo braider using more than 7 loops) is that the finger performing the braiding moves is on a different hand than the loops it is reaching through. This makes it much easier to reach through multiple loops in one pass, especially when 2 or 3 loops are stacked on a finger.
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*.
This 9-loop tutorial shows how I hold and shift loops on the thumbs.
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 [and now (2013), 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 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.** For a typical, orthodox, two-layer braid, both braiders would use either the A-fell or V-fell braiding method.
When made by a solo braider, such double braids are not made with either the A-fell or V-fell braiding methods, regardless of whether the braid forms with a W or an AA-shaped fell. A-fell and V-fell methods refer to 2-pass braiding moves—in other words, the most common type of braiding, where 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.
These more complex braiding moves are completely different from the A-fell, V-fell, and Slentre 2-pass braiding methods for making square braids.
Some readers have asked me for the ‘names’ for my methods, I guess on the basis of the so-called A-fell, V-fell and Slentre methods. But other than the three surprisingly different ways for making the same simple, 2-transfer braids, the many different loop braiding methods for making other types of braids haven’t been given 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, 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.)
*Reaching through more than 3 loops becomes especially problematic if one of the loops that should be reached through is being held by the finger that does the reaching—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.
**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.)
On learning to braid with more loops:
Since starting to teach, I’ve noticed that students who have already become very adept and fast at loop-braiding with 5 or 7 loops often seem to feel that it’s harder to add 2 more loops than do braiders who have learned more recently.
I think it’s because the long-time braiders are so used to braiding quickly and automatically that they can barely remember ever braiding slowly, or having to coach one particular finger along. (One of the fun things about loop braiding is how fast and easy it becomes.) They often insist to me at first that they can’t braid with 7, or 9 loops. Since they can’t do the new move automatically, they seem to think that an insurmountable physical problem must be preventing it: “See! my little finger is too short”— “My ring finger is physically incapable of lifting high enough”, “My thumb bends the wrong way”, etc. Once they get past that initial reaction, they do fine, but they often seem to feel more stymied to begin with than the relatively newer braiders…
On the other hand, I don’t recommend rushing into braiding with 11 loops. With 11 loops there is no new finger to train, instead all the fingers need to have more automatic control over their loops, so you can focus on the new step in the loop shifting, and on that extra loop on the little finger. When you reach the point (with 9 loop braids) where you can keep braiding while conversing, or looking up occasionally, you can learn to handle 11 loops. Before that point I think it would be more trouble than it is worth.
Ten-loop ‘double braids‘ can also be learned after 9-loop square braids. These are the classic 10-loop braids (doubled 5-loop square braids), that were traditionally made by two braiders cooperating on one braid. Using all ten fingers, a solo braider can make these with simple and efficient loop transfers and loop-shifting moves, and without carrying more than one loop per finger. (see fingerloop.org’s instructions for 2 braiders; see Phiala’s String Page‘s Multi-person braids for a single braider for her “no-thumbs” method for making these as a solo braider).
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, then on the thumbs (using similar braiding moves).
© 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