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.
Update 1-12-’14: I recently started up a series of free “too-many-loops” braiding get-togethers/ practice sessions in my area (Berkeley, CA), click here for more info.
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.
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.
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. An 18-loop double braid is about as straightforward to make as an 11 or 13-loop square braid. 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 might sound strange since those are the shortest fingers! But it makes the loop-shifting moves infinitely simpler than if the extra loops are held by inner fingers.
The traditional method for making double braids is very different. It requires 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.***
Since I couldn’t find partners to braid with, I developed some workaround methods to make these braids, holding all the loops of the left braider on my left hand, and the loops of the right braider on my right hand. I do the ‘left braider’ moves first, then the ‘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”!)
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 included many other methods for making loop braids besides the so-called 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. I guess you could say that most of my methods are “thumb methods” since I use my thumbs for any fingerloop 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!)
*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 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 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).
***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.
© 2010–2014 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