[This is page 2 of my 'about' pages—read page 1 first: "About Loop Braiding" Page 1 is easy to miss—it's the uppermost tab itself, at top of the drop-down list.]
Worldwide, the most common types of loop braids are simple, 2-pass fingerloop braids, often of 5 loops. Interestingly, there are 3 different fingerloop braiding methods for making this type of braid: the A-fell and V-fell methods, and a third method called Slentre (they are also known as Method 1, Method 2 and Method 3).*¹
For these very basic loop braids, I primarily use and teach the V-fell method—method 2. Most other sources teach the A-fell method, and a few the Slentre method.
Historically, the A-fell loop braiding method is known from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. V-fell is known from Asia and the Pacific, including Japan, part of Russia, and India. In South America and Finland, both the A-fell method and the V-fell method have been found. The Slentre method was much less widespread—it’s only known from the Faroe Islands, and possibly Denmark.
In a way, the A and V-fell methods are upside-down versions of each other. In both methods, palms generally face each other, and a loop travels between the lowest finger of one hand and the highest finger of the other hand, through the intervening loops. Only the direction of this movement differs. With A-fell braiding, the index finger fetches the the lowest loop of the other hand (usually the ring or little finger’s loop). With V-fell braiding, the ring or little finger fetches the other hand’s index finger loop.
[V-fell method diagrammed]
Slentre loop braiding is done with the palms facing down. The index finger is the active braiding finger, and it reaches through the loops of the opposite hand to fetch the opposite hand’s furthest loop. Like the V-fell method, it produces braids that grow on a V-shaped fell. (more about Slentre here*²)
The current loop braiding revival is largely based on the A-fell method.*³ Oddly—considering its originally very limited distribution—the Slentre method has also been widely taught in textile and craft circles.
Until now the V-fell method has not been taught at all in published sources, though historically it was practiced over a large part of the world, and is still a living tradition in some places.*4 To me, it has a significant advantage over the other two methods: it can be used with up to 9 loops, while the other two methods limit a braider to 7 loops (without carrying more than one loop per finger).
The A and V-fell methods are highly complementary, as each method can undo the other’s braids. This may not sound helpful, but it is very handy for correcting mistakes! (Slentre’s palms-down hand position makes it incompatible with the A-fell method for the purpose of unbraiding.)
Hand-held loop braiding, in which loops are held around the whole hand rather than on individual fingers, is another form of loop braiding. It is much less common than finger-held loop braiding—known or inferred from the past only in Japan, Peru, and Oman. It is generally assumed that hand-held loop braiding, where it has occurred, developed from earlier finger loop braiding, as a way to manage greater numbers of loops.
In my own experience, finger-held loop braiding has some advantages over hand-held loop braiding in security of loops, automaticity of braiding moves, and even tensioning—that is for two-layer braids of up to 18 loops per braider. For twined braids, and braids of more than 18 loops per braider, hand-held loop braiding seems more efficient.
In Japan and probably elsewhere, loop braiding preceded and apparently led to stand-and-bobbin braiding (the Japanese forms are called Kumihimo). I have read one reference to the two forms being practiced concurrently: stand-and-bobbin braiding used for making longer lengths, and loop braiding used for shorter lengths (sometimes of the exact same braid), as it is much quicker.*5
[The sources for most of my information about loop braiding are Noémi Speiser's book Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding, Masako Kinoshita's site on loop braiding worldwide: Loop Manipulation Research and Information Center News (LMBRIC), or personal observation and experience.
There's more about the three parallel fingerloop braiding methods, along with how I first encountered them, in the "Notes" section of my 9-loop square braid tutorial...]
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
*¹ There other types of loop braids that are made by entirely different methods than these three common ones. For example, loop-exchange methods as for the spiral braids (‘lace bend round’), the so-called “spanish” braids, twined braids, the “hollow lace of VII” family of braids, double braids made by a solo braider, etc.
*² Slentre Braiding:
Only one type of braid has been recorded historically with Slentre braiding (click here to see a photo-tutorial for the Slentre method). More types are of course possible, and can easily be extrapolated. That one known historic slentre braid is the 5-loop unorthodox braid—which despite its name, is the most common loop braid worldwide, according to Noémi Speiser. It was called the “broad lace of V bows” in the European 15th C manuscripts, and taught with A-fell braiding moves. It can be made by all 3 braiding methods. A tutorial by “sfhandyman” here teaches it with A-fell braiding—he calls it a “flat” braid, but this unorthodox braid is thicker and not as wide as the flat version of a square braid.
I find Slentre square and unorthodox braids very easy to braid, but difficult to conceptualize. The square braid of course forms on two layers, yet unlike in A-fell and V-fell braiding, these two layers do not correspond to two obvious layers of upper and lower shanks on the fingers. That’s because the palms face downward, so the loops are all held in a single plane. In fact, with Slentre braiding, the shanks of the loops on what would be the upper sides of the fingers in A- and V-fell braiding actually go to and form the lower layer of the braid.
While making a Slentre braid, to see more clearly how the loops on the fingers relate to the developing braid structure, turn the downward-facing hands away from each other so they are back-to-back. Only in this position do the strands that are uppermost on the fingers lead directly to the upper layer of the braid. (Don’t try to hold the hands this way while braiding!)
Of course, you don’t have to “conceptualize” a braid in order to make it. Braiders who prefer the Slentre method find it very user-friendly for making either the classic unorthodox 5-loop braid, or a square braid. I have been told that the Slentre unorthodox braid can be taught to a 5 or 6-year-old, whereas in my experience it is difficult to teach even a 3-loop braid to children under 7 using the V-fell method. I teach children down to age 7 or 8 a three-loop version, and start 10 or 11-year-olds with the same five loop braid I teach to adults.
With Slentre it’s very easy to transfer loops with a turn, as in a square or an unorthodox braid. Passing a loop straight across from one palms-down hand to the other causes the outer shank of the loop to end up on the inner side of its new finger. This gives the loop a half-turn in the growing braid, even though it looks as if you are not turning the loop at all.
Conversely, the braider has to do a rather awkward loop-turning maneuver in order to get the loop to go over to the other hand without a twist in the loop. So flat and divided braids feel a bit more difficult to make, at least to me. But they are even harder to understand…You are making a two-layer braid, yet there is only one visible layer of strands on the fingers, and you have to turn a loop to make it change hands with no turn!
More complex loop braids would be very difficult to make with the Slentre method. In two-worker braids, braiders would have to exchange their closest ring or little-finger loops (one through the other) rather than index loops. A much less common type of two-braider loop exchange—the one Noemi Speiser calls a “giving-taking” exchange—might be doable with the Slentre technique, though I haven’t yet heard of anyone trying it. I don’t think that 4-transfer braids would be possible to make with the loops held in palms-down position (the so-called “spanish” braids, or double braids made with a solo-braider technique).
I am not trying to discredit the Slentre method at all, just to report on what I have found out about it. (I was unable to find any information other than bare-bones instruction, when I first looked for it.) It may be the easiest of the three methods if you only want to make very simple loop braids, or if you want to teach loop braiding to very young children. However, I have to add that all 3 methods are quite easy for beginners to learn!—getting a new braider started braiding only takes a few minutes for any of the methods.
The 5-loop Slentre braid was widely taught in guild and fiber convention workshops across the U.S. for about 10 years by Jackie Wollenberg, from the 70′s into the early ’80′s. In 1978 Slentre was described by Susan Scott Bernal (published in Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot Spring 1978 Issue 34), and in the 90′s by Anne Dyer (Purse Strings Unraveled). Slentre may have originally been limited to the Faroe Islands. Jackie Wollenberg recently told me that although she learned it from someone in Denmark, that person had herself learned it from someone who had moved to Denmark from the Faroe Islands. (If the Faroe Islands are considered part of Scandinavia, that makes Scandinavia the only place in the world where all three of these parallel loop braiding methods have been found!)
*³ This revival of the A-fell loop braiding method didn’t spread out from surviving practitioners of a continuous tradition. Amazingly, it was re-learned from a very few 15th and 17th C English manuscripts that were widely scattered in museums and private collections, and not understood until relatively recently. Since the 1990′s they have been extensively researched, analyzed, and decoded by Noémi Speiser and Joy Boutrup. Lois Swales and Zoe Kuhn Williams have also researched and translated many of these manuscripts and their online site (fingerloop.org) has taught the A-fell method to vast numbers of braiders, including myself.
*4 The V-fell method is described in Noémi Speiser’s books on braiding, and in Masako Kinoshita’s online journal L-MBRIC, in the introduction to its illustrated instruction series. (Kinoshita refers to this method as “Method 2″). By “not taught” I mean that until now, apparently there haven’t been any step-by-step instructions published in print or on-line for learning this method.
For references to current practice of traditional loop braiding, see Masako Kinoshita’s site:
Loop-Manipulation Research and Information Center News, (LMBRIC)
*5 This reference was in an issue of Strands (the annual print journal of the Braid Society), which I need to locate.
© 2011-2013 Ingrid Crickmore
This may be copied and distributed, as long as I am credited, and as long as it is not posted online, sold, or used in fee-based workshops without my permission. See full copyright information in blue area at the bottom of the screen.