Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding, 2000, by Noémi Speiser. Available from BraidersHand and a few other sellers in the U.S., from the author in Europe. Self-published. (see end of page for a description of Speiser and Boutrup’s recent 4-part supplement to OEPBforLB, European Loop Braiding.)
Noémi Speiser is also the author of the more well-known Manual of Braiding, the textile world’s ultimate reference, as well as manual, on braiding. It covers every known braiding technique, plus several “braiding-like” techniques—a totally incredible variety—and includes a section on loop braiding. But Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding is the one to get if you are primarily interested in loop braiding.
Both books are large-format, spiral-bound paperbacks, with only a few black-and-white photographs, and many diagrams and drawings. No eye-candy, but a lot of buried treasure. (At the time, it was prohibitively expensive to self-publish with color photos). A black and white drawing or diagram can give a general idea of the braid, but it isn’t going to convey how beautiful it is, so unfortunately the reader might have less incentive to try it.
Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding is the most complete reference on loop braiding anywhere. It contains deep theoretical and plain practical info both. It includes instructions for every braid in the known 15th and 17th Century European manuscripts on loop braiding—with the exception of the “letterbraids” (alphabet-symbol braids) which have since been decoded by Speiser’s student Joy Boutrup. Many or most of these are braids that require more than one braider working together to make them, but there are plenty of single-worker braids as well.
The book can seem a bit overwhelming because of some of the dense sections on braid theory and structure. However the actual instructions start from the most basic, beginning level, and are written simply and clearly. The black and white line drawing illustrations are also very clear. Don’t be scared off by the “track-plan” diagrams that accompany the drawings—they aren’t necessary for learning the braids. (note—if you are interested in learning Speiser’s elegant system for charting loop braids, the way she here pictorially connects her diagrams to the drawings of actual loops on fingers might be the easiest way to learn it.)
OEPB is also a kind of textile mystery-adventure story—a saga of how Speiser noticed both the old braids, as well as the obscure manuscripts that turned out to be describing them, in separate museums and private collections, and managed to put them together—deciphering the manuscripts, and figuring out the braid structures they described. This was no simple task. The 17th C. manuscripts in particular were written with very obscure, almost impenetrable terminology, and omitted almost all of the necessary information. Those difficult 17th C manuscripts were the only loop braiding texts that Speiser had access to when she was first trying to determine how certain mysterious braids on museum artifacts had been made.
The greater part of OEPB—instructions, historical info etc—is very readable, even funny at times. Speiser is very open about her frustration and delight over those 15th and 17th C braiders and their variously ultra-clear and ultra-opaque notes. OEPB has a more personal voice than The Manual of Braiding (which is understandable—the Manual covers so much that it has to be drier and more concise.) It’s true that some sections of OEPB may be too abstract and theoretical to take in at first—just skip them and come back later. This book has plenty for anybody who’s really interested in loop braiding, and it will keep having plenty. There’s always more to find out from it.
My only complaint is of Speiser’s complicated numbering system for the chapters and illustrations—it always takes me a while to process her combination of Roman, Arabic, and alphabet symbols. I also think the title is much too long, and doesn’t describe the book well enough. “Old English Pattern Books” sounds too quaint and obscure for a such a ground-breaking, comprehensive reference work and instruction manual combined.
European Loop Braiding: Investigations and Results–Parts I, II, III, IV, by Noémi Speiser and Joy Boutrup
Available together or separately from BraidersHand. Available from the publisher in the UK. Supplements to OEPBforLB, with new research and discoveries.
These four monographs (by Noémi Speiser and Joy Boutrup, published and edited by Jennie Parry) cover more recent discoveries and research into the history of European loop braiding, stretching back centuries earlier than the oldest of the English loop braiding manuscripts. Interestingly, Scandinavia seems to have been a hotbed of loop braiding, both early and late, with complex, archaic 3-person braids still being made there as recently as the 1930′s. The series is meant as a supplement to Old English Pattern Books, so they are easier to follow if you’re already familiar with some of the terms and concepts covered in the earlier book. Unlike OEPB, they do have full-color “eye-candy” illustrations and photos.
Part I: Orthodox and unorthodox exchanging of loops in co-operation
Much historical information about very early multiple-worker European loop braids, extending back centuries before the earliest known manuscripts. No braid instructions. I reviewed Parts I and II for the Braid Society newsletter, the review can be read in Issue 13 of LMBRIC (scroll partway down that page to find the review).
Part II: Instructions for Letter Braids in 17th Century Manuscripts
See my info page about this monograph—17th C alphabet braids.
Part III: Loop Braiding in Swedish Bridgettine Tradition
The Bridgettine Convent in Vadstena, Sweden was instituted in 1384. A small group of nuns were in charge of the textiles of the convent church. About 40 liturgical textiles have been preserved, several with associated loop braids. Great photos of these!
Part IV: Track Plans as a Tool for Analysis; Applications of Loop -Manipulation Braids
Opening section is a detailed description of Speiser’s “track-plan” system for analyzing loop braids.
Then follow several analyses and beautiful photos of extant loop braids and objects incorporating loop braids from various museums and collections. Fascinating, especially since some of the braids have structures that were not recorded in any of the known loop braiding manuscripts. It is possible to learn them from the descriptions, if you are familiar with the terminology and braids in OEPBforLB, and have a partner (or two) to braid with.
I finally have Parts 3 and 4, so if you have questions about any of these monographs, feel free to leave a note below or email me.
My next “about” page is on the 17th C. letter braids monograph, which is Part II of this series. A review I wrote about Parts I and II for the Braid Society newsletter can be read on L-MBRIC, issue 13 (scroll partway through the issue to get to the review).
© 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 notice in blue area at the very bottom of the screen.
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