Unorthodox braids can only be made (easily) by finger-held loop braiding methods. This makes them very unusual—most braids can be made by more than one braiding method. For example, square braids can be made with hand-held loop braiding, finger loops, kumihimo stand-and-bobbin techniques, or various free-end braiding techniques. To a somewhat obsessed fingerloop braider, this makes unorthodox braids a very special type of braid!
Unorthodox braids (UO braids in Masako Kinoshita’s terminology) have peculiar braiding structures that are hard to diagram but easy to accomplish: Typically, instead of going through all the loops on a hand, the operator finger skips over one or more of them. This can be a common mistake while making a square braid. In an unorthodox braid you just do it on purpose—and consistently throughout the whole braid. (Other odd combinations of moves are possible too, such as going under a loop, or through one or more loops “backwards”).
The resulting braids have a different appearance on the upper vs lower surface. They can be domed, convex/concave, or beveled in shape. The ones that combine “over” with “under” whole loop moves are usually flat, but still have a somewhat different appearance on the upper and lower surfaces. Structurally, the two layers of the braid are not parallel, mirror-image reversals of each other—unlike square, flat, and other orthodox loop braids.
The classic, worldwide favorite Unorthodox braid is the “broad lace of V bowes” in somewhat different A-fell and V-fell forms. This easy-to-make 5-loop unorthodox braid is apparently even more widespread than the 5-loop square braid. According to Noemi Speiser, in places where only one loop braid is known, it is invariably this 5-loop unorthodox one. That’s because it is even easier to make than a square braid. Slentre loop braiding of Denmark and the Faroe Islands is an example—only this one braid is known from the Slentre fingerloop braiding tradition.
A 5-loop unorthodox braid has one left and one right loop transfer in each braiding cycle, and feels very similar to making a square braid (you just skip over one of the loops on each hand instead of going through all of them). If you use more loops than 5 to make an unorthodox braid, some very interesting and unusual-looking braids can be made. The more loops you use, the more combinations of over, under, and through-loop moves are possible. Each combination makes a different braid structure. Some of these braids are quite different in appearance—unlike square braids of more and more loops, where all you get is a bigger square braid—the exact same structure, just with longer floats on the 4 ridges of the braid.
It might actually be the case that some of my unorthodox braids of many loops (but only two loop transfers) have never been braided before. I don’t mean to imply that no-one else would be able to think them up or make them. It’s just that, back when loop braiding was widespread and common, there would be no incentive for a braider to bother with using more than 9 or 10 finger-held loops.
Bigger loop braids can be made much more efficiently by several braiders co-operating on one braid, than by one braider using “too many” loops. However, braids done by multiple braiders are unlikely to have only 2 transfers per braiding cycle—it’s known, but not common. It’s much more common for co-operating braiders to each make two loop transfers. (Or even to make four each, in the case of so-called “spanish” braids.)
On the other hand, it’s very intuitive and natural for a solo braider to make 2-transfer braids. In other words, one loop transferred on/ from the left hand, followed by a mirror-image loop transfer on the right hand. If each hand is holding several loops, there are many possible combinations of “through,” ”over,” and “under” braiding moves the transferring loop can make. Each combination makes a different braid structure. Many of these braids look quite similar, but there are quite a few very different-looking ones.
At some point, I hope to get around to posting about some of these fun unorthodox braids of many loops. If you are interested, you can experiment and find some on your own. My 9-loop and 11-loop tutorials have a little info about possible unorthodox variations in the ‘notes’ sections following the tutorials. Leave a comment below or contact me by email if you are interested, and I can give you some more info, plus maybe scrape a post together a little sooner—ie a real tutorial, with photos and video.
By the way, if only over and under whole-loop moves are used in a braid—no “through-loop” moves at all (the braiding finger only going between loops and never through any)—the resulting braid will not be unorthodox. Instead it will be a much simpler braid, quite orthodox, and only half as complex as a square braid of the same number of loops. That’s because, if there are no through-loop moves, each loop simplifies down to one single braiding element instead of two separate ones—both shanks of the loop will stay together throughout the braid. (This is also a common type of loop braid worldwide.)
The braid may be a flat “over-under” plait, similar to a pigtail braid, or perhaps a round braid of some kind, but in either case the two shanks of each loop will form only one braiding element—staying together throughout the braid.
Try out various combinations of “through”, “over”, and “under” whole loop moves for the operator finger to do on the way to taking and transferring the loop (the highest loop on the other hand, for a V-fell braid, which means the index or thumb loop). It’s best to be consistent within a braid—stick with one combination per braid, so you can really see what kind of structure it produces. In other words, on both sides follow the same pattern of through’s, overs, unders for each loop-transfer.
Mixing regular “through”-loop moves with “under-whole-loop” moves will give an identical result to mixing “through-loop” moves and “over-whole-loop” moves. That’s because the “under” moves are “overs” when you look at the other side of the braid, and vice versa. This type of combination will tend to result in variously D-shaped braids (or peaked/ triangular braids). The only difference between the over and the under versions being whether the upper or lower surface is the rounded one. Using both under and over whole-loop moves (along with “throughs”) creates flatter braids. Both ways make great braids.
Again, if your operator finger only goes over and under whole loops, and not through any, your braid simplifies down to an orthodox braid of doubled strands, with only half as many braiding elements as “regular” loop braids. Include a few regular “through”-loop moves if you want a more intricate braid…
Another interesting factor with unorthodox braids is the direction you choose to turn your loops. Turning the loops from above versus from below makes much more of a difference to the appearance of an unorthodox braid than to a regular, orthodox square braid. (This is actually quite related to what I already mentioned about “overs” being “unders” when viewed from the other side.) It’s worth trying any unorthodox braid both ways—they may seem like quite different braids.
© 2011–2013 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