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Two parts:
1. Terms used in instructions (below), and
2. Structural terms – used in describing various types of braids.

1 – Terms used in instructions:
Any movement of loops by the fingers.

(Loop) transfer:
A very specific kind of move—a move in which a loop is interlaced with or through another loop or loops. A square braid has two loop transfers that repeat over and over again. One is on the left and the other on the right. In each of these loop transfers, a loop is pulled through all the one or more loops between its starting point, and its new finger on the other hand. There are more moves than this in each cycle, but only 2 transfers.

(Loop) shift:
A move that merely rearranges the loop or loops on the fingers, without interlacing them through or around any other loops. Ideally, this move is performed by the finger that the loop is shifting onto, not by a “helping” finger of the other hand. It’s usually done in order to put the loops back into their correct starting-position set-up after a loop transfer occurs.

In the 15th C. manuscripts, shifting loops was called “walking the bows,” which is how it feels, a very reflexive and easy motion that looks complex—like a centipede walking. It was also called to “hi” or “low” the bows, depending on which direction the loops were being shifted.

Loop exchange:
A move that connects the two halves of one braid—traditionally done in team braiding. Typical example: After each of the individual braiders has finished the moves of one braiding cycle, the two (or more) partners then exchange their closest loops to connect the individual braids into one larger braid.

Noémi Speiser also uses the term “loop exchange” for one particular type of loop transfer: in which a loop on a finger of one hand is exchanged with a loop on a finger of the other hand, one of the two loops passing through the other in this process. The Spiral braids (video links at the bottom of my Tutorials page) are made with this type of loop transfer, as are several other known loop braids.

(Braiding) cycle:
One repeat of the braiding movements, after which the same exact movements are repeated.
Like a pigtail braid, square braids have two loop transfers in each cycle of braiding. Double braids and Spanish braids have 4 loop transfers in each cycle.
The 8-loop spiral braid—or ‘lace bend round,’ also has 4 loop transfers in each braiding cycle, before the same sequence of moves repeat. (These transfers are very different from square or spanish braid loop transfers—they might also be called “loop exchange moves”.)

‘Braiding cycle’ only refers one repetition of the hand movements, not to a repeat of the pattern on the braid, or to all the loops returning to their original finger-positions.
That usually takes several braiding cycles, depending on the number of loops and the color pattern of the braid.

(Pattern) repeat:
This is the term for the length of braid, or of braiding, that it takes before all the colors return to their original starting positions on the fingers. This will equal one full expression of the color pattern on the braid.

For a five-loop square braid, it takes 5 braiding cycles (= 10 loop transfers) before all the loops return to the fingers where they started. So the pattern repeat for this braid is often five braiding cycles, seven cycles for a 7-loop braid, etc. However, if the braid has a very limited number of colors, the pattern repeat might be shorter: the few colors might return to their original starting arrangement on the fingers before each particular loop comes back to the finger where it started.

Bicolor loop patterns add another factor. Depending on how often the loops are turned, it might take twice as many cycles before the the loops come back to their starting fingers with all the colors in their original positions on the fingers. For example, in the flat version of a square braid, the first time the loops return to their starting fingers, each loop has only been turned once, so the colors of any bicolor loops are now in reverse on the fingers (and in the braid). A full pattern repeat for a 5-loop flat braid with bicolor loops is usually 10 braiding cycles.

Or a pattern repeat might be as short as only one cycle (as with an “Edge” -type of bicolor pattern in a square or double braid).

Turned loop transfer (same thing as Reversed or Crossed loop transfer):
Turning or not turning a loop over while transferring it can make a huge difference to how a braid turns out. Doing one or the other, or mixing the two types of transfers, is how you make a braid square, flat, or divide into two braids. ‘Turning’ the loop means taking it off its previous finger in such a way that it gets rotated by 180 degrees (a half-turn) as it moves onto its new finger. This makes the upper and lower shanks of the loop switch positions.
Reversed (vs unreversed) were the 15th C terms for this; Turn was used in the 17th C manuscripts; Crossed (vs open) are Noémi Speiser and Masako Kinoshita’s terms. To me, ‘turned’ (vs ‘not turned’ or ‘straight’) seems clearest, and when I teach, students seem to understand it more easily. In writing and in my tutorials I usually cite all three terms because people have different backgrounds in loop braiding.

(1) Linking the two shanks of one loop (“turn twice”).
With bicolor loops, turning a loop over twice (ie turning it 360 degrees) is another option—it has a negligible effect on the shape of the braid compared to turning the loop once, but creates a very different color effect, since the colors of the upper and lower shanks of the loop will not switch positions. When a loop is turned twice, its upper and lower shanks become linked around each other, instead of crossing each other. At that point in the braid, each shank links around the other shank and goes back to braiding on the same layer of the braid where it had been, rather than the two shanks crossing each other to each emerge on opposite sides of the braid (as when a loop is turned only once). This can create lengthwise columns of the two bicolors, for example in a flat braid (where lengthwise columns of color would not be possible otherwise). I teach this in a few posts: 1 (see third video), 2 (see third and 6th videos).

(2) Linking two loops (“exchange twice”/ “transfer twice”).
A different kind of linking can be done as part of the loop transfer or loop-exchange to create interesting color effects, like borders or lengthwise stripes of color (as in the braid in my sidebar →). This type of linked color-effect doesn’t require using bicolor loops. In this case, two loops of 2 different colors are linked together—that is, each shank ends up linked to the equivalent shank of the other loop. This is done by exchanging or transferring loops two times in immediate succession as part of one loop exchange or loop-transfer move. I show this in three posts:
1 Linking loops at the loop exchange of a flat double braid (see the second 8-loop video and the second 10-loop video)
2 Linking loops during loop transfers of a 7-loop flat (square-type) braid (videos and text)
3 Linking loops during loop transfers of a 13-loop flat (square-type) braid (video and text)

Loop braiding” vs. “Finger loop braiding
I usually use the more general term “loop braiding”, unless I’m contrasting finger-held loops with hand-held loops (say, comparing a European braiding method to a Japanese hand-held loop braiding method), in which case I specify “finger loop braiding”.*

However, a lot of online searches are for fingerloop braiding. So I try to use that term at least once in every post.

2 – Structural terms (weaves, etc)
Braiding is done on a diagonal, often called “oblique” slant, as compared to weaving, which is worked on horizontal/ vertical axes.
Loop Braiding* is a type of braiding in which loops are held on fingers (or over the hands), and tightening is usually done at the ends of the loops rather than near the point, or ‘fell’ of the braid. The top of the braid must be attached to a firm fixed point.

Braids can have the same types of interlacing as weavings. There is a difference, of course, since in braids that interlacing is on a diagonal, not straight across as in a weaving. But weaving terminology can sometimes be useful for braids as well.

To be very exact, for braids you could use the term “oblique interlacing” instead of “weave.” “Plain oblique interlacing” would be the (extremely!) technically correct term for “Plain-weave braid”.

Warp and weft are the two sets of threads in a weaving. Warp threads are the ones laid onto the loom before weaving. Weft threads are woven back-and-forth at right angles to the warp. These terms are occasionally useful for braids, too, even though (usually) all threads take turns being ‘warp’ and ‘weft’, they aren’t completely separate sets as in a weaving.

In a braid, the thread or loop that is being moved/transferred is similar to weft while the more passive threads/loops it is being moved through are similar to warp elements. (This is not just an arbitrary comparison! The threads tend to “behave” this way—in spacing/cramming effects that mimic warp-faced weaves, for example)

Plain weave or tabby are weaving terms for the simplest type of weave:
Each strand goes over one strand, then under the next, then over the next, etc. Over 1, under 1. On the next row, it is UNDER 1, over 1—opposite of the first row. (I remember doing this with strips of colored paper in kindergarten.)
A hairstyle braid is plain weave with only 3 parts. Over 1, under 1 again and again.

There are probably many types of plain weave, but the following three are the only types I’m aware of in loop braids:
balanced, warp-faced, and repp (or repp-like, anyway)

In balanced plain weave, the warp and weft threads are equally visible in the finished piece.

In warp-faced plain weave, only the warp threads show, while the back-and-forth weft threads are completely hidden. The warp threads are so closely spaced that each weft thread tunnels between the “over” warp threads and the “under” warp threads, while remaining completely hidden from view in the final piece. Backstrap weaving is usually warp-faced and so are many braid types.

‘Balanced’ and ‘warp-faced’ are actually two points along a continuum…A braid or weaving might be slightly to strongly warp-faced, depending on how closely the warp threads are set, or packed together in braiding.

In a “repp*” weave the weft is much thicker than the warp threads, so it forms a horizontal bulge with each row. In a warp-faced repp weave, the thicker weft thread is completely hidden by the close-set, much thinner warp threads that it tunnels through, and only the bulge it creates is visible. In a braid, these bulging rows are slanted, not straight across. See photo here—then click on the photo to see the “repp-like” slanted, bulging rows in the larger braids.

In these braids, every ‘weft’ element tunneling between the the upper and lower warp threads comprises two threads—both shanks of a whole loop, making the ‘weft’ elements twice as thick as the ‘warp’ elements they tunnel through. The alternating upper and lower warp elements are single threads (the two shanks of each loop move apart in opposite directions for the weft to go through).

This produces a thick, flat, single-layer braid, looking similar to some twined braids (described below).

This is quite different from the square and flat 2-layer braids I teach in my Start Here and Continue Here tutorials, and from the plain-weave braids in my header photo, which are also braided as two layers (the widest 4 braids in that photo).

(In those two-layer plain-weave braids, the two shanks of a traveling loop don’t end up together in the braid, even though you move them as one. One shank of the loop becomes part of the upper layer of the braid, and the other shank becomes part of the lower layer. The two layers of the braid are opened out to be a single, twice-as-wide flat layer after the braid is finished.)

Square braids and double braids are two-layer braids of (usually) twill interlacing, rather than plain weave.

A 5-loop square braid has (for the most part* ) 2/2 twill: the ‘traveling’ thread goes under two threads, over two threads across the braid. In each successive row, the overs and unders are shifted over/offset by one thread. Because of that, the weft in subsequent rows goes over or under different pairs of threads—which is what makes the weave a twill.

A 5 loop square braid has 2/2 twill because each loop is always pulled through two other loops—the ones on the middle and ring fingers.

Over the course of braiding, on each layer of the braid, a thread goes under two threads to the middle of the braid, then over 2 to the other side of the braid, where it turns and dives into the side of the braid again, goes under 2 and then over 2 threads back to the side where it started, now lower down in the growing braid.

It doesn’t do all this in one move. In the first move, the loop I am describing comes from the left halfway across the braid (through two loops). In the next move, a loop from the right is brought to the center, through 2 loops, including that first loop, the one we are tracking. (This creates our loop’s first “over.”) Then another loop from the left follows our loop halfway across. Finally a second loop from the right comes halfway across, through our loop and the one following it. (Our loop’s second “over.”)

At that point our loop has made it all the way across the braid and is ready to be the next loop taken through the braid from the right side. (This describes V-fell braiding, in which outer loops are pulled to the center of the braid.)

Btw, the upper shank of each loop is doing its own “overs” and the lower shank is doing mirror-image “overs” on the other side of the braid, which is what makes it a two-layer braid. The two parts of each loop are not together in the braid, even though the braider moves them as one.

Each successive time a new loop starts across the braid, the pairs of loops (or threesomes, in a 7-loop braid) that it goes through are offset by 1 loop, so they are not the same exact pairs as in the previous row or braiding cycle.

A 7-loop square braid has 3/3 twill. Each loop is always pulled through 3 loops, after which 3 loops are pulled through it (during the course of the following three braiding cycles) before it reaches the other side of the braid and becomes the active ‘through’ loop again.

Oblique [i.e. 'braided'] Twining
Twining is when a pair, or many pairs of threads (each pair can obviously be a loop) are twisted a half-twist before another thread or loop is passed through them.

Single Course Oblique Twining (often abbreviated as SCOT) is the most common type of twining in European loop braiding, and was also used in other loop braiding traditions (kute-uchi and ancient Andean). For example, the many Medieval braids called “bends” and “chevrons” at the last portion of Cindy Myers’ Fingerloop Braids by Type page. The directions for any of these braids will include the following step: “Twist all loops (on a hand) 180°.” After that step a loop is then drawn through all the twisted loops. In subsequent moves the loops are always twisted in the same direction (on one hand, anyway).*

Like a repp braid, the “weft” is always a whole loop (2 strands), while the “warp” elements are single strands, so the overall texture looks superficially similar to a repp weave braid (see above, under plain weave). Twining is quite different from plain weave, so I’m not sure if it’s technically correct to call twined braids “repp braids”.

Plain Oblique Twining (POT) is another, more intricate type of twining. In POT a loop is twisted before going through one loop, and then passes untwisted around the next loop (which itself gets a twist) and so on across the braid. Here is a photo of very lacy, open POT on L-MBRIC. My Rainbow Girl braid was made with plain oblique twining (4th braid from left in my header photo, top of page). When the braid is tightened firmly, the POT structure is not visible on the surface…or rather, the twining isn’t visible, the surface patterns usually mimic plain weave (tabby) patterns. (The fabric is about twice as dense as a plain weave would be.)

Countered (or Counter-) Twining, common in ancient Andean flat braids, is a type of twining in which two adjacent loops are turned in opposite directions, after which another loop or loops (most often, another pair of loops) is/are passed through them as the traveling or hidden course.

If the two pairs of loops are of different colors, the braider can choose which color will show in that particular “pixel” of the braid by selecting which pair goes through the other. Only the color of the “around” pair of loops will be seen in the braid.

Each pair of counter-twining loops typically stays together throughout the braid, the right loop always turning in a clockwise direction and the left loop counter-clockwise. [Yes, this can result in under- and over-twisting of the loops in longer pieces!]

*Masako Kinoshita and Noémi Speiser prefer the term loop-manipulation braiding, and finger-held loop-manipulation braiding when they want to differentiate it from hand-held loop braiding. (Masako Kinoshita then shortens this to f-h l-m braiding). To me loop braiding and fingerloop braiding seem clearer and less cumbersome. (To my ears, ‘fingerloop’ sounds like a normal English compound word, whereas to Speiser and Kinoshita it has a “babytalk” connotation.)

Plain old “hand loop braiding,” however, could imply loop braiding by hand versus by machine. So there is no recourse but “hand-held” loop braiding.

I’ve occasionally seen others (never Speiser or Kinoshita) drop the word “braiding” altogether, leaving “loop manipulation” alone. To me, this leaves out the most important word! ‘Loop manipulation’ could apply to knotting, knitting, crocheting, or making potholders!

I can’t quite bring myself to add the word “manipulation” to loop braiding, as it seems redundant (to me, the word braiding already encompasses the sense of manipulation). I feel somewhat buttressed in this departure from my two heroes’ terminology in that Noémi Speiser also often uses the simpler term “loop braiding”…

*As a non-weaver, I am a little uncertain about my definition of ‘repp’ as a weaving term! I know what I mean by it, but it could be that the term in weaving is more specific than this—please let me know if you think I should change something in my definition or analogy!

*Twill loop braids often have an extra float in some ridges, so when I describe a square or double braid as having 2/2 twill it’s a slight oversimplification.

*If the direction of twist were to alternate between each row (thereby undoing the twist), the result would actually be plain weave rather than twining. I haven’t heard of that method being used in loop braiding before, but I have idly suspected it [or something like it—see my Warp-faced plain weave braids] for some Andean warp-faced plain weave flat braids. If so, they might well have been made by (hand-held) loop braiding, as many other Andean flat braids are assumed to have been made. (At first Rodrick Owen disagreed with me on this but he may be coming round!)

© 2012–2014 Ingrid Crickmore

See full copyright restrictions and permissions at the bottom of the sidebar (if you are on a small screen, the ‘sidebar’ may appear somewhere other than the side of the screen). Content of this website may not be posted or “reposted” online, sold, or used in fee-based workshops without my permission. It may be shared off-line with certain restrictions – see full copyright info.

Info pages:
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

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