Tutorial for the 7-loop spanish braid

If you are already comfortable braiding 7-loop square braids, this seven-loop spanish braid might be fun to try next. It has twice as many loop transfers as a square braid (and they are done differently than you might expect!)

[Video tutorial below; skip down to text instructions for the 7-loop (single braider) and 14-loop (two-braider) braids here; jump further down to my 14-loop solo-braider method here ; and to my “Why Spanish?” structural and historical musings here]

Slide the bubble under the video to the point you want to see.

0:00 Intro and setup (overly long! Skip to 5:45 for braiding moves for a divided braid)
5:45 Basic braiding moves, making a divided version of the braid (loops are not turned over while being moved). This creates a divided-into-two-layers braid, which will form a loop/ buttonhole at the start of the braid.
17:47 Beginning of braiding a “solid” braid: each loop is turned over when it is moved. This connects the upper and lower layers of the braid, making a solid, rectangular braid, twice as wide as a square braid.

In the video I am braiding a color pattern that I call “Lopsided Crowns”.  In the picture of the two sample braids below, the lowest braid has an example of the “Lopsided Crowns” pattern: At the far right (upper) end of the braid, beside the biggest bunch of loop-ends.

7-loop spanish braids, bicolor loops, departed bowes

7-loop ‘spanish’ braids, these are pattern samplers made using bicolor loops (embroidery floss).  Click 2 times to see the braid structure.

This post now has instructions for making all the color-patterns in these two sampler braids.

Text instructions for 7-loop “Spanish” braid, demo’d in video above. I learned this braid from Speiser/Boutrup’s Instructions for Letter Braids in 17th c. Manuscripts   (I do the first loop transfer slightly differently than Joy Boutrup describes it, but the result is the same.)

See notes below braid instructions for info on color set-up. Give all loops a half-turn when transferring them (for a solid braid), or no turn for a two-layer, divided braid (both shown in video). Other combinations will make different braid shapes.

L=left; R=right.
La, b, c, d = left index, middle, ring, little finger, or the loop on that finger.
This is similar to most loop braiding notation systems, goes back to the 15th C. manuscripts.

In these instructions, La= the left index finger;  La =the loop on that finger

Start with:
3 loops on the left hand:  1 each on La, b, d (no loop on the Lc-finger)*2
4 loops on the right hand: 1 each on Ra, b, c, d

1. Ra (operator finger for this move) goes through Lb, takes La and places it onto Lc. First left-side transfer done.

2. Lb shifts up to La.

3. New operator finger Lb goes through Lc and Ld, takes Rd.  Second left-side transfer done.

4. Rc shifts down to Rd, leaving the Rc finger empty. Loops are now in mirror image of original starting position, ready for the 2 right-side loop transfers.


Repeat above moves in mirror-image fashion:

5. La (new operator finger) goes through Rb, takes Ra and places it onto Rc. First right-side transfer done.

6. Rb shifts up to Ra.

7. New operator finger Rb goes through Rc and Rd, takes Ld.  Second right-side transfer done.

8. Lc shifts down to Ld, leaving the Lc finger empty. Loops are now in original starting position, ready for the 2 left-side loop transfers.


One braiding cycle done.

For the 7-loop braid, just keep repeating these steps.  Skim through notes below for info on color setup and new info on loop-turns. Most of the rest of the notes are for the 14-loop, doubled version of this braid. After you learn this 7-loop braid, check out the bicolor pattern set-ups below for several fun color patterns.

For the 2-person, 14-loop version of this braid, this is the point where the 2 braiders would exchange their nearest a-finger loops, one through the other, being careful that the loops didn’t get a twist or turn during this process. The shanks that were in upper position on each braider’s hand should end up in upper position on the other braider’s hand with no twist to the loop. This can be tricky, review the info and video in my 2-person braiding tutorial for a way to do this with a 10-loop braid. However, in this Spanish braid, the two braiders’ neighboring hands will each be holding four loops when it comes time to exchange. Because of this, one of the two braiders will probably have to temporarily place a loop onto her other hand in order to free the index finger for the exchange (see suggestion in Joy Boutrup’s letterbraid book)…

To turn or not to turn: In my 7- and 14-loop  braid samples,  each transferred loop was turned. (“reversed” –15th C, “crossed” –Speiser and Kinoshita).  This interconnects the upper and lower layers of the braid fabric. It also creates a color change if you are using bicolor loops.

For the 14-loop letterbraid, however, all transfers are done without turning the transferring loop. This results in a two-layer braid fabric, the top layer should be one color, the separate bottom layer another color. The top and bottom layers are not connected at all unless loops are turned over on the fingers (before the loop transfers occur) to change colors for the letter-shapes. This has the side benefit of connecting the two layers of the braid. (photo)

In the video I am turning the loops from below, unlike the way I showed in my square braid videos—in those I turned the loops from above. Either way works fine, but you should stick to one way within a braid

New info 2-14-12: Au contraire! ~ The following is not necessary in making this braid, and was apparently not traditional, but it turns out that this type of braid will be much straighter and flatter in cross-section if you turn the first and third transfer from above, but turn the 2nd and 4th transfer from below. (Outer transfers from above; inner transfers from below.) Or vice versa. Thanks to Gary in the Canary Islands for pushing me to confirm this. [I demo this in a video here.]
However, no extant surviving “spanish” type braids or double braids had this type of mixed turns. [Joy Boutrup told me this at Braids 2012, and she has done extensive research on surviving European loop braids]

2-braider method: For making either the 14-loop letterbraid, or my doubled 14-loop samplers in the traditional method, 2 braiders would be standing side-by-side, braiding from one fixed point.
What I described in the directions above are the LEFT braider’s moves—the right braider mirrors everything the left braider does.
For example, the right braider starts with 4 loops on his/her left rather than right hand (and would then begin braiding at steps 5-8, followed by 1-4, since these two sections are the mirror-image of each other).

Bicolor loops set-up: The 14-loop letterbraid, and the 7-loop sampler braids in this post, have all-bicolor loops –each loop is of two colors, having one light and one dark-colored shank. (See my Bicolor Loop Magic tutorial for an introduction to bicolor loops)

For the letterbraid:  at the start of braiding, all the dark shanks are in upper (or all in lower) position on all fingers. The color of the upper shanks forms the ground color; the color of the lower shanks will be the color of the letters.

For the 7- and 14-loop  sampler color-patterns:  each of the various patterns starts out with a different arrangement of dark and light-colored shanks in upper position on the fingers, described below under How to set up…

Of course, this braid can also be made using single-color loops, or a combination of single and bicolor loops, just like square braids. Below are photos that reader Dan Gaiser sent me of his 7-loop Spanish braided bookmarks—most of these are flat versions of this braid, btw. He experimented with color patterns using bicolor loops and fewer or just one contrast single-color loop(s). (Thanks for these great examples, Dan!):

Dan Gaiser's 7-loop spanish braid. 6 bicolor loops and 1 black loop.

Dan Gaiser’s flat 7-loop spanish braid. 6 bicolor loops and 1 black loop.

Dan Gaiser's 7-loop spanish braids.

More of Dan’s 7-loop Spanish braids. Most of these are flat (only 1 of the 4 loop transfers is turned). I think (?) the lowest braid may have the shape I teach in this tutorial (rectangular in cross-section – all 4 loop transfers turned). The upper 3 braids have the same color-pattern, but with different colors. The 4th one has a slightly different pattern. The lowest 3 braids have other color-patterns.

Color sequencing: For setting up your own color arrangements, if you want to line up colors in a certain order in this braid, you’ll need to know the loop sequence (the order of how the loops follow each other in the braid itself). Two loops that are next to each other on your fingers might not actually be next to each other in the braid. I describe the loop sequence for the 7-loop spanish braid here in my post on color-pattern planning.


How to set up for the bicolor patterns in my 7-loop sampler braids:
Many other patterns are possible than just the ones I show—try other set-ups; single-color loops; and combining bicolor and single-color loops.

Update: after I posted this tutorial, Gary Mitchell developed an online interactive pattern-planner for this 7-loop Spanish braid! With it, you can plan over 500 different braid designs! I’ve made two posts about his planner – the first post explains how it works, and the second post has a video showing how to follow his planner in braiding a design, either one you’ve made up, or one of the examples in my photos.

See note 2b re (lack of) historically notated color-patterns.

For these patterns, use all bicolor loops. When you are about to start braiding, set the loops up on the fingers as I describe below for each pattern.

In the directions below, “Black” means: dark shank in upper position, whereas “White” means: light shank in upper position on the finger. (All the loops are of the same two colors).

All colors will return to their starting set-up position on the fingers at the end of each pattern repeat—7 full braiding cycles—as long as you haven’t made any mistakes!

The “Edge” pattern is an exception. With this set-up, the loops will return to the same color distribution on the fingers after each braiding cycle (4 loop transfers), so the “Edge” pattern repeat is only one cycle long. That makes it a good pattern to practice the braid with—you can error-check to make sure the color distribution is correct after each cycle, instead of counting 7 cycles before knowing if you’ve made a mistake.

If you’ve made a mistake and (after one full pattern repeat) one loop is in the wrong orientation, the easiest way to fix it is just to turn it on the finger to be in the correct color-orientation, and continue braiding. (The fussy way to correct is to unbraid back past the mistake.)

[new: Gary’s online pattern planner for this braid can show how the loops should look on your fingers after each cycle of any pattern! see note **** ]

a, b, c, d = index–little finger

7-loop spanish braids, bicolor loops, departed bowes

Two 7-loop samplers, bicolor loops. (click for more detail)

Edge pattern—first pattern in each braid (and repeated between the other patterns)—lengthwise stripe outlining the edges of the braid:
Left hand loops:      a-black up,   b-black,    (no loop on c),   d-white
Right hand loops:   a-black,   b-black,   c-white,   d-white

a, b, c, d = index–little finger loops. Each loop is bicolor–half light, half dark.

In Gary Mitchell’s new interactive pattern-planner for this 7-loop spanish braid, the Edge pattern’s ID # is 585—if you enter that # into the box on the first page of the planner and click on “submit,” you will see a chart for this color-pattern.

Dom’s  Edge-pattern bracelet

One loop wrong” pattern—the first pattern after the “Edge” pattern, lower right end of both braids:
Start with the Edge setup above, except have one loop—any loop— “wrong” (opposite color than I list). I always turned the La loop to be “wrong”, but it shouldn’t matter which one you choose. [braid ID 586 on Gary’s planner]

Next very busy pattern to the left on lowest braid (black)
(the result of a mistake):
L hand loops:  a-black,   b-black,   d-white
R hand loops:  a-white,   b-black,   c-white,  d-black
[braid ID 589 on Gary’s planner]

Lowest braid’s last pattern—upper right end of braid (lopsided “Crowns” pattern):
Start with all white OR all black shanks in upper position on all fingers.
[this is the pattern I am braiding in the video for this tutorial]
[OR, start with the set-up shown in the planner for this pattern—i.d. #595. Different set-up, but same pattern.]

Pattern to the left of that one (after Edge pattern—mottled black and white):
L hand loops:   all white shanks upper position
R hand loops:   all black shanks in upper position
(white color areas connect, black patches are separated—reverse the colors for the opposite effect. Or turn the braid over after finishing–colors are reversed on the other side.)
[OR, start with the set-up shown in the planner for this pattern—i.d. #590. Different set-up, but same pattern.]

Navy braid, middle pattern on lower half (navy irregular “M’s”):
L hand loops:   all black shanks upper position
R hand loops:   a-black,   b-black,   c-black,   d-white
[or start with the setup shown in Gary’s planner for this pattern—i.d. #592. Different set-up, but same pattern.]
(for irregular white “M’s”, reverse the above colors)
–I forgot to try doubling this pattern in a 14-loop braid.

Top rightmost pattern in navy braid (sampler photo) is simply the Edge pattern, alternating with the same pattern but with all the colors reversed—switching Whites and Blacks in starting position.

How to switch DARKS & LIGHTS seamlessly:
To alternate between any pattern and its opposite–meaning the same pattern but with the dark and light reversed– do the following:

1st braiding cycle (4 loop transfers): do all 4 transfers STRAIGHT (unturned/unreversed/open)

2nd braiding cycle (4 loop transfers): do the first 3 transfers STRAIGHT, but the last transfer TURNED (reversed/crossed).

After these 2 cycles are done, the colors should be reversed. Check to make sure that they are. Resume braiding normally—turning all the loop transfers—until you want to switch again. For patterns other than The Edge, you will need to braid 5 more normal cycles (with turned transfers) before being able to check that you are in the exact opposite color set-up. That’s because, after making the switch you will be 2 cycles into the pattern repeat, so the colors you see on your fingers will not be in cycle-start position. If you want to be able to check immediately, learn how that pattern’s loops should look on the fingers once they have progressed two cycles from your starting setup. Gary’s online planner can now show this, see note: ****

Do try out single-color loops with this braid, too. As well as combinations of bicolor and single-color loops. I was on a roll with finding bicolor patterns when I made this series of posts, but you can use as many colors as you want, of single or and/or bicolor loops.  I would love to see any that you make, either these patterns or your own…

What is a “spanish” braid, exactly???

Several braids were referred to as “Spanish” in the 17th C. English loop braiding manuscripts, not just this particular 7-loop one. Some were single-worker braids and some were multiple worker braids, and they had varying numbers of loops from five to 14. This one is the first Spanish braid I learned how to make —from Joy Boutrup and Noemi Speiser’s recent monograph—though I had read about “Spanish” braids much earlier, without really understanding what they were (in Noemi Speiser’s Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding).

When I finally learned this one I was amazed to find out that it was essentially the same as my solo-braider double braids, though with only 7 loops. (It may seem different to you, if you’ve followed my double braid tutorials, but that’s largely because I teach them with doubled A-fell braiding moves, rather than doubled V-fell ones.)

Even though this 7-loop braid is meant to be made by a single braider, the structure/architecture of the braid is very similar to the 10-loop 15th and 17th C. doubled-square braids made by two braiders—in Europe as well as other parts of the world. Surprisingly unlike the European two-worker double-square braids, this 7-loop “Spanish” braid grows on a W-shaped fell. Historically, European two-braider braids were made with what I call an “M-shaped” fell. That’s because they were braided by two braiders both using A-fell braiding moves.

The other thing that might seem different is that this “Spanish” braid has an odd number of loops, while all the double braids I teach (so far) have an even number. However double braids can also be made with an odd number of loops, I just haven’t taught that variation here yet. Braiding them with an odd number of loops slightly changes the way the braider or braiders connect the two halves of the braid—they wouldn’t use a simultaneous and reciprocal loop-exchange move.

Here’s how 2 braiders could make this 7-loop Spanish braid as a two-worker double braid technique (usually done with odd numbers of loops greater than seven):

At the start of braiding, one braider holds 4 loops and the other holds 3, yet each braider will (in turn) do all the braiding moves of a 4-loop braid (the way I teach square braids – the V-fell method).

There are at least two ways this can happen.

One way: the braider with 4 loops starts, braids two loop transfers as for a 4-loop square braid, and then passes the closest index loop over to the other braider—who’s been holding 3 loops, with none on the closest index to the first braider. Now the second braider has 4 loops. S/he braids two transfers, and then passes a new index loop back to the first worker.

So there’s no “loop-exchange” swapping move as in regular double braids–instead, the two braiders take turns braiding, and whoever has just braided passes an index loop to the partner who is about to braid. (Notice that each side of the braid is still braided with 4 loops–it’s a very symmetrical braid, in fact in some ways it’s more symmetrical than a double braid with an even number of loops.) Noémi Speiser calls this a “giving-taking” type of loop exchange. (after clicking that link, scroll down the L-MBRIC page to 3. 9-loop 2-person technique)

The exact same passage of loops can also be accomplished in another, more efficient way: The braider holding only three loops starts the braiding, and in one of the two loop transfers, goes through his/her own loops and takes a loop directly from the other braider’s closest index finger—and ends up with 4 loops. Then it’s the other braider’s turn to repeat those moves in mirror-image fashion.

That’s essentially what’s happening to the left and right hand loops in the 7-loop spanish braid directions above, across the two hands of a single braider instead of the four hands of two braiders. ***

And since this braid only has 7 loops, it’s fine to do it that way—there’s no need for it to be a 2-worker braid. With only seven loops, all four loop transfers can easily be done by one braider.

In OEPBforLB, Speiser wonders what the term “Spanish” could possibly signify, since the so-called Spanish braids were seemingly all so different – from 5 to 14 or more loops, and made by one or more braiders. So she just defines/describes so-called ‘Spanish’ braids by their weave structure rather than their method — as being plain weave, or occasionally a mix of plain weave and twill, and never all-twill.

My assumption is that 17th C braiders in England used the term “Spanish” for any braid in which the braider or braiders each make four loop transfers per braiding cycle, rather than two (the more usual case). Noémi Speiser doesn’t state this anywhere in her description of “Spanish” braids in Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding. But from what I can glean from Joy Boutrup’s instructions for all 3 “Spanish” braids that form the three letterbraids, and from Noémi Speiser’s descriptions of the structure of the braids called “Spanish”, that seems to be thing they all have in common. Some were one-worker braids, some multiple-worker braids. But all seem to have required 4 loop-transfers per braider, in each braiding cycle. [update – Joy Boutrup corroborated this when I asked her about it at Braids 2012].

To me it seems likely that the English braiders of the 17th century gave the name Spanish to certain braids based on something special or unusual about their method, rather than that the structure of some of these braids was plain-weave, and some a mix of plain weave and twill. Either of those two structures is a necessary result if a single braider is making four (orthodox) loop transfers and using 7 or fewer loops. An all-twill braid of 4 transfers per braider would require the braider to use a minimum of 9 loops. The 10-loop double braid that I teach as a solo-braider technique is an example of this. My guess is that if a 17th-C English braider could watch someone make that braid, s/he would likely call it a Spanish braid.

So then there’s the question Why did they call it “Spanish?”… Did this braiding method come to England from Spain, or maybe from even further away originally?

In the few of these “spanish” braids I’ve learned, loops are always transferred “outside→inward” in direction for the component square braid-type moves (like the so-called V-fell method). This seems a little strange to me, because in England (and most of Europe), the opposite direction of braiding was always used in making square braids: loops were transferred “inward→outside” in direction – a.k.a. the A-fell method.

If European simple square braids had later evolved into spanish braids—doubled square braids done by one braider—then why didn’t these braids have the typical European A-shaped fell, doubled into an M-(AA) fell? It’s perfectly possible to make them this way, in fact it’s the way I’ve tended to prefer myself after originally trying it in both directions… (it’s the braiding direction I teach on this blog in my double braid tutorials).

In India, and the rest of Asia and the Pacific, square loop braids were and are made with a V-shaped fell. To me it seems possible that this 4-transfer “spanish” braiding method—even though we only have records of it from 17th C. England—actually had its origins in India or Asia, before eventually being introduced into England (maybe via Spain), sometime in the 17th C. Knitting was also introduced to England from the Mediterranean/Middle East/North Africa around that time. Diseases, ideas, spices, fabric, and technologies were being disseminated on a large global scale. [new note: Loop braiding has been documented in Asia as long ago as 3 or 4 thousand years, cf Mari Omura.] There is no mention of ‘spanish’ braids in the English loop braiding manuscripts of the 15th Century, that term only appears in the 17th C manuscripts.


* European Loop Braiding: Investigations and Results–Part II Instructions for Letter Braids in 17th Century Manuscripts by Noémi Speiser and Joy Boutrup
Parts I through IV are available separately or together.  Only Part II deals with letter braids.  Available from BraidersHand in the U.S., from the publisher in the U.K.

Please note: The actual instructions in the monograph are very brief, with no pictures or diagrams of the moves. I suggest learning the braiding method here first! The monograph is primarily a structural analysis of the letterbraids, not an instruction manual for them. This series of monographs is a supplement to Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding, and it assumes that the reader already knows how to make 2-person braids, and other basic info covered in the earlier book.

(More info about the Letterbraid monograph here).

*2 Joy Boutrup’s set-up is slightly different from mine—she starts with a loop on the Lc finger which she later moves down to the d-finger. I start with it on the d-finger. (I do that move down from the Lc finger at the end of the previous cycle, as a loop-shifting move). This makes no difference to the braid structure, and might not be any more efficient, it’s just a personal preference. The exact way braiders in the 17th C. did the moves isn’t known–they may well have also had individual differences like this.

*2b No examples of color-patterns for this braid are notated in any known loop braiding manuscript. The only known recorded information about this braid is as a doubled, two-braider structure for making letter (and other) shapes by means of a braided version of complementary pick-up patterning, a very complex color-patterning technique. However, it seems very unlikely to me that the braid itself hadn’t been known and used in its “single-braider” 7-loop form in a wide variety of ‘regular’ braid patterns before charted letter-patterns were developed for it. The particular bicolor-loop color-patterns I teach in this tutorial would be very obvious and easy to come up with for any loop-braider familiar with this braid and familiar with bicolor loops (departed bows).

*3 The unequal loop transfers should be made such that the two  “through 1 loop” transfers (plain-weave) are done at the outer edges of the braid and the two “through 2 loops” transfers (twill) are nearer the center of the braid.

*4 Gary’s planner can now show this progression—on any pattern’s chart, click on “cycle +”.  With each click, the loop setup shown on the chart’s lower left will change to show the color arrangement on the fingers after one more braiding cycle has been done. This is a really great feature! (thanks, Gary!)

*5 Other spanish braid-shapes (flat, hollow, etc): My more recent series of tutorials on the various possible shapes of double braids apply to ‘spanish’ braids as well.

I would love to see photos of any braids you make! (Email through my contact form up top and I’ll let you know how to send them.)
Please let me know where the instructions aren’t clear enough, it’ll help others who might not ask. Leave comments / questions here, I check every day when I’m in town.

My [recently edited and improved] solo braider method for the 14-loop letter braid.

Below is a blow-by-blow description of how I make the doubled version of the 7-loop Spanish braid (the 14-loop letterbraid) as a solo braider. The trickiest parts are the inner two loop transfers of each hand. These are the ones that involve the three loops held on the d-finger. I recommend the following steps before tackling this braid—if you like loop braiding, these will all be very fun steps, and some great braids!:

First learn how to use thumbs, and multiple loops on the little finger, as well as 10-loop double braids, and the 10-loop Nun’s letterbraid as a solo braider. Then the13-loop square braid, since it also requires holding 3 loops on the d-fingers, but is a simpler braid.

Also, learn the 7-loop Spanish braid above—it’s the root of this 14-loop letterbraid, so it’ll help to know those moves when you are transposing them into the same loop movements done with all 7 loops on a single hand.

Learn this 14-loop braid as a divided braid first, keeping the upper and lower layers of the braid completely separate. Start with all dark shanks in upper position.
[nb: the shank that must be considered the “upper” shank of a thumb loop is not obvious, this is covered in all my tutorials that involve using the thumbs.]
Each time you transfer a loop, make sure it hasn’t turned over—that the dark shank is still uppermost with no twist to the loop. If the two layers of the braid keep getting linked together, review my solo Nun’s letterbraid video and practice that braid, the loop movements are very similar.

Each hand holds 7 loops. I hold 3 loops on each d-finger—1 at each joint—and 1 loop each on all the other fingers, including the thumbs. (My Lth, a, b = Traditional left braider’s La, Lb, Ld. My Lc, dLow, dmid, dhigh = Trad. left braider’s RIGHT d, c, b, a) There are 4 loop transfers on each hand in one braiding cycle. The loop transfers are performed by the a- and b-fingers of the opposite hand. After all 8 loop transfers (both hands) are done, the dHigh loops of each hand are exchanged. (My left and right DHigh loops are equivalent to the neighboring/ adjacent index fingers of two traditional braiders working as a team—the a-fingers of their so-called inner hands).

All 7 loops on a hand perform the same movements, in the same order, that they do when they are held across the two hands of a braider making a 7-loop spanish braid. The braider performs whatever motions are necessary to get the loop to go where it should!

For example: first move: Left hand’s “leftest” loop (The outermost left loop, which now happens to be the thumb loop, but would have been the left index loop of the left braider in a two-braider team) must go through only the loop next to it, the L index loop. Look at those two loops and figure out how to accomplish that, using your Ra finger. [this exact move is demoed in my solo nun’s letterbraid video, though there it’s the third transfer, not the first.

Any loop-shifting is done before the transferring loop is placed onto its new finger, as shown in my double braid videos, and the Nun’s letterbraid tutorial. The transferring loop is held by the operator finger (a-finger, and occasionally b-finger of the other hand) until the loop shift is done.

The second transferred loop must move in the opposite direction of the first transfer. This is exactly equivalent to the second loop transfer of the 7 loop Spanish braid. If you review the second transfer in the Spanish braid, you’ll see that this time the taken loop must be pulled through two loops, the second of which is the loop that was just transferred in the first move. So the next loop to be transferred has to be the the loop on the left ring finger. It will end up on the index finger (after the two loops it went through are shifted down to make room). It’s important to bring any “upward-moving” loop through the other loops in the correct direction!–watch the first and fourth loop transfers in my Nun’s letterbraid video. For these transfers, the operator finger must be inserted through the passive loops from back to front to fetch the loop that will be transferred.

Third loop transfer: dHigh, the tip-most of the left 3 d-loops, goes through only one loop—dMid. (in the 7-loop spanish braid, this is the the left braider’s right index loop transferring leftward through the b-loop—a mirror image of the very first loop transfer.) I do this by using an “outside-around” move. I don’t actually move the “transferring” loop. Instead, the operator finger Ra lifts the middle of the three left d-loops, and brings it over/around the outermost d-loop, then holds it temporarily through the following loop transfer. The net result is that dHigh moves through the middle d-loop. The loop that starts out as dHigh is the actual ‘transferring loop’, even though it’s not not the loop you move! The actual transferring loop traveled “upward”—toward the thumb—one position. The next (4th) transferred loop will travel in the opposite direction—away from the thumb.

Ok, before moving on to the 4th transfer, here’s a tricky bit: after that third loop transfer above, I don’t set the “outside-around” loop down onto its new high position on the d-finger yet. Instead, my operator finger (Ra) temporarily keeps holding it all the way through the fourth transfer, with the B-finger (middle finger) acting as the operator for that fourth loop transfer (explained below). Then, don’t put that fourth transferred loop down yet either!—Its operator/ “fetcher” Rb-finger temporarily keeps it, and then that same B-finger also lifts and temporarily holds the outermost of the two remaining D-loops (holding it near the tip, a bit separate from the just-transferring loop it is also holding). This temporary-hold of the outer d-loop allows the one remaining D-loop (DLow) to shift up to the C-finger. At that point the two hands pull apart to carefully tighten all the left loop transfers in one tightening move. After the tightening move all three temporarily-held loops are set onto the now-empty D-finger–this happens as a single move, not as three separate moves. The loop held by the operator A-finger should be the new outermost D-loop (LdHigh).

Details regarding that fourth loop transfer: In that fourth transfer, the C (ring finger) loop is taken through the two loops remaining on the D-finger. This is an awkward move at first, but you get used to it. After the temporary holds and loop-shift are done, that ex-C-loop will end up as the new middle d-finger loop (Dmid) when all three temporarily-held loops are placed back onto the left d-finger.

I tighten loops after the 4th transfer of each hand (while the three loops that will end up on the D-finger are being temporarily held by the other hand, the two hands stretch apart to tighten). I also do a slight tightening, just a little tug, after the final loop exchange. With letterbraids, I watch the just-braided section every time I tighten, and adjust accordingly. The letters have a tendency to slip into a slant one way or the other if you don’t keep an eye on the braid when tightening, and do it with conscious attention, rather than automatically.

This is cumbersome to write out but not to do, after you are used to it. It amounts to two pairs of braiding moves on each hand: a ‘down’ and an ‘up’ transfer with the outer loops, followed by an ‘up’ and a ‘down’ transfer with the inner loops; then a tightening move, then the same thing done in mirror-image on the other hand. The last move is the loop-exchange move between the two hands (outermost little-finger loops are exchanged, right loop through left).

Leave a note below or send a mssg thru my contact form if you are trying this braid and want some more details on the way I do it. Try it out first, though! There are always other ways of accomplishing the same loop movements. I used to do them slightly differently than I do now. You may find a way that works better for you than the particular method I use.

last updated Jan 10, 2018

© 2011–2018 Ingrid Crickmore
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7 thoughts on “Tutorial for the 7-loop spanish braid

  1. Hi there, is this braid possible starting without ends? I also don’t get how you do 7 bi-colour loops, because if you fold 3 you get six bi-colour loops but then you can only add a single colour for the 7th?

    • Thanks for asking, this is a great question…Yes, the spanish braid can also be started with no ends. You’re totally right about the problem with an odd number of bicolor loops. But with embroidery floss and some other yarns, there is a very simple workaround:

      To make that single “odd” bicolor loop: Start with a length of dark and a length of light, each length TWICE as long as you want your loop to be plus a tad extra for the knot. (Actually, each length should be exactly the same length as all your other double-length threads that you will be using to make loops to fold in half.) Then, split each length of floss in half lengthwise, so that each length is half the normal thickness. This is very possible to do with floss, it is meant to be divisible, as some embroidery requires very fine threads.

      Fold one of the thin dark lengths in half, thread a light thin length through it and fold IT in half, so the two lengths are linked around each other at the top. Tie the ends (all four of them) together at the bottom. Since each length was only “half-thickness” to begin with, they now are full thickness after being folded in half. So you have one singleton bicolor loop that has no knot at the top, just a knot at the bottom of the loop. When you include it with the double-length loops, it will get firmly locked into the braid after a few braiding moves.

      There’s a diagram of this “linked loop” on fingerloop.org, they call it a “departed bowe”: http://fingerloop.org/patterns.html#ns1 . Look at the two images just above and just below the words “Method 1” on their page. For the workaround I’m describing, you would start with two strands that are half as thick as the other strands of your loops.

      Ok, if your threads are NOT divisible: In that case, I make one single “odd” bicolor loop, and I make sure to leave two long ends at the top of it…I tie the knot at the top as a slipknot, leaving a few inches of end-length. After the braid is done, I pull out that slipknot at the top, and then (if I want) I can thread the two ends onto a needle and sew them into the braid to hide them.

      However, Dominic recently told me that he had to use one loop that was twice as thick as all the others in a 10-loop letterbraid, and that the resulting braid looked fine (that was for a different reason, I think he need 12 strands at one end for a fancy knot of some kind?) Anyway, it may be that even if your thread is NOT divisible, you could try making a linked bicolor loop without dividing the strands first — it would be a double-thick loop, and see if it made any difference to how the braid turned out.

      Good luck!

  2. And now a second question –

    In this blog you comment that you make a 14-loop braid with 3 loops on your d fingers and that you do 4 exchanges on each hand – what’s your secret to this?

    I curious because I don’t have anyone else to help me make letterbraids…

    • edit 3-31-13: I recently added more info about exactly how I do this. See above, under “My Solo Braider Method“. I’ve also edited my reply below to add links to my new double braid tutorials…
      Hi Doug,
      Thanks for being so interested!
      The secret to doing the 14-loop letterbraid as a solo braider (my method–there may be others) isn’t a trick, it’s a progression of skills:

      1st. Get comfortable using thumbs as well as fingers.
      2nd. Learn how to making braids that have more than 2 loop transfers in each braiding cycle, like the 7-loop Spanish braid above—it has 4 loop transfers, like a double braid. (The letterbraids have 8.)
      3rd. Learn how to braid holding 2 loops and then 3 loops on the d-finger.
      (It doesn’t matter which order you learn no.2 and 3…) At that point, you’d be able to learn how to braid double braids of 12 to 18 loops. After that you could put it all together with the 14-loop letterbraid. It’s basically two 7-loop double braids side-by-side. Each hand holds all the loops of one 7-loop Spanish braid. The other hand’s A-finger performs the loop transfers (and helps a bit with the loop-shifting).

      However, there are two other letter braid methods that require only 10 loops–both are described in Joy Boutrup’s book (as 2-braider methods). You could learn my solo-braider method for those right after step #2, since you would only be holding one loop per digit, no doubled or tripled loops.

      Btw, all three steps are fun and rewarding in themselves—they represent a lot of great braid possibilities aside from the letterbraids!

      If you have already made 9-loop braids, I’m sure you could learn this stuff pretty fast, but it will be a while before I can tackle writing up those tutorials. I can teach you in person, if you are ever in the San Francisco bay area (California). To form the letters you would also need to get Joy Boutrup’s book—whether you make them with her 2-braider method or my solo-braider method you would use the same charts—there’s one for each letter.
      Thanks again for commenting!

  3. Hello!

    Firstly, what a marvelous blog!

    Secondly, i have been asked by a friend of mine to make a fingerloop braid incorporating a bird-shape (her last name is Crowe) and I don’t want to disappoint, any suggestions? Skill-wise, the most I have worked is a 9-bowe lace, but I understand the theory of multiple bowes per finger, so as long as it’s not 18+ bowes, I should be OK.


    • Thanks!
      Hmmm, a bird-shape, that might be possible with the 14-loop letterbraid. Besides the letter-shapes, several non-alphabet symbols were described in the 17th C. manuscripts that Joy Boutrup recently decoded–including a spider and a not-very-realistic fly. No bird, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be possible to come up with one, and it’s a great idea…I did come up with an “&” symbol by fiddling around with the “E” and “C” shapes but haven’t tried any other original shapes, and I’d like to try more. (someday! I can’t start on it now, there’s too much piled-up stuff I need to catch up on now that I’m home). The funny thing is that I just bought a large bead in the shape of a crow (at a bead store in Port Townsend, WA)–so what I would do myself would be to thread that onto a braid, that’s the only idea I can come up with on the spur of the moment…
      I’ll keep it in mind, though–if I run across anything or come up with a bird design I’ll let you know. (and if you come up with a bird braid yourself, send me a picture or a link if you can, I’d love to see it!)

      • Hi again, Doug–do some of the braids in my recent post look like they have bird-patterns to you? They are all 8-loop double braids, no thumbs, just one loop on each finger…Only occurred to me after I loaded the picture that 2 or 3 of the patterns looked a bit bird-like.

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