9-loop braids have 18 braiding elements – the equivalent of an 18-tama Kumihimo braid. Yet with a little practice they become easy, fun, and lightning-fast to braid, as automatic as a 5-loop braid!
Learn the braids in my tutorial for 7-loop square and flat braids first, and braid a few of those before following this 9-loop tutorial. This 9-loop braid requires using thumbs as well as fingers to hold loops.
Click link to jump to the video tutorial – it’s located below the photo-tutorial… I’ve gotten complaints on youtube about how slow-paced my video tutorials are, and these 9-loop videos were among my earliest (and roughest) ones, so you may prefer the photo-tute. But the videos do demo how the hands move, which is difficult to show in photos. Slide the bubble under the videos to fast-forward ahead/ skim through if necessary. [Please ignore how often I repeat the tightening move – in my early videos this was a nervous habit of mine while I was trying to think!]
Notes on historical references, so-called ‘unorthodox’ variations, how I learned 9-loop braids, etc, follow the photo-tutorial.
Abbreviated instructions (using standard loop braiding abbreviations)
9-loop photo tutorial, showing my “thumb” method:
At Braids 2012, Europa Dawson told me that as a child in the late 40’s or early 50’s, she learned this exact method for 9-loop braids in China, where she thought it was a common practice. Braiding with 9 loops using all ten fingers was documented in Finland in the first half of the 1900’s – probably this same method as well.
Start with 5 loops on the left hand, one per finger, and 4 on the right (thumb to ring finger—no loop on right little finger). The thumb holds loops in “hitchhiking” position always, never tucked-down. Tucking it down twists the loop and makes it difficult to find the correct shank, plus causes other problems.
The little finger is the “fetcher” or operator finger, just as in the 7-loop braid.
It must grab the UPPER shank of the other hand’s thumb loop. This is not obvious by looking at the thumb, the way it is obvious on the fingers. On the thumb, one shank is “upper” because it leads to the upper surface of the braid, not because it appears to be any higher or lower on the thumb itself.
With the thumb held in ‘hitchhiking’ position, the upper shank of the thumb-loop is the shank nearest the opposite hand — the yellow shank closest to the camera in the photo below. The lower shank is further from the opposite hand (almost hidden behind the ‘upper’ shank in this photo).
step 1. First loop transfer: Right little finger goes straight through all 4 of the left fingers’ loops – the orange loops in photo below – on its way to fetch the (yellow) thumb-loop. Try to hold those left finger-loops taut, and positioned like a ‘tunnel’ for the right little finger to pass through.
(note: in photo, the “upper” shank of the thumb loop is the closer of the two shanks. See also “tips for efficient hand positions” further down, after photo #3.)
Take the thumb loop: Raise the fetching finger above the thumb loop (don’t go through the thumb loop!) and hook down onto its closest shank – that’s the true “upper” shank. Pull the upper shank of the thumb-loop down through the finger-loops before the thumb lets go of the loop. The thumb doesn’t quite let go of the loop til after it has been pulled through the finger-loops. At that point the loop has transferred over to the right hand’s little finger.
Hooking the loop in this way will give the loop a half-turn as it moves onto its new finger on the right hand. The shank that had been in lower position on the left hand will now be in upper position on the right hand. This isn’t very obvious, but it’s very important! If the loops don’t turn over like this as you braid, the braid you are making will start to divide into two thinner braids.
Tips for efficient hand positions (click to follow link)
step 2. Shift the left loops:
After the loop transfer, the remaining loops on the left hand are shifted upward one finger-position. This will fill the empty thumb position, and free Ld of its loop, so it can be the next operator. [Hands shift their own loops—try not to use the other hand to help.]
Shift the L index loop to L thumb.
Move the tip of the thumb and index toward each other, and then insert the thumb into the index-loop from the opposite direction that the finger is inserted. Lift the loop off the finger and onto the thumb.
(If the thumb enters the index loop in the same direction as the index finger is inserted, the loop’s upper shank will end up on the wrong side of the thumb. That creates problems both with this braid, and later when trying to learn double braids.)
Then shift the rest of the loops just as for a seven-loop braid.
Before the next transfer, the loops need to be tightened.
step 3. Tighten the fell
The thumb stays pointing up during the tightening move, and the hand and fingers swivel around it. I show this in the video (probably interminably!). Think of the thumb as the maypole, staying in place, always relatively upright, around which everything else swivels. Always resist the temptation to tuck the thumb down! If its loop seems about to fall off, wiggle the hand while pulling against the loop to get the loop down enough, or even use the other hand to push the loop down.
Tightening Tips (click to follow link)
2nd loop transfer (mirror-image of first):
step 4. Ld (now empty) goes through the right hand’s loops: Rd, c, b, a loops, and takes Rthumb-loop with a turn by hooking the “upper” (nearer) shank from above. [photos 11-13]
step 5. Shift R loops upward one finger-position, freeing R d-finger. [no photo]
step 6. Tighten the fell. [photo 14]
Now shift the other hand’s loops up one position (right hand), to free d-finger of its loop [no photo]—this should happen before (or during) the tightening move.
One braiding cycle done.
Repeat from the beginning til the braid is finished. Tie off at base of braid, either with another overhand knot, or by tightly wrapping and tying a piece of thread or string around the base of the braid. Trim off excess loops, leaving a short tassel of ends. (There are other ways to finish ends, see Finishing below.)
Making Flat (and Divided) braids
To make a completely flat and ribbon-like 9-loop braid, or to form an opening (like a loop or buttonhole) in your square or flat 9-loop braid, you must learn another way to ‘latch onto’ the loop on the thumb when transferring it.
Transferring a loop without a turn:
The difference here is that the operator finger will hook onto the other shank of the thumb’s loop. This must be done by coming up through the thumb loop to grab that other shank.
The operator finger will first go through all the loops in the same direction, including the thumb loop. It goes all the way up and through the thumb loop.
Then it hooks down onto the far shank of the thumb-loop in the photo above, pulling it off the thumb and through all the intervening loops. (That far thumb shank looks a tad higher than the near shank in this photo, but in terms of where it leads to in the braid it is really the “lower” shank, and the near shank is the “higher” shank. The thumb holds them more or less level, so you can’t go by how high or low the two thumb shanks appear.)
Taking the thumb loop in this way means that the loop will not be turned as it transfers over to the right hand.
Making both the left and the right loop transfers this way is how you make a divided braid— this is a way to form a loop or buttonhole in your braid.
To make a flat braid, on one side of the braid always take the upper shank of the thumb-loop (as shown first in this tutorial), and on the other side of the braid always take the lower shank of the thumb-loop as just described.
As I explain in my 5 and 7-loop tutorials, if you are braiding a flat braid correctly (and not tightening too hard), the braid won’t seem flat while you are braiding it. It should braid on two layers, with a cross section like a c-shape. It might even look exactly like a square braid as you are braiding it, but with a slit/ division along one side. After braiding, open the braid out flat, as if it were a long, skinny book.
Note: If your tension is too tight, a flat braid will get forced into a shape that I call “3/4 flat“—see my 5-loop tutorial for a photo showing the difference between “flat” and “3/4-flat” braids. 3/4 flat braids are less common with 9 loops—you really are pulling too hard if you get this braid shape using 9 loops! Read the fix-it in the 5-loop tutorial.
There’s a pretty pattern variation of a flat 8-loop braid called Lace Dawns (or Daunce), which is described in the 15th C braiding manuscripts in a difficult A-fell method. See my more recent post for an easier, V-fell method for Lace Dawns, using the techniques in this 9-loop tutorial.
The 8-loop Lace Dawns braid might be an easier way to work your way up to using 9 loops, since you will only be using the thumb of one hand. One hand holds its loops as in my 7-loop tutorial, and the other hand holds loops as in this 9-loop tutorial.
I usually end my braids with a loop (a divided braid section), after which I divide the braid into several thinner loop braids (see the third video in my Bracelet with Chevrons tutorial). See this note for some other ideas.
After the braid is done (and, if it’s a flat braid, before opening it out), I repeatedly compress it as if I were trying to make it shorter all up and down its length—the opposite of stretching it. This relaxes the tension of the threads, and makes the braid look better after having been pulled lengthwise for the whole braiding process. If it’s a flat braid, I only then open it out width-wise and tug the edges outward to spread it out flat and wide. Especially if braided firmly, a flat braid might not “want” to lie flat. To encourage the braid to lie completely flat and look its widest, I often then wet or dampen it, gently stretch it flat again, and let it dry on a towel or hanging over my towel rod overnight.
Apparently Japanese Kumihimo braiders dampen and set their braids with steam to finish them—holding them (carefully) over a kettle on the stove, for example. I usually just dunk them in warm slightly soapy water, or hold them under running water. (If I am certain the color won’t bleed—whenever I use a new type of yarn I test it first by soaking a sample for a few hours in hot water and detergent in a clear or white container, to see if any color bleeds into the water.)
9-loop video, part 1 of 2
The video below shows the divided and flat variations of the 9-loop braid:
[Click to see Dominic’s chunky flat 9-loop braid bracelet in tarred hemp!]
See my more recent post [8/9/11] on how to make and plan different color-patterns in square and flat braids.)
Many of the braids above are square braids, of various numbers of loops from 7 to 11. (Not the three black/white/plus contrast color braids in the left half of the photo, and the blue & white, and purple & white braids to their right—those are doubled square braids, which are rectangular in cross-section.)
All these braids have at least some bicolor loops, since I originally took the photo for my bicolor loop magic post.
Update: my new tutorial on color-linking in 7-loop flat braids includes the setup instructions for the two flat 9-loop braids below:
Abbreviated Instructions, 9-loop square braid
(Most loop braiding sources use similar abbreviations)
L = left, R = right
th, a, b, c, d = thumb, index, middle, ring, little finger
Ld = left little finger.
Ld (underlined) = the loop on the left little finger. (This is my own distinction – in most loop braiding instructions Ld can mean either the left little finger or the loop it carries, as it’s not hard to tell from the context)
Loop arrangement at start of braiding cycle:
Left hand: Lth, a, b, c, d
Right hand: Rth, a, b, c
1. Rd thru Ld, c, b, a, takes th (turned from above)
2. L loops shift up one position (to Lth, a, b, c)
4. Repeat in mirror image (switch L and R above).
Tips and encouragement (click to follow link)
~9-loop Pattern repeats~
After 9 braiding cycles (18 loop transfers) all the loops will be back on their original fingers.
On the developing braid, 9 braiding cycles will usually form one full color-pattern repeat (for a 9-loop braid).
Don’t worry about fixing mistakes in your first 9-loop braids, get used to the moves first!
Once you’ve learned the moves, and want to fix a mistake you can’t live with:
For any braid, unbraiding (reversing the braiding moves to undo the braid) is usually the only way to go back to a mistake and ‘erase’ it.
Unbraiding is also the best way to understand the structure/ architecture of a braid, instead of thinking of it as the magical result of doing some rote movements with yarn. After doing it a bit, you will feel much freer to experiment, because you will understand what is happening in the braid when you change something in the braiding procedure. Also you will feel freer in braiding, because you know you can change your mind about something after starting a braid – it’ll be no problem to simply unbraid a few inches back to the beginning and start over. See my post on unbraiding for how-to tips.
I would love to hear from you! Leave notes under ‘comments’ below, or send me an email.
Posted May 31, 2011. Last updated Oct/25/2021
© 2011–2021 Ingrid Crickmore
Adapted and expanded from my original version, published on M. Kinoshita’s LMBRIC site in 2008
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