Tutorial: 11-loop braids

[Notes on color patterns, unbraiding to fix mistakes, techniques for carrying multiple loops, structure, Unorthodox braids of 11 loops, etc  follow the tutorial. Text-only instructions for a 13-loop square braid are in the comment field below this post]

Below is a photo-tutorial on my 11-loop square braid method. The photos were taken in ’08, long before I started this blog, for a how-to in LMBRIC’s “illustrated instruction” series.

There are also two videos below the photo-tute. You may prefer the photo-tute! The 9- and 11-loop videos were some of my first, and back then my videos were even more long-winded and slow than they are now.
Anyway, they do demonstrate the moves, so you might want to glance through them (you can fast-forward by dragging the little bubble below the video).

Learn the 9-loop braid first, and practice it til the moves are easy and automatic, before moving on to this 11-loop braid.

11-loop Photo-Tutorial:
In the instructions below, I use the standard finger and loop letter-code abbreviations shown in this diagram of the 5-loop braiding procedure.

An 11-loop braid starts out with 5 loops on the right hand (one per digit), and 6 loops on the left hand. The left d-finger (little finger) holds 2 loops, one about halfway down the finger, and one in the crease near the tip. The right d-finger holds 1 loop, low–at the base of the finger. That finger will be the first operator/ loop-fetcher.

(1) 11-loop set-up. 2 loops on Ld (pink and orange); 1 on Rd (yellow). My hands are bent back to display the loops–when braiding they should face each other.

Step 1.  First loop transfer:

(2) Operator finger–holding 1 loop low–tunnels through the L loops to take Lth loop.

Carrying its original loop low, at the base of the finger, operator Rd goes through both loops on Ld, and continues through the Lc, Lb, La loops in one pass, to take the Lthumb-loop (turned from above), and keep it in high position.

(3)  Taking Lth’s “upper” shank.   (The 2 loops on Ld are usually a bit further apart)

Below, the yellow ex-thumb- loop is now on Rd in high position: (Rd is the right little finger–it looks strangely big here because it’s closer to the camera) Rd is now holding 2 yellow loops–unfortunately the low one doesn’t show in this photo.

(4)    L Thumb now has no loop. Rd-high is visible (yellow); Rd-low didn’t make it into the photo. In the next move, the orange loop at the tip of Ld will be temporarily lifted off.

Step 2. Loop-shifting
: One extra move happens before the L loops shift up–The uppermost (orange) Ld  loop must be moved out of the way temporarily,  so the lower Ld loop (pink) can shift up to the c finger:

(5)       Ra (index) is temporarily holding the orange loop from Ld, so left loops can all shift up one position, filling the empty space on Lthumb.

So, the right index (Ra) will help with this: Ra temporarily lifts the high (orange) loop off Ld, and holds it while the left loops all shift up one position, filling the empty space left on the thumb.

(6)          1st loop-shift: Purple a-loop shifts up to thumb

After the loops have all shifted up one position, the now-bare little finger reaches out to take back the orange loop temporarily held on Ra.

(7)   Last loop shift–d-finger reaching out for its old high loop, temp-held on Ra

(8)   Last loop-shift: Ld gets old high (orange) loop back, now to be in low position

(9)         Left loop shifts done, time to tighten loops.

Before the next loop transfer, that orange loop should drop down to be in low position on the Ld-finger, since the Ld finger will be the next operator.  After the next loop transfer, Ld will again be holding two loops: the orange one low, and a new (yellow) one high.

(10)     Tighten–Further apart than shown, til L and R loops form a straight line

Step 3. Tighten fell of braid–stretch Left and Right loops out to the sides til they make almost a straight line from one hand to the other (ie a little further than the photo shows). Do this smoothly with a gentle yet firm touch, and without pulling hard–see step 3 in my 9-loop tutorial for my rant on how important the tightening move is!

After or during the tightening move,  ease the low-position Rd loop up a bit to mid-position, but not too close to the high loop. This is not completely necessary, but will help the next loop transfer go through these loops more easily.

[Note: that’s something I actually don’t do anymore, but I’m leaving it in the instructions just in case it’s helpful. I used to always move that low loop up to mid position, so the operator finger of the other hand could go through it more easily. But somehow it seems to work fine now whether the low D-loop stays low or slides up a bit for the following loop transfer. I show my current method in my videos, and explain the difference in the 2nd video.]

Step 4. Repeat above steps in mirror-image fashion:

(11) Second loop transfer–Ld tunnelling through R loops toward thumb.

Second loop transfer in progress. The active (here, left) hand’s loops are usually low at the base of the fingers during the loop transfer. Later they will slide forward on the fingers for the tightening move, and stay there, because the loops must be “forward” – held near the outer finger-joints, not close to the palm – when they are the passive loops that the other hand’s operator finger will tunnel through. I tend to slide the active hand’s loops back down to the base of the fingers before the loop transfer occurs, partly to prevent any of them from falling off, but particularly to get the loop on the d-finger all the way down to low position to make room for its new loop.

[This may be helpful for braids of any numbers of loops, in fact…The whole hand tips back or forward for the loops to slide, you don’t move them individually. This is something I don’t think about, it just happens. So I don’t really know exactly when I do it, I just know that the loops don’t sit in one place on the fingers, they need to slide forward and back.]

Proceed with loop-shifts and tightening just as in first loop transfer.

One braiding cycle done. Repeat braiding cycles til braid is done.

11-loop square braids, first video:

Below is part 2—I had to break my initial video into 2 parts because it went over the youtube maximum of 15 minutes. Both have useful tips for learning this braid:


Please leave corrections, suggestions, questions under “comments” below. I would love to see pictures of any loop braids you make!



[new 8/9/11]  Color patterns:
See my recent post on how to plan and set up for different color-patterns in square and flat braids)

After 11 full braiding cycles (22 loop transfers), loops will be back on the same fingers where they began.
For an 11-loop braid, 11 full cycles = one color-pattern repeat (usually).

See the videos in the  9-loop tutorial to learn how to do a loop transfer from the thumb without turning the loop.–Necessary for making a flat braid, or a divided braid (for a loop or buttonhole)

Unbraiding is the best way to understand the structure of any braid, and is the only way go back to undo a mistake. By the time you get up to 11-loop braids, unbraiding becomes an essential part of the braiding process.  Eleven loops is so many that you won’t want to start a braid all over again when you make a mistake, and there are some mistakes you probably won’t want to “live with”.
(If you’re like me, you’ll have a lot of them in your first few 11-loop braids! Save unbraiding for later, after you are used to the braiding moves.)

With 11 loop braids, there is no equivalent A-fell method to use for unbraiding, the way there is for unbraiding 3 to 7-loop braids. But you can still unbraid, by methodically reversing your braiding motions and sending the loops back the way they came. See my tutorial on unbraiding to learn both ways to unbraid.

Using the d-finger to hold the extra loops (while braiding with “too many loops”):  This was my main breakthrough in trying to figure out a workable way to braid with more loops. Holding the extra loop on the d-finger means no extra moves for the loop-transfer, and also makes the  loop-shifting much simpler than if  extra loops are held on other fingers.

In fact, even holding two extra loops on the d-finger doesn’t require extra moves for the loop-shifting (it does require one extra step for the loop transfer). During the temporary hold, you lift both extra loops off at the same time, and replace them with one move as well. [new–I’ve added a text tutorial for my 13-loop method below, in the Comment section].

Square braids of 11 loops can be less neat in appearance than square braids of fewer loops. Especially if you are using very fine, slick thread, a single contrast color loop can disappear occasionally in the pattern–sinking into the mass of threads that make up the extra-long 5/5 twill floats on the four ridges of the braid. [This did not happen in my 11-loop video demo, using thicker, smooth cotton yarn—the single light-color loop stood out cleanly throughout the braid.] With fine, slippery thread, I suggest using at least two adjacent  loops of each color  if you want that color to show consistently.

The lime/purple 11-loop braid has alternating single red and white loops of linen and silk that tend to sink into the surface and disappear. I show the color set-ups for most of these braids in a more recent post. (Linen, cotton, silk)

In a way, 11-loop square braids are not actually any more complex than 5-loop square braids: each pass of a loop covers a lot wider area, but still dives through a single section of ‘throughs’ and then emerges for one section of ‘overs’ before it reaches the other side of the braid to go back through again. (These two sections create the 2 ridges/edges on the upper and lower surface of all square braids—four ridges altogether, no matter how many loops are in the braid.)

But 11-loop braids are really fun to make! The braids are bigger, have more color possibilities, and nice, long pattern repeats. And they are very fast to make once you get used to them.

There are other braids that may be more interesting than square and “flat square” braids, but to me 9- and 11-loop square braids might be the most purely enjoyable to braid, with beautiful and quick results. (And their unorthodox variations are just as fun, as well as very interesting.) 

11-loop square braids are a key step for learning how to manage even larger numbers of loops. If you are at all interested in learning any other braids with more than 9 or 10 loops, learn the 11-loop square braid first (and then the 13-loop version, and/or a double braid of 12 loops.)

Unorthodox 11-loop braids
Check out my info page on Unorthodox braids  to find out more about these really fun braids, and try out the two that I describe in my 9-loop tutorial.  There are many more you can discover on your own, especially with 11 loops.  The variety almost seems endless at first, and many are great-looking and very unusual braids.

11-loop unorthodox fingerloop braids

11-loop, D-shaped unorthodox braids. This shows the upper, rounded side of both braids. The lower, flat side is solid orange (top braid), and solid black (lower braid). Many other types/shapes of unorthodox braids can be made with 11 loops.

Using thumbs with V-fell (aka method 2) fingerloop braiding:
This is documented from Finland. It was also ‘documented’ to me by first-hand report, from someone who learned how to braid 9-loop V-fell braids in China in the 1940′s. I have more about this, also how I stumbled onto the V-fell braiding technique, in my 9-loop tutorial′s notes.


Abbreviated instructions:

L=Left, R=Right,
th=thumb, a=index, b=middle, c=ring, d=little finger.
d-high = d finger’s upper crease;   d-mid = d-finger’s middle crease;  
d-low = base of d-finger

Ld-high  = left d finger, upper crease
(underlined) = the loop in that position
Rc  = right ring finger
Rc (underlined) = the loop on the right ring finger.

11-loop square braid:

Loop arrangement at start of braiding cycle:
Right hand:  5 loops–  Rth, a, b, c, d-low
Left hand:    6 loops–  Lth, a, b, c, d-mid, d-high

Braiding procedure:

1. Rd thru Ld-high, d-mid, c, b, a, takes th  (turned from above);
Rd holds new loop in high position, old loop in low position.

2. Ra temporarily holds Ld-high.

3. L loops shift up one position (to Lth, a, b, c).

4.  Ld takes back the temp-held loop from Ra, keeps in low position.


5. (optional but helpful–slide Rd-low up to Rd-mid position)
Repeat  steps 1-4 in mirror image–Ld will be the operator.

One braiding cycle done.

I adapted this tutorial from an earlier version that I made for Masako Kinoshita’s LMBRIC site back in 2008.
Photos are from the original version (or are out-takes from that version), but the text is completely rewritten. Photos by Robert Ellis.

Last updated Dec 29, 2017

© 2011–2017 Ingrid Crickmore

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3 thoughts on “Tutorial: 11-loop braids

    • Yes, although after 11 loops, the next step up for a square braid is a 13-loop braid—one more loop on each hand. Here’s the way I do it:

      Start with one more loop on each d-finger, so 3 on the left d-finger (one at each joint) and 2 on the right d-finger (lowest 2 joints).

      For the loop transfer, the right A-finger (index) takes over as the operator finger, since the d-finger is holding 2 loops now, so can’t reach through the other hand’s loops. The right A-finger goes through the left loops and takes the left thumb loop. Then any finger of the left hand (I use the newly-bare thumb) lifts that just-transferred loop OFF the tip of the Ra finger and deposits it onto Rd-high, where it belongs (I call this a “ferrying” move). Now Rd is holding three loops, one at each joint approximately. (so is Ld, but Ld is about to lose one loop during the upcoming loop shifts.)

      Then the same loop shifts happen as in the 11-loop braid, except that here the Ra finger temporarily holds and then deposits back BOTH Ld-mid and Ld-high. It lifts both together as one move, leaving Ld-low as the only Ld loop, and holds them while the rest of the L loops shift up (including Ld-low). Then the temporarily-held loops are replaced onto Ld as one “loop-shift” move—now to be Ld-low and mid. This leaves an empty position at Ld-high for the next transferred loop to land on.

      The loop shifting is no slower than for an 11-loop braid. Overall, the braid is slightly slower because of the extra move in the loop transfer, but not significantly.

      The next step up is a 15-loop square braid, and for that one I hold a second loop on each c-finger (though the loop shifting would be more straightforward if you could manage 4 loops on the d-finger). The loop transfer is essentially the same as for a 13-loop braid, but the loop-shifting is more time-consuming. This 15-loop braid is quite a bit slower to make than a 13-loop braid, but worth it for certain braids (unorthodox braids, and my new rep-like plain weave braids). Not really worth it just to make a bigger square braid, in my opinion!

      A 14-loop square braid would have the loop movements of a 13-loop braid on one hand and of a 15-loop braid on the other.

      Whew! longest reply and shortest tutorial I’ve ever written!
      Please let me know how it goes if you give it a try…

      • [edited for clarity]
        I’m suddenly wondering if by “14 loops” you may have meant the 14-loop letterbraid? The letterbraids are braided very differently from square braids. A square braid (or the equivalent flat braid) has only one single loop transfer on each hand (in each “row” or “cycle” of the moves), no matter how many loops are in the braid.

        A letterbraid has two transfers on each hand if two people make it together (the traditional way). If you make the braid solo, that ends up being four transfers on each hand. Eight transfers altogether, plus a loop exchange move between the two hands after the transfers are done. So it’s a very different braiding method than the two total transfers for square braids…

        I recommend learning the 11 and 13-loop braids above, and then 10 and 12-loop Double braids before tackling the solo 14-loop letterbraid method. They are a great intro to using “too-many-loops”.

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