Teeny weeny braids, and a spiral…

For the month of October I’ll be running a fingerloop braiding tutorial on the Braid Society’s online discussion group Braids_and_Bands (anyone interested in braids or bands can join this list, you don’t have to be a member of the Braid Society).

They’ve hosted some really impressive tutorials in the past, from simple to complex – including Sue Foulkes’ incredible backstrap weaving tutorial on Saami bands – that was my first real weaving experience. I couldn’t believe I was actually following a weaving draft!

Finger loop braids: 8, 6, and 4-loop spiral braids, plus 2-loop braids and fringe (cotton, rayon, silk)

8, 6, and 4-loop spiral braids, plus 2-loop braids and fringe (cotton, rayon, silk)

My tutorial will be toward the other end of the spectrum – from extremely simple to just slightly challenging.

I’ll be starting with a loop braid of 2 loops (yes, you really can make a braid with only 2 loops!), and a spiral braid that’s quite different from the braids I’ve covered so far on this blog.

It can be made with as few loops as 4, or as many as 10, and has several interesting color pattern possibilities as well as the classic spiral pattern.

6-loop and 8-loop “Spiral” braids with non-spiraling color-patterns. (cotton, rayon, wool)

I also want to show some quick and fun braids that can be made with only 3 loops.

[that 3-loop tutorial is now here on my blog – see Easy 3-loop Braids. The 2-loop Braid, and Spiral Braid tutorials are also here on the blog, see Spirals, Non-spirals, and the 2-loop Braid]

I make 3-loop braids all the time – as endings on larger braids, for quick, pretty ribbons and cords, and to teach to kids under 10 or 11, but I kind of took them for granted until recently.

I was showing some of my sample braids to a workshop participant who is a very accomplished kumihimo braider, makes gorgeous and perfect-looking kumihimo braids.  She looked at a braid that I felt kind of proud of – it’s a double braid made out of silk buttonhole thread – small because of the size of the thread, but it has 18 loops, which is about my upper limit with fingerloop braiding (equivalent to a 36-tama kumihimo braid).  To an advanced kumihimo braider, I guess that number of strands is no big deal. She barely even looked at the main part of the braid, but she was totally entranced by the fringe – kept asking me about it, and oohing and ahhing over it. Yet all it was was a bunch of 3-loop divided braids!

Finger loop braids with fringed finishes of 3-loop braidlets, both divided and 'square'

Loop braids with fringed finishes of 3-loop braidlets, both divided and ‘square’

If you braid a 3-loop braid “divided” you get two little 3-strand braidlets for the price of one – since you braid them simultaneously. That braid had 18 loops, so for the ending fringe I had braided three loops at a time – six times – to end up with 12 skinny braidlets. Each pair was fast and easy to braid, as anyone who makes them knows. But if an amazing kumihimo braider thinks 3-loop braids are awesome, I guess they must be!

3-loop braids are great to teach to middle-sized kids – even 8-year olds and the occasional determined and adept 7-year old can learn them and love making them. These are strong, pretty braids of  6 strands – and you can make them round, flat, or divided into 3-strand mini-braids. (each loop contributes two separate braiding strands, so a 3-loop braid really is a six-strand braid

7 different 3-loop braids, various shapes and color patterns. finger loop braids by loopbraider.com

Seven 3-loop braids. Top-to-bottom: #1-4 Round/square (2 with a loop made from a single contrasting puffy strand and a thin strand tied together); #5 Divided; #6 and #7 flat (tight vs loose tension)

The thin braid in the center (tied in a loose knot) is a divided 3-loop braid. That means it comes out as two small, flat 3-strand braids, instead of one 6-strand braid. I braided it from its center point, braiding both halves at the same time. You can do that with any square braid, though I have to admit I’d never done it before for the whole length of a braid, only for a short loop at the top of a braid (as in the two braids below it), or in making a fringe of small braids as an ending for a bigger braid.

3-loop braids are great for drawstrings,  tying up gifts, fun shoe-laces, cords, all kinds of things.  I have a long one in my tent serving as a clothesline, and I use shorter ones as tie-ons for braiding and for my backstrap loom. Divided 3-loop braids are a great warp finish for weavings, too – as are 2-loop braids

3-loop fingerloop braid of bicolor loops. Variegated rayon, and cotton embroidery floss (doubled). loopbraider.com

3-loop square or round braid of bicolor loops. Variegated rayon and cotton embroidery floss (doubled)

I found the weaving sample below in a thrift store.  It had long, uncut warp ends.  I tied them together in pairs to form loops, and braided them as 2-loop braids.  This has got to be ten times faster than braiding thin little braids without loops, the way you braid a ‘pigtail’ hair braid.  2-loop braids come out with a slight twist (unless you block or press them), which I really like for a warp-finish – gives it a little body and bounce.

For a straight warp-finish, you could make 3-loop braids—either divided, round, or flat. This is an even faster way to finish warp-ends than making two-loop braids, because you use up 3 loops per braiding operation rather than 2. Yet you can get 2 braids per operation if you braid divided, which isn’t possible with a two-loop braid. So with a divided 3-loop-braid fringe, you end up with more braidlets after making fewer braids than if you had braided 2-loop braids (two braids for every three loops, compared to two braids for every four loops when braiding 2-loop braids).

2-loop braids, and a weaving with a fringe of 2-loop braids. Fingerloop braids, loopbraider.com

2-loop braids, and a weaving with a fringe of 2-loop braids. 1st and 3rd braid sample from left have been blocked or pressed flat, others are naturally twisty.

The way the Braids_and_Bands online tutorials work is that the materials get posted into the list’s “files” section starting at the beginning of the month. (I may post mine in 2 or 3  installments rather than dump it all in at the beginning of the month).  The tutorials stay on file, so are available to list members anytime after that – they don’t get removed at the end of the month.  But it’s more fun to try them that month! That’s more likely when others will be trying it, too, and posting pics of their progress in the photo section, coming up with good questions, fun variations, etc.

The Braids_and_Bands list is a fairly quiet one, but has some powerhouse members with a wide range of knowledge, so it’s a great resource. The list is run by the Braid Society, but you don’t have to be a member of the Braid Society to be a member of the online (free) yahoo [now groups.io] list – the list is open to everyone. I encourage anyone interested in narrow-ware textiles to join – not just for my little tutorial, but for the list itself—plus their upcoming tutorials and the ones already in the files.

Even though you aren’t required to be a member of the Braid Society to join the yahoo list, if you ever get a chance to leaf through their annual (print) journal “Strands” you might want to join – it’s really beautiful and always packed with interesting articles on all aspects of narrow textiles.  It’s well-known and coveted by weavers and braiders in the weaving guild I belong to, some of whom have joined the Braid Society just to get a subscription to Strands.

The Braid Society is based in the U.K., and they now have an optional discount membership for us overseas members – gets you Strands, and emailed newsletters, but doesn’t include the various activities, which are all in the UK anyway. (though the yearly Swap and the various exhibitions are activities that overseas members can join in on if they spring for the full membership.)

Ok, that’s it for my pitch and my post. I hope to see you over on the Braids_and_Bands list in Oct!

last updated Dec 31, 2019

© 2011–2019 Ingrid Crickmore
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2 thoughts on “Teeny weeny braids, and a spiral…

  1. Thanks, Jenny! I do braid on trips. It doesn’t work well on an airplane, as you have to stretch your arms out to the sides to ‘beat the fell’. I braid everywhere else, though!

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