The pdf document below is a photo-tutorial on 3-loop braids that I made last year  for the Braids and Bands discussion group. Videos, yarn suggestions, and other tips follow below the pdf document.
You can scroll through the document in the Scribd window below, or click on the Scribd toolbar under the window to read it full-screen. It can also be downloaded as a free pdf file here from me (if you download it from the Scribd website, they will charge a fee). Copyright applies, download for your own use only.
See my Tutorials page for links to all my loop braiding tutorials—once you learn this 3-loop braid, the five-loop version will be a snap, and the 6-loop Spiral braid is another beautiful (and very different!) easy-to-learn braid.
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If a magnifying glass icon is visible above in the window’s toolbar, clicking it once and then re-centering the text (click with your cursor within the window, then use your right-arrow key) should make the tutorial readable without having to go full-screen.
The color set-ups for making all the braids in the cover photo, including the 2 textural/bumpy braids, are taught at the end of the document—after the instructions for the braiding moves.
Younger children—down to age 8 or sometimes 7—can learn the 3-loop square braid, as long as an adult learns it first and then teaches the child. They learn better by example than from pictures or words (show, don’t tell!). Kids under 7 usually don’t have the necessary independent finger development. Even if they can already knit or crochet—the fingers work together in those crafts, not separately the way they do in loop braiding. I don’t try to teach kids under 7 or 8 because they find it quickly discouraging, and I don’t want to make a kid feel like a failure. (Of course, this partly depends on how determined the child is! One extremely determined 5-year-old learned it after I taught his 8-year-old sister. He did the braiding moves in very unorthodox and original ways, but it came out as some kind of a braid every time. Another extremely determined 6-year-old younger sibling learned it after her older sister did… apparently the desire to keep up with your big sister can be a strong motivator!)
Yarn for 3-loop braids:
[I’m not affiliated with any of the links below, btw. These yarns are probably available elsewhere as well, try Michaels, Herrschners, and Lion Brand yarns, as well as joann.com. If you are lucky enough to have any local yarn stores, they will probably have some beautiful alternatives to these yarns, and are worth supporting.]
You can braid with almost anything if it’s bendable! However a great choice for 3-loop braid bracelets, key fobs, etc is a smooth, mercerized cotton sport-weight yarn. Mercerized cotton is much smoother and silkier than non-mercerized. Non-mercerized cotton (like “Sugar & Cream”) is more absorbent but duller and fuzzier. For some reason yarns that are labeled for ‘crochet’ tend to be cheaper than ‘knitting’ yarns but can be just as good!
Patons “Grace” knitting yarn is beautiful for 3 or 5-loop braids, and comes in several nice rich colors. It is 4-ply and a tad thicker than size 3 crochet thread (below).
Size 3 crochet thread is what I use the most for teaching 3-7 loop braids. The standard brands available in the U.S. are good quality strong, smooth, 3-ply cotton in only about 10 colors, though brick-and-mortar craft stores usually only carry two or three of these colors unfortunately. Your best bet for colors is to order online. Joann.com
carries USED to carry “Aunt Lydia’s” size 3 crochet cotton (also called Aunt Lydia’s Fashion Crochet, size 3), and “Royale” brand crochet cotton, size 3. Those two yarns seem identical even to their colors. I think Lion Brand has a similar or identical size 3 crochet yarn. These are great for pretty, decorative braids, as well as rugged-looking nautical/ ‘manly’ type braids.
UPDATE – joann.com seems to be discontinuing these in favor of a DMC brand of so-called crochet thread called Petra. Petra may have a wider range of colors since it’s made by DMC (known for high-quality embroider floss etc). But Petra is only 2-ply so it is a Perle cotton, not true crochet thread, won’t be as round and smooth a yarn as traditional 3-ply crochet thread. (Plus it’s more expensive! Go figure!) You can still find Aunt Lydia’s size 3 at Herrschners and I highly recommend it for braiding.
“Anne” by Circulo (not available in the U.S., but I’ve ordered it from Canada) is labeled size 3 crochet thread but to me it’s more like a weak 5/2 pearl cotton than a true size 3 crochet thread. It’s 2-ply rather than 3-ply, and is thinner, fuzzier, and less round than Aunt Lydia’s size 3. In my experience is is much weaker than regular perle cotton. It comes in a wide range of fantastic colors, though. It’s great for weaving – Laverne Waddington teaches with it – but it has occasionally broken while I was braiding with it, which is not a good thing! This has so far never happened to me with embroidery floss, perle cotton, or any 3-ply crochet thread.
New: Google Nazli Gelin, “Garden 5” or Nazli Gelin, “Garden 3” for a 4-ply crochet cotton yarn about the size of size 3 crochet cotton (the 1st a bit lighter, the second a bit heavier) that comes in different, richer colors than Aunt Lydia’s. To me Garden 3 seems identical to Patons Grace (above), I use them interchangeably. The ‘regular’ Nazli Gelin Garden yarn is a size 10, too fine for 3-loop braids. If the label says “Garden” with no number, it’s Garden 10.
Most yarn comes in larger amounts than you might need for braiding, especially if you want a lot of colors, but there’s a new color assortment of small balls of yarn from Lion brand called “Bonbons.” It’s thicker than size 3 crochet thread, a good size for 3 and 5-loop braids. This is a handy way to get several colors in small quantities. I only buy the two color assortments called Beach and Nature, these two color packs are the only cotton ones (despite what the Joann.com website says!). Joann.com’s yarn content details for the other color-assortment packs of Bonbons are inaccurate – you can check this (and also purchase) on the Lion brand yarn website.
The other color packs of Bonbons are puffier, synthetic yarns that to me don’t braid as well, but that’s a matter of taste, you or your child may love them…(some are sparkly!)
Embroidery floss comes in great colors and in smaller amounts. It’s a little too thin for 3-loop braids, but works well if you double the strands. It’s the thread I use most often myself for 5 loops and up. You can buy color-assortment packs of embroidery floss very cheaply from most craft stores. Floss is the best yarn for doubling, because of how it’s constructed (6 fine strands of thread combined without being plied together). Other medium-weight yarns can sometimes look a bit clunky if you double them to braid with, whereas doubled floss melds together and looks like one strand of thicker yarn.
Pearl (or perle) cotton is a 2-ply yarn/ embroidery thread. Size 5 – also called 5/2 – is about the thickness of floss, size 3 or 3/2 is thicker. They are widely available in craft stores in small packets like embroidery floss, in a wide range of colors. I often combine embroidery floss and size 5 perle cotton in the same braid.
What you don’t want at first is slippery yarn, or bumpy/textural yarn – both are very difficult to braid with. Stretchy yarns are not a good choice either – hard to tighten evenly. Cotton is a good choice because it is strong, smooth, not puffy or stretchy, and holds well when tightened.
It’s fine to mix and match different brands, weights, or types of yarn within the same braid. This can be fun to experiment with. For example, including just a single loop or strand of shiny, slippery silk or synthetic yarn can make a nice contrast in an otherwise non-shiny braid, and won’t be as tricky to tighten as a braid made of only slippery yarn.
I made the videos below ages ago, they were some of my first videos. They’re shorter than some of my later videos, but as usual I go on too long in some of them…I’ve added some timeline info below a couple of them, to help you skip past the boring parts. Most of what they demo is also covered in the pdf document with step-by-step photos. However, the second video shows a really helpful way to tighten 3-loop braids so they will be crisp and firm, yet not crumple up while you are tightening them – not covered in the pdf. This is the way I always tighten 2 and 3-loop braids.
A different “no loose-ends” way to start the braid.
I use a few different ways to start braids with no loose ends at the top, and often with a loop at the top. The second-to-last video demos one of these ways. It can be done with any number of loops, by the way, not only with three. I show it in the photo-tutorial above, too. (Another way is the Handshake loop start that I demo in my bracelet tutorial. In that method, you make each side of the loop separately. Here, both sides of the loop get braided at the same time, so it’s a faster method.)
You can also use this “divided-braid-loop-start” method to braid two narrow braids at the same time, joined in the middle, for one double-long braid! I did that for one of the braids in the first photo in the above article, 3rd braid from the right (the thin purple-and-gold braid tied in a loose knot).
The 1st video below shows the basic braiding moves for a 3-loop braid, but not how to set up the loops, those videos are further down (the pdf photo-tutorial above shows this step-by-step)… See timeline under video to skip to the part you want to see. (slide bubble under video)
Three-loop Braid, round version (made like 5 and 7-loop square braids, but looks more round than square)
1:42 Set up of loops on fingers
2:24 Start of braiding moves for a round braid, followed by slo-mo practice moves.
Below, Part 2 of the three-loop braid:
How to make a flat, ribbon-like braid, also how to split your braid and make “two-braids-at-once”—a way to make a loop or buttonhole in your round or flat braid. Skip ahead to the parts you want —see timeline under video.
0:00 How to take stored loops off pegs or comb to keep on braiding. Then I go on too long talking and continuing with the round/square version.
2:22 A trick for tightening 3-loop braids very differently than other square braids. Makes a nice firm braid that doesn’t crumple up while you are tightening it.
5:00 Divided version(for making a loop in the braid), and flat version (for making a wider, ribbon-like braid). Learn divided first—it’s prerequisite to the flat braid.
Setting up to braid–1, a quick way:
The quick set-up above is a good one if you want a fringe/ tassel of ends at both ends of the braid. If you only want that tassel at one end, there are several ways to start a braid with no loose ends. Below is one of them, a ‘divided’ loop start.
Setting up to braid–2, a less-quick way that starts with a braided loop at the top of your braid, and no tassel of loose ends:
In the above video, even though I begin with the left hand’s loops linked around the right hand’s loops, this is not the same type of start as the “handshake” looped start I demo in my Bracelet with Chevrons tutorial. This is a “divided braid” loop start—both sides of the loop/buttonhole will be braided at the same time, not separately.
Below—Another color pattern for a 3-loop braid, using bicolor loops: (this video is also in my Bicolor Loop Magic tutorial)
See a way to unbraid 3-loop braids in my Unbraiding post—it’s very easy to do with a 3-loop braid, and is a great way to undo if you want to change something or fix a mistake.
Once you’ve made a few 3-loop braids, you’ll have no trouble at all making the 5-loop version. It’s an even nicer braid, very square-shaped and neat, with a great-looking chevron design on the sides.
I originally made this photo-tutorial (and videos) as part of a series for the Braids_and_Bands yahoo discussion list. That series also included photo-tutorials for the Spiral braids of 4 to 10 loops, and also for the amazingly simple 2–loop braid. These tutorials are all available in the Braids_and_Bands’ files.
(Join the group to access files; the files section can be accessed through a menu tab just under the header image on the group’s homepage.)
NOTE: Be sure to download the 2-loop braid photo-tutorial pdf if you will be downloading any of the spiral braid pdfs! That 2-loop tutorial is actually part 1 and it’s a necessary prerequisite for all the spiral braid tutorials. It shows step-by-step photos of the basic move for all the spiral braids. Those photos are not duplicated in the spiral braid pdfs.
At the bottom of my “Tutorials” page you can find links to just the videos for all those tutorials. The full photo-tutorials are still only available in the files section of the Braids_and_Bands yahoo group’s home page.
Thanks for visiting and for reading this far! I probably won’t be able to post much for the rest of August, will be busy and then gone til early September. I’m very excited about my upcoming trip, and I know I’ll be excited to come home from it too, digest what I learned, and report here about it.
[update: click link for part 1 of my report on Braids 2012!]
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last updated May 22, 2018
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