Easy 3-loop braids

The pdf document below is a photo-tutorial on 3-loop braids that I made last year [2011] for the Braids and Bands yahoo group. Below the pdf window are videos that demo the braiding moves taught in the photo-tutorial document, along with yarn suggestions and other tips that are not included in 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 (do not download from the Scribd website). 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.

Download this tutorial as a pdf file for free here from me, not from Scribd. Please read my copyright info.
[Don’t download from the Scribd toolbar, they apparently charge a fee for ‘free’ downloads!]

If a magnifying glass icon is visible 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 had…apparently the desire to keep up with your sister can be a strong motivator!)

Yarn for 3-loop braids:
You can use almost anything, but a great choice for 3-loop braid bracelets, key fobs, etc would be a smooth, mercerized cotton sport-weight yarn, like any of the following:

Paton’s “Grace” knitting yarn, or other all-cotton mercerized knitting yarns (mercerized cotton is much smoother and silkier than non-mercerized). At a knitting store, ask to see their mercerized cotton yarns. I use several nice brands that are now discontinued, but I know this type of yarn is still being made under other brand names.

Aunt Lydia’s” size 3 crochet cotton (also called Aunt Lydia’s Fashion Crochet, size 3), and “Royale” brand crochet cotton, size 3. Those last two yarns seem identical even to their colors. These are great for pretty, decorative braids or for more rugged-looking nautical/ manly type braids. Crochet thread seems to be priced slightly cheaper than knitting yarns. I use it for teaching, for braids of up to 5 or 7 loops, and for heavier-weight straps. It’s good quality strong, smooth, 3-ply cotton, but it only comes in about 10 colors, most of them rather bland. Your best bet is to order online, as stores only seem to carry two or three of the colors.

“Anne” by Circulo (not available in the U.S.) is supposedly also a #3 crochet thread but is 2-ply rather than 3-ply, and is much thinner, weaker, plus ‘pills’ more than the others. It has broken on me (and students) more than once while braiding. It comes in a much wider range of colors than the U.S. brands, though.

Lion brand "Bonbons" sport weight braiding yarn

Lion brand “Bonbons”

Most yarn comes in larger amounts than you might want for braiding, but there’s a new color assortment of small balls of yarn from Lion brand called “Bonbons.” This is a good choice for getting several colors in smaller quantities, as getting several colors in larger balls can be quite pricey. 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 product details for Bonbons are completely 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 look as nice or 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 on the thin side for 3-loop braids, but is a nice size 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. Perle cotton is a plied yarn, in a similar weight, also available in craft stores in small packets like embroidery floss. What you don’t want at first is slippery yarn, or bumpy/textural yarn—both are very difficult to braid with. Stretchy yarns are probably not a good choice either—might be hard to tighten evenly. Cotton is a good choice because it is strong, smooth, and holds well when tightened.

It’s fine to use different brands, weights, or types of yarn within the same braid, by the way. This can be fun to experiment with. For example, including just a single loop or strand of shiny 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)
0:00 Intro
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 2loop 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!]

*¹ This embedded document has a slightly less restricted copyright than the rest of my blog content. Compare © notices at the end of the document, to the one at the bottom of the sidebar in this blog (if you are on a small-screen device, the “sidebar” may be somewhere other than at the side). The 3-loop pdf tutorial may be shared/embedded online, as long as you have a non-commercial site—ie you don’t make any money from your site.

*² Anyone have any suggestions for other alternatives to Scribd, for making a pdf or word doc visible on a website? I didn’t look around much, Scribd was the first result that popped up when I searched…It isn’t possible to just paste a pdf or word document directly into a blog-post—it’s a completely different format.

© 2012–2016 Ingrid Crickmore
See full copyright restrictions and permissions at the bottom of the sidebar (if you are on a small screen device, the ‘sidebar’ may appear somewhere other than at the side of the screen).

18 thoughts on “Easy 3-loop braids

      • Hello, so I am trying to use this technique to make lonh sections of rope.

        What is the best way to add strinh and keep going when your nearing the end of your loops?

        • Hi Carson, I’ve never tried to add string at that point, I’ve always just started with loops as long as I needed. Traditionally, two people would work together to make an ultra long braid, one holding the top and beating or pulling the loops to tighten, and the other person doing the braiding moves way down at the end of the loops.

          I have 2 main ways of braiding longer lengths as a solo braider:

          1st is to start braiding at the center-point of a twice-as-long bunch of (separate) loops, which gives you twice as long a braid as your normal length.

          2nd is to condense the ends of ultra-long loops by knotting them/ crochet-chaining them up, braiding down and then unchaining the knotted-up part after you reach the ‘end’ of the loops. This is a lot of time and work to set up, but the braiding itself goes fine.

          here’s my post on this: https://loopbraider.com/2011/07/23/longer-loop-braids-starting-with-no-ends/.

          Good luck, and let me know if you come up with a good way to add length to your loops, I’ve never done that…

  1. UPDATE: I just figured out how to insert a direct link so readers can download the pdf straight from my site!!! Thank you Brian for your note, spurred me to do some more research. I’m not removing the Scribd window, as it’s the only way I know of to display the document, but be sure to download it from the link I now provide.

  2. Might be nice if you mentioned that it is going to cost $9 or more to download your tutorial from Scribd! I don’t mind paying for other’s work in producing a tutorial, but no way will I pay $9 for a very simple tutorial and particulary when one is not warned of the cost involved. The stupid Scribd window on this page is useless – but of course that was your aim wasn’t it?

    • Hmmm…very fishy! I receive no payments or royalties of any kind from this tutorial. Btw, the “useless” window opens to full-screen if you click to read it on the Scribd website (that’s the site that is hosting my pdf document and displaying it in the little thumbnail—I can’t display pdf or word docs myself on this blog).

      update, 2-24-2013 –I just checked this tutorial on the scribd site, and copied this from their sidebar: Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free.

      • Just throwing out my two cents as I was trying to download the document as well but that free download part on the Scribd site still takes you to a part where you have to pay $9 for a single day “pass” to the site. I’m going to keep poking at it and see if I can figure it out (because I’d really like a copy!) but right now it looks like they’re getting paid for your document.

        • Darn! Thanks for the info, Brian. I’ve poked around on Scribd, too and couldn’t find anything out about paying. Maybe it’s different for me as an “uploader” and sharer of documents on Scribd than for people who don’t upload?

          So far I don’t know any other way than Scribd to post or share pdfs/ word docs on a wordpress.com free blog like mine! I am not eager to “translate” my document into blog format, it would take a huge amount of time – hard to explain…

          UPDATE: I just figured it out – There IS a way for me to insert a direct link to a free download, click on the link I now show just below the Scribd window! Thanks so much for your note Brian, inspired me to figure this out—after 3 years of doing this blog I’m still learning how it works!

  3. hi ingrid
    feedback on the pdf format thingee:
    great to be easily able to download but not easy to use it straight off the page as its so small.
    madly practising for the braids conf. – hoping you will show us the best loop start as i get confused easily.
    see you then, dom

    • Hi Dom–Thnx!!! did you try the “full-screen” icon, it’s the rectangular icon lower right corner?

      update, 2013 Feb—the old “full-screen” icon in the right corner is now gone, currently you have to click to view it on Scribd to see it full-size.

      I’m madly putting class papers together, myself.
      Don’t strain yourself practicing! All you need to be up on is 7-loop braids. The class will not use thumbs, it would take too much time away from all the amazing double braid structures. (I’ll demo thumbs if people want to see it, but it’ll be a practice-at-home thing).

      Doubt we’ll get to that start in class but I’d love to show it to you outside of class sometime–REMIND ME !! Some evening, or Wed–the “off” day. “Best” is subjective–I like it; you may not. btw It isnt you, its my description that’s completely confusing.
      See you soon!

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