Part 1 Rectangular Double Braids – my solo-braider method for making traditional 2-braider braids. See also Part 2 Flat double braids, and Part 3 Hollow double braids. Text instructions for one more variation – the Side-slit double braid are located within this post. Other double braid variations are taught in my article in Threads That Move (Braids 2012 Conference Proceedings book, see sidebar)
Loop set-ups for Crowns, Chevrons, Edge, Multicolor Edge, and One-loop-wrong color-patterns are here (further down this page).
The traditional method for making what I call “double braids” requires two braiders working together to make one braid! These beautiful braids were described in both the 15th C. and 17th C. surviving sets of English loop braiding manuscripts, and are taught today in a few modern sources, as well as at SCA events and get-togethers of people who enjoy re-creating and re-enacting earlier eras.
[update: see my new tutorial on this, it includes a photo-tutorial of the most important part – the loop exchange between the two braiders – as well as a video of two people team braiding!]
A year or so after I started braiding, I bumped into Sarah Goslee’s method for making 10-loop double braids as a solo braider on her Phiala’s Stringpage site, and was blown away by the very idea that these braids were possible to make on one set of hands.*¹ I made a few following her directions, which was very exciting. But although the method worked, I didn’t end up using it very often, because the braids seemed so slow to make—probably because all the loop-shifting for the two outer loop transfers had to be done by the other hand. I knew it would be faster if I could just figure out a way to get my thumbs to hold a loop. But even though this worked fine for me with square braids, somehow everything ended up backwards or inside-out when I tried it with a double braid.
The idea preyed on my mind, though, and eventually I managed to figure out a way. It took reducing the number of loops to a doubled 3-loop braid first, instead of a doubled 5-loop braid. Once that worked, I was able to add loops gradually until I had five loops per hand, and see what was going on with them.
With only one loop on each finger, the loop-shifting moves are very straightforward, with no help needed from the other hand. Plus it’s just as easy to unbraid as to braid (very handy for fixing mistakes!).
At first I never thought about trying to teach anyone double braids until after they had learned how to use thumbs in braiding.*²
It was only when I was casting about for a workshop topic to propose to the organizers of Braids 2012 that it hit me: 6- and 8-loop double braids don’t even require thumbs!
I had only ever made a few of these, back when I was first figuring out my solo-braider method for the traditional 10-loop version. So I started experimenting with them, and was amazed at how great they turned out. All the same shape variations could be made as with 10-loop double braids, and many of the traditional color-patterns as well.
[update: Most of the photos in this post are of 10-loop braids. For more 8-loop braid photos see my later post Eight-Loop Color Patterns.]
I’ve now taught my solo-braider double braid method at Braids 2012 and in a few other workshops, even to some relatively new loop braiders. So far I’ve held off from teaching it here on the blog…I halfway thought that I might want to, like, publish the method someday – or at least reserve it for my workshops, so the hordes of eager braiders would come flocking to them.😉
But there really aren’t any hordes when it comes to loop braiding! And anyway I want to promote loop braiding, not hide it away. So I’ve decided to post video tutorials on my double braid solo-braider method here for anyone who is interested. I would love to hear from you if you try it.
Happy Holidays, and Happy Braiding in 2013!
Solo-braider tutorials for 6, 8, and 10-loop double braids.
To get your fingers ready for double braids:
Learn 5-loop square braids before learning the 6-loop double braid (this 6-loop braid is a doubled version of the super-easy 3-loop braid). Learn 7-loop square braids before learning 8-loop double braids, this will teach your ring and little fingers to braid independently of each other. Before learning my 10-loop double braid method, learn how to use your thumbs in braiding a 9-loop square braid.
Note: All these videos are made in super-slow-mo speed as any can be an intro to double braids, depending on how many loops you can already use (easily) in making square and flat braids.
Six-loop double braid tutorial:
1:23 Slow demo of a divided braid (loops transferred without a turn–this will form a loop at the top of the braid.).
11:40 Slow demo of the ‘solid rectangle’ variation (all loops turned while being transferred).
Start watching at 15:54 or 19:15 for slightly faster moves, and less talking.
8-loop double braid tutorial:
3:06 Divided braid—all loops transferred with no turn, forming a loop in the braid. (skip to 8:18 to see this with less talking.)
12:10 Solid rectangle braiding. The transferring loops are all turned (‘reversed,’ ‘crossed’). (I started explaining this @ 11:13)
Skip ahead to 20:56 to see it with less talking.
24:10 The color-order for this braid–how to set the loops up in the color-order you want for your braid.
10-loop double braid tutorial, part 1:
(Start watching at 17:43 to see the braiding moves with less stopping and explaining.)
1:38 Loop set-up (all dark shanks in ‘upper position’). Showing upper vs. lower shanks on the thumbs.
3:18 Explanation of ‘divided’ braid moves in a double braid.
3:36 Explanation of ‘inner’ vs. ‘outer’ loop transfers in double braids.
4:16 Start of the first actual braiding moves for a divided braid. Skip to 17:43 to see this with less talking and pausing.
17:43 Divided braiding moves, less pausing/more braiding.
19:32 Tips on how to manage the thumb loops to keep them from falling off.
22:42 Back to braiding
24:04 Faster braiding moves
26:00 “Solid rectangle” double braid moves–here you will turn all the loops when transferring them. This creates the “solid rectangle” form of the braid.
Note: the second and fourth transfers (to the thumb) are done differently than the way you did them in 6 and 8-loop double braids. Turning or not turning a loop when it will end up on the thumb is different because thumbs hold their loops in a different orientation than the rest of the fingers. It will help if you have already learned how to make 9-loop square braids. (On that tutorial, look at picture #3 to see which of the two shanks of a thumb loop corresponds to the “upper” shank of a finger-loop.)
See below the video for the color set-ups for 10-loop “Crowns” and “Edge” color patterns, and also for the loop order for this 10-loop double braid. The loop order is good to know for planning your own color patterns. (For 6 and 8-loop double braids, that info is given in the videos.)
10-loop double braid tutorial, part 2:
0:00 Examples of finished braids.
2:38 Lifting “parked loops” off a peg-type holder.
5:07 Braiding: Solid rectangle (all loop transfers are turned/ reversed/ crossed).
The color pattern was called Crowns in the 17th C. loop braiding manuscripts.
12:24 Unbraiding back to beginning.
19:51 Starting over (braiding the Crowns pattern starting from beginning again).
25:42 Switching to the color set-up for the pattern called “Edge” (also known by other names).
Sorry, I ran out of time, and the video cut off at the end. See below for the loop set-up for making the 10-loop Edge pattern.
The 6-10 loop videos all start by showing how to make a double braid in its most basic form—divided into two separate layers. Then I demo the solid rectangle form of the braid, which is equivalent to two square braids joined side-by-side. My next tutorial will be for a third variation: the wide, flat form of the double braid. This braid is twice as wide as a flat ‘square braid.’ [Done! Click link to go to the flat double braid tutorial!]
Those 3 forms were all you got with square braids. But double braids have at least nine shape variations! (photo below shows the double-tubular shape). Each of the shapes has distinctive bicolor-loop color patterns that can’t be made in the other braid shapes, so aside from being very-to-slightly different in shape, the different types of double braids also offer a lot of color pattern possibilities.
Loop Order: (scroll down for pattern set-ups for Crowns, Edge, Multicolor Edge, Chevrons)
[note: these color pattern setups and the color-order on the fingers only apply to the solo-braider method I teach here. For making these braids as a team of two braiders working together, see my first note at the end of this post]
The sequence below is the order that the loops on your fingers will actually show up in the 10-loop double braid done as I teach it above. Follow this sequence in loading your desired color-order onto your fingers. For example, if you wanted to use 10 shades of blue in dark-to-light order, start with the darkest loop on the left middle finger:
B (middle finger)
D (little finger)
B (middle finger)
D (little finger)
Following this sequence, you would set up your loops with your darkest blue loop on the left middle finger, next lightest on the left index finger, etc. The very lightest blue loop would be on the right little finger.
This is a totally different loop order than the one for square braids (see my post on color pattern planning for square braids).
6 and 8-loop color sequence/ loop order:
Middle finger loop is first, index second, then ring, (little finger), followed by the same order of loops on the other hand. I also show this order in the videos.
Loop set-ups for bicolor loops have an extra element to consider. The upper and lower colors of a loop will change whenever the loop is turned.
COLOR PATTERN SET-UPS
Below are instructions for some color-pattern set-ups for solid rectangle braids of 6, 8, and 10 loops shown below in photos (photos are 10-loop versions).
[Note: I recently posted set-up instructions for several more double braid color patterns of 8 loops here]
For 10-loop braids, remember that the ‘upper’ shank of a thumb-loop is the shank that is closer to the other hand when the thumbs are pointing upward. (see photo #3 in my 9-loop tutorial)
“Crowns” (taught in 17th C. sources) loop set-up (for 6, 8, or 10-loop braids):
All loops bicolor, same two colors.
Start with all light (or all dark) colors in upper-shank position.
“Edge” (taught in 17th C. sources) loop set-up (for 6, 8, or 10-loop braids):
All loops bicolor, same two colors
(Thumb), A, B—Light shanks up, dark shanks down
C, (D)—Dark shanks up, light shanks down
In the photo further down of the two green/yellow braids, the top braid has alternating Crowns and Edge patterns.
“Multicolor Edge” loop set-up (for 6, 8, or 10-loop braids—photo below shows a 10-loop braid)
Same as described above EXCEPT that all the bicolor loops have one white shank and the other shank in one of several bright colors. The loops must be in pairs—that is, two loops of each bright color, because each hand must hold matching loops. In my 10-loop sample, the bright-colored shanks are:
2 loops red, 2 purple, 2 orange, 2 blue, 2 green. One loop of each pair of colors will be on the right hand and the other on the left. Set these up on your hands following the directions above for “Edge”.
Be sure to set them up so the colors match on the fingers of both hands (same bright color on left and right A fingers, left and right B’s, etc).
If you want these colors to be in a particular order in the braid, refer to the Color planning and loop set-up sequence I give above.
[You might also want to try setting the loops onto the fingers with the opposite bicolor dark/light order that I described in the instructions for “Edge”. Both ways work, but with slightly different results in the appearance of the finished pattern.]
“One-loop-wrong” variation of the “Edge” pattern
(middle portion of braid in photo above)
The loop set-up is exactly as described above for the 2-color Edge pattern, EXCEPT: turn one loop of only one hand (any finger on that hand) to be in the opposite dark/light starting position than given in the instructions.
“Chevrons” (taught in 17th C. sources) loop set-up a 10-loop braid (2nd braid in the photo below):
6 bicolor loops (yellow + green)
4 single-color loops (all-green)
Thumb, A, B—bicolor loops, green shanks up
C, D—green loops (not bicolor)
The Chevron pattern will look quite different on the two sides of the braid! If your braid doesn’t look like the braid in the photo, check the other side.
8-loop version of “Chevrons”: (no photo) For a close but not exactly the same 8-loop version of Chevrons, use only 2 all-green loops – one on each hand. Or instead, reduce the bicolor loops by two (one on each hand) – this will result in equally-thick light and dark chevrons.
The first braid in the photo below has both the Crowns pattern (W-shapes across the braid), and the Edge pattern (dark edges, light center). The set-ups for both patterns are described above. To switch between these patterns, the easiest method is to stop braiding and turn some of your loops over on their fingers to be in the new pattern position. A better-looking way, with a cleaner pattern-transition is to braid your way into the new pattern (see below for my attempt to explain this).
In the second 10-loop video, I got cut off at the end. I was in the middle of showing how to change from the Crowns pattern to the Edge pattern in a smoother way than by just turning the various loops to be in their new positions (turning them works, but the pattern transition doesn’t look as clean).
A cleaner way to make bicolor pattern transitions is done by transferring loops with or without a turn, depending on what their new dark/light order on the fingers should be. Temporarily you just stop following the ‘turn all transfers’ rule for making a solid rectangle braid.
If the loop you are about to transfer (the loop on the middle finger) happens to already have the correct color facing up (for the new pattern set-up), then you transfer it ‘correctly’—with a turn.
If it DOESN’T have the correct color facing up (for the new pattern), you transfer it ‘incorrectly’—that is, without a turn. After doing this for a few cycles the loops will all be in the correct arrangement for the new pattern. At that point, you resume braiding as for a solid rectangle braid (turning all the loops when transferring them).
The Edge pattern has a one-cycle pattern repeat. The loops will all be back in the same color-distribution on the fingers after each braiding cycle, rather than after 5 cycles as for the ‘Crowns’ pattern.
Attn: Braids made with only bicolor loops will have opposite colors on the two sides of the braid!
My Edge pattern instructions above will result in light edges/ dark center on the side facing the braider, and dark edges/ light center on the side facing the floor. That lower surface is actually slightly wider than the upper surface,*³ so I usually consider the lower side the “good” side of the braid, and plan my colors according to how they will turn out on the lower side of the braid.
For any braid that has one or more bicolor loops, it can be interesting to also try setting the loops up on the fingers so all the bicolor loops have the opposite color facing up than the instructions say—you might like that result better.
The 9-to-12 different double braid shapes:
If you want to know more about the different variations of double braids, the article I wrote for Braids 2012’s conference proceedings describes how to make all of them, with color photos of each one. (To follow it, you need to already know how to make square, flat, and divided ‘single’ braids). The differences in shape are not always visible as ‘shape’ differences, btw. The side-slit rectangle doesn’t have an obviously different shape from the solid rectangle for example. But it has very different color patterns when you use bicolor loops, or a mixture of bicolor and single color loops. That was the main fun for me in experimenting with these different shapes – the surprisingly different color-patterns that they produce.
The Proceedings book is shown at the top of my sidebar. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on my article. BraidersHand in the U.S. carries the book, click here. [update:The link to purchase it directly from the Braid Society in the U.K. now works. When ordering, please let the Braid Society know that you read about it here!]
I think it succeeds pretty well in teaching and illustrating these braids in a way that is easy to follow, and not overly wordy—even though it’s 12 large-size pages. I honed it a lot more than my writing on this blog, plus I had amazing editors to work with (thanks, Shirley and Ruth!!!)
Btw, this isn’t a real commercial! more of a fyi. All proceeds from sales of this book benefit the Braid Society (and/or go toward funding past and future International Braids conferences), not individual contributors/authors.
I’m so glad I managed to get this post up before the end of the year! We are heading out of town for a week or so but I will check the blog as soon as we are back, so please let me know if you have any questions or corrections. I won’t have time to go over it all looking for the glaring errors I usually find right after I post.
Happy Braiding and Happy New Year!
For setting up the patterns above as a two-person braiding team, the loop order for lining up your colors in the braid will be completely different. However the specific color-patterns I describe should not be hard to translate if you refer to instructions on other sites for setting up Crowns, Edge, and Chevron as two-person, 10-loop braids. On Cindy Meyers’ Silkewerk site: Edge is called “A thick lace bordered“. To me, her instructions for making the braiding moves as a 2-person team are easier to follow than those of fingerloop.org. She doesn’t give the 2-person color setup for the Chevron pattern variation that I describe above, but Fingerloop.org does give it. Fingerloop.org describes the Chevron setup below the 2-person double braid pattern called with the wave. After teaching ‘with the wave,’ they explain how to set up for some other color patterns of that braid (all are what I call “solid rectangle double braids” so they have the same braiding moves, it’s just the initial color set-up on the fingers that is different).
The patterns I describe here are these three classic patterns, plus two variants of Edge. In one, the One-Loop-Wrong variant, just follow the other sites’ directions for setting up the loops on two braiders’ hands for “with the Edge/a thick lace bordered,” but turn one bicolor loop (on ONE braider’s hand only!) to be in the opposite dark/light configuration than the directions say.
For the multicolor variation of Edge that I describe above, follow my directions for the bicolor loops (white + a bright color for the shanks of each of the ten loops, and use 5 bright colors. So two matching loops of each color combo. Then mount them on fingers (following the other sites’ directions for placing the white shanks up or down on specific fingers) such that EACH of the two braiders carries all the colors, arranged in mirror-image on their hands:
The left braider’s LEFT index finger and the right braider’s RIGHT index finger should hold the same colors, and so on.
*¹ Phiala’s String Page teaches a solo-braider method in which the braider holds 2 to 3 loops on the index fingers.
Click here for fingerloop.orgs’s instructions for two co-operating braiders. (Surprisingly, for double braids only, fingerloop.org’s directions have the two braiders using the V-fell method that I teach on this blog, and that is commonly used in Asia and the Pacific, rather than the A-fell method that their site teaches for square braids.
Update – I heard from Zoe Kuhn Williams herself about this! She told me that she had originally learned loop braiding with the V-fell method from a friend, not from the old English manuscripts. She learned the A-fell method later, when she and Lois Swales were collaborating on setting up fingerloop.org. But at the time when they were writing the instructions for double braids she still felt more comfortable doing and describing it as a V-fell method. So fun to hear from her in person, and also to find out more about the way this “Asian” V-fell loop braiding method has been spreading braider-to-braider among teen culture in the U.S., independently of any published sources that I know of! This is how I too first learned how to loop braid–long past my teens, but from someone who herself had learned it as a teenager.)
Noemi Speiser’s OEPBforLB teaches two-worker braids in more detail, and alludes to her own method for making them solo, but doesn’t teach it.
The book Tak V Bowes, Departed teaches how to make two-person braids, and does it well, judging from two of the loop braiding participants I met at Braids 2012.
Double braid is my own rather inexact term.
The term ‘double braid’ is also used by some kumihimo braiders, but with a completely different meaning. To them, it denotes a two-layer braid, usually as made on a takadai (specialized braiding stand).
In contrast, most finger loop braids are braided on two layers without the braider even being aware of it, so we don’t need a special term for that, it’s already assumed. Doubling the braid widthwise is the tricky and interesting process in finger loop braiding, which probably is only a question of using more bobbins in a stand-and-bobbin braiding process.
*² I still highly recommend learning how to use thumbs in braiding first—ie right after learning 7-loop square braids. To me, loop braiding is even more rewarding if you can use those two extra digits, instead of letting them go to waste. And then you would be able to go from 8-loop double braids right up to the full, classic 10-loop double braids of the old braiding manuscripts.
You don’t need to have exceptionally limber hands to use thumbs in loop braiding. I was almost 50 (with stiffer fingers than when I was younger) when I first learned how to loop braid. Thumbs are naturally adept. Try resting all your fingertips on a table, then test one finger at a time to see how easily you can lift it, or trace circles with it on the table, without moving the other fingers. The thumb and index finger will probably be about equal.
It isn’t necessary to have a curved thumb like mine. I can’t hold my thumb straight (it starts to tremble) or I would demo myself that the curve in it isn’t necessary. Students of mine with straight thumbs have found that my thumb methods work for them, too.
If you’ve only recently learned how to make 7-loop square braids, go ahead and learn 9-loop braids as soon as you’re fairly comfortable with 7 loops. That is, when it’s easy to remember the moves, and loops only fall off occasionally, but you still need to pause your braiding in order to carry on a conversation or look up.
When long-time loop braiders who are already lightning-fast and proficient at (five, or) seven-loop braids first try using (little fingers, or) thumbs, the simple fact that the new move doesn’t happen automatically, or that they have to slow down seems to be a shock to many of them. The contrast between the ease of braiding they are used to, and their clumsiness in the not-yet-acquired skill can make them feel that the new skill must be impossibly hard. (It’s not!) Relatively newer loop braiders don’t necessarily have that perception. They are still braiding fairly slowly and methodically, plus they can clearly remember progressing quickly from clumsiness to competence with 5 and then 7 loops, so why should this be any different? This is an difference in attitude, not in the actual ability to learn the new skill! Long-time loop braiders learn it at least as fast or probably faster if they just push beyond past the initial sensation that they “can’t” do it.
*³ The lower side ends up being the widest because of the direction I turn loops—as if the two braiders of a team braid were turning their loops from above. If loops were turned in the opposite rotational direction than I teach (“from below” for both braiders), the widest surface would be the upper surface—the side facing up while you are braiding.
The reason I prefer to make my turns “from above” is that I find that the loop transfer that goes to the thumb is much more efficient to make as a turn from above than as a turn from below. (The solo-braider way I make this ‘turn from above’ doesn’t actually look like a turn from above! That’s because the loop is being taken from a totally different angle than a team braider would be taking it.)
Interestingly (to me, anyway!), the solid rectangle double braid can in fact be made in such a way that the upper and lower surfaces are equal in width.
In the videos, I teach the traditional way that the loops would be turned if the double braid were being made by two co-operating braiders: both braiders would typically turn all their loops from above, or both would turn all their loops from below. Either way results in one surface being wider than the other.
If, instead, each of the two braiders turned the loops on one hand from below the loop, and the loops on the other hand from above the loop—the two braiders ‘mirroring’ each others’ moves—the resulting braid would be evenly rectangular in overall shape, with upper and lower surfaces of the same width.
This is almost certainly not the way the ‘solid rectangle’ braid has ever been made traditionally. I checked with Joy Boutrup about this, and she said that the extant two-worker braids (of this solid rectangle type) that she has seen in museums all have one wider and one narrower ‘wide’ surface, so were all done the traditional “one type of turn” way.
I refer to that traditional way as having “countered turns” and my alternative way as having “balanced turns”. It feels very unintuitive to use balanced turns when team braiding, though once you get used to it, it isn’t difficult to do. But it feels fine to do it as a solo braider –or maybe both ways feel equally unintuitive!
With my solo-braider method, this non-traditional “balanced turns” method is done by turning both transfers of one hand in the same rotational direction, say counterclockwise. And both transfers of the loops on the OTHER hand in the opposite rotational direction, so clockwise.
This is what I almost always do now for the solid rectangle form of the double braid (though sometimes I prefer the traditional way I show in the videos, where one side of the braid ends up wider and more emphasized).
For the non-traditional ‘balanced turns’ method, I turn the thumb transfers (the outer transfers) exactly as I demo in the videos, but I turn the INNER transfers (first and third transfers) from below—that is, in the opposite rotational direction from the way I demo it in the videos.
Note: Even with this “balanced turns” method, the two wide surfaces are still slightly different in appearance! Although the overall width of both surfaces is equal, and the two wide surfaces both look symmetrical, the widths of specific columns/ ridges of each surface are not identical top to bottom, so the appearance of the braided pattern will still be slightly different on the two sides of the braid. Just as with the traditional method, it is still worth trying any bicolor pattern with darks and lights reversed (switching the surface of the braid on which they appear)–you may like one way better than the other.
Last updated June 4, 2019
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