Nov 9, 2020 – In response to a reader’s request, I just added a drawing plus text describing how to make these braids – jump to it here.
Feb 3, 2013
These are what I’ve been working on recently while I’ve been away from my computer—repp-like, plain weave finger loop braids that I’ve been making with a method that I hadn’t used before (weaving terms are defined on my Terminology page)
In contrast, the braids in the photo above are braided on one, tightly packed layer, not two. They’re flat, but fairly thick, and have bumpy ridges in shallow V-shapes along the length of the braid. They look similar to the braids that were often called “bends” or “chevrons” in the old loop braiding manuscripts. Those braids are also repp braids, but of twining rather than plain-weave. (examples of medieval “bend” and “chevron” braids are in last sections of Cindy Myers’ chart called Fingerloop Braids by Type.
The way I made the braids in this photo feels easier and faster than twining, while having almost as nice a result! Even though the resulting braid looks very different from a square braid, what the fingers do is similar to the square braid method shown in my diagram below:
…including the way 9 loops (or more) are handled. There’s just one extra “twist” to the method when making one of these plain-weave braids. See the last footnote in my Terminology page.
By the way, the curly-looking fringes of some of the braids in the photo are 2-loop braids—2 loops makes a small, flat, 4-strand braid with an intrinsic twist. The curliness itself might seem ‘wonky’ at first, but to me that’s a feature, not a problem! [Update: tutorial for the 2-loop braid is here., including a downloadable pdf photo-tutorial as well as video tutorials in left and right-handed versions.]
Update – Nov 9, 2020
Françoise in Switzerland recently contacted me to ask how I made these braids, and I am pasting here my reply to her, in case it might help anyone else:
The first row, and all the following “odd” rows of braiding are exactly like braiding a square braid – see the drawing further up this page. (A full ‘row’ is both main moves – first on the left hand and then on the right hand.)
On the even rows of braiding, the taken loop goes through the passive loops in a different orientation:
In the 2nd row, I insert my fetching finger in a ‘backward’ direction through each passive loop, as I send the finger on its way toward the loop it will fetch – the ‘active’ loop .
I go through those passive loops in the same order as usual, but each loop gets a half-twist because of the way I insert my fetching finger through it.
Then I take the furthest loop – the active loop – and bring it through all those ‘half-twisted’ passive loops. If the active loop is a single-color loop, it doesn’t matter whether you turn it or not. If it’s a bicolor loop, decide which color you want to be ‘up’, and then take the loop without turning it if the correct color is already ‘up’; but turn the loop if that color is ‘down’.
I do this same thing on both hands. (one ‘row’ or cycle of braiding)
Then in the 3rd row (an odd row) of braiding, I again put my finger through all the loops in the normal way, without twisting them (both on the left and the right side), just as I did in the 1st row of braiding.
The tightening move is very important for this braid. There must be a tightening move after each loop transfer – don’t wait until after the end of a row (both the left and right loop transfer) to tighten – especially when using many loops.
Compared to a square braid, there will be more resistance from the braid when you tighten, because of the twisted ‘passive’ loops in each row. Tighten firmly.
The resulting braid looks best if it has more than ten loops, but practice the technique first in a 5 to 9-loop braid. 5 and 7-loop braids aren’t big enough to result in repp-like rows (see the two 7-loop braids on the left in my photo). I’m not sure about 9 loops – I may not have tried that. Maybe 9 loops would be enough to show the nice repp rows, and doesn’t require holding more than one loop per finger.
See my 11- and 13-loop tutorial to learn how I handle extra loops when braiding a square braid. The same principles apply here with these repp braids.
In the photo, the 3 braids in the center had (mostly) bicolor loops – the braids with zebra-stripes, rows alternately dark and light.
Because all the passive loops turn with each row, if you use bicolor loops and start braiding with the same color in upper position on all fingers, the result is one slanted row of dark followed by one row of light.
In those three braids, the steeper-slanting red or pink lines passing across the dark-light rows are formed by contrasting single-color loops, not bicolor. (Maybe 3 single-color loops in each braid, which must be set up on adjacent fingers).
The traditional way to make a braid that looks almost the same as any of these braids:
The braids that were often called bends or chevrons in the old loop braiding manuscripts are of twining, not plain weave, but they come out looking almost the same as my plain weave repp braids. Both types can be called ‘repp’ because of their bulging rows.
For the twined type of repp braid, before each loop transfer, you physically lift each passive “through” loop off the finger, turn it over, and replace it back on the finger. Then after all that, you pull the “active” outer loop through the passive loops.
You do this take-off-and-turn in every row of braiding, so these are rather slow to braid. The loops are continually turned in the same rotational direction on each side of the braid (though in opposite directions on the left and right hands), which is why the resulting physical structure is twining rather than plain weave.
The way I made the braids in my photo above, the passive ‘through’ loops are in effect temporarily turned in one direction on even rows, but then they automatically reverse back in the opposite direction during the following row (when I don’t turn them), cancelling out the preceding turn. The result is plain weave rather than twining.
It’s faster than braiding the traditional twined braids, because I don’t have to take each passive loop off the finger, twist and replace, before the taken loop goes through them. And I don’t have to do anything ‘extra’ at all on the odd rows.
That doesn’t mean these braids are ‘better,’ btw! just faster to make. Twined braids may well be stronger than plain weave braids, for example – the two are actually very different structurally even if they can sometimes look superficially similar.
I hope this is helpful!
last updated Nov 15, 2020
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6 thoughts on “In the works”
Ingrid, I happened upon a photo of loop braiding and fell in love with it. Thanks so much for all of your help and inspiration! What an awesome artform. You rock!
Thank you! I hope you keep having fun with it!
Your braids are georgeous, I’m quite inspired although currently caught in crochet eddy. On backburner is need for braided binding (to sew on) for cardigan (Christmas present). I bought cone of lovely, fine rayon, (approx. equiv. to size 8 perle cotton) which I think will be perfect: has sheen but not as shiny as the DMC rayon embroidery thread, not too slippery and just a bit of body-slightly stiff but still supple, however not nearly as supple as standard cotton embroidery thread. To my eye this yarn looks better for this application than a comparable nylon, plus round nylon yarn tends to stay round and I think this rayon will flatten out.
The braids available at the sewing stores are just awful–medium sized acrylic yarn in very loose simple flat braid, and expensive too boot. They are too bulky, appropriate for heavy felted wool or canvas coats or blankets.
I know this is not as nearly as interesting as your multi-color, multi-stitch braids, but would you be willing to apply your considerable experience and suggest a braid pattern for this application? It needs to be about 5/8″-3/4″ in width, (5/16″ -3/8″ after folding), I plan to sew the braid on by catching each yarn as it folds on the edge of braid and sewing (or crocheting) to the face of the sweater then wrap over edge and blind stitch to back side. My biggest concern is the need for maximum flexibility going around 90 degree curves to avoid puckers. It might work better if it is more flexible/supple in the center than on the edges, if that is even possible, and this is why I ask for your opinion rather than just proceed with a ‘plain flat braid’.
I think it needs to be fairly flat (thin in height) so that when folded in half the double thickness is not too bulky for the medium weight double knit, and for the same reason I believe it should not be too tightly woven in order to follow the drape of the knit and to not make the edge too stiff. A hollow braid, while sturdier and perhaps more attractive, would probably end up being too bulky, but I bow to your greater knowledge.
It could have a doubled (raised) or decorative center line to help make it want to fold in half and to provide a sturdier, (perhaps squared?), more durable leading edge (after folding). I have some bobbins to help control the considerable length of each yarn since I’m hoping to have surround the entire piece with just one splice.
Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated. For some reason, even though I haven’t done that much braiding, (just a bit here and there for fun or short samples to try out a various designs), I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to do this after a short practice period, & I have plenty of yarn to practice with.
Thanks for your time!
Hi Melanie, your yarn sounds beautiful, but it’s on the fine side for getting the width that you want, even doubled. The main issue is length, though – bobbins just don’t work for loop braiding. Up to almost twice your arm length is the most that is straightforward and easy to achieve, if you start braiding from the center point of your loops, instead of from an end point. See my post on Longer Loop Braids for some other ideas. Very long braids can be made with loop braiding, but it’s a lot to start out with! If the length is very important and you don’t want to deal with loop braiding workarounds, you might want to look into kumihimo braiding. Bobbins and long lengths say “kumihimo” to me!
Other than those concerns, a flat braid sounds perfect. I suggest starting with the 5-loop square braid, then its flat variation, and practicing that until the moves feel natural. Then go up to a 7-loop square braid and its flat variation. Once you’ve learned those, both the “Spanish” braid of 7 loops and the double braids of 6, 8, and 10 loops (more complex braids) also have flat variations that would tend to be wider than flat “square” braids. (see my Tutorials index page.) Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions, either here or through my email ‘contact’ form (tab in top menu).
just found your site, love it!
Hi Leigh, thanks for the note! Happy braiding!