Hollow braids

This is part 3 of my solo-braider double-braid tutorials, on the hollow, or tubular version of the double braid. [Part 1 – Basic instructions, and Solid Rectangle double braids; Part 2 – Flat double braids.] (If you are new to loop braiding, start with my intro tutorial on 5-loop square and flat braids.)

There’s no video for this tutorial—it’s not needed, as the method is so similar to making a flat double braid.

The color patterns for the hollow braids in these photos are all given below, after the braiding method.

fingerloop braiding, 8 loops

finger loop braid, 8 loops, hollow double braid, with "Edge" pattern

(Click twice on any photo to see the braided structure more clearly.)

This braid doesn’t actually look hollow or tube-like as you are braiding it, or even afterwards (though you can make it look tubular by inserting a narrow object like a knitting needle into it, massaging the braid a bit and removing the object, see photo lower down). It will look rectangular or slightly D-shaped in cross-section, not very different from the solid rectangle double braid. But the color patterns can be very different! For two reasons:

1. When braided by my solo-braider method, the hollow braid’s side surfaces are its widest surfaces.(* see note)
You will probably think of the sides as the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the braid after it’s done, because they are the widest surfaces. That puts a different section of the braid in the center-view. A color set-up that would make a zig-zag pattern in a solid rectangle braid, would instead have mirror-image symmetry in this hollow rectangle braid—like X-shapes going down the braid (the ‘X’ shapes can look a bit like eagles, or maybe lobsters).

8-loop hollow double braid, no bicolor loops

8-loop hollow double braid, no bicolor loops

2. The second reason for very different patterns specifically applies to bicolor loops. In the hollow braid, only two of the four loop transfers of each cycle are turned, instead of all four of them as in a solid rectangle double braid. Whenever a bicolor loop is turned it results in a color change to the braid, so these two braids can have quite different color patterns.

The first two photos below are not of hollow braids. They show a couple of solid rectangle braids set up for that braid’s “Edge” pattern of bicolor loops—the blue-and-white braid also has a short section of the “one-loop-wrong” pattern. (The color set-ups for these two 10-loop braids are taught in my first double braid tutorial, near the end.)

fingerloop braiding, 10 loops, medieval pattern

Bicolor “Edge” pattern in solid rectangle double braids, 10 loops, top surface

fingerloop braiding, 10 loops, medieval pattern

reverse side, solid rectangle Edge patterns

Compare them to the hollow rectangle braid’s “Edge” pattern (below).

fingerloop braiding, medieval, hollow braid

Hollow rectangle double braids with “Edge” type bicolor patterns, 9 loops

In my lingo, Edge patterns are those bicolor loop patterns in which the lengthwise columns of the braid keep to one color, without the braider having to do any extra braiding moves (i.e no ‘linking’). The braids in the photos above are actually all slight variations on the ‘pure’ Edge-pattern. They all are made with (mostly) bicolor loops, set up to create lengthwise dark-light columns.

‘Edge’ patterns of lengthwise striping in square and double braids are only possible for those that have an even number of turned loop transfers in each cycle of moves. So there is no Edge pattern for flat braids, as they only have one turned loop transfer (unless you use an extra ‘linking’ move, see my posts on color-linking!).

I describe how to set up for the Hollow braid’s Edge pattern, along with several other patterns shown in the photos, further down in this post—just below the braiding method itself.

The Hollow Rectangle double braid is truly hollow (if you’ve remembered not to turn any of the inner loop transfers!), so you can easily change it from a flattish, rectangular shape, to a round shape.  Insert a fine knitting needle or maybe a shish kabob skewer into the braid and squish the braid up and down to help it fill out.

fingerloop braiding, 9 loops, medieval

You can then re-flatten it into any orientation you want—changing the way the color pattern displays on the braid. Or you can thread a core through the braid to keep it filled out.  In the photo below, I hadn’t actually inserted a core, but the stiffer, gold-colored viscose threads tend to make the braid keep its rounded shape. (If I wore this bracelet a while, it would probably flatten out, though, so if I want it to stay round I would definitely pull some kind of core through it, maybe a round shoe-lace.)

friendship bracelet, fingerloop braiding, 9 loops, hollow, medieval

Hollow double braid of 9 loops, no longer rectangular. This is its rounded, “puffed-out,” form, after inserting knitting needle. Embroidery floss and shiny rayon thread.

Or you can use a hollow braid to cover and decorate a narrow object. Or maybe put elastic, or a ribbon inside—plus some other possibilities:

fingerloop braids, complex, 12 loops, hollow braids, beads, openwork, by Ingrid Crickmore

Hollow double braids of 12 loops, some with openwork areas

The braids that probably jumped out at you are the ones with the open areas!

This is another really cool thing about my solo-braider hollow double braids…Because the sides come out seeming like the top and bottom of the braid, any divided areas appear to be in the center of the braid, looking sort of like a keyhole. (As I show in my videos, a divided area is made by not turning any of the transferred loops.)

friendship bracelet, finger loop braiding, complex braids, tutorials

8-loop hollow braid, with linked loop exchanges to create the different colored sides (explained in my previous post)

And since the braid is hollow, anything you string through the braid will show in that opening! Ribbons, another braid, beads, etc.

Plus, the sides of that keyhole are cupped, and will hold onto a flat object of the right size, especially if it is oval, diamond-shaped, or best of all  “eye”-shaped (like an oval but pointed at both ends…is there a name for this shape? it seems like such a basic geometric shape, but I can’t think of a word for it!).

Here’s a photo of a bracelet I sometimes wear when I’m teaching:

friendship bracelet, finger loop braid, hollow braid with inserts, tutorials

I’m not crazy about the colors I used, but I like the inserts. They were some thin, flat metal scrap-booking ornaments (eye-shaped) that I happened to come across, with English words on one side and Chinese characters on the other.

The braid above was made with more loops than those in my tutorials, but 8 and 10-loop hollow double braids have the same possibility, maybe with the added security of a little glue to hold the inserted elements in place.  Judging the size is important, too.  It’s best if the opening is small enough that it’s difficult—but possible—to insert the flat object. The object should not be very thick, and it will hold best if it is pointed at the top and bottom. That large, round insert in the upper photo would probably need some glue if it were used in an actual piece of jewelry. I didn’t glue the inserts in the bracelet, though, and I’ve worn it many times without having any of them fall out.

BRAIDING METHOD, Hollow Rectangle double braid
(solo braider method):

No video is necessary, if you have learned the braids in my previous 2 double braid tutorials (solid rectangle, and flat)

The hollow rectangle double braid is even easier to make than the flat double braid:
The first loop transfer is not turned, and the second transfer is turned, on both hands, instead of on just the right hand. Basically, you do on both hands what I demoed for only the right-hand loops in my flat braid videos.

[I now have a video demoing how I make 12-loop hollow double braids. Same concept, but it’s a lot more complicated with the loop-shifting for so many loops. Twelve loops is a next-step after learning how to manage thumb-loops in a 10-loop double braid (taught in both my previous double braid tutorials)].


Fingers: A = index, B = middle, C = ring, D = little

8-loop hollow double braid, no bicolor loops

No-bicolor-loops braid pattern, hollow double braid, 8 loops: (above)

Left hand loops:
A Orange
B Black
C Orange
D Tan

Right hand loops:
All tan (4 loops)

fingerloop braid, tutorial, medieval, 8-loop hollow double braid

Hollow double braid above has 2 orange loops; the rest of the loops are all black+white bicolor loops, set up in Edge pattern configuration:

Fingers: A = index, B = middle, C = ring, D = little

For 6, 8, or 10-loop braids:

Use the same setup shown below for the EDGE pattern except, instead of bicolor loops on the right hand’s A and B fingers, use two all-orange loops.

Edge pattern loop set-ups for Hollow double braids:
All loops bicolor, of the same two colors, one shank dark and one shank light.

Edge, 6-loop hollow braid 
Left hand loops:
A Dark shank up [this means: place loop so the dark shank of the loop is over the upper side of finger; light shank on lower side of finger]
B Dark shank up
C Light shank up

Right hand loops:
A Light shank up
B Light shank up
C Dark shank up

Edge, 8-loop hollow braid
Left hand loops:
A Dark shank up
B Dark shank up
C Light shank up
D Light shank up

Right hand loops:
A Light shank up
B Light shank up
C Dark shank up
D Dark shank up

Edge, 10-loop hollow braid
Left hand loops:
Thumb Dark shank up — Note: it’s important to learn which shank on a thumb is “up” and which is “down” as this is not obvious. (Check photo #3 in the 9-loop tutorial)
A Dark shank up
B Dark shank up
C Light shank up
D Light shank up

Right hand loops:
Thumb Light shank up
A Light shank up
B Light shank up
C Dark shank up
D Dark shank up

Bicolor loop braids do not have to be of only 2 colors:

fingerloop braid, complex, 13 loops, original design, tutorials, loop braiding

13 loop hollow double braid, Edge pattern with 10 black/white bicolor loops, followed by 3 pink/brown bicolor loops

Loop set-up for grey/white and pink braid:

8-loop hollow braid, with linked loop exchanges

This 8-loop hollow braid has color-linking at the final loop exchange of each braiding cycle, as taught in my flat double braid post. That keeps the left hand’s grey and white loops on the left hand, and the right hand’s pink loops on the right, making each side a different color.  Here, in a hollow double braid, the two different colored sides of the braid end up seeming like the “top” and “bottom” of the finished braid. During braiding, the braid was on edge, as shown in the photo. The braid also has openwork areas, made by not turning any of the transferred loops for (here) 8 braiding cycles.

No bicolor loops. The grey and white ‘W’ pattern can only be made with 8 loops, not 6 or 10 (but 6 or 10 loops will make a nice non-W pattern). I used embroidery floss, but doubled the strands to make a bigger braid.

The left hand holds 2 grey and 2 white loops. The right hand holds 4 pink loops. While you are braiding, the left loops and right loops should never cross over to the other hand. Instead of crossing, they are linked together at the final loop exchange by being exchanged twice (shown in a video in the flat double braid tutorial).

Fingers: A = index, B = middle, C = ring, D = little

Left hand:
A Gray
B White
C White
D Gray

Right hand:
All 4 loops pink

I braided “hollow” for 8 cycles, then “divided” (no loop transfers turned) for 8 braiding cycles to form the openings. Fewer divided cycles will make shorter openings, more divided cycles will make longer ones. The openings may not stay open on their own if the braid is stretched lengthwise. To keep them open, consider stringing a ribbon through the braid and tightening it to keep the braid from stretching out, or inserting something into the openings to hold them open.

Note—if you want the pink side to show (like a slight border) around the edges of the grey and white side, as in the photo, be sure to set the colors up exactly as I described, with the pink on the right hand, and the grey and white on the left hand, and do the final loop exchange as I teach in the videos: Left loop AROUND right loop (two times). If you do it oppositely, the pink side will have a (gray and white) border, and the grey and white side won’t have a border.

Here are some other pictures of hollow braids that have color-linking at the final loop exchange:

fingerloop braid, 6 loops, loop braiding, instructions, tutorial, video tutorial

6-loop hollow braid, right loops black; left loops white and bicolor white+other. Linked loop exchange.

fingerloop braid, 8 loops, loop braiding, instructions, tutorial, video tutorial

8 loop hollow braid with linked loop exchange

fingerloop braid, 16 loops, loop braiding,original design

16-loop hollow double braid with 2 kinds of linking—at final exchange, and also at right hand outer loop transfer (turned twice)–with bicolor loops this can result in 2 bands of lengthwise colors on the right side of the braid. Right loops bicolor; left loops single colors (4 green, 4 ecru).

Below is an 8-loop version:

fingerloop braid, 8 loops, loop braiding, instructions, tutorial, video tutorial

8-loop hollow braid. Right loops are bicolor tan/black, turned twice. Left loops not bicolor. Final loop exchange done twice. Both types of linking are explained in an earlier post.

The braid below was made with 9 loops, which I haven’t taught yet for double braids, but below the photo I give directions for both an 8- and a 10-loop version. (Reduce the 8-loop version by 2 loops for a 6-loop version.) Btw, the braid in the photo really is a double braid, even though it has an odd number of loops! Over-explained under “what is a spanish braid?” near the end of my 7-loop Spanish braid tutorial.  The gold is viscose rayon. The other colors are cotton embroidery floss. The 10-loop version has two contrast all-gold loops instead of just one; and the 8-loop version has no contrast loops (in other words, no all-gold loops, so no gold “interruptions” going across the multicolor columns).

hollow double braid, 9 loops, Edge pattern with mulitcolors

8-loop version of the gold-and-multicolored Edge-pattern above:
4 gold + black bicolor loops
2 gold + green bicolor loops
2 gold + purple bicolor loops

Set-up (hollow braid Edge set-up, but dark shanks are 3 different colors):

Left hand
A: Black up, gold down
B: Green up, gold down
C: Gold up, purple down
D: Gold up, black down

Right handnote that the colors are are the same, but the up/down orientation is the opposite as on the left hand
A: Gold up, black down
B: Gold up, green down
C: Purple up, gold down
D: Black up, gold down

10-loop version of the gold-and-multicolored Edge-pattern above:
4  gold + black bicolor loops
2  gold + green bicolor loops
2  gold + purple bicolor loops
2  gold loops


Left hand (thumb to d-finger)
Th: Purple up, gold down  –it’s important to remember which shank on a thumb is “up” and which is “down”! (Look at photo #3 in the 9-loop tutorial)
A:   Black up,  gold down
B:   Green up,  gold down
C:   Gold up,  black down
D:   Gold up,  green down

Right hand (thumb to d-finger)
ThGold up,  black down
A:   Gold up,  purple down
B:   Gold up,  black down
C:   all-gold loop
D:   all-gold loop

The sides are the widest surfaces of this braid when my solo-braider method is used, but not when two braiders work together to make it—the classic method used historically in both hemispheres of the world for making double braids. (see my tutorial on the 2-Braider Method)

However, whichever method is used, the resulting braid is hollow—it is just an artifact of the tightening that causes it to flatten one way or the other. The braider is free to manually re-flattened it on any axis after it is made.

This is something I only discovered in the summer of 2013, when I was videoing Amy and Patrick making a double braid together! I had always made my double braids as a solo braider up until then. I had certainly noted and wondered at first why the hollow and the flat versions both braided “tall” — that is, folded into a vertical rather than horizontal shape while being braided — and ended up realizing it was because the tightening move pulled the two edges inward. Unlike the other forms of double braids, there are no turned (“crossed” or “reversed”) loop transfers in the center of a flat or hollow double braid to hold the upper and lower layers together. But it never occurred to me to wonder if that might not be the case if the braids were made by two braiders working side-by-side!

It turns out that when two braiders braid this braid together, the two far edges don’t get pulled together when the braid is tightened. (The two far edges being the left braider’s left edge, and the right braider’s right edge.) That would only happen if no tightening were done by the two braiders until after they exchanged their nearest loops—each pulling all their loops against the other braider’s loops to tighten. This might be possible to do (?), but it is much easier and more natural for each braider to tighten their own half of the braid, before exchanging their nearest loops with each other. In that case, each half of the braid is tightened separately, so the two far edges are never pulled together. The braid is mostly all tightened up before the loop exchange even occurs.

I wish I could add this into my double braid article in Threads that Move! (proceedings of Braids 2012, see top of my sidebar.) That’s one advantage of writing on a website rather than in a physical book – I can come back and edit it whenever I want. My article in Threads That Move covers many more types of double braids than I teach here on the blog, but I can’t go back to it and edit anything!

Last updated Dec 29, 2017

© 2013–2017 Ingrid Crickmore
See full copyright restrictions and permissions at the bottom of the sidebar (if you are on a small screen, the ‘sidebar’ may appear somewhere other than at the side).

7 thoughts on “Hollow braids

  1. I LOVE your site. I have been doing very basic loop braiding for about 30 years. I learned from a old college roommate. She followed the Grateful Dead around for years and made bracelets to support herself. So braiding served her well.
    Do you have any books detailing your various techniques? (I am a little old school when it comes to learning new things.)

    • I love that you’ve been loop braiding for 30 years! I’d love to see pics of your braids if you have any you’d like to share. And thanks for commenting! (I sometimes feel like I’m posting into a void!)

      Ok, I haven’t published any books per se. An article in each of the last two international Braids conferences’ Proceedings books (shown near the top of my sidebar) and one or two articles in Strands (the Braid Society’s annual magazine) is about it. [– oops, also the pdfs I just added info for further down]

      I kind of think of this blog as my ‘book’. If you click on the Tutorials tab in my header, you’ll get a ‘table of contents’ for all the tutorials. Other non-tutorial but informative ‘chapters’ are listed under the About tab. Btw, if you’ve only looked at the Start Here tutorial, that and the 9-loop tutorial were my first and worst videos – once you get past those, I think subsequent ones are better quality!

      If you click to ‘follow’ this blog at the top of my sidebar you’ll get an automated email announcement when I publish a ‘chapter’ – usually 0 to 2 times a month, with sometime several months in between.

      • PS to above:
        Wait a minute! – I do have some free downloadable PDF text-and-photo tutorials:
        4 to 8-loop Spiral braids; the 2-loop braid (this 2-loop pdf is an essential ‘chapter 1’ for all the spiral braid pdfs – teaches the basic move for all of them); and the 3-loop version of the square braid.

        The 3-loop photo-tutorial is available on my site, here: https://loopbraider.com/2012/08/02/easy-3-loop-braids/
        The other photo-tutorial pdfs are available in the FILES section of the Braids_and_Bands yahoo list, click here to find out how to download them (near the bottom of my Tutorials index):

  2. The curved diamond has several names , the most general being marquise ( mar – keys) it is also known usually when smaller as a navette ( after navy and resembling a ship) when it is flatter it is a lentil or lenticular shape ( be sur to eat your veggies )
    No matter what it is named it is wonderful I love your work and greatly look forward to meeting you at Braids – we drive from Calgary today

    • Yay! Thank you!!! I had come across the word marquise since posting this, but wasn’t sure about it and did not know about ‘navette’ and lenticular.
      You must have taken a nice relaxed route to the conference if you left as early as last Tuesday! I am rushing around to get ready now, hope to meet you there. I can’t make it up until Wed evening due to family health reasons, but will be there til Sat morning. Thanks again for the shape info!

  3. You are a marvel. I am in love with loop braiding through your posts. At present I am too busy to take it up in earnest. As soon as I have a little time I´ll be practicing like mad.

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