Year of the Snake

fingerloop braid, zig zag braid, rick rack braid, 11 loops, loop manipulation braiding, color linking

I wasn’t trying to make a Year of the Snake fingerloop braid when I made the first of these curvy braids last month, shortly after Chinese New Year.

I was experimenting with color-linking in a solid-rectangle double braid. I liked the way the color-patterns turned out, but the braid itself didn’t look right…it was sort of straight, but not quite. Slightly uneven along the edges.zig zag braid, rick rack braid, wavy double braid, 9 loops, solid rectangle

It was only when I started ‘plumping’ the braid up and down after it was finished that the curves developed…The braid seemed to want to deform into regular waves. So I just helped that along, and then wet the braid and let it dry on a towel. I made a few more in slight variations of the same kind of alternating side-to-side linking, and all were easy to loosen up into wavy, undulating braids after they were made.

Various curvy double braids, all solid rectangle, 9 - 13 loops, zig zag braid, rick rack braid

Various curvy double braids, all ‘solid rectangle’ type, 9 to 13 loops, cotton embroidery floss, silk, rayon

The color-linking in these braids is done a little differently than I’ve shown before. What I’ve already demoed is how to link different-color loops together during the final loop exchange move—the last move of a double braid. It’s in my flat double braid tutorial (I also used it for several braids in my hollow double braid tutorial–all the braids that have a different-colored top and bottom).

But these curvy braids require color-linking during some of the loop transfers, not at the loop exchange. The orange, yellow and gray flat double braid in my right sidebar→ also has this type of color-linking. In the curvy braids the linking shifts from the left to the right side of the braid, and then back again – which must be the reason the braid ends up being wavy. Flat braids with this kind of color-linking end up straight, not snaky. I assume that’s because after the braid is done, and the two layers of the braid are spread open (book-like), any tendency to curve on the left of the midline is cancelled out by the mirror-image tendency for an opposite curve on the right.

Update: I now have two tutorials that teach color-linking as part of the loop-transfers, one for 7-loop braids and one for 13-loop braids. Both are flat versions of square braids, whereas these “snake” braids are double braids of the ‘solid rectangle‘ shape, but the linking method is essentially the same for both. In flat braids, it’s always the case that any linked areas have mirror-image symmetry on the left and right sides of the braid, which must be why those braids do not deform into curves, while tightly-braided solid-rectangle versions without mirror-image symmetry do curve.

Btw, Laverne Waddington gets the credit for matching up these braids with the Chinese New Year—I never would have made the braid~snake~new year connection myself! I showed the braids to Laverne at a weaving workshop she taught here in California a couple of weekends ago, and she immediately said “Snake braids–for the year of the Snake!” So it’s because of Laverne that this post has a more interesting title than, say – “Curvilinear Double Braids.”

If you want to learn how to make the curvy braids, it would probably be best to try this kind of color-linking in a straight braid first. Which is one of the many tutorials I’ve been trying to decide on—which to make, that is…

My to-do list is getting scarily long:

7-loop flat braid, finger loop braiding

  • The flat version of the 7-loop Spanish braid (plus other shapes)
  • Unorthodox braids
  • Single-layer plain weave braids
  • Color-linking in other places than the loop-exchange (see braid in right sidebar→)
  • Odd-number-of-loop double braids (good to know — makes a more balanced double braid)
  • 10-loop 17th C. Letter-braids [update: Done! click preceding link] I’ve made several posts about the 14-loop letterbraid, and a tutorial for its component 7-loop spanish braid. I’m not planning to make a tutorial for the 14-loop letterbraid as a solo braider technique until after I’ve taught a few braiders how to make the 10-loop ones. They only require holding one loop per finger — and thumb, so are a lot easier. (they’re definitely more complicated than 10-loop double braids, though, because they have twice as many loop transfers.)

So here’s a poll: Which one do you want next, if any? There are also the rest of the 12 different double braid shapes, I’ve only covered four so far.
(leave your vote in the comment field below this post.)

Realistically, it isn’t possible for all of the tutorials in the list to be “coming soon.” Especially considering how easily I get distracted…I need to prioritize somehow.

At least lately I’ve been distracted by braiding, instead of my usual distraction—wasting time on the internet! On that same off-topic, I’m back home again after being gone for a month at my mother’s (she was sick, but is now much better). It was amazing being almost completely away from a computer for a whole month. Even though I watched a couple hours of tv a day with my mother, I was more productive there than I am at home. I’m thinking of trying out a program called MacFreedom that somehow helps you set limits on the time you spend online…


*¹ I highly recommend “plumping” and loosening up any loop braid as soon as you finish it—helps the braid relax, fill out, and look better after the lengthwise stretching that happens while you’re braiding it.

*² Each of my curvy braids has two or three color-groups that are linked where they meet during the braiding procedure (to keep those colors from crossing each other). The braid below has two such color groups: 3 purple loops, and 3 blue. In addition, each braid has one more color-group that wanders freely back and forth across the braid, crossing both other colors, and never being linked. In the braid below, this “wandering” color group comprises 3 loops of shiny gold rayon.

detail of 9-loop wavy double braid, purple and blue embroidery floss, gold rayon

detail of 9-loop wavy double braid, purple and blue embroidery floss, gold rayon

The purple loops are kept to one side of the braid and the blue loops are kept to the other side, while the gold loops move freely from side to side. Only blue and purple loops are linked. Because there are always three groups of colors across the braid, the purple and blue loops never meet in the exact center of the braid. Any linking of purple to blue always happens either to the left or the right of the center of the braid. Whenever the gold loops pass between the blue and the purple areas, no loops are linked.

*³ Double braids with an even number of loops—which are all that I’ve taught so far—are actually a little more uneven than are odd-number-of-loop double braids. A 9-loop double braid is a more balanced version of a 10-loop double braid—it’s closer to a regular 2/2 twill. (This also applies to double braids made the traditional way, by two cooperating braiders.)

There’s a slight difference in the braiding method with an odd-number-of-loops double braid. You don’t do a full loop exchange move. Instead, the ‘extra’ or ‘odd’ loop of one hand simply gets passed over to the other hand after the first hand’s braiding moves are done. Or else this can be done as part of the inner loop transfer of each hand – the 1st and 3rd loop transfers in a solo-braiding cycle. (The so-called Spanish braid of 7 loops is essentially an odd-number-of-loop double braid–that odd-loop passage is done as part of its third and fourth loop transfers).

Note–certain color patterns are only possible with even numbers of loops! So both types of double braids are useful to know.

Updated June 19, 2020

© 2013–2020 Ingrid Crickmore
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7 thoughts on “Year of the Snake

  1. I found your blog thanks to Laverne’s link on her blog, I absolutely love the snake braids. Beautiful work, keep the posts coming. I do understand about the Internet and the time thing, I struggle with that one a lot.

    • Hi Vicki, Thank you for the nice words about my little snake braids! I still haven’t downloaded that “MacFreedom” program–want it and don’t want it at the same time (I think I’m a real web-addict).

  2. Pingback: Backstrap Weaving – Coincidences and Connections | Backstrap Weaving

  3. Hello! At the moment I am creating an online business and don´t have time for anything else, even for sleep.
    As soon as the business get buzzing I´ll go head on for my hobbies: among them loop braiding.
    I don´t know a single thing about it, except what I read in your blog, and I like it very, very much.
    Thanks for your generosity in sharing all of that with us.

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