This is in answer to a video request from my recent poll—I had no idea the opportunity would come up so quickly!
At the first of my two recent music campouts, Amy and Patrick both asked me to show them how to make a 5-loop braid. Right after they had each made one they wanted to learn how to make a 10-loop double braid by team braiding. This was their own idea, and in fact I was slightly shocked. I had mentioned double braids to them when they were looking at my braid samples, but I never expected they would want to learn them right away! I almost told them they should practice more first and learn team braiding tomorrow…Then I remembered they were musicians and I might never see them tomorrow. This was my golden opportunity to get a video!
Wish I knew who to thank for the great jam of Devil Eat the Groundhog going on in the background!
It had been ten months since my last and only real experience of team braiding (at Braids 2012), so Patrick and I had to figure it out together—which didn’t take long. Then I backed out to get a camera while Amy and Patrick figured it out together, also quickly and easily.
The video starts just as they are correcting a mistake they had been making in the loop exchange move—Amy had inadvertently been turning the loop she received from Patrick. This would have been easier for them to realize if I had given them bicolor loops to braid with rather than single-color loops, but they still managed to figure it out and correct it themselves. (A photo-sequence of this all-important loop exchange move is further down—it’s hard to catch in a video.)
Bear in mind these are two total beginners! I was amazed at how quickly they learned this, especially with the pressure of the camera filming them! I tried to leave them alone except for that…They had enough to think about, and I was not about to step in and suggest that they try to braid in sync, or to not spread their loops quite so widely apart when tightening (as Apple and Mally taught Dominic and me at Braids 2012.)
Here is a photo of their double braid sampler partway done (Patrick had to leave to go check on his son):
Ideally, I should have started them out with 1) bicolor loops, 2) somewhat longer loops—they are a bit cramped up with these relatively short loops, and 3) fastened the loops to something about chest-height, instead of a low table.
Photo-tutorial for the loop-exchange move of a multi-person braid:
(the other moves in this 10-loop braid are taught in my 5-loop Square Braid tutorial)
Note: This loop exchange works essentially the same way, regardless of the braiding method you are using – here Amy and Patrick are using the ‘V-fell’ braiding method I teach for square braids, but the loop exchange between the two braiders would be done in essentially the same way even if they were using the ‘A-fell’ braiding method taught on fingerloop.org and other sites.
Typically, a team of two braiders braids with mirror-image movements (except for the loop-exchange move!) – so the left braider (Amy) starts with 3 loops on her left hand and 2 loops on her right hand, but the right braider (Patrick) starts with the opposite arrangement – 2 on the left and 3 on the right. (Note: if you are a team of 3 braiders, all three braiders should start with the same left-right arrangement of loops, and all braid with the same sequence of moves, with no braiders mirroring each other’s moves.)
The two braiders’ inner hands both start out holding only two loops (Amy’s right and Patrick’s left hand).
Now they are ready to exchange their index finger loops, one through the other with no turn to either loop. One braider initiates this, in this braid it’s always the braider on the right, Patrick. He starts before he has shifted his left loops, so actually his “index” loop is still down on the middle finger, leaving his index finger free:
Patrick then TURNS his hand slightly palm-down, and reaches his index finger back toward Amy, but going THROUGH his own b-loop (middle finger loop) first: He reaches through his middle finger loop from his side of the loop toward his partner in order to fetch his partner’s a-loop:
He takes Amy’s index loop by hooking into it from above the loop—this will result in the loop coming onto his finger without a turn! This may seem counter-intuitive, based on how you turn your own loops, but if you experiment (especially if you are using bicolor loops) you can prove to yourself that this is true:
Then he takes the loop off Amy’s finger and pulls it back through his middle finger loop (which Amy will then take):
Amy now has no loop on her index finger.
[I forgot to get a photo of this point]
Patrick waits for her to take his middle finger loop (which her old loop just passed through).
She can take it either by hooking down into it from above as in the photo below, or by hooking up into it from below, as she does in the video—either way the loop will not turn over as it passes onto her finger. As Patrick mentions in the video, her finger should not enter the loop pointed toward Patrick, instead she should reach over or under the loop and insert her finger into the loop pointing back towards herself:
The non-initiator (Amy) does not have to pull a loop through another loop—the loop she takes off Patrick’s middle finger has already passed around the loop she just relinquished.
Now the exchange is over, and a loop from each braider has crossed over to the other braider. Then the cycle begins again. When the two braiders exchange loops, the same one should always do the first move, so the loop exchange is consistently left through right (or consistently the opposite). Since the two braiders do different tasks during the loop exchange, it’s a good idea to take turns and learn both parts, maybe on two consecutive braids.
Ok, I hope this takes some of the mystery out of team braiding, and encourages other braiders to try it! I am very jazzed about doing it myself—this ended up being the first of three different times I got to team braid on my trip, and it is not only fun but also supportive…There are two sets of eyes to notice if mistakes are being made or steps left out, which was just as often ME forgetting something as the person I was supposedly teaching!
Thank you Amy and Patrick for being so relaxed and good-natured while I hovered over you with the camera (hyperventilating with excitement), and for being such great braiders!
[The broken links below went to pages on the old LMBRIC site, which no longer exists as such, but can still be accessed on the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine.” Click here to find out how to use any of my LMBRIC links to get to its archived page.]
1) Here are links to photos of team loop braiding: one photo on LMBRIC (Sulawesi,Indonesia), and this photo on a historical reenactors’ site that shows 3 people cooperating in making the Katheren Wheele braid. (Here’s Keiko Kusakabe’s photo of an Indonesian 3-person lacy loop braid). How about 5 people team braiding? This is from LMBRIC again)…Btw, you don’t need an extra person to hold the start of the braid, you can attach it to whatever you want. That extra person is great, though if you want to braid longer lengths–he or she can act as the ‘beater’ and tighten up the braid after each series of braiding moves.
2) There are other ways to effect the same exchange of loops between the two braiders. Any way that gets one of the two loops through the other with neither being turned over in the process would work. Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding (OEPB) teaches more than one way.
3) The main difference from how I teach this as a double braid done by a solo braider is that Amy and Patrick are each doing V-fell braiding, whereas the individual left and right hands in my equivalent solo-braider technique are actually braiding as if they were making A-fell braids. The two resulting double braids turn out “backwards”, but otherwise fairly identical to each other.
Another minor difference is that I happened to start Patrick and Amy by having the exchange done “left loop through right loop”; whereas in my solo-braider double braid videos, I always pass the left loop around the right loop. This would be the equivalent of having Amy and Patrick stay in their same positions, but reverse their roles in the video – so Amy would do the first move of reaching through her own loop to fetch Patrick’s loop.
4) The Hollow double braid solo, vs as a team:
This is a much more interesting difference, because it strongly affects how the braid turns out!
When team braiding, the tightening is done by each braider before they exchange loops. After the exchange there is no need to tighten.
I don’t find this convenient as a solo braider, instead I only tighten after the loop exchange, pulling the right and left “braiders'” loops away from each other, which is another way to tighten the whole braid. It’s probably not a good idea to do it that way as a braiding team, it’s easier to tighten against one’s own loops than to try to balance it against another braider.
That difference in tightening creates a difference in the way the hollow double braid initially turns out—it comes out rectangular on the horizontal axis when braided by two braiders tightening separately, but rectangular with the wide sides on the vertical axis when tightened by a solo braider pulling left and right loops apart after the loop exchange between the two hands.
These two outcomes can make the braid’s color pattern look very different, because the color-pattern of the two “side” surfaces is usually quite different than the color-pattern of the upper and lower surface of the braid. Even though the two outcomes look so different, there is no important structural difference between them. Both are hollow, and can be manually reshaped by inserting a narrow object to puff the braid out, and then (optionally) re-flattening it on any axis.
last updated June 21, 2020
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