I promised a long time ago to make a tutorial here on the braiding method for one of the 10-loop letterbraids*, and have been procrastinating like mad on it ever since…other braiding topics somehow kept popping up that seemed more enticing than going back and relearning the Nun’s Book letterbraid! I hadn’t made this braid for several years, and even back then I only made one or two small samples. Because of my too-many-loops fixation, I abandoned it much too quickly for the 14-loop “Charted letterbraid,” and then my own 18-loop variation.
But finally, on our recent music/ camping trip I buckled down, pulled out Joy Boutrup’s letterbraid monograph*, and worked on some samples of the Nun’s Book* ten-loop letterbraid. Of course, after all that procrastinating, it turned out to be a very interesting and rewarding braid! One of the two ways it can be made is unique to this letterbraid–quite different than either of the other two old letterbraids that Joy Boutrup has decoded. Ten loops braids up a lot faster than the 14-loop letterbraid, and the letters look great.
Boring technical note:
Ten loops, fourteen, or even my eighteen-loop variation — no matter how many loops they have, all the known 17th C. letterbraids have exactly the same number of “pixels” across the braid — segments of potential color-changes that can form designs. All the letterbraids are braided with eight loop transfers across the braid, which creates eight columns of what I refer to very incorrectly as “pixels”. It’s only the length of the pixels that changes with more or fewer loops. (In a braid, the pixels are short, slanted lines of thread, not dots.)
Unfortunately, just when I was all geared up to come home and start working on the videos and photos for this tutorial, a little hitch occurred–I did something very stupid with boiling water at our camp stove. (Youch!) The large burned area is on the back of my hand near the thumb. It’s getting better, but is definitely not ready to appear in a video. In the meantime here’s a preview:
(story to be continued!)
The tutorial will mostly be on my solo-braider method for making the braid using all ten fingers, as in my 10-loop double braid method, but I also plan to make a video demoing how the left braider of a two-braider team does the 5-loop “spanish” braiding moves for the left half of the braid, and maybe a video on how that left braider would follow a chart to turn his/her loops. This is covered in the text of Joy Boutrup’s monograph* on the letterbraids, but without illustrations of the braiding moves.
Update: The solo-braider method tutorial is finally posted!
I decided to make a separate tutorial later demoing how to braid this letterbraid the traditional way as part of a team.
All the letterbraids are a shape I call “divided” (two separate layers), joined only where the two layers of the braid switch sides to form the letters. [see my more recent posts on pick-up patterning]
You can sort of see that in the “quick fox” braid, because the angle of the photo is a bit too much from the bottom of the braid instead of directly above it. That’s why some of the letters seem to have thin strips of white trailing off to the right… That’s really the lower, white layer of the braid showing on the bottom edge.
I’ve only just started exploring some of the non-letterbraid patterns, and other braid-shapes (flat, hollow, etc) that can be made with these same braiding moves. The wider pink/ red/ purple braid next to the alphabet sampler in the first photo is a flat version of this two-layer braid, made with bicolor loops. Each loop has one gray shank and one colored shank. As with flat double braids, the two layers of the braid were connected along only one edge while I was braiding, and after finishing it, I opened the braid out along that fold to form a twice-as-wide, single-layer braid. (In a flat, single-layer version no “letterbraid” type designs are possible, as those require two superimposed layers for substituting colors back and forth between the layers.)
All three braids in the photos are made with the same material – dmc cotton embroidery floss – and essentially the same braiding method.
P.S. The tutorial will show how to do the braiding moves for a non-lettered version of the braid, as well as how to follow a chart in forming one or two letter-shapes that I have made up.
To continue on with making the letter-shapes in the Nun’s Book, you will need Noémi Speiser and Joy Boutrup’s publication on the 17th C. letterbraids*, which has Joy’s instructions and reworked charts for all the letters.
The braid itself is a plain-weave, two-layer braid that can be made with all kinds of great shape and color-pattern variations. It will be easier to learn after learning how to make 10-loop double braids. In numbers of loop transfers per cycle of braiding, a letterbraid is like a doubled double braid!
*For sources and more information, see my upper menu page on the 17th Century letterbraids — in the header tabs, hover on “About Loop Braiding.” The letterbraid tab is at the bottom of the drop-down…
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