Actually this tutorial itself isn’t particularly unorthodox! 😉 It’s the braid that’s unorthodox. That’s Noémi Speiser’s term for a fingerloop braid in which loops are passed through some loops, but completely over (or under) other loops. That’s all it means – it doesn’t mean that the braid is uncommon, or difficult to make.*
In fact, the most common fingerloop braid worldwide was probably a five-loop Unorthodox braid – the one called “a broad lace” in the medieval loop braiding manuscripts. That’s not the braid I’m teaching here, though.
This tutorial is for a 7-loop D-shaped braid, of a slightly different type than the most common unorthodox braid. I’ve only come across a couple of historic reference to this type* of braid. Yet it’s no harder to make than a 7-loop square braid. Learn the 7-loop square braid first, though – this D-shaped braid video assumes that you already know how to braid a 7-loop braid, just teaches the parts that are different for this D-shaped version. (jump to D-shaped Braid video – the loop set-up directions for the video’s two color-patterns are immediately below the video.)
It has a lot of color-pattern possibilities–the one below looks quite different from both of the braids in my video, but it’s really the same braid, with a different arrangement of colors in the initial set-up of the loops.
[Update: After following my video tutorial further down, you can learn the color set-up for the braid below, (as well as three other D-shaped braid color-patterns) here.]
There’s only one little part of the braiding moves that’s different from a 7-loop square braid. (By the way, this tutorial only teaches that one slightly different part. Learn how to braid ‘regular’ 7-loop braids here.)
In preparing this tutorial, I braided up a lot of different color-pattern variations for the two braids in my videos. Here’s a shot of a few of them:
The shape of this braid is neither square nor round. The lower surface is flat and slightly wider than the equivalent square braid of seven loops would be. The upper surface seems domed/ rounded, which is why I call the braid ‘D-shaped.’ This is very clear in person, but doesn’t come through well in photos. Maybe the photos below will give a better idea. The braid was made with Chinese knotting cord, which is much stiffer than yarn, so I was able to pose the braid sort of freestanding to try to show it from all sides:
Here’s a shot of it wrapped twice around my wrist:
One of the fun things about this particular type of Unorthodox braid is that you can make it with one color on the bottom surface and a mix of different colors on the top surface. This is done by using bicolor loops, and not turning any of the loops that you move while braiding. In a square braid, that would make the braid divide into two separate layers, but that doesn’t happen with unorthodox braids.
You can choose to let the bottom surface stay that one color for the whole length of the braid, or you can decide to turn the loops for certain sections of the braid so the upper and lower colors switch places – see the shots below showing the upper and lower surfaces of the same braid:
I braided most of my samples using smooth, mercerized cotton yarn about twice as heavy as embroidery floss (all discontinued brands that I’ve had lying around for years). Using doubled strands of embroidery floss gives the same effect – I sometimes use both in the same braid. Along the way I also made a few samples using Chinese knotting cord (a synthetic blend of some kind), and some with waxed cotton cord, which is another firm, semi-rigid braiding material.
Then it suddenly occurred to me to try using two totally different types of thread in the same braid – one for the bottom surface and one for the upper surface! The braids in the photo below have stiff waxed cotton cord for the bottom, and silky mercerized cotton floss or knitting yarn forming the top of the braid:
Waxed cotton cord looks and feels very leather-like and rugged, so as bracelets these have a nice firm heft to them. And the contrast between the two types of thread gives the top of the braid an almost beaded or embroidered look.
Waxed cotton and chinese braiding cord are tricky to tighten* — learn the braiding moves with cotton yarn or embroidery floss before trying to braid with stiffer cord.
Here are some examples where I used a coarse linen weaving yarn for one shank of each loop, and a cotton or rayon for the other half. I’d like to try this with hemp, too (none of these are difficult to tighten, btw):
The video below demos how to make both variations of this Unorthodox braid (turning loops and not turning loops).
D-shaped 7-loop braid, 2 ways:
Drag bubble under video to 6:25 to skip the intro and start watching the basic moves of the braid
Starting loop color set-up for both braid patterns in video:
7 loops: 4 bicolor blue/black loops; 3 bicolor blue/white loops
A=index, B=middle, C=ring, D=little finger
Left hand: A,B,C,D fingers each hold a bicolor blue/black loop, black shanks in upper position.
Right hand: A,B,C fingers each hold a bicolor blue/white loop, white shanks in upper position.
Note: In this video I don’t explain the moves that are the same as 7-loop square braid moves – review that video if anything here is unclear. If you are new to loop braiding, it’s best to learn the 5-loop braid first.
Video Timeline (skip to 6:25 to go to the braiding moves):
00:00-5:45 Introduction to the D-shaped “unorthodox” braid, and its two variations (turned vs not turned loop transfers). I show several D-shaped braid examples in various color-patterns, before starting the braiding instructions.
3:45 Here I show the two patterns I will be braiding in this video, first the first pattern, made without turning loops.
4:32 Quick view of second pattern (made by turning the loops)
5:45 Starting the braid (see loop color set-up instructions just below the video window).
6:26 First move (left loop transfer)
7:45 Faster moves.
9:14 Loops are back in starting set-up positions, ready to start second braid pattern.
9:34 Showing the second braid pattern that I will now be braiding.
10:17 1st move on left, with the loop now being turned as it is transferred. (Be sure to turn the loop ‘from above’ rather than ‘from below’).
11:08 One ‘unbraiding’ move
12:38 Faster moves, new pattern appearing on braid…
13:19 How to error-check
13:38 Showing new pattern emerging in braid, front and back.
Then comparing to orange,black,white braid in which I switched occasionally to turning loops for just one pattern repeat, and then returned to braiding without turns.
15:08 Reprise of turned loop procedure.
Talking about why this is considered an “unorthodox” braid
(16:07 Noticing I forgot to turn a loop when taking it, correcting mistake.)
The braid below has a matching fringe of mini-braids at both ends. This is a nice finish for many braid uses—lanyard or necklace, drawstring for a bag, bracelet, laces, etc:
*1. Noémi Speiser came up with the term “unorthodox” for these braids because they are made with a combination of two types of braiding moves (usually “through-loop” and “over-loop” braiding moves). That kind of combination makes the structure of the finished braid very complex and difficult to analyze. But the braids themselves are not necessarily uncommon or difficult to make at all. The most common loop braid worldwide is a 5-loop unorthodox braid. It is even easier to make than a 5-loop square braid, because you only have to insert the working finger through one loop, rather than two. (To the person doing the braiding, passing the working finger over a loop is a relative “no-brainer” compared to inserting it through a loop—you think of the first as “skipping” a loop, rather than doing something to it.)
For more about Unorthodox braids, hover on the About tab in my upper menu, and click on Unorthodox Braids in the drop-down menu.
*2. In the more well-known type of UO (unorthodox) braid, it’s the loop or loops near the center of the braid that are “skipped over” by the braider. The operating finger (and therefore the loop that it transfers) only goes through the loop or loops closer to the outer edge of the braid.
It’s exactly the opposite for the type of UO braid in this tutorial: Here, it’s the outer loop (or loops) that is “skipped over” – the loop nearer to the edge of the braid. The transferring loop is only pulled through the two loops that are closer to the mid line of the braid. It “skips” above a whole loop at the edge of the braid, rather than going through it as it would for a square braid. This makes a noticeable difference to the resulting structure and appearance of the braid.
There’s a reference to a 5-loop example from Siberia, and a reference to two 7-loop examples from the Wayuu culture in Columbia – both references are on L-M BRIC. [L-MBRIC is currently only partially on-line, click here for updated info.] Here is a note by Masako Kinoshita in LMBRIC issue 2 about a braid from NW Siberia:
TIE STRINGS ON A COAT OF THE KHANTY PEOPLE IN SIBERIA
Another l-m [loop-manipulated] braid specimen to add to the World Distribution Map of L-M Braids was found among the ethnographical costume collection of the National Archeology and Ethnology Institute in Novosibirsk, Russia. They are a couple of pairs of front closure strings attached to a jacket of the Khanty people who live in northwest Siberia, along the River Ob. The braid made of wool-like fiber exhibited the most obvious characteristics of an UO [unorthodox] braid, having a 2-ridge braid on one face and a 4-ridge braid on the other…The Khanty braid, however, is round on the four-ridge face and flat on the two-ridge face in contrast to the most often reported UO (here I tentatively call UO No. 1), which is flat on the four-ridge face and round on the 2-ridge face…
UO above means Unorthodox finger loop braid. This is not two braids later combined together, as you might think from Kinoshita’s description. It is a braid with two visible columns (ridges) of slanted threads on one side, and four visible columns of slanted threads on the other, like the braid I am teaching in this tutorial.
In the unorthodox braid of this tutorial, the flat bottom surface has only two lengthwise columns (ridges) of slanted threads.
The threads in the two ridges have opposite slants, so together they form upside-down V’s down the braid. On the upper surface of the braid, 4 lengthwise columns/ridges are visible (creating busier color patterns on the top of the braid than on the bottom). The 4-ridge side is rounded, and the two-ridge side is flat, as in the braid Masako Kinoshita describes.
There’s a photo of the Khanty braids alongside her description, but it’s not detailed enough to see the braids clearly. The closeup photos in her article are not of the Khanty braids – they are of a 5-loop reproduction Kinoshita made (using nylon cord). Masako Kinoshita’s more detailed description of the way she braided her hypothetical reconstruction is near the end of the page in the Illustrated Instruction issue that accompanies this issue of L-MBRIC: “illustrated instruction series #2“. This is exactly the type of Unorthodox braid I’m teaching here, though done with 5 loops rather than 7.
Even the “regular” type of unorthodox braid has some surprises when done with the V-fell braiding method that I teach on this site. I plan to make at least a few more tutorials on those as well, for various numbers of loops.
(Things get complicated with A-fell, V-fell, and Slentre braiding when it comes to the resulting shapes of their unorthodox braids—which ought to be identical, but aren’t!)
*3. I tighten this type of stiff cord very firmly and repeatedly while my hands are spread apart, but I don’t hold any tension at all in the loops the rest of the time. I don’t tighten this way with normal thread or yarn, only when using stiff cord that is hard to tighten. (I am not sure this would work well with stiff and very slippery thread like nylon beading thread, though – haven’t tried it yet. Waxed cotton and chinese knotting cord are stiff, but not so slick and slippery.)
Try to let the loops hang somewhat slack as soon as you begin to bring your hands together after tightening. This makes it harder to do the braiding moves, unfortunately. But in my experience with this type of stiff cord, getting an evenly-tensioned braid is very dependent on the bends/creases you make in the cords each time you pull the loops out to the sides, so it’s best not to undo and and straighten out those creases by pulling the loops tightly towards you during the next move.
My first ‘Unorthodox’ braid tutorial! This is a 7-loop, D-shaped braid with a rounded upper surface and a flat lower surface. Like most Unorthodox braids, the upper surface usually looks very different from the lower surface…
Last updated June 16, 2020
© 2015-2020 Ingrid Crickmore
See full copyright restrictions and permissions at the bottom of the sidebar (if you are on a small screen device, the ‘sidebar’ may appear somewhere other than at the side of the screen).