This 3rd Pick-up installment is on flat braid pattern-switching with bicolor loops. It includes instructions for some nice flat braid bicolor patterns – regular bicolor patterns, shown further down, as well as ‘real pick-up’ patterns, shown immediately below. Plus, I finally have some concrete, sure-fire (I hope!) tips on how to get flat braids to come out “fully flat” instead of the “3/4-flat” result that is so common – especially with 5-loop braids.
Previous info not covered here can be learned in these tutorials: Start Here (5 loops), and Continue Here (7 loops) teach how to make square and flat loop braids, and Bicolor Loop Magic shows how to set up and braid with bicolor loops. See Pick-up 101 and Rock Your Square Braid for pick-up patterning terms and techniques.
‘Real’ Pick-up Patterns
Even though you can only use pickup on one side of the braid when making a flat braid (more on this below), the pattern displays across a wider area than a square braid, so it can be very striking.
Here’s where my artificial distinction between “real” pick-up patterns and switching between automatic patterns breaks down! Combo patterns are actually ‘real’ pick-up. The overall, larger pattern does not have an automatic loop-turning sequence to every row:
The overall pattern in this braid has a 16-row repeat made with different loop-turning moves in different rows. In braiding it, you break it into 2 easily digestible chunks: 9 rows of All-Dark-Up then one repeat (7 rows) of All-But-1-Dark-Up. (all pattern set-ups and charts follow the flat pick-up instructions below). With square and flat braid pickup, after you get used to the idea of choosing whether or not to turn loops, the braiding process is mostly about counting your rows as you braid (in the video, I show how to find your place by examining your loops if you happen to forget what row you are on).
Those two braids have regular, repeating pick-up patterns, with a regular number of rows to each repeat. But pattern variation is also a hallmark of pick-up patterning. You could think of the braid below as a patchwork of a few automatic bicolor patterns randomly pieced together, or as planned motifs, but either way, it’s still pick-up patterning. In Pick-up 2 (Rock Your Square Braid), I sort of falsely implied that switching between automatic patterns is different from “real pick-up”, when really it isn’t!
The combo-pattern braids above have extra-long pattern repeats, but a regularly repeating pick-up pattern may also have a very short repeat.
Below are two 7-loop braids, both with variations of the pattern I call Dark-Light Alternations (Charts for both are further down). The 5-row alternations pattern in the black/blue braid is pickup, whereas the 7-row alternations pattern in the white/blue braid is an ‘automatic’ bicolor pattern – you start with all your dark shanks ‘up’ and light shanks ‘down’ and braid a flat braid.
The 5-row sequence in the black/blue braid would have automatic flat braiding moves in a 5-loop braid, but not in this 7-loop one – it required different turning sequences in some rows than in others (in a regular and easy-to-memorize pattern). And the end result in that black braid is a bit different than it would be in a 5-loop braid – here the pattern gets condensed lengthwise in a way that starts to highlight a different symmetry than the broad zig-zag of an automatic Dark-Light Alternations pattern. To make it, use 7 loops, but follow the 5-row Dark-Light Alternations chart below (follow the whole 10-row chart – 5 rows of Dark alternating with 5 rows of Light).
If you braid Dark-Light Alternations with fewer and fewer rows of each alternation, the pattern changes even more:
Left-to-right (not including the braided loop at the farthest left), the above Dark-Light Alternations patterns go from 4-row alternations (I really like this one!), 3-row, 2-row. In a 7-loop braid, all three of these patterns require some very easy, repetitive pickup. A 1-row Dark-Light alternation becomes the pattern I call Alternating Stripes:
The braids above are of 5 loops. Alternating Stripes is an automatic, no-pick-up pattern in any odd-number-of-loops flat braid.
The middle braid in the photo above was braided with no pick-up, from start (far right end of all three braids) to finish. The upper braid has pickup between the All-Light-Up braided loop and the Alternating Stripes flat braid, and the lowest braid also had pick-up in the center of the braid, where it switched for a short section of All-Dark-Up, and then All-Light-Up, before switching back to Alternating Stripes.
Fully flat, or 3/4 flat?
Here’s a common problem with flat braids, especially 5-loop ones.
They can easily come out in a ‘squeezed together’ form that is not fully flat, which won’t work for making the patterns shown in this tutorial. That “3/4-flat” form has a firm, lozenge-shaped cross-section, and is not as wide or flat as a “fully-flat” flat braid. Here’s a photo comparing the two forms:
These are both 5-loop flat braids braided with the Dark-Light Alternations pattern (start with bicolor loops all with the dark shank uppermost, and braid a flat braid). If your version comes out like the top braid, you’ll need to learn how to achieve the second braid in order to braid the examples in this tutorial. See pointers in the footnotes and video. I’ve finally figured out (I think!) how to achieve the 3/4-flat form on purpose, which means I also have better tips on how to avoid it.
How to switch patterns in a flat braid:
To start a braid with a regular ‘automatic’ bicolor pattern, you use the starting set-up information to arrange the loops on your fingers, and then braid with regular braiding moves. (I’ve listed each pattern’s starting set-up along with its chart below.)
To switch into that pattern after braiding another one, you use “pick-up” to change the dark-light orientation of some of the loops. Pick-up just means choosing whether or not to turn a loop while braiding, rather than doing it automatically as part of the regular braiding moves. For a 5-loop flat braid, it takes no more than 5 rows of braiding with pick-up to transition the loops into the new pattern, at which point you can braid automatically again.
Part 2 of this series (Rock Your Square Braid) showed how to transition between square braid patterns using a pickup chart, as well as how to turn a loop twice rather than not turn it. These both apply to flat braids as well, though a flat braid chart is simpler.
“Turning twice” is KEY to bicolor pattern-changing in a flat braid.
The big difference between square and flat braids when doing ‘pick-up’:
When braiding a flat braid, you must do all the color changing moves on just one side of the braid (the side with turned transfers), because the other side of the braid must not have any turned transfers if the braid is to remain flat.
Every transferring loop on that one side must be turned. Otherwise, you would get a hole in the center of your flat braid any time you didn’t turn a loop.
Despite that, you can still selectively change the colors on that side. You can either choose to turn the loop once (to change the color), or twice (instead of not at all) to keep the same color.
Do not turn any loops on the other side of the braid! If you were to turn any of the loops on the “non-turned”, open side of the braid, it would tie the braid together there and prevent it from opening out to be flat later.
A pattern chart for a flat braid is very simple, almost more of a list than a chart. It consists of just one column, representing the side of the braid with the turned-loop moves – the ‘folded’ side of the braid. So each ‘row’ just shows one cell, representing only one of the two loop transfers in that row of braiding. Remember to turn a loop on that side twice rather than not turn it, if it already has the correct color uppermost. If it needs a color change, give it a normal turn. All the loops on the other side of the braid will be transferred ‘straight’ / without a turn, so those moves are not represented in the chart.
Bear in mind that all the loops travel back and forth to both sides of the braid, so the Darks and Lights on the “ignored” side of the braid will be corrected to the new pattern’s configuration once they get over to the other hand! It’ll only take a few extra rows of braiding before all the the loops have been switched to the correct configuration for the new pattern.
(photos can expand twice for closer view)
Follow the loop set-up instructions to begin a braid in that pattern.
Follow the pick-up instructions shown in the chart to switch to that pattern from another one. (demoed in video)
After you get the hang of a flat braid pattern – automatic or pick-up – you’ll probably find that you won’t need to use its chart while braiding – one glance before you start will be enough.
Loop abbreviations in starting set-ups:
A = index B = middle finger C = ring finger D = little finger Th = thumb
None of my braid samples below started or ended in the main pattern (except for some of the so-called “linked” flat braids, like All-Dark-Up). I started them with a loop/ divided area using one of the divided-braid patterns, and later segued to the main pattern by means of pick-up.
Alternating Stripes flat braid:
(See footnote on Left and Right issues if you prefer to turn loops on the right side in making flat braids.)
Dark-Light Alternations: In a flat braid, this pattern comes out like a broad zig-zag down the braid.
5-loop version above; 7-loop version below:
The full pattern repeat for a 5-loop version of flat Dark-Light Alternations is 10 rows long – even though it’s a very simple pattern! (You wouldn’t have to actually follow its chart for all 10 rows, since it’s an automatic pattern – following the first or last 5 rows would put the loops into position for automatic flat braid moves.)
Contrast Stripe This pattern is like Dark-Light Alternations but with one loop in opposite dark-light orientation from the others (shown in the 6th and 13th rows in the chart.)
A ‘linked’ flat braid is a flat braid made with ‘automatic’ moves of all the turns done as double-turns (turned twice). Turning a loop twice links its 2 shanks around each other. This is a strategy for connecting the two parts of a divided braid into a unified flat braid, without changing the divided braid’s pattern.
The starting loop set-up for both the divided and flat versions of All-Dark-Up is identical to the loop set-up for Dark-Light Alternations above: All DARK shanks uppermost, both hands. (It’s the braiding moves that create the differences between the 3 patterns.)
The charts below are so simple that they may be hard to comprehend at first! They consist of only one row each, which is then repeated for the full length of the pattern.
(Note that in a flat braid, a divided area / braided opening in the braid turns out looking like a buttonhole at the center of the flat braid – a very different look than a divided area in a square braid.)
The 7-loop linked flat braid above has a combo-pattern: 9 rows of All-Dark-Up followed by 7 rows – one pattern repeat – of All-but-1-dark-up.
Contrast V’s, divided braid and linked-flat braid version.
A slightly more symmetrical version of this pattern can be braided if you only follow the first 4 rows of the chart. With 7 loops, this sequence would not resolve into automatic braiding moves. Some rows would require regular turns and some would require turning twice. But it’s not difficult to braid as a pickup pattern: it just requires counting to three as you braid. With each left loop transfer you would think or say in turn: “Light, Dark 1, Dark 2, Dark 3; Light, Dark 1, Dark 2, Dark 3…” etc etc. See chart below. I demo both these braid patterns in the video.
If you use this 4-row chart with 5 loops, the resulting pattern does not have the same appearance. It’s a nice pattern, but it doesn’t look like alternating V’s. You can get an Alternating V-like pattern with 5 loops if you omit row 4 from the chart above.
The resulting 3-row chart’s sequence is Light, Dark, Dark (repeat).
Demos braiding both versions of Contrast V’s from the charts above in a 7-loop flat braid.
See ‘table of contents’ with video timepoints below the video. The video is long (28 min), so the timepoints can help you skip to the part(s) you want to see. Start video, then drag bubble under video along the timeline.
Skip to the part(s) you want to see. Start video, then drag bubble under video along the timeline to any timepoint listed below.
0:01 Showing braided samples of these two patterns in my braid notebook.
1:09 Problem of ‘flat’ braids sometimes turning out compressed into a narrower, thicker shape I call “3/4-flat”.
1:42 Showing the braid patterns I will be demoing: 2 versions of “Contrast V’s”.
2:04 Loop set-up and suspending the loop bundle onto a rigid bar.
3:25 Making sure all the loops will be the same length even after the big knot is tied.
4:05 Tying a temporary knot near the top of braid, leaving a long section for a braided fringe of mini-braids (will braid those later, after rest of braid is done)
4:40 Putting a header cord below the temporary knot, – that header cord is temporary, too – ONLY for braiding the divided section. If you braid the FLAT braid from a header cord, it might not turn out fully flat!
5:07 Placing the header cord onto the bar of the C-clamp
5:35 Placing loops onto fingers with DARK shanks all up for “All-Dark-Up” divided braid pattern
6:33 Starting divided braiding to make a braided loop at the top of the braid – later will hang the the loop bundle from that loop while braiding the flat part of the braid.
7:40 Showing a shower-curtain ring – handy for suspending the top of the braid.
7:55 Taking divided braid’s header cord off the clamp, to hang the braided loop itself over the C-clamp bar, or onto the shower-curtain ring. Keeps braid stable, helps flat braids form ‘fully flat’ rather than ‘3/4-flat’.
9:38 Showing the charts and braid samples for the two patterns: 7-row Contrast V’s (will be automatic braiding moves in a 7-loop braid), and 4-row Contrast V’s – similar but more symmetrical pattern.
12:03 Starting flat braiding using the 7-row chart to segue from All-Dark-Up (the pattern of the divided loop) into 7-row Contrast V’s.
14:32 Tightening technique for helping flat braids form fully-flat. (This does not show clearly in the video. From above you would see that after the 2nd transfer when the right hand has only 3 loops, I pull those right loops almost all the way forward and away from me, while holding the left loops firmly toward me.)
15:28 Two ways to “turn twice” – very important for this braid as the automatic moves will be ‘turn twice’ on the left in every row, once the loops are in pattern.
16:20 How to figure out what row you are on if you lose your place. Shown again @ 25:39, going back even further in the loops.
18:55 After 7 rows of pick-up, all my loops are now in position for the new pattern, and I can start doing linked flat braid moves – all left loops turned twice – for the rest of the pattern. “Automatic” moves = using the same braiding moves in every row.
22:00 Now doing pickup again (sometimes turning once, sometimes turning twice) to bring loops back to All-Dark-Up as a separation between the 2 Contrast Stripe variations.
24:29 Starting braiding 4-row Contrast V’s (a pick-up pattern in a 7-loop braid)
25:39 Again how to check what row you’re on by looking at the loops, here looking all the way onto the loops of the other hand.
27:28 Showing the regular alternation of the 2 types of turns in this pickup pattern – 2 rows of single turns, followed by 2 rows of double turns.
I ran out of time on this video before I could show how the braid unfolds/ opens out from a folded ‘square braid’-like shape to a fully-flat shape. See photos of this in the last footnote, near bottom of page.
Pick-up Charts: A pick-up chart is a visual aid that helps you decide which loops to turn. For a ‘real’ pickup pattern (see Pick-Up 101) you might need to follow a chart for the whole pattern.
But if you are just switching between ‘automatic’ patterns, you would only use a pick-up chart for the first 5 rows of braiding the new pattern (for a 5-loop flat braid). Flat braid pattern charts are simple – only one column – but tend to be long. A full pattern repeat for a 5-loop flat braid can be as long as 10 rows of braiding. But after following the chart for 5 rows, the loops will be “in pattern,” and you can braid automatically again.
After you get the hang of most of these ‘automatic’ patterns, you won’t need their charts anymore when switching back and forth. They are all very straightforward. The trickiest thing when changing patterns in a flat braid is simply remembering to only turn loops on the one side of the braid! That seems simple, but it is a big mental switch after changing patterns with square braids. It is very handy to be used to ‘unbraiding‘ in case you slip up and let a couple rows go by with turns on the wrong side of the braid…
Left vs Right in flat braids:
Left or right can make a big difference in flat braids of bicolor loops. On the side of the braid that loops are turned, the loop colors switch positions, while the other side they don’t. Because of this left-right asymmetry, the starting loop set-up for braiding a flat bicolor pattern may differ depending on which side you will turn the loops – if you follow a certain loop set-up, but choose to turn loops on the OTHER side than the specified one, the pattern may come out differently.
Note: If you prefer to turn loops on the right side rather than the left when making a flat braid, you may need to use a different initial loop set-up than I give above. This is definitely the case for the set-ups I give for Alternating Stripes and for Contrast Stripe. The simplest alternative set-up for me to describe is to mount the loops in mirror image: Switch the left and right hands in the given set-up directions. The right hand will be holding one more loop than the left. Because of that, you will begin your braiding moves with the left hand as the ‘fetcher.’
Turning once, turning twice…
Turning a bicolor loop once (while transferring it) rotates the loop 180°, changes the upper color of the loop, and connects the upper and lower layers of the braid at that point.
Not turning a loop when transferring it keeps the same color uppermost, and leaves the two layers of the braid unconnected at that point. This is necessary on both sides of the braid for a divided braid, and it is necessary on one side of the braid for a flat braid.
Turning a loop twice – a 360° rotation of the loop – will result in the same color remaining uppermost… almost as if you hadn’t turned the loop! Yet the braid’s two layers will be connected at that point. They will not divide, open up, or form a ‘hole’ there. Turning twice can be done as a single move or as two separate moves (shown in this video, also in 3rd video in Rock Your Square Braid)
For a flat braid, the two layers of the braid must always be connected on the ‘folded’ side of the braid. So, on that folded side of the braid, turning the loop twice is the alternative to not turning the loop when you want to keep the same color “up” in the braid.
Loop start patterns:
I almost always start braids with a braided loop, using divided braiding (no turned loops). All-dark-up is my go-to pattern, but sometimes I use All-but-one-dark-up, or One hand dark–other hand light, or Contrast V’s for the divided braid section of no turns, before switching patterns for the start of the main part of the braid. If you use pick-up you can start the braid with any pattern you want before switching to your main pattern.
However, the All-dark-up divided pattern segues naturally (with no pick-up moves) into the flat braid version of Dark-Light Alternations, which starts with all dark (or all light) shanks up.
The divided braid pattern One hand dark–other hand light can also segue into flat braid Dark-Light Alternations, or into square braid Edge pattern (if you braid divided until all the darks and lights are back on separate hands before you start braiding the next pattern).
You can also start your flat bicolor loop braid ‘in pattern’ using the loop set-ups above, yet begin braiding with a divided-braid braided loop at the top of your braid–as long as you are careful about finishing the divided loop area / starting the flat braid right at the exact point when the loops on your fingers are back in the starting set-up position for the pattern. This is how to start ‘in pattern’ and make a divided loop at the top, without having to use pickup when you start the main part of the braid.
With bicolor loops, this will usually result in a somewhat to very different-looking pattern in the braided loop section than in the flat braid, because a divided braid has no turns in each row, while a flat braid has one turn in each row.
The flat braid Alternating Stripes loop set-up done as a divided braid makes for a slightly asymmetrical stripe pattern in the divided area compared to the flat braid pattern. See center braid below:
In the photo above of three 5-loop flat braids of Alternating Stripes, the middle braid was started “in pattern” for flat Alternating Stripes, but braided as a divided braid for the braided loop section (I braided the fringe of mini-braids last). The resulting pattern in the loop isn’t quite the same as the Alternating Stripes of the main part of the braid, but it’s a fairly subtle difference.
Even-number-of-loops flat ‘alternating stripes’ braid
See the “zebra-stripe” pattern in my Power of Six pattern-post. I used to think this was the only way to braid alternating stripes in a flat braid. I think it might create a slightly straighter (horizontally) zig-zag pattern, but it doesn’t allow you to switch patterns neatly, since it’s made with single-color loops, not bicolor. The two patterns are not completely identical, just very similar…
Avoiding the 3/4-flat form:
Update: It works! We group-tested this in my recent workshop at the Lace Museum, and everyone who tried it was able to make fully-flat 5-loop braids, which to my best recollection has never happened in any of my previous workshops!
Just to make this clear – both forms have the same over-under structure. You can usually manually pull a 3/4-flat braid into the fully flat shape if you invest some time into first loosening the strands (plumping/ compressing every inch of the braid as if to shorten it, and then strongly pulling/ stretching the two edges apart centimeter by centimeter along the whole length of the braid.
I recently found out that it is unfortunately VERY easy to get a 3/4-flat braid if you suspend your loop bundle from a header string, the way I teach how to braid in my introductory tutorials! The good thing is that now I know how to reliably get that shape when I want it. It’s a really nice braid in its own right, with very snazzy color-patterns that are quite different from their ‘fully-flat’ equivalents. To get that shape, I start with my loop bundle hanging from a header cord exactly the way I demo in photos my 5-loop tutorial. I tighten extra tightly, spreading both hands all the way out to the sides.
There are 2 things you can do while braiding to encourage your 5-loop flat braid to turn out fully flat. They both help, and together I find them foolproof, but please let me know what your results are. If you get 3/4-flat braids even with 7 loops, you are probably braiding too tightly. Try either or both of these tips below, as well as relaxing your tension a tad:
1. Tighten differently on the two sides.
Assuming that your turned-loops, “folded side” of the braid is on the left :
After each LEFT transfer (right hand doing the ‘fetching’):
Tighten minimally, by opening both hands apart evenly and not very far – NOT all the way out the way I recommend in my intro tutorials!
After each RIGHT transfer (left hand doing the ‘fetching’):
Tighten by holding the left loops straight toward yourself, while pulling the (fewer) right loops in an arc ending VERY FAR away from you. This is the main tightening move. I demo this in the video, but it’s hard to see what I’m doing as the camera’s viewpoint is so low – a view from above would show it better.
Pull the right loops away from you, before or after doing their loop shifts – almost at an 180° straight angle from the left loops which you are holding firmly towards you. I would say well beyond a 45 degree angle, but not all the way to a straight 180°. Gently pull the right loops against the left loops. Repeat/ rock that arc once or twice if you “turned twice” in the previous loop transfer – turning twice makes the following loop transfer a bit harder to pull through.
2. Suspend the braid from an upper loop in the braid while braiding. This has been my habit for years now, and it seems to prevent the 3/4-flat shape even when I want that shape.
Do not constrict the top with a header thread when starting the flat braid, the way I demo in my intro tutorials.
One option: From the very beginning of braiding, suspend your loop bundle OVER/AROUND something rigid, like the upper bar of an (upside-down) C-clamp, and braid a braided loop right around that bar, to join into the main braid below the bar.The bar must be between the upper and lower shank of each loop so that all the upper shanks hang over the front of the bar, and all the lower shanks hang in back of the bar. Then, when you start braiding with divided braiding moves, an upper braid will form over the top of the bar, and a lower braid will form under the bar. The braided loop will form around the bar, so the whole rest of the braid will be supported on that bar.
You still must tie your loops together in some way at the top before suspending them around the bar. The loops can’t be all separate loops hanging independently around the bar or they would just slip through each other as you braid and never lock into place.
Another option: (demoed in video) First braid the divided part for a loop section (ok to have the loop bundle hanging from a header string for this part), and then before beginning any flat braiding moves, mount that divided, as-yet unclosed braided loop section onto the C-clamp bar. Be sure to mount it correctly – with the upper layer above and the lower layer below. Only then, with the braid suspended over a rigid support, should you begin braiding the flat part of the braid.
Either of these options prevents the top of the flat braid from being constricting into a tight circular bunch of threads, as well as prevents the braid from randomly twisting. The bar supports the braid in proper orientation, keeping the upper layer on top and the lower layer below. This all seems to help flat braids turn out fully flat.
As you are braiding, you should see your flat braid forming FOLDED and looking like a square braid – or possibly curled into a C-shape. See the photo-montage below of a 7-loop braid still folded, then being opened out flat after the braid is done.
That folded configuration while braiding is necessary for a fully flat braid. When you open it and spread it out later it will be in its full, wide, flat form.
If instead, your ‘flat’ braid looks sort of flat as you are braiding it, it is not really flat – it has taken that squeezed-in lozenge shape. Once it is into that shape it is almost impossible to switch out of it – as you braid, the threads will tend to fall in place in line with the threads that preceded them, replicating the established shape.
Is it pick-up, or not?
Flat braid bicolor pattern switching – is it really pick-up? To me it is, but I think I’d have trouble convincing a weaver!
Pick-up patterning is supposed to be restricted to a two-layer fabric, whereas a flat braid is a single layer, right?
Flat braid color-selecting moves create color-changes on the left and right sides of a flat, single-layer braid, rather than between the upper and lower layer of a two-layer braid.
But actually, the left and right halves of a flat braid are braided as an upper and lower layer, connected along one edge, that later opens out into a single flat layer.
If your flat braiding moves tend to result in the more compacted “3/4-flat” result instead of the fully-flat result, you might have trouble seeing an upper and lower layer as you braid, but at least theoretically it is still there – the upper layer formed by the interlacing of the upper shanks of the loops; the lower layer formed by the interlacing of the lower shanks of the loops.
Pick-up is very limited in a square braid, and extremely limited in a flat braid. In a square braid, pick-up only happens at the two edges of the braid. In a flat braid, pick-up only happens at one of the two edges.
With flat braid ‘pick-up’, every upper and lower pair of dark/light strands is turned over when it reaches that one folded edge, switching layers and connecting the two layers there while also exchanging colors between the two layers. Whenever a color-change is not required for the pattern, the pair of strands is turned twice – a 360° turn. This links the two strands around each other, and brings them back where they started, still connecting the two layers but nullifying the color-change of the turning move. This is selective color switching between two layers, also serving to connect the two layers at that point, so to me that makes it complementary pick-up patterning.
Especially if you are braiding with more than 5 loops, you can see this in the braid itself before you spread it open. While it is still folded in half lengthwise, it looks pretty much identical to a square bicolor loop braid with pick-up patterning (see top section of photo montage above).
(Thanks for visiting, and for reading this far down!!!)
Published 10/22/2017, last revised 11/23/2017
© 2017 Ingrid Crickmore