Spirals, Non-Spirals, and the 2-loop Braid

I’m finally making a place here on the blog for my several youtube video tutorials for 4-to-10-loop Spiral braids, a.k.a. lace bend round, as well as the simple Two-loop Braid, which is made with the same basic braiding move as the spiral braids. I made these videos years ago for another website, along with a series of pdf photo-tutorials.

All the photo-tutorials are now available here too! Each one can be downloaded as a pdf file by clicking the link just above the related video (copyright applies; download for personal use only, not to share commercially or post online). The videos and photo-tutorials are independent of each other, though. You could use either one to learn a braid. They aren’t identical – the photo-tutorials show a few optional projects not included in the videos, and there are tips and ideas in the videos that didn’t make it over into the photo-tutorials.

If you download any of the photo-tutorials, note that the 2-loop Braid photo-tutorial (in left or right-handed versions) is Part 1 for all/ any of the others – it should be downloaded too, because it teaches the braiding move that is basic to all of them. Only this intro photo-tute has a left and right-handed version. The subsequent Spiral Braid PDF photo-text tutorials are not “handed” – for example, the 6-loop Spiral Braid PDF photo-tutorial applies to left and right-handed braiders, but lefties and righties would download different 2-loop braid pdfs to accompany it.

That isn’t the case for the videos, however. Each video is specifically right or left-handed. The 2-loop Braid video is not a necessary prerequisite for the others – all the videos show how to do the basic move (some show more than one way to do it).

Finger loop braids: 8, 6, and 4-loop spiral braids, plus 2-loop braids and fringe (cotton, rayon, silk)

Above: 8- and 6-loop spiral braids with the typical spiral color-pattern, plus two 2-loop braids (center of photo). 4-loop spiral braids: Lowest braid’s forked “tail,” as well as the buttonhole-like loops at the both ends of the uppermost braid, and the top (right) end of the second-from-lowest braid. Cotton, rayon, silk.

Above: 6-loop (on upper ring) and 8-loop (lower ring) “Spiral” braids with non-typical color-patterns. Cotton, rayon, wool.

This post has a lot of embedded videos – the links below are shortcuts so you can jump down to the section you want. Any “extra” videos for a particular braid are not necessary for learning it – they show alternative methods, or cool extra things you can do (make a different color-pattern, unbraid, split your braid into two separate spirals, etc).

Note: Left- and right-handedness is only an issue for the braids in this post, none of the other braids I teach are “handed”.

Two-loop braid videos, left and right-handed versions – also two different methods: finger-held loops for short loops and hand-held loops for managing long loops.

Spiral Braids, right-handed videos
4 loops – extra videos demo alternative methods useful for all the spiral braids, plus adding a loop to the braid
6 loops – 2nd video demos adding a loop to the braid
8 loops – 2nd video shows how to make a non-spiral lengthwise stripe color-pattern, 3rd video shows how to divide the braid into two separate, simultaneous spiral braids
10 loops – also shows how to make a thick-thin spiral braid, applicable to any number of loops

Spiral Braids, left-handed videos
Note: I demo unbraiding a Spiral braid, as well as how to make a spiral pattern change direction only in the 8-loop left-handed video below, but these techniques apply to all Spiral braids.
4 loops
6 loops
8 loops

Color-pattern notes – How to make other color-patterns than a spiral, as shown in second photo from top.

History/ references

Two-loop Braid
The 2-loop braid has the same basic braiding move as the Spiral braids, but the resulting braid is flat rather than round. It is a 4-strand braid that comes out with an unavoidable loose twist or ‘curl’ to it unless you dampen or iron it to be flat. I often use this 2-loop braid as part of an ending fringe or tassel to a braid of more loops (or as a warp-finish to a woven piece).

2-loop braids, and a weaving with a fringe of 2-loop braids. Fingerloop braids, loopbraider.com

Above: Five separate 2-loop braids, and a weaving sample with a warp finish of 2-loop braids. The 1st and 3rd single braids (from left edge) have been blocked or pressed.

Fingerloop braided fringe finishes to larger braids - 2-loop and 3-loop mini-braid/ braidlets. loopbraider.com

Above: braided fringe finishes. The curly braids are 2-loop braids. (The straighter fringe-braids are divided and square 3-loop braids.) Larger braids are described though not taught in my plain weave repp post.

2-loop braids

2-loop Braid Photo-tutorial, Right-handed (pdf)
Right-handed 2-loop braid, short loops:

Right-handed 2-loop braid, using LONGER loops

Left-handed 2-loop braids

2-loop Braid Photo-tutorial, Left-handed (pdf)
Left-handed 2-loop braid, short loops:

Left-handed 2-loop braid, LONGER loops:

Spiral Braids of 4 to 10 loops RIGHT-handed (click here to jump to left-handed videos)
The 8-loop version was called lace bend, or lace bend round in 15th C. English loop braiding manuscripts.

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 4-loop Spiral braids (requires 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

4-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed) part 1 including alternate method: exchanging loops without turning them.

4-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed) part 2 incl. adding a split (buttonhole-type opening) into braid

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 6-loop Spiral braids (requires 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

6-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed) part 1 incl 3 different ways to exchange w/out turning the loop – results in no torque to the braid.

6-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed) part 2 incl adding a split (buttonhole-type opening) into braid:

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 8-loop Spiral braids (requires 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

8-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed) part 1 (lace bend round of viii bowes):

8-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed) part 2 (including vertical/ lengthwise stripes patterns. This non-spiral type of color pattern can be made with any number of loops, from 4 on up)

8-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed) part 3 including a divided spiral braid, which makes two little 4-loop spiral braids at the same time – great for forming a buttonhole opening in which each side is a thin spiral braid:

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 10-loop Spiral braids (requires 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

10-loop Spiral braid (Right-handed)

Left-handed Spiral Braid videos

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 4-loop Spiral braids (requires leftie 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

4-loop Spiral braid, left handed:

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 6-loop Spiral braids (requires leftie 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

6-loop Spiral braid, left handed:

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 8-loop Spiral braids (requires leftie 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

8-loop Spiral braid, left handed:

Halfway into the video above I show 2 things not covered in the right-handed videos:
How to make the spiral pattern change direction, and how to unbraid a spiral braid for several cycles. Skip to halfway or so through the video, to just where I start to join up the mid-braid loop I’ve made in the braid.

Photo-tutorial (pdf) on 10-loop Spiral braidss (requires leftie 2-loop braid pdf for basic move)

(sorry, no video for the left-handed version of the 10-loop Spiral braid)

Color and Shape Variations:
Using a thicker thread or yarn for one of the two colors, and a much thinner one for the second color creates a wonderful thick-thin spiral – there’s an example in my header photo at the top of the page, second braid from the right (I used a variegated yarn for one of the colors). The 10-loop video demos this, but it can be done with any number of loops.

Check out Dominic’s bracelet for a one-color spiral braid. This makes a great texture.

Non-spiral color-patterns
To get other color patterns than the iconic 2-color spiral, vary the way you set the colors on the fingers at the start of braiding. NOTE: In setting up color patterns, it can be helpful to remember that in all the Spiral braids, the same two fingers always exchange the same two loops!  Unlike other braids, the loops do not wander to all the fingers. Two loops keep getting traded back and forth between the same two fingers for the whole length of the braid. These pairs of “partner fingers” are normally different fingers on the two hands, for example the left D (little finger) and the right A (index finger) are loop-exchange partners in the 8-loop spiral braid. (Only the 3-loop and the 10-loop Spiral braids have one pair of ‘matching’ fingers as partners – in those braids, the middle fingers of both hands exchange loops with each other. The other pairs are all non-matching fingers)

Lengthwise striping: Set up the colors on the fingers so that at least one finger on each hand will be exchanging the same color loop with its “partner” finger on the other hand. For any two fingers that are loop-exchanging ‘partners’ on opposite hands: If they both have the same color loops, and none of the other fingers hold that particular color, there will be a lengthwise stripe of that color on opposite sides of the braid.

With a 6-loop braid, you can have up to 6 narrow stripes of 3 colors; with an 8-loop braid you can have up to 8 narrow stripes of 4 colors.

Wider stripe: If two pairs of fingers that follow each other in the braiding sequence all hold the same color (so, 4 loops of one color), it will create 2 wider stripes of that color (on opposite sides the braid). You can also plan a mix of wide and narrow stripes (not shown in photo): 1 “wide” color and 1 “narrow” color for 4 wide/narrow stripes in a 6-loop braid; and 1 “wide” color and 2 “narrow” colors for 6 wide/narrow stripes in an 8-loop braid.

Above: 6-loop (on upper ring) and 8-loop (on lower ring) “Spiral” braids with non-typical color-patterns. The 6-loop color-patterns can be made with 8 loops as well, for a larger version. Cotton, rayon, wool.

Polka Dots:
2-color braid: If one finger holds a white loop, and the other fingers all hold black loops, you will get a black braid with a column of evenly-spaced white dots on both sides of the braid. (Top braid, and third from the bottom – this pattern with different colors).

3-color braid: If a single pair of loop-exchanging fingers on the left and right hands carry 2 different colors, there will be a “polka-dot” stripe of those two colors on both sides of the braid (see second braid from top, above). For those two colors to both show up as polka-dots, the other fingers should all hold loops of a third, contrasting color that allows both polka-dot colors to stand out. For the braid in my photo, all the fingers held orange loops except for one pair of loop-exchanging fingers, which held a black loop (one hand) and a white loop (partner finger on the other hand). This pattern can be made with either six or eight loops. The color pattern is the same as the classic 15th. C. braid called Grene Dorge in the old manuscripts (“Barleycorn”), but the shape of the two braids is quite different. The Spiral braid is round, and the Grene Dorge braid is square-ish – flat on the top and bottom of the braid. (The spiral braid was taught in 15th C. manuscripts too, but only in its typical spiral color pattern, and in 4, 8, and 16-loop versions.)

Spiral braids of more than ten loops:
A 16-loop Spiral Braid is described in two of the 15th C. English loop braiding manuscripts, to be made by two braiders working together – the “Bend of 16 bows for 2 fellows” (Tollemache and Harley, though Noémi Speiser warns that the Tollemache description is flawed in some way [p.64 of OEPBforLB])

Braiding solo, I have made spiral braids of up to 20 loops, but they are slower to make. Each extra pair of loops beyond 10 requires loop-shifting moves at the end of each cycle to get the loops back into starting-position. These loop-shifting moves (for me, anyway) require a fair amount of help from the other hand, unlike square and double braids, so “too-many-loops” spiral braids are much slower to make than double braids of the same number of loops.

4-, 8- and 16-loop spiral braids are documented in various loop braiding manuscripts from the 15th C. (see just above, as well as my History post for more specific information). I learned the 8-loop Spiral braid (lace bend round) from online somewhere – probably from Fingerloop.org – and later extrapolated the 2-loop, 4-loop, 6-loop, and 10-loop braids that I teach above. All of them are obvious variations, so I’m sure they have been made by others before me.

The 8-loop method for making two separate 4-loop spiral braids simultaneously was obvious to me only in hindsight! A new braider discovered it by accident right before my eyes while I was teaching her the 8-loop spiral braid. This is a quick and attractive way to form a loop/ opening in an 8-loop spiral braid.

The 2-loop braiding method is no-question the fastest way to braid a simple 4-strand flat braid of yarn or thread. I’m fairly sure Noémi Speiser mentions the 2-loop braid in one of her loop braiding books but I don’t remember where – will update with citation info when I come across it. It’s theoretically ‘flat,’  but usually comes out quite curly overall if braided firmly, because of the repeated twisting in one direction of the only two loops. It has the same over-under structure of a regular 4-strand braid you would make with free ends. I often braid several 2-loop braids as a mini-braid fringe ending for braids of a greater number of loops. It’s a little slower than braiding divided 3-loop braids as the fringe, because with divided braids you get two mini-braids for each braiding procedure, but divided braids don’t have the graceful curl of a two-loop fringe!

last updated Dec 21, 2022

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8 thoughts on “Spirals, Non-Spirals, and the 2-loop Braid

  1. When I learned to braid with gimp on the playground in the summer as a kid, we called the two primary round-braid patterns spiral and diamond, because the “stripes” were formed by tiny gimp-crossing diamonds. Thanks for a great intro to finger-loop!

  2. Oh fun! I’ll look for your email in a moment.

    To clarify, the braids I think can be done with loops (I’ve tested some, not all of these yet) are listed in Jacqui Carey’s book Creative Kumihimo as 8D, 8E, 8K, 8L, and 16U. I see these appear in other books under various names, so I’m using this nomenclature as it’s hard to mistake. What all these have in common is paired threads moving in the same direction, and to mirror-symmetrical locations.

  3. Hi Ingrid,

    Thank you for the amazing resource you’ve created with your blog/site!

    Is this spiral braid structurally the same as kongoh-gumi? If not, do you know where I might find a track plan for kongoh braids? I’m trying to relate the different types of braiding I do to one another, and improve my understanding.

    A hand injury prevents me from doing loop transfers between fingers consistently, but I find hand loops easy to do, even with many loops, and I seem to be able to do braids that normally require multiple braiders. I’m a little surprised braids aren’t more commonly done with hand loops.

    The ease of the method creates a new problem: I seem to be able to braid things sooner than I feel I fully understand the structures. Something consistent across methods, like track plans, seems like it would help me synthesize this.

    I do have a kumikreator, so perhaps my answer would lie in watching carefully as I turn the crank. But if you’ve already translated it, maybe I should be looking at your work? I’ve looked at Noemi Speiser’s Manual of Braiding, but I’m not finding anything clearly labeled as kongoh gumi there. It might well be there, but she touches on topics so quickly, and moves on so quickly, that it’s hard to be certain.

    Thanks for your thoughts, comments, or direction!

    • Hi Laura! No, Kongoh-gumi has a very different structure than the loop-braided Spiral Braid. They look pretty different, too. They are both round, dense braids that ‘grow’ in a one-directional spiral, though.

      I would say that your so-called problem is universal! It’s so much faster to learn how to make loop braids than it is to understand their structure! I used to lie in bed at night struggling to wrap my mind around it! (Obviously doomed – I can’t even do my crossword puzzle then!) Yet once you ‘get it’ (for square, double, etc braids at least!) they are really rather simple.

      Not all braids can be represented by track plans, by the way. When I get some time I’ll try to look for a track plan for Kongoh-gumi in the Manual too – I am not good enough at track plans OR kumihimo braids to derive its track plan myself. I don’t believe Kongoh-gumi can be made by a braiding machine with horn gears, the standard mechanism for braiding machines. That might imply that it isn’t amenable to being represented by a track plan (?). (Noemi Speiser or Joy Boutrup would definitely be able to answer your question – if they do, please come back here and tell me, too!)

      I think for me, Noemi Speiser’s track plans did help me understand the structure of two-layer orthodox twill braids like square, double, “triple” (katherine wheel), letterbraids (+quadruple!) etc, but only AFTER I had come to understand them already fairly deeply by braiding, unbraiding, watching what happened as I did so, and thinking about them a lot.

      However, apparently Joy Boutrup ‘got’ track-plans instantly! And learned to loop braid certain braids by simply looking at their track plans! That amazes me still! So if you have a mind like hers, you may well benefit from studying track plans as you learn to braid, too.

      • Oh! If you want to really see what happens as a kumikreator braids, make yourself a slotted round card out of stiff cardboard, and follow any instructions online for making Kongoh-gumi. I believe the kumikreator spirals in the opposite direction, like doing Kongoh-gumi backward (or unbraiding a regular kongoh-gumi). But that’s the only difference. In making it by hand on a disk, you will be going slowly enough to see the threads interweaving more clearly…
        Here’s a youtube video showing how easy it is to make your own low-tech cardboard kumihimo disks, both square and round (kongoh-gumi is usually made on a round disk): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBLTSPn1g0c
        Like her, you really can just eyeball the slots after the first four marks, it’s not important that they be exactly the same distance apart. However I think the location of the inner hole shouldn’t be off-center by very much – that might affect the braid tension. You don’t need 32 slots for an 8-strand braid, though it works fine! You need more than 8 slots, though I can’t remember the minimum, probably 12, but it’s easier to make 16 the way she shows.

        • Thanks Ingrid! I have various foam disks and plates and I’ve done lots of braiding on them, so I’ll try to visualize what’s happening with kongoh, perhaps from bed as I doze off. 😉

          I find I get really good insights as I’m waking up from naps in particular. Maybe I’ll get lucky and “see” the structure.

          I felt I understood track plans well when I was first going through Speiser’s book, the first several pages of chapter 10, trying to use them to figure out how to use my new (then) Baby Takadai. But that was months ago and those pages are for simpler, flat braids. I am not seeing how to extrapolate from that, just yet, but further study may crack that open for me. I’ll try Naomi and Joy too, thanks for the tip! If I find the track plan or get info from one of them, I’ll let you know.

          One of my nap insights concerned a method for making longer hand held braids, which I’m finding works well for me, I’d like email you about it and see if I’ve come up with something new, or overlooked where it’s already documented, if that’s OK with you?

          Thanks, and best wishes,


          • OK, here is what I’m finding so far: I don’t see a way to do kongoh with loops, it creates a tangle at the loops. Maybe someone cleverer than me could tell if this is a mirror braid forming, or just a mess.
            3 braids I CAN do with loops are Hira Nami, Hira Kara, and Kusari Kaku Yatsu.
            I’ll try some more & report back later.

            • Hi Laura, I emailed you already! would love to hear your longer braid method.
              I don’t know the various Japanese names for braids by heart, but I would assume that those you mention were all originally made with loops, before braiding stands came along and gradually supplanted loop braiding in Japan. I think dais appeared in the 1700’s and hand-held loop braiding died out sometime in the 1800’s. Kongoh-gumi can’t be made with loops, so I guess it was invented after braiding stands came along.

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