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Divided braid loop start #3:
This is the way I usually make a divided-braid loop start. You can do this start with simple 3-loop braids up to very complex ones like this letterbraid.

finger loop braiding, 17th C. letterbraid, solo braider

this loop start is just a “divided” braid, can be made on any braid that can be made “divided” (see 5 and 9-loop braid tutorials)

This method seems quicker to set up than other methods, but it is harder to describe. It’s ideal for an even number of bicolor loops of the same two colors. But it can work for anything, is quick and easy to get going, and makes a nice beginning loop to hang over the C-clamp and braid from, so it’s generally how I start all my braids.

I decided to go into a lot of detail here, rather than give you a nice, short “easy-looking” set of instructions that would not work. I have trouble demoing this start to other braiders – it looks so simple, yet viewers don’t seem to notice or remember the crucial parts.

The first few cycles of braiding can feel a bit awkward because the loops tend to slip and change length on your fingers. But after a few braiding cycles, they lock into place and don’t slip anymore.

Twist one double-length loop to make 2 loops:
The first step is to make up your loops: doubly long loops, as for the previous method (Divided Loop-start #2), but individually twisted and mounted as described below.

[Update – this method will work even if only one loop is double-length (forming two loops), the others can all be separate, single-length loops. These will eventually ‘lock’ into the one double-length loop after several braiding moves. At least one double-length, twisted loop is necessary, or else all the tops of the single loops would continually pull through each other as you tried (unsuccessfully) to braid, and/or gradually pull out and undo – from the top of the braid down – after it was finished.]

If your double-length loop is of just one color, you can twist it once, like a figure-8, to form two single-color loops, or you can twist it twice as detailed below. (Twisting only once will result in a slightly smoother top to the braid, but the loops might feel more ‘slippery’ and harder to control for the first few braiding moves).

If you require two bicolor loops with matching colors in upper and lower shanks: Twist twice to form a link in the middle of the double-length loop. Hold both ends of the loop, twist it once so it forms a figure-8, and then twist it once more so it has now received a full twist—a 360° rotation.

After the second twist, the loop will still look like a figure-8, but at the center the two long strands are now linked to each other, rather than simply crossing each other. Each strand bends around the other strand.

Diagram by Jean Leader, showing a double-length bicolor loop twisted at the center to form two linked loops.

Diagram by Jean Leader, showing a double-length bicolor loop twisted at the center to form two linked loops.

Each half of the linked figure-8 will serve as one loop.

Fold the figure-8 loop in half at the link. NOTE: fold so the two red sections are together and the two blue-green sections are together (in the diagram above)!

How to suspend the loops:
Insert the horizontal bar/handle of a C-clamp (mounted upside-down so the bar is above the table) through the two loops up at the top, just under the link. The bar must go through both loops so that both red shanks in the diagram above are side-by-side over the top of the bar, and both blue-green shanks come out together from under the bar. I keep the two ends of the loops taut on two fingers, with matching (here, red) shanks both in upper position on the fingers.

This creates two loops out of one, connected together at the top.

It’s easiest to learn this twist-link with bicolor loops, like the one in Jean’s diagram above. That way the link is easier to see. You can check to make sure that both upper shanks coming over the top of the bar are the same color, while the two shanks behind the bar are both the other color. That’s how you know you have a true link rather than just a ‘crossing’ at the top of the doubled loop.

I usually braid directly from that horizontal bar – first (mandatory!) doing “divided” braiding for a short section (no turning any of the loops). That’s in order to braid a short loop around the bar, before starting the regular braiding moves of whatever braid I plan to make. For this no-ends start, you must start with divided braiding if your loops are suspended on anything thicker than a sewing thread. Otherwise you would end up with a section of loose gappy threads at the the top of your finished braid, after you take it off the header bar or cord.

Shower-curtain ring holder: If you want the top of the loops to be more secure while you’re braiding, you can suspend the loops onto an open shower-curtain ring instead of the C-clamp bar – see new photos below. Be sure to insert the ring in the same way – through each loop so all upper shanks are in front and all lower shanks are behind the ‘bar’ / ring. I always do this for braids of “too-many-loops”, but you can do it for braids of any number of loops, since it does hold them very securely. Never let the ends of the loops hang freely! If you have to take your fingers out of the loops, first secure the loops onto the prongs of a comb, in order, with a rubber band above to hold them on. (Or use some other secure method.)

I close the ring after the loops are all loaded onto it, and let that ring hold the top of the braid for the first several braiding moves. The first several braiding moves interlock the loops at the top of the braid. After that there’s no more danger of loops falling off the end of the bar when I spread them apart to tighten, so at that point I usually take the braid off the ring and put it back onto the horizontal bar of my C-clamp. (More stable and less clanky.)

Measuring and cutting tips: If you need both bicolor and single-color loops, it’s easier to measure out and cut all your strands one length, and make all your double-length loops from two lengths of yarn (even the single-color loops – make them out of two lengths of the same color). This way any single-color loops will end up the same length as the bicolor loops.
Single loop: Measure and cut any singleton loop this same length as well – one strand the same length as each of the others – which you then bend in half and tie it at one end. It will end up exactly the same length as all the doubled-in-half loops.
Single bicolor loop: If you are using divisible yarn like embroidery floss, divide two full, doubly-long lengths in half (so each length is 3-strand instead of a full 6-strand), then use two of the 3-strand lengths to make a double-length bicolor loop. Make the same twist-link shown above. But instead of treating this as two linked loops, join the two loops into one single loop with same colors together, now doubled back to 6-strand floss. There will be no knot at the top of the loop, only a neat link.

Mounting loops onto a ring for finger loop braiding

Open shower-curtain ring. Each twisted double-length loop was loaded onto the ring, left-to-right. The ends of the loops do not hang loose. The end of each loop was secured onto a comb (see photos below) before the next loop was loaded onto the ring. Before braiding, I close the shower-curtain ring, so the loops will not slip off during the first tightening moves.

Odd number of loops: If your braid has an odd number of loops, you will have at least one single-length ‘singleton’ loop to hang onto the ring. In these photos there is one single all-white loop — the third loop from the left:

Mounting loops onto a ring for fingerloop braiding

One loop is a single all-white loop. Most of the other loops are double-length, twisted into a link at top, each one forming TWO loops at the fingers. All upper shanks are hanging over the front side of the ring, all lower shanks are in back. Ends of loops are organized on a comb with all the upper and lower shanks arranged the same way on each prong, they are not hanging freely! (see photo below)

Singleton bicolor loops:
My singleton all-white loop above leaves no ends at the top. If this single loop were bicolor, though, it would leave a knot and two ends protruding from the top of the braid. Allow extra length for those two ends and you can hide them later by “sewing” them deeply into the braid, after untying their knot. (Or see my measuring and cutting tips above for using divisible yarn to make a single bicolor loop with no knot or ends at the top.)

If I must have a singleton bicolor loop that will leave two ends at the top, I usually add that loop into the braid later, just below the braided upper loop at the top of the braid, when I’m about to start my main section of braid. That way, the two ends from the bicolor loop are easier to hide. They don’t get sewn down into the thin upper loop, but into the main body of the braid. (see Tip 3 back on my main page on Starts With No Ends)

After you start braiding, any singleton loops will eventually get firmly locked into the double-long loops. Always start by making a divided braid — two separate layers that form around the ring or bar of the C-clamp.

Again, never let the ends of any loops hang free after they have been set up. The ends of the loops are always securely on my fingers (or on a comb) starting from as soon as I make the twist-link. If there are too many loops to hold the ends conveniently on my fingers while setting up – say, 10 or more loops – I set the ends onto the prongs of a comb with a rubber band above them for safekeeping, with upper shanks to one side of the prongs and lower shanks to the other side. (See my You can put your loops down post.) With 10 or so I just keep them on my fingers – I might double up and temporarily hold the right loops on the tips of the left fingers, with the left loops further down toward the palm.

loops mounted onto a comb for safekeeping, prep for finger loop braiding.

I set each UPPER shank down on the left side of a ‘tooth’ and each lower shank on the right. (for the loops that will be on my left hand – right hand’s loops would be set down oppositely.) This was a “too-many-loops” braid, and most of the the right loops were actually on a second comb…. From the left: 2 dark green loops (originally one double-length green loop), a singleton all-white loop, then 8 bicolor loops (originally 4 double-length bicolor loops).

When I’m ready to braid, I then load the loops onto the correct fingers, taking care that each upper shank passes over the top of its finger, and goes cleanly to the upper side of the bar or ring without twisting, and with no lower shanks crossing above any upper shanks. There must be a clear open area between the upper shanks and lower shanks all the way between the bar and each loop on the fingers.

Start braiding with DIVIDED braiding moves
Don’t turn any of your first loop transfers until the growing loop at the top is long enough to surround the bar with room to spare. As your braid grows, it will form its own braided loop around the bar (or curtain ring, or header cord loop) that it is suspended from.

Warning: Loops will tend to slip and get too long and too short at first!
Braid extra-slowly and carefully for the first few loop transfers. During the first braiding moves the doubled loops tend to slip and get unevenly longer and shorter on your fingers. Adjust them by pulling them even during the tightening move. After a few transfers, the loops lock into place at the top, and you can braid normally. (Approx. five transfers for a 5-loop braid, 7 for a 7-loop braid, etc.) At this point, fussy-tighten to make sure the top/ start of the braid has no gappy threads, while pulling evenly on all the loops to re-adjust them so they are all about the same length before you continue braiding.

Start your main braid when colors have returned to the correct set-up positions:
When the braided loop at the top is long enough to surround the bar, AND when the loops are in the correct color-order for your main braid pattern’s starting setup, begin braiding your main braid – the flat, square, or whatever braid you happen to be making. At that point the braided loop will close together and your main braid will start.

Stub start It’s easiest to braid a no-ends divided start with a loop at the top of the braid. But it is also possible to start without a loop at the top – a ‘stub start’:

Make the same double-length linked loops, but instead of a thick cord, prong or curtain ring, suspend the loops from a very fine but strong header-thread. As always, this thin header thread must be tied into a large open loop, not cinched tightly around the braiding loops. The braiding loops must be able to slide freely on the header thread in order to tighten well at the top of the braid. Switch to braiding a ‘solid’ braid after a just a few cycles of divided braiding. A stub start is trickier than starting with a loop, because if you aren’t careful, there can be some loose, baggy threads at the sides of the stub top after you remove the header cord.

Re the divided braiding – I’m not 100% sure, but I suspect it’s still necessary to start with a very short section of ‘divided’ braiding even when making a stub-start, maybe only one or two cycles. Otherwise the first turn of a loop might undo the link at the top of its combined double loop… I’m not sure if that would have dire consequences, as I’ve never risked it! Just a couple of cycles of “no turns” will not create a visible loop at the top of the braid.

Here’s a diagram drawn by Jean Leader after she learned this method. She lays each loop down on a table, gives it a full twist as shown, and then loads it onto a bar (or header-cord, curtain ring, etc). In her diagram the red strand will form the upper shank of both loops, and the blue-green strand will form the lower shanks. As shown in the lower, expanded detail of Jean’s diagram, the header bar or cord is inserted through both newly-created loops, such that the two red upper shanks will end up on the same side of the bar (upper shanks are shown on the left of the bar in Jean’s diagram), and the two blue-green lower shanks will be side-by-side on the lower side of the bar (to the right of the bar in the diagram):

The arrows in the first diagram indicate the direction to spread the newly-created loops a bit more open, so you can see the link. The second diagram is a close-up of just the central twist, showing how the bar is inserted—lengthwise to the overall doubled loop, going through both new loops. (the two diagrams have the same orientation, neither is rotated relative to the other.) The red strand forms the upper shanks of both new loops, and the blue-green strand forms the lower shanks of both loops.

*I mount the clamp upside-down, so the horizontal bar that you turn to tighten the clamp is at the top. That bar is great for braiding from—especially once there is a loop at the top of your braid. You can slide the loop at the top of the braid over the bar, and remove it just as easily.

I used to just use the bar/ handle of my C-clamp to braid from. But now I usually suspend the loops from a simple metal shower curtain ring for the first few cycles of braiding — this makes it easier to spread the loops all the way apart when doing the first tightening moves. After braiding the first centimeter or so, I usually remove the braid and place it over the straight bar at the top of my C-clamp (G-clamp), though, because it’s quieter and feels more solid than the wiggly curtain ring.

finger loop braiding method for starting a braid with no ends at the top

Using a shower-curtain ring to hold the loops for a divided-braid loop-start with no loose ends. Photo by Jean Leader.

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Last updated Jan/28/2019

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