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Divided braid loop start #3:
This is the way I usually make a divided-braid loop start. This method is quicker to set up than my other methods, but it is much harder to describe. 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 even have trouble demoing this start to other braiders – it looks so simple, yet viewers rarely notice the crucial parts even when I try to point them out.)

This loop-start has a flatter join than the previous divided start methods. It is an ideal ‘no-ends’ method for an even number of bicolor loops of the same two colors. But it can also work for an odd number of loops. (See workarounds below for single bicolor loops.) Most of the loops start out double-length, as in Divided Loop Start #2 above. But here, each double-length loop is twisted at its mid-point to form its own link, resulting in two linked loops. (See illustrations further down.)

The first few cycles of braiding will feel very awkward because the loops slip a lot and change length on your fingers. But after a few braiding cycles, the loops lock into place and don’t slip anymore.

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 start can be done with simple 3-loop braids up to very complex ones like this letterbraid.

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, linked loop is necessary, or all the single loops would continually pull completely through each other as you braid, and/or gradually pull out and undo from the top of the braid down after it was finished.]

To form two loops from a double-length single loop, make 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)! This creates two loops out of one, linked together at the top of the (eventual) braid.

Now, load the two linked loops onto the handle of your C-clamp, or onto an open shower-curtain ring (see new photos below). The bar or ring must go through both loops so that both red shanks in the diagram above lie side-by-side over the top of the bar, and both blue-green shanks come out together from under the bar.

It’s easiest to learn this twist-link with a bicolor loop, like the one in Jean’s diagram above. That way 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 coming from the lower side of the bar are both the other color. However, it’s the exact same process with single-colored loops.

TIP: 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). Measure and cut any singleton loop this same length as well – one strand 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.

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.

If your braid has an odd number of loops, you will have at least one single-length 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 (see photo below), they are not hanging freely!

Most of the rest of the loops are bicolor, but the first double-loop on the left is all-dark green, forming two green loops on the fingers. Look at the last double-loop on the right: one purple and one light-aqua length linked together. These do not form a purple loop and an aqua loop, but two bicolor loops of purple + aqua. In each, the upper shank is purple and the lower shank is aqua. My single all-white loop leaves no ends at the top. If this single loop were bicolor, though, it would leave two ends protruding from the top of the braid—make them long and you can hide them later by “sewing” them deeply into the braid.

[Or, if your yarn can be split in half lengthwise, see my tip back on the main Starts Without Ends post on how to make a single bicolor loop with a knot at only one end of the loop. Embroidery floss has 6 strands that can easily be separated into two 3-strand lengths. In the photo above, there was actually a singleton pink/white bicolor loop that was made this way, with no ends at the top of the loop, but it doesn’t show well in this photo.]

After you start braiding, any single loops will eventually get firmly hooked in to the other interlaced doubly-long loops. Always start by making a divided braid — two separate layers that form around the ring or bar of the C-clamp.

By the way, I never let go of the ends of a loop while setting it up on the shower-curtain ring or C-clamp. Immediately after placing a loop onto the shower-curtain ring, I place the end(s) securely onto the fingers of my left hand, or, if there are a lot of loops, onto a comb+rubber band combo for safekeeping. (See my You can put your loops down post.)

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, but for this too-many-loop braid, the right loops were actually on a second comb). This can be seen with the bicolor loops — white shanks will all be upper and the pink shanks will all be lower… From the left: 2 dark green loops (from one double-length loop), a single all-white loop, then 8 bicolor loops (from 4 double-length loops).

When I’m ready to braid, I then load the loops from the comb onto my fingers, taking care that each upper shank passes over the top of its finger, and goes cleanly to the upper side of the ring without twisting, and without any lower shanks crossing above any upper shanks.

Always start braiding with DIVIDED braiding moves–don’t turn any of your first loop transfers. 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.

Braid extra-slowly and carefully for the first several loop transfers. During the first braiding moves the doubled loops tend to slip and get unevenly longer and shorter on your fingers. But 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.

When the upper and lower divided braids are long enough, AND the loops are in the correct color-order for your particular braid pattern’s starting setup, you will join the divided braids by beginning your main braid: you will stop braiding with ‘divided’ moves, and begin braiding the flat, square, or whatever braid you happen to be making.

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, if you prefer what I call 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. I think it’s still necessary to start with a very short ‘divided’ section, or the turns in the first rows would cinch around the header cord, resulting in a loose bubble of gappy threads at the top after you remove the header cord later. If you only braid a few cycles of “no turns”, you will not have a visible loop at the top of the braid. 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.

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 Dec/29/2017

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