~Historical references to using thumbs in making 9-loop fingerloop braids~
Using thumbs to braid 9-loop fingerloop braids (using the V-fell method, also known as Method 2) was documented in Finland in the first half of the 1900’s — see L-MBRIC news, issue 11. [Learn how to find broken L-MBRIC links by using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Instructions here – you will have to copy and paste the broken link.] This isn’t widely known – Noemi Speiser was unaware of those references when she wrote her books on loop braiding. Masako Kinoshita of L-MBRIC apparently only came across them in 2007 or 2008.
To me this 9-loop ‘thumbs’ method is very obvious if you are used to the V-fell braiding method – the thumbs are the obvious next-in-line digits to hold more loops after making a 7-loop braid. This isn’t the case if you use the A-fell method, because the thumb is on the wrong side of the active braiding finger for holding loops. (With Slentre there actually is a way to use the thumbs to hold loops, but it requires the active braiding index finger to perform a very non-intuitive extra move, and I have never heard of anyone doing it!)
The V-fell method (though not necessarily the use of 10 fingers) has been documented in Asia, the Pacific, India, S. America, and one location each in Russia and Finland.
Loop braiding traditions have declined or died out over most of the world since the advent of braiding machines and international trade, so we probably won’t ever know how common this 9-loop method was in previous years.
For more info on all three basic fingerloop braiding methods, see A-fell, V-fell, and Slentre.
UPDATE: At Braids 2012 I met Europa Chang Dawson, who learned how to loop braid when she was living with her grandparents in China during the second World War. She told me that her grandfather taught her how to loop braid, and she learned how to braid 9-loop square braids using thumbs as well as fingers, using the same method that I teach in this tutorial. She told me that she considered it a common practice at the time she learned it. This reinforces my belief that this method is obvious and intuitive. Nobody showed me how to do it – the person who first taught me a five-loop braid simply told me it was possible to add fingers and loops to make larger versions of the same braid with up to nine loops. When I checked back with her years later, she confirmed that she holds and manipulates the loops just as Ms. Dawson and I do.
I can’t remember where in China Ms. Dawson lived when she learned this method but I’m sure it was in a major city, and not in one of the non-Han minority areas. This is interesting as well, because I have read that loop braiding today is only known from minority areas of China – like Tibet and other outlying areas where some traditional crafts are still practiced. However, there are ancient Chinese literary references to loop braiding, and a depiction of loop braiders in bronze sculpture that is thousands of years old (google: Omura, “www.lmbric.net”).
Last updated Sep/5/2020
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