Hold the loops with gentle but even tension while spreading them all the way apart in an arc. Don’t let any of them sag at any point during the tightening process. Don’t pull hard! I realize that in these videos it looks as though I am pulling hard because I tighten quickly and end suddenly. It’s really not a hard pull. It ends lightly, not forcefully. (I tightened too often in these early videos as a nervous habit while trying to think of what to say next!)
Tightening a square or (especially) a flat braid doesn’t require force, just a wide spread, gently repeated once or twice.
Another ‘don’t’: Don’t jerk the loops to tighten them (by holding them loosely then jerking them outward). Jerking the loops causes uneven tightening. Keep the same tension on them throughout the tightening process – light but firm.
Most new loop braiders braid much too tightly (even to the point of getting blisters). In workshops when I’m demoing, I ask participants to “strum” my loops while I’m holding them to show them how lightly I hold them, even during the tightening move. The loops are taut enough that they don’t sag, but they are not under lots of tension. It really isn’t necessary to pull them tightly, and in fact causes problems both for your fingers and for the braid.
An over-tightened braid is not stronger (a common fallacy). It will wear out even sooner, because every bend and movement will gradually break more and more of the overly-stretched tiny fibers within the strands.
I occasionally see the other extreme, too — braiders who focus all their attention on the loop transfer and shifting moves, and then just do a quick toss of the hands outward for tightening — paying no attention to that move at all.
Linger a little on the tightening move! Give it some love and attention. That’s the move that makes the braid — the other moves just set the stage.
Too loose and the braid will be flabby, with saggy patterns. Too tight and the braid will be pinched-in and lose its shape — a “square” braid will be tight, lumpy and unevenly round rather than square, and a “flat” braid will be squeezed inward and not fully flat.
When learning a new braid, experiment and ‘feel out’ how it tightens – different braid structures and fell contours (the angle of the bottom / growing end of the braid) tighten differently.