Mystery of the Broad Lace’s Sisters

The European A-fell version of the (5-loop) Triangle braid was called the “Broad lace of 5 bows” in the 15th C. English loop braiding manuscripts. It has the exact same over-under structure/ ‘architecture,’ yet it turns out completely different from the triangle braid!

The Triangle braid version can only be made with (Asian-style) loop braiding moves in which the ring or little finger is the active braiding finger, not (European-style) braiding moves in which the index finger does the loop-fetching. [see footnote re Slentre*]

Superficially, skipping the first loop (which is what you do in braiding the 5-loop version of the Triangle Braid) might seem to be a different structure than the Broad Lace, in which the (index) finger goes through the first loop it encounters, and skips the next one. The thing is, “first” does not mean the same thing in those two examples. That’s because the two methods are sort of mirror-image, and the little or ring fingers (A-fell method) takes the loop in the opposite direction from the way the (V-fell) index finger does. They are both forming the same over-under structure, though. You can prove this by using either method to unbraid what you have braided using the opposite method. Each method will cleanly unbraid the other. (Make sure you are turning the loops in the equivalent way as the braid you are undoing – sometimes that can feel a bit odd, if it’s the opposite direction you are used to turning them.)

In both braiding methods, it is the loop nearest the center of the braid that is skipped over. The taken loop only passes through the loop nearer the outer edge of the braid. Because of this, the two braids really do have the same abstract/ charted structure.

Yet the Triangle braid comes out as a dense, firm, wedge-shaped braid with a peaked upper surface and a relatively flat lower surface, while the Broad Lace of V bows has a flatter, and overall slightly convex shape. The appearance of the ‘weave’ on both sides of the two braids is very different as well, so I would assume that the same color pattern set-ups would look quite different in the two braids.

This boggled my mind back when I was first braiding these 5 to 9-loop unorthodox braids!

Square braids turn out the same when made by either the V-fell or the A-fell method, why didn’t unorthodox braids???

Noémi Speiser‘s books at that time didn’t mention anything about the braid I call the Triangle braid. They didn’t specifically mention V-fell unorthodox braids at all. However, Speiser implied them by stating – I think more than once – that “the 5-loop unorthodox braid” was the most common loop braid world-wide… Since at least half the world used V-fell braiding for basic 5 and 7-loop braiding moves, this means they were also making that unorthodox braid.

But that to me raised the question “Which 5-loop unorthodox braid?” Even if you just consider one of the three different braiding methods (A-fell, V-fell, Slentre), there are two obvious and different unorthodox braiding sequences that can be done when using five loops:

A The braider can skip the more central loop and only go through the more outer/ “edge-ward” finger loop [like the Broad Lace of 5, and this triangle braid]; or B the opposite: the braiding finger can go through only the more central loop, while skipping over the more “outer” loop [like the D-shaped braid I make, with no recorded equivalent in the A-fell braiding tradition].

The second possibility isn’t described in the 15th or 17th C. loop braiding manuscripts, but is certainly an obvious alternative. (I can’t remember ever experimenting with it myself using A-fell braiding – let me know how it turns out if you try it!)

On top of those differences, there is also a structural difference depending on whether the braider transfers loops with or without imparting a turn to the loop. Braiding without turning the loops doesn’t cause a triangle braid to divide into two layers, the way a square braid would. But it does make certain differences to the resulting braid, including a color pattern difference with bicolor loops. Noémi Speiser compares and charts out this structural difference on p._ of ____ [citation coming soon!]

There is also a less obvious but definite difference between unorthodox braids made with “turns from above” vs. “turns from below”.  (Again, I haven’t experimented with this in A-fell braids, only with V-fell braiding.) I don’t think this is addressed by either Noémi Speiser or Masako Kinoshita, but it is very clear in the braids. Turning from above versus from below makes a difference in square braids, too, but it’s only noticeable while you are braiding. The upper surface will either be wider or narrower than the lower surface, depending on which way the loops are turned. However, once a square braid is finished and tied off, an outside observer would have no way of knowing whether the wider side had been the top or the bottom while it was being braided – aside from the width difference, both sides are identical. But the upper and lower surfaces of a triangle (or D-shaped) braid are quite different from each other, so widening one or the other side makes a change in the braid’s appearance that can’t be “fixed” by turning the braid over, as with a square braid.

Turning loops “inward” (ie “from above) broadens the lower surface of the braid and narrows the upper surface. Turning loops in the opposite rotational direction has the opposite effect. In the D-shaped braid and the Triangle braid (the 2 unorthodox braids I’ve taught on this site), turning loops inwardly – “from above” the loop (hooking onto the UPPER shank, from above the loop to turn it, rather than onto the lower shank from below the loop) broadens the base/ bottom of the braid, and seems to emphasize the beveled shape of the braid, so I prefer that method of turning loops for these braids.

Then on top of all these differences is the most confusing one of all — why should any of these braids turn out differently when made with V-fell vs. A-fell braiding moves?

Sometime in 2007, I was so consumed with curiosity that I tried to find out how to contact Noémi Speiser and Masako Kinoshita to ask them about it. I was able to find contact information for Masako Kinoshita, so I emailed her, and found out that she was right in the midst of experimenting with these unorthodox braids herself!

She also was trying to figure out why A-fell and V-fell versions of “the broad lace” were so different. Kinoshita ended up describing her experiments with these braids the next year in L-MBRIC (Idiosyncratic Appearances of Braids with an Unorthodox Pattern – near bottom of linked page), but without proposing an explanation for why the A-fell and V-fell versions turn out so differently (she calls these two versions Method 1 and Method 2, not A-fell and V-fell).

Noémi Speiser finally did write about this V-fell version of the medieval Broad Lace, in book 4 of the recent series of monographs that she wrote with Joy Boutrup. (She doesn’t mention its corollary braid, the one I call the D-shaped braid.)
She said she had only been introduced recently to this braid, and was very pleased with it (yay!).
But her explanation of why it turns out so differently when made by the V-fell method seems to just boil down to the tightening being different, as well as to the loops being turned from above, ie “hooked” rather than from below ie “scooped”. Maybe I missed something there, because while I see a difference in the resulting triangle braid if I turn from above vs below, neither of them results in the Broad lace of 5 braid shape (?).

She describes the difference in tightening rather vividly, but it’s more of a visual description of the loops “leaping” into place than a structural explanation of why they’re doing that. I knew already that V-fell and A-fell braids tighten differently, you can see and feel that as you are braiding. But it still didn’t quite make sense to me structurally.

Even square braids tighten differently when made with the A-fell and V-fell methods, because the transferred loop is tightened against a different set of opposing loops in the two different methods. In V-fell braiding a square or unorthodox braid, the taken loop is tightened right away against the loops it was just drawn through, and it especially pulls on the outer edge of the opposite side of the braid, which is where that taken loop originates in the braid. In A-fell braiding, the taken loop is drawn through the loops of the same hand it comes to rest on, so it doesn’t tighten against those loops until they leave that hand, one by one. Instead, the taken loop tightens against the index loop of the other hand – the hand it just left – which tightens the braid first from the CENTER of the braid, as that’s where the index loops originate (in an A-fell braid). The whole braid is certainly being tightened in both cases, but there’s a difference in where the tightening is focused.

Either way, though, square braids still turn out square-ish in cross-section (or rather trapezoidal) with both methods. It’s true that when I make a square braid with A-fell braiding, the braid always seems to come out a bit looser than a braid made with what I feel is the same tension (on my part as a braider) using V-fell braiding motions. But the shape difference between the Triangle Braid and the Broad Lace of V Bows is not due to tightness or looseness. You can make either braid looser or tighter, and they will still retain their essential shape difference.

By George, I think I’ve got it! The explanation below isn’t very good, but I think I finally understand it for myself, anyway!

I think that the reason the A-fell unorthodox “broad lace” doesn’t turn out like the V-fell “triangle braid” is that, with A-fell braiding, the tightening move especially pulls at the strands in the center of the braid. So they don’t get squeezed together and pushed down into a hidden ditch. Whereas in V-fell braiding, it’s the OUTER edge that is especially pulled (inward) when the braid is tightened, effectively pulling it over the weirdness at the center of the braid, thereby creating that ‘ditch’! (Believe me, that “skipping over” a central loop does create a weirdness in the braid’s structure, even though it is so easy and brainless to do.)

I think a difference in tightening pressure at the center of the braid is also why shorter loops in a 5-loop triangle braid can lead to the triangle braid shape morphing into something else (though it doesn’t morph into the Broad Lace of 5 bows). There is a different pressure of tightening exerted on the loops when they are shorter, because shorter loops spread out at much wider angles from the point of braiding – the fell of the braid – to the hands, and each loop also forms a wider angle to the finger carrying it . Because of this, the point of braiding is pulled differently than with longer loops, and the over-unders at the center of the braid get pulled “up and out” of their ditch, changing the braid’s overall shape.

(I originally wrote down all this hypothetical musing in a footnote on my Triangle Braid tutorial, but realized it was way over the top! So rather than delete it I decided to hide it away on this separate info page in case any other braid geeks might be interested enough to ferret it out.)

[june 5, 2019 – just glanced through Noemi Speiser’s analysis again and realized I must try to understand it better, and redo my old trials with these braids! Also had a couple of comments one from a blog reader and one from a friend about unexpected results with unorthodox braids that I should try to duplicate…]

* Slentre: I suspect that the basic 5-loop Slentre braid – done with the palms completely facing the floor and index fingers operating – may be the same as the 5-loop version of this triangle braid. It ought to be, as it is also made by bringing outer strands to the center of the braid, though the index finger is used rather than the ring finger. The index finger is inserted into (or over) the other hands’ loops starting with the INDEX loop of the other hand. I haven’t done a lot of experimenting with Slentre, myself, would love to hear/ see what someone else might come up with about it!

Published Aug 7, 2017. Last updated Oct 5, 2022

© 2017-2022 Ingrid Crickmore

Other info pages can be accessed through the “About” tab in my upper menu (all the way to the right of the menu bar). Below are links to most of them, but I think I’ve added a few pages since I made the list below.

Page 1: About Loop Braiding
Page 2: About Me
Page 3: Contact form
Page 4: A-fell, V-fell, Slentre, and hand-held loop braiding
Page 5: Too-Many-Loop Braids
Page 6: Unorthodox Braids
Page 7: Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding
Page 9: Alphabet braids of the 17th Century
Page 10: Terminology
Page 11: Guide to L-MBRIC (Masako Kinoshita’s Loop-Manipulation Braiding Research and Information Center News site)
Page 12: Braids in my header photo
Page 13: Mystery of the ‘Broad Lace’s sisters
Index to tutorials
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