Braids are a byway of weaving. One of the many journeys weavers can go on. In amongst tying knots and intertwining yarn, we use braids to embellish our unique woven textiles. Weaving braids is addictive, puzzle-like and absorbing. Whether it’s for a trim, edge finish or a closure, braiding techniques are an essential tool in a weaver’s skill box.
Braids and ways of braiding have developed in the most extraordinary ways around our world. Japanese Kumihimo braiding is done on a Marudai stand but can be explored on a simple cardboard circle or square. Andean sling braiding is a fascinating method of doing very tight complex braiding in the curled fingers of a fist without tension. And of course there are countless ways of using our fingers to build braids.
The simplest braid to learn is the three strand braid. Most of us pick this up when we are faced with pigtails on hair. But look around for the four strand braid, which is a rounder style offering different color pattern looks or the fishbone braid with seven or eight strands. Any search on friendship bracelets will give you more ideas too.
Lucet braiding can be traced to the Vikings and although it can be done on your fingers, it’s nice to use a wooden tool called a lucet or even a cut your own cardboard one. See how to make a simple squared cord and discover more about the history of this lovely braid technique.
Kumihimo is Japanese braiding and can create very complex braids. It’s easy to start with aneight strand braid on a simple round cardboard disc with slits cut in it and a hole in the middle for the completed braid. This is a particularly good one for the young weaver. The braid is impressive and very rhythmical to do. Use several strands of yarn as one of the threads to build a thicker braid as shown. When you’re confident, try a 16 strand one as it’s just as straightforward to do. You can also do a 16 strand braid on a square disc with numbering for remembering the braiding sequence.
Loop or slentre braiding type of braiding uses looped ends and the fingers to build the braid, which provides nice tension as you go. The fingers are the perfect tools to hold loops and ‘walk’ the designs. Start with a 3 loop braid then try 5 loops. It’s always a joy to read about the history of the braiding.
Andean sling braiding is the most intriguing braid method I’ve come across. It creates very complex and strong decorative braids but requires no equipment except the hand and skill of the braider. This Peruvian braid uses 24 strands, which might be tricky but a great one to explore the complexity and ingenuity of the technique.
text by Kaz Madigan (for Craftsy)