Loop Manipulation Braiding
Fingerloop braiding, or more technically “finger-held loop-manipulation braiding,” is an off-loom, no-equipment technique for making braided bands. Yarn or thread is used doubled and held in loops at the ends by the fingers. It has been done all over the world for thousands of years, and uses individual fingers to hold the loops. Hand-held loop braiding from Oman, ancient Japan and Peru is essentially the same process, but is done with loops mounted around the whole hand rather than on separate fingers.
Holding the braiding strands as loops over the fingers (or hands) is quite simple to do. The braid can be tightened with one large simple motion, no matter how fine the threads are. Holding the loops automatically creates a “shed” (an opening) between the upper and lower strands of each loop. This is similar to what heddles do in a loom. The braider doesn’t have to think about this as the loops are moved as single elements. Yet in most loop braids, the two strands of a loop don’t end up together in the braid, they interlace separately.
Loop braiding is faster and more efficient than free-end braiding, but it has some inherent limitations. The main ones are the number of loops one person can braid with, and how long this braid can be. In the past, braiders got around both these limitations by loop-braiding in teams. Two or more braiders would stand next to each other, and link their braids together to braid a wider braid. For longer braids, one person would hold the start of the braid, and tighten the fell (the base of the braid) each time the braider or braiders completed a cycle of braiding.
Demonstration of a 5-loop square braid, photo by Penny Peters
NB Information above extracted from http://loopbraider.com. Please see that website for more info.
Images below are of work done by members of the Braid Society. Click on an image to see a larger version and further information.