Fingerloop Braiding

Loop manipulation braiding is a form of braiding where the threads to be braided are formed into loops which are placed over the fingers and exchanged in a series of patterns. It is found throughout history all over the world including medieval and renaissance Europe.

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Fingerloop braiding was a popular technique in 15th century Italy and uses for the braids included purse strings, laces for clothing, for decoration and to strengthen cloth such as garment openings or purse seams. A variety of braid structures can be made and if several colours are used quite decorate braids can be produced. The simplest braids only require one worker, but more complex braids could require two or even three workers to manufacture.

Many cords from the archaeological record have been found and from these we can learn what they were made of, what colours they were and a bit about their general structure. However, more than braids have survived and we are very fortunate to have several surviving manuscripts with instructions detailing how to make the braids.

Two of these manuscripts date from the 15th century, the “treatise on the Making of Laces” from the Tollemache Book of Secrets and article 4, “Directions for making many sorts of laces” from the British Library manuscript Harley 2320.

Tak V Bowes Departed—a must have book by Gina Barrett and Elizabeth Benns that examines the Harleian manuscript, providing translations into modern English with easy to understand directions and step by step pictures. See the website here provides transcriptions, translations, step by step directions and pictures for creating most of the Harleian braids. A transcription and translation of three historic braiding manuals.

There are many more resources available and a google search on “fingerloop braiding” will bring up many treasures.

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