Fingerloop braids are made by cutting equal lengths of thread and attaching both the ends (usually knotted altogether) to a fixed point (doorknob is good - coffee-table leg also works) to create a set of loops. The fingers are then inserted individually into the loops created, and each loop is pulled through the others in the style as set out in the pattern.
A surprising amount of variation can be found in these braids:
- Braids that are generally flat in cross-section was used for edging, short straps and seal tags. The narrower varieties were used for couching or for lacing.
- Braids with a cross-section of an ellipse or half-ellipse (flat on one side and rounded on the other) were perfect for couching - the latter results in a nice flat surface for the side you place on the fabric, and a raised section for the decorative surface.
- Circular or spiral braids were used for drawstrings or poynts
- More complex braids were also available, with a variety of textures and looks - depending on technique.
Differences in technique cover:
- the number of loops used
- the colour/texture of the thread used (homogenous or mixed)
- multiple loops on each finger
- whether the loop is picked up directly off another finger or twisted in some way
- how many loops another loop passes through/over before reaching its new position
- and more - including using multiple weavers per braid
It is generally quite difficult to make fingerloop braids to any great length, as you are limited by the length that one can comfortably reach. Three partial solutions to this are:
- Get a friend to tension your work as you braid, using a rod and pushing against the surface where the braid forms from between the hands.
- Using double length strings, tie a big overhand knot in the middle, braid one side, untie knot and braid other side (creates only a small blip in centre which can be hidden on a medallion chain by braiding on medallion).
- A complicated system comprising pulleys and a fixed wooden rod on a base that can be used by one individual.
Nonetheless, fingerloop braiding is still ideally suited to easily producing short lengths of braid. Longer lengths may decline in quality due to variance in tension while braiding.
Extant braids, period recipes for creating braids (there was a guild for just this art form) and period illustrations of fingerlooping (including the 2 person technique described above) exist.
Although learning in person is generally quicker, a basic introduction to the technique is located at:
Pictures of some fancy braids (no instructions but generally match the CA108 braids) can be found at: http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/fingerloop.html