Friday, January 20, 2012

A&S 50: 14 Learn Fingerloop Braiding

Fingerloop braiding is a method of weaving narrow braids or cords using loops, or bows, of thread held on the fingers.  This method of making cords reached its height of popularity between 1200 and 1600 in Europe, but fingerlooped cords were used much earlier and continue to be used in some parts of the world today.  In the middle ages, fingerlooped cords could be found on a wide range of objects, from purses to hairnets to seal tags.  As these cords are so useful, particularly for closing pouches and the fronts of supportive gowns, I decided that it behooved me to learn to make at least a few of the simpler sorts of fingerlooped cords.

Using the naming conventions from Tak V Bowes Departed I have attempted and am now reasonably comfortable with five different fingerlooped cords, “A Lace Baston,” a two-colored cord from the Harley manuscript dating to 1475, “This Flat String,” another two colored cord from To Make Pursestrings dating to c. 1600,  “Two Strings at Once” also from Harley, “A Broad Lace of V Bowes,” from Harley, and “Round Lace of V Bowes” from Harley.  All are distinct, with the except of the Lace Baston and the Round Lace of V Bows, which are worked in exactly the same manner save that the Lace Baston used departed bowes, that is bows in which two colors have been joined together.  All of these cords use only five bowes.

More complex cords are possible and many are described in the extant braiding manuals which use more than five bowes, some of which require two people to manipulate the bowes.  I have not yet attempted any of these more complex braids but am looking forward to finding a braiding partner so that I can give some them a try!

  • Braiding is not that hard once you get into the rhythm of it
  •  Small dogs and fingerlooping do not mix at all well.  Nor do curious cats
  • The phone will inevitably ring in the idle of a long braiding session
  • You can make much longer cords by working your braid from the middle of the bowe.  It’s not as scary as it sounds, it just takes some time and patience to sort out the bowes when you start back up from the center to work in the opposite direction.  Your mileage may vary working on more complex braids but it works well with these five simple ones.  This could be avoided if you had a second person to tighten up the braiding for you with a sword beater or some kind as you worked


Benns, Elizabeth et. al. Tak V Bowes Departed.  Soper Lane. London, 2006.

Crowfoot, Elizabeth.  Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London).  Boydell Press, 2001.

Goddard, Andy.  Fingerloop Braiding (

Priest-Dorman, Carolyn.  Sample Fingerlooped Braids from a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript (

Goslee, Sarah, Fingerloop Braiding (

Swales, Lois et. al.. Fingerloop Braids. (

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