One braider and helper pictured in 1465 CE, from the Spanish altar
piece "Historia de la Virgen Maria," attributed sometimes to
Nicolas de Zahortiga.1

Fingerloop Braids

Mistress Rhiannon y Bwa (Lois Swales) &
Mistress Azza al-Shirazi (Zoe Kuhn Williams)

Basic Braiding Instructions (with video)
Braid Design and Finishing
Instructions for Producing Aglets, Points, and Eyelets
The Braid Patterns
Bibliography and Notes
New source: Nature Unbowelled (1655)
New source: The Bindloss Manuscript (ca. early/mid 17c)
Related Pages

To buy a printed booklet containing most of this material, see the SCA Compleat Anachronist Order Page and order CA # 108. Please note the errata for this document; the errata are fixed in pages on this website. The patterns 24 and up in "The Braid Patterns" are not in the CA, nor are the "New Sources". A second Compleat Anachronist is currently being worked on.


Fingerloop braids are braids woven using loops (or "bowes") of string on your fingers. Fingerloop braiding reached a high point in Medieval Europe and England between 1200 and 1600 CE. This braiding technique still survives today in isolated areas of Europe, the Middle East, South America and Japan.

This article focuses on the 15th through 17th century English-language instructions for making braids. We studied the braid directions in sample manuscripts (the late examples had silk and metallic thread examples still stitched into the pages). We both came to this study with knowledge of basic fingerloop braiding. Zoe learned fingerloop braiding when she was 12, and she has taught children as young as 7 years old. Lois learned fingerloop braiding from Ed Franquemont, who was taught by village women in mountainous Chinchero, Peru. Zoe and Lois met at Pennsic War, when they took each other's classes on braiding.

As points, laces or cords, braids have a multitude of uses. They fastened hose, laced bodices, trimmed sleeves, frogged dress fronts, closed purses and held wax seals to parchment. Modern uses include drawstrings for pants, hair ties, shoelaces, and friendship bracelets.

You can braid in the car on the way to faraway events and use all sorts of loop patterns, string, yarn and colors you choose - try heraldic braids to hang award dangles from. You'll come up with some bizarre braids on your own: while trying to decipher a particular 2 worker braid, Zoe and Victoria Dye accidentally made up the 'Frog & Lobster' braid. Bizarre modern braids - that's another book...


This video, made by a fan of this website, shows many of the basic braiding moves:


Thanks go to everyone we've had the opportunity to braid with. Special thanks to Mistress Grace (Laura Morgan), Lady Anna (Victoria Dye), Master Gregory Blount (Greg Lindahl), Master Bedwyr Danwyn (Ted Lazcano), Lord Stefan Wolfgang (Rob Westfall) and Lord Alain (Berry Williams).

Contact Information

Mistress Azza al-Shirazi
Zoe Kuhn Williams
azzazazo zat

Mistress Rhiannon y Bwa
Lois Swales
P.O. Box 282
Etna, NY 13062
las52 zat

Related Pages

Tak v bowes departed, a book about BL MS Harley 2320.

Rhiannon's "Gothic secrets and modern delights", which includes some printable class handouts based on this material

Loop-Manipulation Braiding Research and Information Center (LMBRIC)

Finger loop braids at Phiala's String Page

Sample Fingerlooped Braids from a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript (Based on E. G. Stanley's transcription of source C.)

Archaeological Report on Fingerloop Braids

The Braid Society, which has a journal and an email list

Return to the SCA Arts and Sciences Homepage.

Webbed by Greg Lindahl