Braid Design and Finishing

This page is part of the Fingerloop Braids Website.

Once you have learned the patterns for the braids in this manual (or if you just want to braid a three-strand pigtail braid or an eight strand braid with unlooped elements), you'll want to use them. There are several things to consider in planning your braid:

The diameter and length of the braid

The diameter of the braid is controlled both by the number of elements in the braid pattern and by the size of each individual element. An element can consist of several thinner threads acting together. The diameter must coordinate with the size of the casing or eyelet for ease of use.

The diameter of the hole (eyelet or casing) it will be going through.

Experimentation is sometimes needed for a perfect fit between hole and braid.

Braid end treatment to prevent fraying, stiffen ends for insertion and/or decorate exposed ends

For Points, Aglets or Chapes (all period terms for a braid with two metal encased ends.) The tapered metal ends were generally made of brass or of tin plated iron. They were often used for the double-eyelet system of closures. For laces used on bodices, etc: one end of these braids is finished with a metal chape, while the other end is finished with a bulky knot that will not pass through the eyelet hole. For hat laces: the ends often had decorative tassels applied to finish them. Hat laces (fastening under the chin and going around the crown) are seen on both red Cardinal's hats, straw workers hats and on the common bycocket (robin hood style hat). For purse strings: the two ends that pass through the purse casing (there were two sets of purse strings in each casing, one pulling from each side) were knotted together and often finished with a knotted tassel; this could be increased in size with additions of more thread for the tassel. Seal tag braids to hold wax seals to parchment rolls may have had simple whipped or knotted ends, which also applies to braids used as a "sliding cord" for leather cases with tops that slide up and down.

Appropriate material choice.

Reeled silk was popular. This means that the fiber length was removed from the cocoons in an unbroken filament many yards long. About fifty of these very fine strands were combined for a single thread which was then "thrown" (slightly twisted) with another single thread of very fine strands. This made a very strong braiding element that was also very lustrous and smooth. Gold thread was used for ostentatious braid for the rich and very popular. Often used with silk. Worsted wool is also a possible choice, with at least one rather coarse braid being found in the London digs. Linen yarn is another possible choice for linen garments and undergarments, though virtually none has survived. Leather should not be overlooked for points on everyday or hard wearing applications. It was legislated that goat or deerskin (wildware) be used for this purpose22. Both are fine grained, tough and stretchy. Elizabethan and later points could be made from ribbon or silk fabric (either used flat, hemming the sides or sewn into a tube, gathering the ends to fit into a metal chape.)


The braid patterns in the earliest European manual are described in heraldic terms. Where color pictures exist for them or where there are color instructions, heraldic color choices are a good path to take. Strong contrasts were preferred. Red was very popular for hose points. Multiple color patterns were often seen on purse strings.

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