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Five-lace flat braiding

To make a five-lace flat braid simply follow the method as shown in Figs 1 -3 below, and as I am about to describe. To begin, you arrange the laces as illustrated in Fig 1, then bring lace 3, on the extreme left, to the centre, over laces 4 and 5 as in Fig 2. You next bring lace 2, on the extreme right, to the centre, over laces 1 and 3.

Carry on braiding, first with the outside left lace, then with the outside right one. Every time you do this ensure you are passing over two laces. The end result is an attractive herring bone braid.

Another way of doing a five-lace braid is shown in Figs 4 and 5. Once again, to begin, arrange the laces as illustrated in Fig 4. This time start with lace 2, on the extreme left, passing it to the centre over lace 5. Next, bring lace 4 on the far right, to the left towards the centre, over lace 3 and under lace 1 and over lace 2 as shown in Fig 5.

 For the next step bring lace 5, in Fig 5, to the centre, by passing it over lace 4 and under lace 3. Continue to braid, working alternately from left to right, and right to left. This way of working is known as an over-one under-one method, as one lace is never passed over, nor under, more than once.

Now, for another variation of the five-lace flat braid, have a look at Figs 6 and 7. Observe that the centre lace, lace 5, continues straight down the centre of the braid.

This time the first step is to arrange the laces as illustrated in Fig 6. Observe too that laces 1 and 5, the two outermost laces, always pass under lace 3, but alternate in passing over and under each other. However, in the case of laces 2 and 4, they always pass over lace 3 and alternate in passing over and under each other.

So starting with Fig 6, take hold of lace 4 in your right hand and pass it under lace 1 and over lace 3. Then pick up lace 2 on the left and pass it toward the right, under lace 5 and over lace 4 at the junction of 4 and 3. Lace 2 will pass over both laces 4 and 3. Meanwhile, on the right, lace 1 is brought to the left over lace 2 and under lace 3. Also, from the left, lace 5 is brought to the right over lace 4 and under lace 1, at the junction of laces 1 and 3. Then lace 5 passes under both laces 1 and 3.

Which ever method you choose to follow you will lose approximately a quarter of your beginning length of lace in the braiding process.

Braiding is the act of making a braid (Old English: bregdan, plait, weave together). It's also a particular way of doing so, manipulating all laces at the same time (as opposed to weaving). A braid is, for our purposes, anything made of one or more strands interlaced together.

Weaving is a specific way to make a braid by manipulating a single lace at a time, generally using a fid.

Lace is the word I've chosen to use to identify a single narrow length of braiding material. Other terms include strand, and thong. Plait is also synonymous with braid, and is used in this context only when identifying the number of strands in a particular type of braid.

Movement is a term useful in describing braids. A movement is a series of steps that form a repeating process. Braiding a given braid is just a repetition of that style's movement. Typically, you can't end a braid mid-movement. Standing and working ends refer to ends of a single strand while braiding. The standing end is secured and does not move. The working end is the one you manipulate.

A fid, is a spike-like tool used in braiding. The tip is typically not very sharp, since you don't want to punch holes with it. Sometimes referred to as an awl.

Tightening is the process of closing up a braid into its final shape, usually by pulling and positioning individual strands from the standing to the working end. A lacing needle is a flat needle split at the opposite end from the blunt point. The end of the lace is placed within the slit and squeezed together,  where it is held by a couple of small teeth.

Skiving means cutting away some of the thickness of a lace, usually in a taper over a inch or two. By skiving two laces where they meet, they can overlap while maintaining the consistent thickness of a single strand.

Braiding is not difficult nor complicated. It can be confusing, but only before you know how to do it. Don't hurry, because in the end it will not be as successful. Passing a lace about itself or multiple laces about each other sounds simple, and it is. Braiding involves holding a large number of laces in a particular order in your hands, and pulling at it with muscles you don't normally use.

If you decide to buy pre-cut lace you'll be getting a consistent width and thickness, but cutting your own saves you money. Also, by cutting your own, you can have many different widths. Reels of lace are readily available to buy (about 30.00 for a 50 yard reel) in ³/32" and " widths, but that's about it. Anything other than that and you'll need to cut your own. Cut from scrap leather you'll make 50 yards of lace for about 2.00.

Many tools can be used to cut lace, but the best tool for a beginner is the Lace Cutter. The images, on page 6, illustrate how to use it. This little plastic gadget holds a razor blade at very slight angle to keep the leather against the guide edge.

To use, cut a roughly circular piece of leather, then cut a smaller circle, perhaps 2" in diameter, out of the centre of this piece. Place the cutter through this central hole, select the right groove (there are four), and rotate the leather into the blade. Once the cut lace is long enough, get hold of it and pull gently. This makes the leather rotate as the single lace is cut.

Braid done without a core can be done with laces of any width, although larger-stranded round braids may collapse into themselves and flat braids may fold over along their length.

Most braiding is best done with the standing ends secured to something, either temporarily or in their final position.

Tightening your braid is greatly simplified if you do this as you work. With some practice, you will learn to free-hand braid while keeping tension on each lace; the ideal approach. In the beginning you'll get cramp in your hands, however, you can stop every few movements to tighten your work. You can place a tight rubber band around the braided part, and move it down every so often. This prevents unintentional loosening and also makes it easy to put it down for a while. In any event, the tightening process will be necessary after braiding to length using the fid.

Fid work is using a fid and your fingers to tighten and adjust a braid. Start from the top of your work. Use the tip of the fid to push up (towards the standing ends) in each place laces cross.

Four-lace flat braiding

As shown in Fig 1 start with a strip of leather cut into four while still joined at the top. In Fig 2 the lace numbered 3 passes over number 2 and continues under 1 with lace 2 going over 4. Next , in Fig 3 bring lace 4 to the left over lace 1 then take lace 2 under lace 1. Bring lace 3, in Fig 4, over lace 4, and under lace 2, taking lace 1 under lace 3. Then, as shown in Fig 5, pull lace 4 over lace 2 and under lace 1. In Fig 6 pull lace 3 under lace 4 with lace 2 going over lace 1 and under lace 3, now pull lace 4 under lace 2. Also you can see in Fig 6, within the pink circle,  the now obvious pattern, that the lace on the right goes under the one closest to it while the lace on the far left goes over one lace and under one lace, stopping in the middle. If you  follow these instructions exactly you'll complete your 4-lace flat braid. You'll also find that the finished braid is approximately 25% less than your original lace length, so take that into when selecting the leather strip initially.



Four-lace round braiding

The four strand braid is fairly simple since there aren't many ways you can braid with a such a limited amount of strands. In the images I've indicated which is the loose braid as that makes it simpler to see where the strands are going. The tightened braid images are showing how the braid will look as you work it. You start with four strands tied off in the middle using, say, waxed black thread, and two strands are crossed. Beginning with the top strand on the right, bring that strand behind and under one strand and over the other.

Take the top left strand and bring it behind and under one strand and over the other. With the top strand on the right, bring the strand behind and under one strand and over the other. You should now see how to progress, working from each side bring the top strand behind, then under one strand, then over the other strand. Since you repeat this same step on each side this is considered to be a one step braid. The final image shows a braided length.

Click for Turk's-head knot.  Click for How to use the lace cutter.

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