Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to Braid

braided flag iris leaves
There are so many ways in which braids can be used, mats, baskets, hats and many more. And there are a wide variety of plants that can be braided, including grasses, like dune grass, bear grass, bark from vines including black berry, flag iris leaves, cattail leaves, tree bark such as cedar, hemlock and the list is endless... why use commercial raffia when the outdoors provides plenty of resources... explore.

Four Strands -- Beginners often tie the start of the braid to a chair to help with making an even width braid. Take two strands, one in each hand, cross the one in the right hand over to the one in the left near the center, but so that four ends will be uneven. This will stop the necessity of splicing or joining all the strands in the same place.

Bring the lower left-hand strand in front and cross over the lower right-hand strand. Bring the one that is now the upper left-hand strand down under the lower left-hand strand, and hold these in place with the thumb and fore-finger of the left hand. Now bring the upper right hand strand down over the lower right-hand strand and cross under the lower left hand strand.

4 strand
If the following mantra is kept in mind, it will be an easy thing to make the braid even and smooth. "Under with the left, over with right, and cross in the center."

Eventually as you braid, you will need to insert new strands. Bring the strand that is to be spliced to the lower right-hand place. Insert the new strand beside it, allowing the large end to extend an inch or so under the upper left-hand strand.

Five strands are the least number with which a satisfactory braid can be made. There is no way of concealing the ends when three strands are used, and it is more difficult to make an even braid.

In beginning a five strand braid, tie the five strands together at one end. I find it useful to separate three strands in the one hand and two in the other hand. Starting with the right hand that has 3 strands take the outer strand, fold it towards you and weave in across the next strand and under the middle strand, bring it to the left.

Now the left has three strands and the right has two. Repeat from the left, taking the outer strand and over the next strand, under the middle strand, bringing it to the right.

Repeat this until you have to join in another strand. Braiding is repetitious, even after joining more strands which allow for a long continuous braid.

Pull out the bottoms of the strands as you braid to keep them from tangling. It is also useful if braiding long strands to bundle the strands individually and unravel them as you braid to prevent tangling.

Joining or splicing -- As you continue your work, you will need to insert new strands as the other strands become too short to braid. At first you may not get it right, making the braid too wide. Instead lay the insert on top of the shortened strand and treat it as one piece. After braiding an inch or so, you can cut off the ends sticking out close up to the braid.

Braiding a Basket

Make a braid about three quarters of an inch wide; coil and sew together as in making a mat, keeping the braid flat for the bottom of the basket, which is two and a half inches in diameter. Shape the sides by holding the braid upward and outward while sewing. Three or four rows complete this basket.

Braiding a Hat

Make an even braid about 3/8ths of an inch wide; coil and sew with the edges together. When the measures three inches across begin to shape the sides of the crown. For this the braid must now be held down and a trifle in and drawn tight while sewing. Three or four rows should make the crown sufficiently high. Five or six rows sewed together like the top of the crown makes the flat brim. Finish at the back of the hat by tapering the end, secure it under a braid and sew firmly in place. Trim and decorate the hat with a colored braid or other plant material.

Step by Step with photos

Here are some photos demonstrating how to braid with cedar bark 1/2" width strips