Using heavy cord or procuring some very narrow ribbon or flat shoe strings, you can learn to make a wide variety of braids and graduate to belt-making with leather thongs. It is easier to follow directions for braiding if the strands are uniform in size but of different colors. Black, tan and white shoe strings can be bought at the five-and-ten stores. With bluing, red ink, strong tea or coffee, white strings can be dyed. The ends from which you start must be fastened firmly. They can be knotted together and pinned to the bedspread with a large safety pin or tied to a cord which is attached to the foot of the bed. A piece of cardboard with slits in it through which the strands pass will keep them from getting twisted at the start. The illustration, Figure 9 D, makes this clear. Watch the loose ends to see that they do not get tangled. Keep the braid flat and work loosely on your first attempts.


Figure 9

The Weaving Method

For even so simple a process as braiding three strands there are two methods. Which do you follow? Do you take the outer right strand and carry it under and over the strands to the left; then the strand now on the outside on the right and carry that in turn over, under and so on to the end? Sailors call such braiding English sennit. The method can be used up to any number of strands for it is simple weaving. Try it with half a dozen strands. It is shown in Figure 9, D, done with shoe strings. It will be a help to leave each strand, after it is carried across, lying straight out from the braid at the left in its turn and to hold across the palm of the right hand the strand at the extreme right, which will be the next one to braid with.

The Alternating Method

By the second or alternating method, the right strand of three is carried over the middle one, then the left strand over the one now in the middle, then the right strand over the middle one and so on, to the rhythm of

Right over, left over; Right over, left over.

If the strands from right to left are respectively red, white and blue, red goes over white, then blue goes over red, white over blue, etc. This alternating method is worth mastering, if you do not already use it, because from it are built up methods of braiding which are more rhythmical than the method of carrying each strand all the way across and which can be elaborated into fancy braidings. French Sennit is the sailors' name for this braiding.

Alternating An Uneven Number Of Strands

Apply this method to five strands. The right outside strand goes over one, under one; the left outside strand goes over one, under one and this is repeated to the end. Memorize the italicized words and repeat them rhythmically as you braid. If you take seven strands the rhythm goes:

Right, over one, under one, over one; Left, over one, under one, over one.

An Even Number Of Strands

If you are using an even number of strands, the two center ones must be crossed at the start. With four strands, for example, the left center strand first passes over the right one. From that point the rhythm runs:

Right over, left under and over.

A Fancy Braid

The fancy braid of Figure 9, C, is a five strand braid done by the alternating method. Braid the three strands in the center on each other while the outer strands are left idle. Then braid all the way across once with the five strands. Repeat from the beginning. This makes an effective braid for leather work if the strands are kept flat.

Herring-Bone Braid

Herring-bone braiding is done with seven or nine or eleven strands, bringing the outer strand over one and under two. The jingle for seven strands goes:

Right, over one, under two, Left, over one, under two.

When you have mastered this, you will easily make up your own jingles for other herring-bone braids.

Braiding Leather

After you become expert at braiding, you can make very attractive leather belts. Directions for ordering materials for them are given on page 90, in the chapter on Leatherwork. The books listed at the end of that chapter describe other patterns of braids in leather, both flat and round, and suggest uses for them.

Knotted Monks Cord

Knotted Monks Cord is easier to make than a round braid. It is useful for many things, such as handles for bags, electric light pulls, dog leashes and hat cords, and can be made with a variety of materials.

Use for your first practice two pieces of a heavy string, about two feet long. If possible dye one of them so that they will be of contrasting colors. Laying the two strands together, tie a knot in them and as you draw this knot tight, put one strand in it over the left forefinger, making a slip noose. Call this strand A, noting its color, and the other one B. With the slip noose over the forefinger, hold the knot between the thumb and middle finger of the left hand. With the right forefinger pick up strand B and draw it in a loop through the slip noose, either from left or right as seems easier to you. You now have a slip noose on each forefinger. Slip A off the left forefinger, transfer the knot to the right hand, holding it there also between the thumb and middle finger, and draw A tight (for this time only by the short end). You are holding nothing now in the left hand. Next catch up A with the left forefinger, draw it through the loop in B, transfer the knot to the left hand and draw B tight. Continue in this way, always having the loops made in A over the left forefinger and those in B over the right one. The finished cord should be rolled to make it evenly round. Figure 9, A, shows how the cord looks as you go on.

Uses For Monks Cord

Monks cord is effective done with a number of strands of wool or silk, divided into two groups as is illustrated in Figure 9, A. If it is heavy enough, it can be used for a girdle, such as Fra Lippo Lippi wore after he turned monk and put on

The warm serge and the rope that goes all round.

With No. 3 mercerized crochet cotton a fine strong cord for a curtain pull can be made. Waxed Belfast or Dreadnought cord in various colors may be used for dog leashes. Before the knotting is started the strands for a leash are usually doubled over the swivel of a snap-catch which will fasten the leash to a dog's collar.

Books On Knots And Braids

Sailors' Knots, Cyrus Lawrence Day. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. 1935. Knots, splices, sennits and seizings, illustrated with over fifty photographic plates. Detailed directions for tying knots. Interesting comments on their history and uses.

String Figures, Caroline Furness Jayne. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1906. "A study of cat's cradle in many lands." Numerous and very clear illustrations.

The Braiding and Knotting Book, Constantine A. Belash. The Beacon Press, Boston. 1936.