The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts




The making of a braid, a complex structure or pattern formed by interlacing three or more strands of flexible material such as thread or wire.

This entry refers to braiding techniques which originate in the UK, and does not include the many of forms that are taught and undertaken in the UK involving techniques deriving from other cultures and countries around the world.


Status Endangered
Craft category Textiles
Historic area of significance Luton (historically associated with hat makers)
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK Neolithic?
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees 21-50
Current no. of skilled craftspeople 21-50 (some UK-origin braiding sub-crafts may have only 1-5 skilled craftspeople)
Current total no. of craftspeople 21-50 (doing UK-origin braiding sub-crafts)



Braiding is the process of creating a complex structure or pattern from three or more strands of flexible material. Compared with the process of weaving (which usually involves two separate, perpendicular groups of strands – warps and wefts), the component strands in a braid usually zig zag under, over or through each other.

Braids are usually long and can be narrow or wide, solid or hollow and flat, circular or irregular in shape. Braids have been made for thousands of years in many different cultures, including the UK, and for a variety of uses. Traditionally, braids were made from indigenous plant and animal fibres, as available in the local area, such as hair, strands of leather, silk or spun nettle, cotton, linen, hemp, straw or wool fibres. However, braids can be made from any flexible strands including man-made materials such as wire and glass fibre.




Local forms



  • Loop manipulation braiding
  • Free end braiding/finger weaving
  • Lucet braiding
  • Hair braiding
  • Sprang


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • All the braiding techniques are time consuming “hand-made” processes so tend to be undertaken by men and women in or near retirement that have time to spend on craft activities. Very few younger people are involved, so expertise is not always passed on to subsequent generations.
  • Products are not easily marketable (as they are costly to make).
  • No shortage of raw materials.


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known


Other information