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Braiding

Currently viable crafts

 

Braiding

 

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 (see also weaving).

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK

 

History

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. Most braiding would have been done by individuals for their own or local use.

In the UK, braids were used for a wide range of industrial and decorative purposes. Gold or silver braids are components of, for example, military uniforms (aiguillettes, headgears) while industrial braids were used in agriculture, as ropes or even as dog leads. The turning point in the usage of braiding was brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the mechanisation of the process.

There are many different techniques of braiding, many of them localised. Some of the different techniques include Japanese braiding (Kumihimo), Peruvian braiding, rope making, ply-split braiding, inkle weaving (narrow band weaving), cord making, loop braiding and other finger-manipulated work, lucet, braiding with tablet weaving, and sprang.

 

Techniques

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 zigzag 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.

Many basket making techniques involve elements of braiding. Exchange between basketmakers and braiders is important.

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

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

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • All the braiding techniques are time consuming handmade processes and are often undertaken by men and women in or near retirement that have time to spend on craft activities. Fewer 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

There are also a significant number of people engaged in braiding outside of the Braid Society, including through re-enactment and textiles societies.

 

Other information

 

References

  • See list of resources on The Braid Society website
  • https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/316088/braiding-sweetgrass-by-kimmerer-robin-wall/9780141991955