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Fngrlop-Laces-art - 9/15/13


"Fingerloop Laces" by Lord Álæifr Ágautsson.


NOTE: See also these files: crochet-FAQ, knitting-msg, Kumihimo-art, macrame-msg, naalbinding-msg, sprang-msg, Stick-Weaving-art, quilting-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org




Fingerloop Laces

by Lord Álæifr Ágautsson




Summary of Historical Basis:  Confirmed archaeological evidence of fingerloop laces have been found with dates to at least the 12th Century.  A manuscript from within period was used for instructions on creating three of the laces.


Tools and Materials:  Cotton, silk, or wool thread


Procedure: Four styles of laces are produced.  Patterns #1, #2, #3 are constructed from period manuscripts and methods.  Pattern #4 is a creation of my own, inspired by the techniques learned.


Sources: 6 texts and 3 websites are cited.


Item Description:  Fingerloop laces


Artisan:  Dughall Eoghann Le Grannd (mka Douglas Grant), Shire of Spiaggia Levantina


Historical Basis:  Archaeological evidence of European fingerloop construction exists as far back as the 12th Century.  It should be noted that the samples demonstrate a complexity of technique that argue for it being a much older technology(8).  Additionally, there is new evidence arising that may move this date back much further(9).


The purpose of fingerloop lace construction is the same for any narrowware product – drawstrings for clothing or ties for hats and bags.  As we reach later period (mid 16th Cent), fingerloop gains popularity as a trim in its own right(8) with incredibly complex patterns using multiple people to construct these elaborate laces.


In the early to mid-period, the term 'lace' was used to describe any small cord. It was not until the 16th Century that the modern usage of the term 'lace' (i.e. - multi-bobbin constructions) came into being and as a result, the term 'braid' came to describe the fingerloop technique.


As a slight aside, the current term used to describe fingerloop techniques is 'loop manipulation.'  With more cultures worldwide showing a historical mastery of this family of lace construction, the current term was instituted for a more accurate identification of the technique used.  For further discussion about the current nomenclature with several excellent studies of specific cultures' loop manipulation techniques, see http://www.lmbric.net/">http://www.lmbric.net/


Of the known examples of fingerloop laces, the majority are constructed of silk threads, which may or may not be indicative of the fact that silk was the preferred fiber for fingerloop construction; silk generally survives adverse conditions better than other fibers –linen, wool, and leather laces have been found (8).  This leads me to confidently assert that any period/persona-appropriate material can be used to construct laces without fear of being 'Out-of-Period.'


There are only a few known books in or near the SCA period containing fingerloop lace instructions – the Harleian Manuscript 2320(1) (produced ca 1450), the Serene Manuscript (4)(ca 1655), and the Tollemache Book of Secrets(3) (early 15th Cent) are probably the best known texts – more texts have come to light over the past few years, and are in various stages of translation and publication.


Many of these texts share numerous patterns (for an excellent side-by-side comparison of the laces contained in the three manuscripts described above, please see the website, Silkwerks, online at http://www.silkewerk.com/braids/source.html">http://www.silkewerk.com/braids/source.html). In the procedure section, I use the text from the Harleian Manuscript, as it is presently the oldest manuscript currently available.



Tools and Materials:  


One of the most convenient aspects of fingerloop construction is that the tools are, literally, 'ready to hand', the minimum tools required for fingerloop braiding are fingers.


There is only one confirmed period image (line drawing of image used for illustration purposes only, without permission) (4) of fingerloop braiding (although evidence is mounting that there may be more).  This image shows a 2 person technique that implies that additional tools may have been used to create longer laces (i.e. - in excess of a yard long).   Exploration of this concept, while intriguing, is beyond the scope of this project.


C:\Users\Dughall-Eoghann\Desktop\SCA\Fiber Craft\Cordmaking\Fingerloop\fingerloop.gif




I constructed 3 different laces in various color patterns to illustrate the variety of lace construction available in fingerloop. I diverged from the strictly historical interpretation of the manuscript on the matter of color placement because of the purpose that these laces were created for – an exploration of the technique, and because the colors looked like they would work together.


The first three patterns are extracted from the Harleian Manuscript, while the fourth is an original creation of my own.  I chose to include my own creation to illustrate that while this technology is hundreds of years old, there are still many new and interesting venues to be explored.  



Sample A – 'A Lace Baston'.


Original text – Hareleian 5


For to make a lace baston.

Tak v bowes departed, þat is for to say þat one side of every each bowe be of one color and the other side of anoþer color. Set þem on þy hand as þou didst on þe round lace, so þat the color þat is above on the ry3t hand be beneath on þy lyft hand, and þen work in þe manner of þe round lace.


Note: a  number 3 has been used to represent the Middle English letter "yogh."

Redacted Text –  


Take five departed loops, and place them on the following fingers:

Left hand: A B C - one color up

Right hand: B C - the other color up


Work with the right hand:

A goes through B C right, and takes the loop on C left reversed.

Lower the left loops.


Work with the left hand:

A goes through B C left, and takes the loop on C right reversed.

Lower the right loops.


Repeat from the beginning.



Sample B – 'A Round Lace of V Bowes'


Original Text – Harleian 3

For to make a round lace of v bowes.

Do 5 bows on þy fyngrys as þou didst in þe brode lace. þen shall A ry3t take trough B and C of the same hand þe bowe C of þe lyft hand reuerced. þen low þy lyft bowes. þen shall A lyft take þrough B and C of þe same hand þe bowe C of þe ry3t hand reuerced. Then low thy ry3t bowes, and begin again.


Redacted Text –


Take five loops in two colors, and place them on the following fingers:


Work with the right hand:

A goes through B C right, and takes the loop on C left reversed.
Lower the left loops.

Work with the left hand:

A goes through B C left, and takes the loop on C right reversed.
Lower the right loops.

Repeat from the beginning.



Sample C – 'A Brode Lace of VIJ Bowes'


Source – Harleian 21


Original Text –

For to make a brode lace of vij bowes

Set vij bowes on þy fyngrys in þe maner of þe holow lace of vij bowes and wyrke yn þe same maner of the holow lace; saue þt þu takyst in þe holow lace þe forme bowe B of eyþer hond reuerced, in þs lace þu schalt take þe bowe of B lyft reuerced and þe bowe of B ry3t vnreuerced.


Redaction –

            Take seven loops, and place them on the following fingers:

Left hand: Two on A, two on B, one on C
Right hand: B C


Work with the right hand:


A goes through B C right, and takes the front loop on B left reversed.
B takes the front loop on A left unreversed.
A goes through the front loop on B right, and takes the loop on C left unreversed.
Lower the left loops.

Work with the left hand:

A goes through B C left, and takes the front loop on B right unreversed.
B takes the front loop on A right unreversed.
A goes through the front loop of B left, and takes the loop on C right unreversed.
Lower the right loops.


Repeat from the beginning.



Sample D – The Spiaggian Osprey


Sources – an original lace of my own creation, inspired by the techniques I have learned.


Original Text – please see attachment 'A'


Comments – I have published this design and technique as my own creation on Ingrid Crickmore's website ( http://loopbraider.com/2012/05/01/dougs-braid/">http://loopbraider.com/2012/05/01/dougs-braid/) .  I should add that I mistakenly called it the Spiaggian Eagle when speaking with her, and that was how she posted it…





1. Stanley, E.G. "Directions for Making Many Sorts of Laces," pp. 89-104 in Beryl Rowland, ed., Chaucer and Middle English Studies in Honor of Rossell Hope Robbins. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1974.


2. ARNOLD, Janet: Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd. Washington, pp. 220-221, 1988.


3. GRIFFITHS, Jeremy and A.S.G Edwards. The Tollemache Book of Secrets: A Descriptive Index and Complete Facsimile with an introduction and transcriptions together with Catherine Tollemache's Receipts of Pastry, Confectionary Etc. London: The Roxburghe Club, 2001.


4. PHILIATROS. Natura exenterata, or, Nature unbowelled by the most exquisite anatomizers of her: wherein are contained, her choicest secrets digested into receipts, fitted for the cure of all sorts of infirmities, whether internal or external, acute or chronical, that are incident to the body of man / collected and preserved by several persons of quality and great experience in the art of medicine, whose names are prefixed to the book ... ; whereunto are annexed, many rare, hitherto un-imparted inventions, for gentlemen, ladies and others, in the recreations of their different imployments ; with an exact alphabetical table referring to the several diseases, and their proper cures. Printed for, and are to be sold by H. Twiford ... G. Bedell ... and N. Ekins ..., London: 1655.  


Complete photo scanned copy of the original text available online as a .PDF file at http://www.fingerloop.org/nature/ms213.pdf


5. BERNIS, C: Trajes y Modas En La Espana de Los Reyes Catolicas. Madrid, Lamina I, 1978.


6. SPEISER, Noemi: Old English Pattern Books for Loop Braiding: A Monograph Critically Comparing English Instructions from the 15th and the 17th Century. Arboldswil, Switzerland: Published by the author, 2000.


7. Swales, Lois, and Williams, Zoe Kuhn. "Fingerloop Braids." The Compleat Anachronist, 108 (July 2000). Milpitas, CA: The Society for Creative Anachronism.


8. Crowfoot, Elisabeth; Pritchard, Frances; and Staniland, Kay. Textiles and Clothing c. 1150 - c. 1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, 4. London: HMSO, 1992.


9.   Unknown author, "Loop Braid from the Bronze Age!!?", L-M BRIC News, No. 7( 2004, rev 2006), 17 Jan 2012, http://www.lmbric.net/n7/n7.html


Attachment A


'Spiaggian Osprey'

A Round Lace of 7 bowes, Unorthodox Braid


Skill level – Advanced Beginner/Intermediate


Necessary skills – basic fingerloop moves, working with departed bowes, working with multiple bowes on one finger


Thread placements – note: all threads are departed bowes of the same color.


Left hand                                 Right hand

A – purple                             

B – black                                 B - white

C – black                                 C - white

D – purple                              D - white


NOTE – there is a point in braiding where you will have 2 bowes on the B finger (step 3), which I call 'B back' (closer to the palm) and 'B front' (further from the palm).  Additionally, I refer to the 'front' of a bowe (step 1), this means the side of the bowe furthest from the palm of the hand.


Pattern –

1. A-R over front of B-R, thru C-R & D-R, and D-L, take C-L REV.

2. Move D-L to C-L

3. Move A-L to B-L front

4. Using A-R, go thru C-L & B-L front, take B-L back, UNREV, and move to D-L.

5. Repeat, reversing hand notations (A-R becomes A-L…)


DISCUSSION: This design is an attempt to create a unique fingerloop design for the Shire of Spiaggia Levantina, Atlantia, and to develop my skill as a solo braider.   While researching various laces, I found a design for the Barony of Marinus, that is a variant of the 'Greene Dorge of VJ bowes'.  I wanted a design that more fully reflected the spirit of the Shire - topically simple, but much more complex when examined carefully.


This pattern created is a white 'bird' with upswept wings on a field of purple and black chevrons.  Steps 2-4 create a chained pattern on the 'sides' of the lace that create the 'wings' of the 'bird' by staggering the movement of the threads across the braid, while step 1 creates the 'body' of the 'bird' across the 'face' of the braid.


Further explanation of step 4 - Using the A finger of the opposite hand, go through C, then B front and pick up B back, UNREV and place it on the D finger.  This is a bit scary to a novice, since B front has a tendency to want to go with your finger pulling B back out.  Loosen the tension of your hand a bit after you take B back and use A left to lift up on B front - this makes it a bit easier.


Tensioning Note – because of the deep crossing of bowes (in step 1 the bowe passes through 3 others), this lace requires a bit more careful attention to your tightening to maintain a uniform pattern. I suggest you tighten the lace only after step 1.



Copyright 2013 by Douglas Grant. <epiphianos at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org