Across the millennia, humans have sought ways to beautify themselves. Lacking the glorious plumage or fur of some of our fellow creatures, we have turned to our own hands to compensate for our dearth of natural splendor to create fabrics and trims, utilizing first materials found in nature, and then later synthesizing our own.
Of course, at first we devised low-tech methods of doing so, techniques that require minimal equipment, eventually craving more and more splendor until we arrived at looms of such breathtaking complexity that they required multiple people to operate just one. And yet, alongside such super-skilled weaving techniques, we humans continued to pursue simpler decorative textile arts, ones that were social and did not require whole workshops to accomplish.
Which brings us to the topic of today’s blog: fingerloop braiding, a technique that dates back to the ancient world if the archeological finds are to be believed. But thankfully, we do not have to rely on the archeological record alone! In fact, we have multiple detailed manuals from the 15th through 17th centuries describing a multiplicity of braids in depth, from simple, utilitarian all the way through the stunningly gorgeous. There are even pieces requiring two and three people that have been handed down!
An entire cottage industry arose around these braids, with “silkwomen” creating an entire cottage industry to supply the needs of the masses. So it was both an amateur technique practiced by ladies of means and “leisure” and professional skill monetized by industrious women seeking a respectable form of gainful income.
When you start looking at medieval manuscript illuminations and portraits of real people, you will start to notice fingerloop braiding – people engaged in it, people wearing garments that definitely seem to be decorated with it. The product of this relaxing, enjoyable craft was seemingly ubiquitous.
It is a craft that I enjoy immensely – and I am inviting you to join in! I am offering three-hour beginner and advanced workshops on fingerloop braiding that will also offer insight into the medieval world that cultivated the technique along with its historical used and archeology. I promise a very good time – so check out this link if you wish to come along on the journey!
Book the beginner workshop here!