Making a 16-Strand Spiral Braid

There are three examples of this braid in the picture on the introductory page — the first, third and fourth from the right. I learnt how to make it from Adele Cahlander’s book Sling Braids of the Andes. She learnt it from Elayne Zorn who was shown how to make it while living in the Peruvian highlands. I used rug wool to make my braids but any thick yarn will do. You will need 8 lengths about a yard (metre) long — four light and four dark.

Setting up the braid

1. Lay one set of yarns across the other and fasten them together at the mid-point with a loop of yarn of a different colour using a lark’s head knot (see inset). Pull the knot tight.
 
2. Take the eight dark strands down beside the loop — you will be holding these in one hand and manipulating the eight light strands with your other hand.
 
3. Hold the dark strands near the top and arrange the light strands so that one set of four strands is towards you and the other is at the back.
 
4. Pick up a strand from the front, pair it with a strand from the back and lay them both towards the back.
 
5. Pick up a strand from the back, pair it with a strand from the front and lay them both to the front.
 
6. Repeat moves 4 and 5. You will now have two new sets of strands, each one with four strands, two coming from the front and two from the back.
 
7. The strands taken to the back are held over the back of your hand between the third and fourth fingers.
 
8. Those taken to the front are held over your thumb.
 
9. Now bring up the eight dark strands and take the eight light strands down to hold in your hand. Rotate so that you have a set of dark strands facing you. (Here the rotation can be to the right or left but with other colour arrangements the rotation has to be in a particular direction.)
 
10. Repeat moves 4, 5 and 6 to give two new sets of of dark strands.
 

Working the braid

11. Bring up the eight light strands and take the dark strands down to hold in your hand. Turn and look at the set of light strands facing you. Two of the strands lie above the other two — these are known as the uppers, the two strands below them are the lowers. Look at the other set of light strands — you will see two uppers and two lowers there too. Being able to distinguish the upper and lower strands is the key to making these braids successfully.
 
12. Pick up the left-hand lower strand from the front and pair it with the left-hand upper strand from the back. Lay them both towards the back.
 
13. Pick up the left-hand lower strand from the back and pair it with the left-hand upper strand from the front. Lay them both towards the front.
 
14. Pick up the remining lower strand from the front and pair it with the remaining upper strand from the back. Lay them both towards the back. Pick up the remaining lower strand from the back and pair it with the remaining upper strand from the front. Lay them both towards the front.
 
15. Bring up the eight dark strands and take the light strands down to hold in your hand. It helps to tension the strands each time you change them over like this. Find the uppers and lowers for both sets of dark strands.
 
16. Pick up the left-hand lower strand from the front and pair it with the left-hand upper strand from the back. Lay them both towards the back.
 
17. Pick up the left-hand lower strand from the back and pair it with the left-hand upper strand from the front. Lay them both towards the front.
 
18. Pick up the remining lower strand from the front and pair it with the remaining upper strand from the back. Lay them both towards the back. Pick up the remaining lower strand from the back and pair it with the remaining upper strand from the front. Lay them both towards the front.
 
19. Continue working repeating moves 11 to 18. When you need to put the braid down tie the strands to be worked next in a loose knot so you know where you are when you go back to it.
 

Reversing the spiral

20. You can change the direction of the spiral by making the first move from the back instead of the front. Pick up the left-hand lower strand from the back and pair it with the left-hand upper strand from the front. Lay them both towards the front.
 
21. Pick up the left-hand lower strand from the front and pair it with the left-hand upper strand from the back. Lay them both towards the back.
 
22. Pick up the remining lower strand from the back and pair it with the remaining upper strand from the front. Lay them both towards the front. Pick up the remaining lower strand from the front and pair it with the remaining upper strand from the back. Lay them both towards the back.
 
23. Repeat moves 20 to 22 for the light strands. You can change the direction of the spiral as often as you like.
 

Working a 3-colour spiral

24. You will need four medium (orange), two dark (blue) and two light (yellow) lengths arranged as shown. Start by working with the medium strands, then start the next set of moves with the light strands. For this braid you will need to rotate it so that each time you work with the set of light and dark strands, you move the light strands before the dark ones.