Tuesday, 22 January 2013

More fingerloop concepts

Having established what reversed and unreversed are in fingerloop braiding, there is some more complex terminology and concepts that I'd like to make you aware of that can help us better communicate about fingerloop braiding.

Why loop manipulation?

Why do we sometimes call fingerloop braiding "loop manipulation"? Well, the loop is an essential part of the technique that tells it apart from plain braiding or fingerweaving. The string needs to pass through a loop to create a fingerloop braid, instead of just pass over another loop as in a conventional braid. It is possible to do a plain braid using loops: the end product just loops like you were plaiting with two strands of string held together.

I still haven't answered  why we call it loop manipulation rather than fingerloop braiding - well that is because while the loops are essential, using fingers to manipulate them is not. One Japanese method of loop manipulation uses loops held over the hands instead of over individual fingers.

Orthodox or unorthodox?

An unorthodox fingerloop braid pattern reaches over (rather than through) some loops to pick up others. That is it employs the sort of move normally done in conventional plaiting in fingerloop, rather than the fingerloop move of passing a loop through another loop.This concept is explained more fully at LMBRIC  and by Ingrid Crickmore.

Unorthodox patterns are not normally used in hand held methods as it is much more difficult to achieve when fingers are not used. But in finger held methods, unorthodox braids can be quite easy to make, in fact the broad lace of 5 bowes which is often the first fingerloop braid most people learn is actually an unorthodox pattern. This braid skips the lowest finger of the active hand (an unorthodox move), while the square "pursestring" is orthodox as the loops pass through all the fingers on one hand before picking up a loop from the other hand. If you've wondered why these two very similar braids have quite different profiles, this difference between orthodox and unorthodox explains it. 

Warp twining (transfer move)

Most of our braids are simple through the loop fingerloop patterns, but there are a number of patterns where things work differently. Any patterns with an exchange/transfer move can be called "warp twining". A 4 loop spiral is the simplest twining pattern and was used historically.

I like to think of warp twining and more conventional fingerloop as different families of fingerloop. The warp twining family works best with even numbers of loops as you can swap the loops with each other in pairs, it doesn't just have simple members like the 4,6 and 8 loop spirals, but also has more complex combinations such as the green dorge and it's variants and the lace maskel.

The conventional fingerloop family generally works best with odd numbers (eg braids with 3, 5 or 7 loops) because where a simple pattern is used, it is simple to always know to pick up a loop from the side with the most loops, and one can maximise the number of loops on your fingers. I have done a simple conventional fingerloop of 4 loops in the manner of the simple 3 loop braid, and it works fine, but is much more confusing to do than the same pattern using 5 loops. Once conventional fingerloop patterns are complex enough, the guideline about odd numbers of loops tends to break down a little more.

Of course, just to make things more interesting, some braids combine both conventional fingerloop and warp twining.

Hand position and operator finger:

There are also a number of different ways you can hold your hands when doing fingerloop. The most common is "V-fell" or "A-fell" which is the difference between weather loops cross between hands at the top or bottom of your hands. This also means the "operator finger" (the finger which picks up loops) will change from your top (index) finger to your bottom (little) finger.

This concept is explained well, with more photos by Ingrid Crickmore who also talks about Slentre, an even rare way of holding your hands and transferring loops. The difference between A and V-fell are illustrated more in this video.

The A-shaped fell (method 1) is the dominant European medieval method. The V-fell (method 2), is mainly known in the east, but isolated examples exist in traditional Finnish braiding. This link from LMBRIC newsletter 11 has nice images of the finish method, see also LMBRIC newsletter 6 for an earlier report of this method in use in Finland.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Reversed and unreversed in fingerloop braiding - even more complicated than it seems

If you've learnt about fingerloop braiding, probably one of the first things you learnt was the difference between reversed and unreversed......

Let me explain more about reversed and unreversed pickups. They are respectively pickups where the strands of the loop cross each other (twist) and pickups where they don't. This page and this video provides a nice visual of the difference.

If you want to see this effect in action, Noemi Speiser suggests a nifty method: make a set of linked or departed bowes, with one colour on each side. Arrange them on your fingers so that all of one colour is on the top of your finger on one hand and on the bottom of your finger on the other hand. Start braiding (5 loop patterns are ideal for this) and watch how the colours change. With all unreversed, the colours will all stay on the same side they started on, while with reversed, they will switch every time you exchange that loop.This effect was known to some extent in the medieval era - see the lace bastion.

I'm assuming you probably know reversed and unreversed as picking up the bottom of the loop or the top of the loop. But as well as being able to change which part of the loop is picked up, there are two methods of picking up the loop. With your hands held inwards, in the standard western fingerloop posture  (I'm not even going to consider the complexities of other hand postures such V-fell today) your index finger can form a hook that points upwards or downwards.

Let's illustrate that in more detail:

 picking up the bottom loop by hooking upwards
 picking up the bottom loop by hooking downwards

picking up the top loop by hooking upwards

picking up the top loop by hooking downwards

All the standard instruction books I've seen so far assume your hook will be pointing upwards. About 1 in 15 people naturally point their hook downwards. Changing direction your hook points in will change your pickup from reversed to unreversed. Here's a table of possible options:

hook upwards hook downwards
pickup bottom of loop reversed/twisted unreversed/untwisted
pickup top of loop unreversed/untwisted reversed/twisted

So, an upwards hook on the bottom of the loop is structurally identical to a downwards hook on the top of the loop. Thus beginning braiders who hook in the less usual direction will get different results from most textbooks. But if they know unreversed and reversed as their motions, rather than learning them as top of the loop and bottom of the loop, they will be able to easily follow textbook patterns. Or if textbook patterns use top of the loop terminology rather than reversed terminology, they will know to swap everything around for themselves, and not be worried about "getting it wrong".

I mentioned 5 loop braids being ideal for seeing the differences in hooking methods. The half circular braid doesn't care whether you pickup the loops reversed or unreversed. Even if the beginner braider switches between reversed and unreversed, they will get a nice result. In some ways this is a good teaching braid because they'll build confidence by getting nice results whichever way they pickup, and can instead work on the 3 stages and tensioning. In other ways, this won't allow them to notice and learn the differences between the different pickups.

The other common 5-loop braids, do care which pickup method is used. It's important for these braids that a braider uses a consistent method of picking up - not for example picking up one side with an upwards hook and the other with a downwards hook, or picking up the top of the loop on one side and the bottom of the other side. The pair of 5 loop braids the round 5-loop braid (beware the diagram is wrong at this link, words are right) and the 2 plaits at once braid differ only by which way they pick up the loops. Using this pair of braids is a great diagnostic to see how another person is picking up their loops, or to test yourself for consistency. Especially if you aim to braid the 2 plaits at once braid, because one single incorrect pickup will re-mesh your two strings together, and be easily noticed.

It's common for a person to switch their hooking direction, for example they may upwards hook the bottom loop and downwards hook the top loop or vice versa. As these moves are structurally identical, they'll need to learn how to control these motions more than your person who only uses one hooking direction, or they will never be able to make more than a few braids. Similarly I find some hooking directions easier on one hand than the other, which can be useful for braids like the flat string, but something I had to train my fingers out of to reliably make the braids I wanted. 

Which way was used most in the medieval period?

If we look at the English fingerloop patternbooks with which I am most familiar, we can find some clues as to which way looks were "hooked".

The 5 loop round string /pursestring we saw earlier with reversed pickups says to"take all under" while it's unreversed partner the 2 strings at once braid says "takinge the top of the loer fingers alike".These two braids differ only in being reversed or unreversed, and we are quite clear by their titles and the sewn on braid examples of their appearance. In order to pickup the underneath of the loop in the first braid and the top of the loop in the second, and end up with the desired result, both loops must be hooked upwards. So this is a clear indicator of hooking direction used in this set of manuscripts.

However, German recipes for the same braids known in English pattern books, are more flexible about how they pick up loops, as noted by Naomi Speiser. I suspect that while a standard way might have been known, the best fingerloop braiders who created new patterns probably knew this distinction and could use it when it made a complex pattern easier.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The posture of supplication

When one presents a petition to a royal, how does one act? I've only had time for a very brief survey, but here are my results.

First are a few notes from reading the book "Begging Pardon and Favor: Ritual and Political Order in Early Medieval France"Geoffrey Koziol 1992, which is handily available as a google book as well as from a number of Australian libraries.

Kozoil (p8) says that "Supplication is simply the act of begging a favour or forgiveness in a formal language of entreaty" As such supplication has many forms, depending upon the circumstances, but it is a verbal request for action in formal language accompanied by some gesture of humility. It presumes there is a petitioner and a person with the power to grant the request.

The gesture in early medieval France could range from something as simple as bowing the head or outstretching the hands to kneeling or prostrating oneself before. "All that was essential was a formal language of entreaty that communicated two facts: the petitioner's humility and the benefactor's graciousness." (Kozoil p8)

A most common posture of supplication whether standing or kneeling was raising both hands upwards to the person of authority. Or the petitioner might have head and shoulders bowed to the ground. 12th C letters where a petitioner writes instead of being physically present mention kneeling or prostrating themselves in supplication (if only they were there), in a variety of ways indicating this was the common practice of the time, and wasn’t just a formulaic way of writing a petition.

Following this reading, I tried to find some images of supplication. Kozoil says there is not a lot of difference between supplicating oneself to a religious (be it earthly or heavenly i.e. prayer) or secular authority, so I've pulled together both examples here. Well, what I think are examples of supplication - I could be wrong on some of them.
 Gospels of Henry the Lion from Brunswich, (Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel MS Guelph 105 Noviss 2° )
Helmarshausen. c.1185-6
folio 171v, c1188 "The spiritual coronation of Henry the Lion and Matilde",
Everyone in the picture is supplicating themselves to the crowning hand of god, especially the kneeling king.

England, 1175-1200.
11r The Massacre of the innocent children
The child begs for her life at the feet of the king, in a half kneeling position. (trust me, full kneeling is tricky in a skirt)

Benedictine Abbey of St. Bertin, St. Omer, NW France c1190-1200
F17v (detail) The parable of the praying Pharisee and the repentant publican in the temple 

  The standing Pharisee prays (supplicates himself to) the altar while the publican supplicates himself in prayer more humbly/deeply by kneeling.

Admont bible, (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien. Cod. ser. nov. 2701)
Salzberg early 12th C, 
The worshipers of Baal supplicate themselves to the bull altar. I'm guessing the artist didn't want to show them kneeling as that would show a genuine fervour of worship which a Christian authour would disapprove of.

  Bede's "Life of St Cuthbert" (British Library Add MS 39943)
last quarter of the 12th century
f. 50v Aelfflaed meets Cuthbert (begs him for information)
(also worth seeing f.1v  too for the monk prostrating himself kissing Cuthbert's feet)
Aelffled shows how fervently she wishes for help and how much she is at the mercy of Cuthbert by how low she prostrates herself.

Prufening Miscellany (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. lat. 13002.
Prüfening (Regensburg), 1158 and 1165
Jacob's sons bow slightly and keep their eyes downcast.

Concluding from the pictures, the body posture of supplication seems to be quite flexible as noted in the above book- one can be standing, bowing slightly, in any of a variety of kneeling or partially kneeling poses or even prostrating oneself on the floor. One presumes the lower to the ground, the more abject ones' supplication. Eyes are either downcast or looking at the object of veneration. The hand position of supplication seems to be: Hands apart, palms toward the figure of authority, fingers above hand either slightly spread or together, thumb separate. If you are holding an object, you may use only one hand in this position.

All in all, the idea of supplication seems to have worked it's way quite effectively into the modern psyche essentially unchanged. The rather fantastic depictions of medieval life in Hollywood movies depict supplication in these terms (although they may exaggerate the degree of humility needed for the circumstance), and the general concept is alive and well in modern actions such as begging a person for a favour with humility, kneeling to pray or getting down on bended knee to propose marriage. The only change I can see is that the hand posture modernly is more likely to represent the modern christian gesture of prayer - hands together - than the hands apart gestures or prayer or supplication depicted above.