Absolute Beginner’s Fingerloop

This is a blogpost version of a handout I put together for a Society for Creative Anachronism event in May 2019, where I taught a short class called “Absolute Beginner’s Fingerloop” as someone very, very new to fingerloop braiding myself!

The “live” updated version of this document lives over on Google Drive and can be viewed there. It has several updates and edits that have not been incorporated into this post, and will have more as time rolls on.

Absolute Beginner’s Fingerloop

For Sealion War 2019 – Vémundr Syvursson

Fingerloop braiding is a technique of making sturdy and decorative cords from threads. It is a type of braiding known as loop manipulation. The braid is made from loops of thread, attached at a central point, and the loops placed over the fingers and interlaced in different ways.” – from

Fingerloop in Europe dates at least as early as the 12th C and was well established by the 15th C. Cords are used for lacing and ties, purse strings, shoelaces, and decorative embellishment.

Resources has great introductory tutorials and YouTube videos. I recommend starting with her site, especially her “Start Here” series of videos on three-, five-, and seven-loop braiding. You could also go direct to her YouTube channel.

Silkewerk has a trio of 15th C fingerloop manuals typed up, cataloged, and translated into modern English instructions. An amazing resource once you understand some of the language used. is run a a couple of SCA folks and has some good information, using largely the same period information as the Silkewerk site.


There’s a standard convention for finger designation in fingerloop. Hold your hands with thumbs topmost and palms facing you. Each index finger is A, middle finger is B, ring is C, and your little finger is D.

Three Loop – Split/Divided Braid

This gets you two little three-strand braids top and bottom; it can be used to make a loop at the start of a cord, to add buttonhole style openings to a cord, or to make one long thin cord without needing really long starting loops.

Start with 2 loops on the Left hand (on A & B) and 1 on the Right A. Right middle finger (B) has no loop. It will be the active finger—the ‘operator’ finger—for the first move.

Right middle finger (B) goes through L middle loop (Left B) and L index (Left A) loop, then takes the left A loop and pulls it through the L middle finger (B) loop.

Shift the one remaining loop on the left up from Left B to Left A.

Now repeat the steps above from the left hand. Left B through Right B and Right A, take Right A loop back through Right B. Shift single loop on right up from Right B to Right A.

Three Loop – Round Braid

Follow the split instructions above, only when you reach through B to take A, reach over the top of A to take it instead of reaching through A. This flips the A loop around and will get you a single round(ish) cord.

Three Loop – Flat Braid

This one takes the two different methods of taking the A cord – either through or over – and combines them.

When taking the Left A cord, go over it and flip it – the mnemonic is “left over”.

When taking the Right A cord, go through it and do not flip it – the mnemonic is “right through”.

This will get you a flatter braid than the round braid method, and it can be spread and flattened after braiding as one edge is open. Note that it can be difficult to see the “flat” part of this with only three loops in play, it tends to look like a not-quite-as-round round braid…

Five Loop Braiding

Start with three loops on A, B, and C fingers of one hand, and two loops on A & B of the other hand. The finger movements and transfers are the same as with the three loop methods, except you’re reaching through two loops (C then B) to take the A loop, and using your ring finger (C finger) on the active hand instead of the middle/B finger.

V-Fell vs A-Fell

All our patterns above use V-Fell braiding, where the lower finger (middle/B with three-loop or ring/C with five) does the active passing and manipulation. It’s a bit easier to start, as all the loops you’re passing through are on the opposite hand from the active finger.

Almost all the historical patterns at Silkewerk and other sources use A-Fell braiding, however, where the uppermost index (A) finger does all the passing and manipulation, and more of the passing through is on loops on the same hand as your active A finger.

Simple five loop with A-Fell starts with three loops on A, B, and C on one hand, and two on B and C of the other. Active A finger then goes through B and C on the same hand to retrieve C from the opposite hand. That hand then shifts the two loops down, freeing that A finger to repeat the pattern, and so on. (this is an enormous simplification, not a set of specific instructions!)

A grene dorge of 6 bowes.

This is a beautiful braid that winds up rectangular and solid with single-colour stripes down the sides and an alternating colour stripe down the centre. It’s a good intro to A-fell braiding and multi-colour patterning. (copied from Silkewerk)

Start with four loops of colour #1 and one each of colours #2 and #3.
Color #1: B C – both hands
Color #2: D right
Color #3: A left

Work with the right hand:
A goes through B C right, and takes the loop on C left reversed.
Lower B left onto C.

Work with the left hand:
B goes through C left, and takes the loop on C right reversed.
Lower the right loops.

A left exchanges loops with D right.
(Put the A left loop over and around D, exchanging loops with D.)

Repeat from the beginning.

Morgan Donner has a video of this braid on her YouTube channel that is very well shot and worth watching. (Search YouTube for ‘Morgan Donner fingerloop’ and you should find it.)

Further & Onward

The three websites listed previously have a wealth of knowledge, especially (once you get comfortable with the basic movements and the language used) the Silkewerk site, which has three whole manuals (two 15th C, one 17th) transcribed and translated.

You can get into two-colour loops (Loopbraider has lots of material for this) , pickup pattern braiding up to and including lettering (Loopbraider again), two- or even three-person braids (Silkewerk, mostly), different materials, and a whole host of other complications!

There’s lots of other great resources out there for fingerloop braiding, including some highly recommended books and at least one Compleat Anachronist (#108) written by the two gentles who also run and published by SCA, Inc.

I have also put a version of this handout up on my personal blog with working web links and some additional material, which you are reading right now!

Vémundr Syvursson
Barony of Seagirt
May 2019


Field Only Armoury Update, April 2021

Squeaking in just before the end of April, it’s the 2021 update to my Field Only Armoury Project!

Fourteen new devices this year, bringing us to a total of 243 devices and badges across ten pages.

This project started in late 2017 as a page-by-page emblazoning of the Field Only devices in the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Ordinary & Armorial, the record of every piece of heraldry ever registered by the SCA. This is now the fourth update and these updates will continue to be approximately annual from now on.

The 2021 update is ten pages laid out on 11×17 (Ledger size) pages, although it will print nicely on Legal, Letter, or A4 sheets and should scale up nicely should you want to print it even bigger!

Should you want only this year’s updates, I’ve done those as a single page PDF, also 11×17.

Finally, for the folks who want to see the raw data and the working SVG file, I’ve put the Excel spreadsheet and my master SVG file together into a ZIP file.

With COVID still keeping almost all of our regular SCA activities, and much else, on hold, I hope this Field Only update finds everyone well and healthy. As always, if you find errors in the FOA or have feedback, please comment below or email me at the address in the PDFs.

Yours in Heraldic Service,
Vémundr Syvursson
Pily barry argent and azure


Field Only Armoury Update, April 2020

Back in 2017 I started making digital images (emblazons) of all the Field Only heraldic devices and badges in the SCA’s registry, the Ordinary & Armorial. I published it in parts here, then updated the whole thing in 2018 and again in July 2019.

This April 2020 update includes everything up to the January 2020 Letter of Acceptances and Returns, published about two weeks ago. There’s fifteen new entries bringing us to 229 Field Only devices and badges. This includes both devices and badges, but does not include the Field Only real-world armory protected by the SCA’s heraldic rules.

The April 2020 update is available here as a 9 page PDF (5.6Mb) designed to be printed on Ledger-sized (11″ x 17″) paper, although it will scale down nicely to print on A4/Letter or Legal size paper.

For those who like to see the messy end of the sausage making, I’ve also got my organizing Excel sheet and master SVG file available together in a ZIP file (316.8 kB).

I know some people use this project for quick visual conflict checking of new heraldic submissions, and I’ve heard of heralds printing it out to give new SCA members some idea of what different heraldry can look like, but I’d really like to hear from folks who use this project – drop a comment below telling me how you’re using it and where in our Known World you are.

Published in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with SCA events cancelled worldwide, and our usual lives disrupted and at more risk than usual, I really would like to hear from people! Stay safe, sane, and well, everyone.

Yours in Heraldic Service,
Vémundr Syvursson
Pily barry argent and azure


Field Only Armoury Update, July 2019

Back in the fall of 2017 I started making digital images (“emblazons”) of all then-registered Field Only devices and badges in the SCA’s giant registry of names, devices, and badges, the Ordinary & Armorial. The first version was published one page at a time here, then a compiled and updated single-PDF version was published in April 2018. I have done a couple of rounds up updates since but never gotten around to actually publishing them until now.

This version is a 9 page PDF with 214 devices and badges included. It is up to date as of June 2019, so it includes everything up to the March 2019 Letters of Acceptance & Returns, the most recent at this time. I have (still) not included the 27 real-world Field Only devices protected by the SCA as “Important non-SCA arms”. It is sized to print at 11″ wide by 17″ long – ledger sized paper, by North American paper standards. It’ll also scale down legibly onto legal or even letter/A4 size paper.

The devices are sorted alphabetically by blazon, so we start with “Argent masoned azure.” and end 200+ devices later with “Vert scaly Or.”

Among the dozen or so new devices registered since the April 2018 first compiled publication is my very own SCA devices, “Pily barry argent and azure”, because after all this work with Field Only stuff did anyone think I was going to register anything other than an FO device as my personal SCA arms?

Sources are listed in my April 2018 post and do not need updating for now.

Field Only Armoury Project – July 2019 – PDF – 905Kb

As with my primary sources and the previous version, I am releasing this document under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) License. Basically that means this file can be printed, shared, copied, and re-used provided you maintain credit to me as creator, and share your version under a compatible licence. (or license, if you’re a American who insists on spelling it that way. I won’t judge, not for that.)

Source SVG & Excel Data File

Field Only Armory Project – Everything – 11×17 Poster – July 2019 – this ZIP file has the 3.2Mb source SVG I used to create the main PDF above. If all you want to do is look at the collection or print it, just grab the SVG, but if you want to see how some of the devices were assembled in Inkscape, feel free to grab the SVG.

FieldOnlyProject-July2019-Excel – I’ve also finally published the current copy of the simple Excel sheet I use to track this project. Note that the Badges tab is obsolete, all up-to-date badge info is integrated into the main Devices tab now. For the initial data dump I had a complicated cut-and-paste/find-and-replace sequence with a text file to produce a CSV and then imported that into Excel; these days as I’m usually only adding two or three entries at a time I just plug them in manually and re-sort inside Excel.

Both of these source files are under the same Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) License as the main project PDF.

Send Me Feedback!

If you use anything of this project at a Herald’s Point or heraldic consulting table, or even just for some heraldic decoration on your walls, send me a photo.

Corrections, suggestions, and such also appreciated. I’m not sure when the next update will be, but “probably annually, roughly” seems like a good bet!

Yours in Service,
Vémundr Syvursson
An Tir
9 July A.S. 54/2019 CE
mka Brian Burger