I have best results using 5, 7 and 9 strands. Also a mid to heavy gauge leather is highly suggested.
Step 1: Cut Your Leather
This particular strip is being made into a bracelet. So I used my own wrist as a template and cut the strip if leather about 2 inches longer than the circumference of my wrist. This allows room for the braid and end length not braided for a clasping mechanism to make it circular.
I like using a heavy duty pair of shears. But another good option is to use a utility knife with new blade. Setup a jig (or just use a table mounted vice) and make the blade stable and pull the leather into the blade instead of trying to cut a straight line. The leather will stretch and that will cause your line to go wobbly and weaken the braid strands where they get too thin. Pulling the leather thru the blade causes the leather to stretch as you cut and allows a more controlled line.
Step 2: Beginning the Braid
This braid can be done with any odd number of strands. In my experiences it looks best with 5, 7 or 9 strands.
Begin by creating 2 "groups", one group having one more strand than the other (as in the first image).
Separate them and create the "gap" between the groups.
Now flip the "tail" (not the end we are starting the braid from) towards you and thru the gap (as seen in image 2). Pulling it down to create what can be seen in image 3.
Step 3: Counting and Remembering
This braiding style requires us to braid into the gap as many times as there are strands and then again flipping the tail towards us and thru the gap. Here we have a 5 stranded braid so we must braid 5 strands into the gap before we flip the tail thru the gap.
Step 4: The Second Flip Thru
So for this example we have 5 strands in our braid, so we will braid 5 strands before flipping the tail thru the gap. Starting from the group with more strands (in this case 3) we begin braiding the outermost strand into the gap, and alternating from side to side till we have braided 5 strands into the gap.
Once we have done this the tail will look like the first image in this step. The tail now looks like a loose version of the top. If it doesn't look like this then you will need to undo the braid and start over, focusing on grabbing the outermost strand to braid into the gap each of the 5 times.
Now that your tail looks like a loose version of the top flip the tail towards you thru the gap. Again the strands all seem to twist into the gap and the next 5 braids you make into the gap will be undoing what the flip thru has done in regards to twisting the strands.
So go ahead and braid the next 5 strands into the gap. Again starting from the group with more strands and braiding the outermost strand into the gap.
Step 5: The Third Flip
If done properly you now have untwisted and untangled the tail to be neat and straight. If not you need to go retrace your steps and find the mistake.
Depending on the length of strap you are using and desired tightness of the braid you will have more or less flips of the tail thru the gap than in this tutorial. To each their own, and really the only important part of knowing how many flips you need to make is knowing how the braid must end to be a clean finished braid (meaning it is uniform from top to bottom). These braids can me made tight or loose, and how tight you want it is up to your own personal preference. But know that you CANNOT end the braid on an odd occurance of flipping the tail thru the gap! In order for this braid to truly look "magical" you must end this braid on an even numbered sequenced flip. Meaning that you can have as many even sequences of flipping the tail thru the gap as you prefer, as this number will vary depending on the length and tightness of the braid.
Since our strap looks long enough for another set of flips, we again flip the tail towards us and thru the gap. Then braid the outermost strand of the larger group into the gap 5 times.
Step 6: The Final Flip
Again we see that same pattern where the bottom looks like a beginning of the braid we have coming from the top. Now in this case i had braided tight at the top and the bottom is a bit loose, but has the "magical" never-ending symmetry that we desire. So we give it one final flip of the tail thru the gap and work on loosening up the top of the braid to make the tightness uniform from top to bottom.
Step 7: Clasping Both Ends Together
This can be done in a few different ways, and since i've only made one braid i'm not going to show the different ways but rather explain them.
- You could cut the ends to size (assuming you left enough at top and bottom to trim without weakening the braid itself) and use a button clasp. like most button down shirts this only requires a button sewn onto one end and a hole cut into the other.
You could cut the ends to size (assuming you left enough at top and bottom to trim without weakening the braid itself) and use 2 rivets. this is not the best option as the artifact is now permanently fused together.
You could cut the tail into a long slender sliver (assuming you left enough at the bottom to trim without weakening the braid itself) and braid that strand into the beginning. This is not only adjustable but is also neat because it now looks like one piece of leather has been somehow braided into a never-ending circle. (see images for example)
You could cut the ends to size (assuming you left enough at top and bottom to trim without weakening the braid itself) and sew them together.
... your imagination is the limitation in regards to how to connect the 2 ends together. These are just examples that I have tried. some are great, others are problematic. But sound off in the comments what works and doesn't and eventually we will get it right as a communal effort!