Introduction: French Braid Basics

About: Making and sharing are my two biggest passions! In total I've published hundreds of tutorials about everything from microcontrollers to knitting. I'm a New York City motorcyclist and unrepentant dog mom. My wo…

If you've already mastered the three-strand braid without looking in a mirror, it's time to crack the technique for French braids (in name only, seen for millennia throughout history). They look complex, and up until now you may have been mystified as to how to keep track of all that hair with just two hands, but I promise they're not as hard as they look!

French braids are extremely comfortable to wear, since they distribute tension and weight evenly over your head. They are incredibly practical for securing your hair, especially short hair around your face. In this lesson, you'll try French braiding each half of your hair at a time, so it's easier to see what you're doing in a mirror.

Begin by parting your hair down the middle and securing one half with a clip or elastic, as we'll just work with one half for now.

This Instructable is part of my beginner braids series. If you like this lesson, try the rest!

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To get started learning to braid, you really just need some hair, a mirror, and dexterity in both hands. Everything else here just enhances your results!

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Step 1: Three Strands and a New Addition

Grab a section of hair at the front, as you did in lessons two and three.

Divide it into three sections and start a crossing-over braid. Complete a stitch or two.

The next time you're getting ready to cross over the section closer to your face, grab an additional bit of hair from your scalp nearby.

Incorporate it into the braid section and cross the whole thing over to the center position.

Step 2: Add Some From the Other Side

Now you're going to the same thing on the other side, near your part.

Use your fingernail or a comb to scoop up a neighboring section of hair to become part of the braided section as you cross it over.

Then do it again on the side closer to your face! Smooth the sections as you go, either with your fingers or a brush.

It's ok if it doesn't look neat; since when was anybody's first attempt perfect? (Or second, for that matter?) We'll reflect and improve upon your technique later in this lesson.

Step 3: Repeat Along the Way

Continue braiding along the side of your head, adding hair to each section as you go.

Braid until you run out of hair to add, then braid whatever hair remains. Secure the tail with a small elastic, or criss-crossed bobby pins if your hair is super short.

Step 4: Compare and Reflect

Now braid the other side! This time, try to keep the sections held more taut, and add smaller sections of hair at a time than you did the first time.

Compare the two braids. What's the difference in the overall appearance, and how did the size of the sections affect the proportions of the braid?

Keep practicing your French braids until you get the hang of it! Try making one French braid down the center of your head. If you have an uneven hairline at the neck, like me, you might prefer a Dutch braid, which is better at hiding that extra bit of hair that always seems to stick out.

This Instructable is part of my beginner braids series. If you liked this lesson, try the rest!