Intrecciatura: Italian Fingerloop Braiding

Intrecciatura (fingerloop braiding) success! My first period trecce (braid) that I will use for lacceti (laces) on my gamurra. I used three red bows on the left and two green ones on the right to make a pattern.

My finished laccio.
My finished laccio.

Here are the period directions I used:

For to make a round lace of 5 bowys (Harleian 3, 15th C)
Do 5 bows on thy fingers as thou didst in the broad lace. Then shall A right take through B and C of the same hand the bow C of the left hand reversed. Then low thy left bows. Then shall A left take through B and C of the same hand the bow C of the right hand reversed. Then low thy right bows, and begin again.

Background and Sources

Fingerloop braiding (intrecciatura) is a technique for making cord (corda) or laces (lacci/o, lacetto/i) where the threads to be braided are placed in loops over the fingers and exchanged using a series of patterns. The braids can be made by one person, but there are also variations that use two people. This type of braiding is found across medieval and renaissance Europe, and is known to have been used in the Italian city-states.

Thomas More described the “lase” by writing, “Ne None so small a trifle or conceyte, Lase, girdle, point, or proper gloue straite”. From his quote, I’ve chosen to call the braids laces or laccio/i if they are not tipped with a metal point, or agugello, and to call them points or punte if they are. These laces were used to tighten all manner of items from spiral lacing on the front or side of a gown, lacing a doublet front, holding up men’s hosen, tying armor to the padded jacket beneath, hold on hats, serve as cloak cords, provide trim to sleeves or collars, formed into frogs to close a garment, or used ad edging to a hairnet.

Two manuscripts from the 15th century give us primary source details on the directions for making the laces:

  • Treatise on the Making of Laces from the Tollemache Book of Secrets, a 15th century household book belonging to Lady Catherine Tollemache with 64 braids
  • Directions for Making Many Sorts of Laces from the British Library MS Harley 2320, another 15th century household book with 40 braids
I made mine on break at work. It only took 15 minutes to make a short laccio.
IMG_0151 IMG_0155 IMG_0163
Buona fortuna on your braiding adventures!

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