View Full Version : Please help me figure out my braiding problem!

May 8th, 2011, 03:42 PM
I cannot French or Dutch braid. I get frustrated to the verge of tears most of the time when I try, because I can see that I'm ripping up my hair and my braids always look sloppy, lopsided, loose, and clumsy. But all the beautiful, intricate hairstyles I want to do involve them somehow. I'm horribly bored with the same two buns over and over again and my hair grows really slowly. It's taken me a year to go 4 inches, and I had to trim 1 so I only have 3 inches of gratification for a year of really hard patience. Being able to play with my hair would make it so much easier but because I can't French/Dutch braid, I can't do any of my favorite hairstyles.

My problem lies with pulling more hair into the braid. When I have to do this, I end up dropping all the pieces in the braid, causing the bit I've already braided to come loose. Also, this generally causes the pieces to get really tangled so I end up with a huge knot in the middle or bottom of the pieces. Half the time I pull the new piece into the wrong piece in the braid anyway because my fingers just don't seem to be coordinated enough.

When I do manage to get a...I won't even say halfway decent because it's still pretty pathetic...start to a French or Dutch braid, no matter how close to the front of my hairline I start, the braided part always seems to creep halfway back on my scalp. I think this is because I can't keep a tight weave in the start of my braids.

The main problem is definitely in the start of the braid, which is harder for one thing because the pieces I'm dealing with are longer, I think. But once I get a tight enough start to the braid, I know I will be able to finish it okay.

Please help! What are your tips for these problems?

May 8th, 2011, 04:20 PM
The main thing that helped me learn to braid was Karen Ribble's book 'Braid Your Own Hair' (http://www.braidedimage.com/Braided_Image_Hair_Braiding/Instructions.html) Her dvd is also quite helpful. IMO, they were both worth buying.

It's been a while since I've thought about techniques, but the main thing I remember is that I learned to braid mostly by touch, not sight.

May 8th, 2011, 04:29 PM
I have the same problem!!! Just last night I was trying to french braid and became horribly frustrated after 45 minutes of trying and watching tutorials. :( And my hair grows really slowly, too!!! I've been at waist-length for two years now-- I hope that's not my terminal length! (Also, waist-length for me isn't very long, because I have a very high waist!)

May 8th, 2011, 04:56 PM
When I was first learning how to braid I bought a book called Hair : A Book of Braiding and Styles by Anne Akers Johnson. It has diagrams showing how to hold the different strands of hair wich was the most helpful thing for me. My hair knots up pretty bad, even with a detangler, so I usually keep a wide tooth comb handy. You could also practice your braid "starts" by sectioning your hair so that the hair in front of your ears is left loose and the rest is either Bunned/braided so it doesn't get in the way. That way you can practise without causing any extra damage. After you get your "starts" down, braiding the rest should be a lot easier. Also, try doing only 5-10 minute sessions to help with the frustration. Hope this helps : )

May 8th, 2011, 05:01 PM
I don't have any magic tips, unfortunately. For me it was just practice, practice, practice... and more practice! For years when I tried to do a french braid it always came out inverted instead (I think there's a name for how it turned out-- dutch braid maybe?). Anyway, I finally figured it all out, but it was really just trail and error. Good luck, I hope the books mentioned above are helpful. :flower:

May 8th, 2011, 05:03 PM
For me: putting oil on my length and detangling before I start braiding help me avoid knots, though I still get a few. My experience was that braiding gets easier with practice. Try braiding when you're not stressed for time. I've seen people recommend practicing before bedtime. Good luck :) Don't give up!

May 8th, 2011, 05:04 PM
I learned from a magazine article.
Can you do a regular 3-strand braid? (Not dutch or french, just straight from the nape down)

May 8th, 2011, 05:44 PM
When I was learning to braid, I found out that it is easier to do if the hair is a little damp.

May 8th, 2011, 05:46 PM
I can do regular braids, just none that require taking more hair into the strands as you go.

I practice all the time :(
I just haven't been able to troubleshoot why I'm not able to hold things tight for the starts and juggle all the pieces.

May 8th, 2011, 06:01 PM
I had never tried a french plait before, but using these instructions (http://www.wikihow.com/French-Braid)

I managed this (http://forums.longhaircommunity.com/picture.php?albumid=7629&pictureid=102372)(on damp hair) which is not great, but I was pretty proud of it, for a first attempt!

Maybe you will find those instructions helpful too?

May 9th, 2011, 03:13 AM
I couldn't do a French braid for years, and then, suddenly, after a lot of practice, I suddenly could do them. I never found out why or how... anyway, here are some tips you might try to help with the problems:

Make sure your hair is detangled really really well before you start braiding. This is vital! Having slightly damp/oiled hair or using a bit of hairwax (be careful with the wax, it can get sticky! I mostly use wax for rope braids) can help as well.

If your beginning starts to slide down, you may have started out with sections that are too large. Your first three sections should be very small and right at the front of your hairline. I do really tiny ones! For me, it also helped to add smaller sections at first, then let the added sections get a bit larger each time in order to have a braid that starts right at the front/top of my head.

When you section off hair to add it to the braid, gather all the strands of the braid into one hand. Use your other hand to detangle the sections of the braid you already have. Then use this free hand to section off the hair to be added. Add the hair to the braid and hold it there for a moment (in one hand only), so you can make sure you didn't cause tangles with your other hand. This should reduce tangling to a miminum and makes sure that you don't knot up your ends.

I hope this helps! :)

May 9th, 2011, 04:40 AM
Don't worry. It took me quite a lot of knots and self-confusion and annoyance, along with horrible braids to eventually get it right.
Separate off the section at the front. I find it hard to start right at the front of my head. My braid normally starts about my crown because my arms don't get so tired..
Braid right piece into centre, then left into centre. Pull tight.
Put right hand piece into centre and pull tight. Try to hold your pieces of hair all in your left hand. I tend to hold the left most piece between my middle finger and ring finger (or ring tinker and little finger) and the piece I just moved to the middle between my first and second finger. Should leave the leftmost bit hanging slightly underneath.
Use the thumb of your right hand to separate out a piece of hair. Put this piece in front of your ear and tuck the rest of your free hair behind. Bring up the piece of sectioned hair through your fingers to kind of keep the piece flat. Catch it between the thumb and first finger on your right hand.

You should now have the left most piece, the piece you moved into the centre at the start, and the new, added strand all in your right hand. Pick up the rightmost stand (which has probably tucked itself under) in your left hand and pull the whole braid tight. Move the rightmost strand into fingers 3+4 (or4+5). Move the leftmost strand from the left hand into fingers 2+3 of the right hand. Its your new middle piece.
Pick up both pieces left on the left hand between the thumb and first finger of your right hand. Try to keep all the strands tight as you are moving them.
Section off another section as before and move up to slot it in between fingers 2+3 where your middle piece is, but don't let go of your middle piece.

Time to swap hands again!:D Leftmost strand into fingers 3+4, rightmost into 2+3, old middle and new section into thumb+2. Section off. Add to 2+3. Swap hands...
Carry on in the same way til you run out of new sections, then English braid to the end.

Not sure if my explanation is entirely understandable.:o I do Dutch braids with the same hand holds, but moving the strands under each other.

I can post images of handholds if anyone is mega confused by my answer. I wouldn't be surprised. I confuse myself sometimes...:rolleyes:

May 9th, 2011, 05:02 AM
A trick to keep the the beginning up at the crown: Start with two strands and twist them around each other. Then pick up the third strand and start braiding as usual.

May 9th, 2011, 06:18 AM
I had the same problem. I would try and I knew I was kind of doing it, but it was sloppy and looked like I was crossing the wrong strands here and there. I gave up for a while and then one day I just decided I was determined to do it over and over until I got it down. After a few tries and sore arms, I finally figured out what I had been doing wrong.

This is where I was slipping up w/ my French braid and how I corrected my mistakes:

-Make sure that you are only doing two motions/crosses per turn (between hair gathering).
+So your initial bunch of hair: divide into three, cross your first (right) strand over, then the left, then gather on the right before crossing over again, and the same for the left. Repeat.

-Make sure you keep track of which strand you just crossed over. It's easy to forget when you stop to gather hair or your husband asks you a silly question and distracts you :P

-Pull your strands tightly but not too tightly or else it will look lumpy.

Those are the major things I was doing wrong. HTH :heart:

May 9th, 2011, 06:38 AM
I hope you are able to sort out what's going wrong.

for me, it was trying to watch in the mirror. Once I gave up and just started fiddling while watching tv, it slowly became a 'braid by feel' thing.

I have to braid my hair damp, since I can't stand to pull my curly wurlies apart and only wind up with knots. I sometimes get creeping starts but never felt like it was a problem.

I also found that practicing on somebody else's hair, just to get an idea of how it feels to get it right, helped. Is that an option for you?

good luck!

May 9th, 2011, 06:48 AM
Throwing one more thing out here - TorrinPaige has a good french tut here http://www.youtube.com/user/torrinpaige#p/search/17/YC_unKDz_JA She specifically shows you how she holds the strands so that they don't come loose while she's adding in hair. She also doesn't add hair to the middle (which I do) but to the outside strands. Might be worth a go?

Good luck!!:D

May 9th, 2011, 07:26 AM
Try starting at the back of your head at the crown instead of the very front; it's much more difficult to start at your hairline.

May 9th, 2011, 07:29 AM
I second visiting You Tube and watching Torrin Paige's braiding tutorials. Very well done.

Also, dampening your hair before braiding is very helpful.

Try Dutch or English French braiding with large skeins of yarn. I created a large "head" of yarn, then gradually learned to do the adding in of strands by using different colors of yarn.

The manipulation of the Braid strands determines whether you will have a French "Dutch" braid (the underhand method) or a French "English" braid (the overhand method).

The French "Dutch" braid forms a visible ridge on your scalp
The French "English" braid creates a woven effect in your hair

A French "lace" English or Dutch braid is a lot easier to accomplish! Hair is added from one side only.

You'll also have to practice and vary the tension with which the braid sections are held.

It takes tons of practice..but once you learn, the opportunities for learning new braided styles are endless!

Good luck!
PS Strongly recommend KAREN RIBBLE'S book and her DVD. Excellent value and very well done!

May 9th, 2011, 07:32 AM
If it makes you feel any better, this is the monstrosity I came up with last night:


I took a picture because I did it and turned around and busted out laughing. :laugh: we're all learning.

May 9th, 2011, 07:41 AM
One tip a learned from a professional braider is to hold your hair close to the base but don't hold too tightly. It gives you a nice tight braid without ripping you hair out.

oh and Practice, patience and persistence. ;)

May 9th, 2011, 07:59 AM
I third Torrin Paige's video!

I learned by 1) doing it a few times on DBF to get the general idea of , e.g., how much hair to put in each time, and such. Do you have any small/longhaired friends or relatives you could ask?

How come you're tearing at your hair? Is it all tangly near the ends? Is this perhaps why you experience such slow growth? I would, in your case, always put in a slippy leave-in to help your ends remain detangled. Also, detangle before attempting to style (I use my tangle-teezer. Best. Thing. Ever. I bought it for DBF's iiiiiiiii mane, which was resisting combs as, though his hair is really healthy, he hasn't had a trim in 3 years and has only recently learned how to be gentle with it, so he has some breakage, and also tangly ends.

2) However, I couldn't figure out how to do it on myself. The key, I've found, is the ability to hold *all 3 strands of the main braid in 1 hand*. You need to have a standard "pattern" for how you always hold your strands, which will help with muscle memory. For me, working from left to right and using my left hand:

My strand on the left (from the perspective of someone standing behind me) is held between my pinkie and ring finger. The middle one is held between my ring finger and middle finger, and the one on the right is held between my middle finger and index finger.

This leaves my thumb, and other hand, free so that I can lift the hair from my head and feed it into the correct place. So.

I hold my strands in my left hand as described above. I'm aiming to add hair to my right strand. So I use my right hand, drag my finger along my scalp at the point where my braid currently finishes to make a parting, and lift the hair above the parting. So now I'm holding my section in my right hand and my main braid still in my left. I open the fingers which are holding my rightmost strand - my index and middle - into a v-shape. Then I put the section into that v, holding my thumb out to catch any strays, then close over my fingers again.

Now the section has been added and we need to do one step of the braid. To do this, I pass the rightmost strand - to which a new section has just been added - back into my right hand. I pass the centre strand from my middle and ring fingers to my middle and index fingers, so there is now a gap for the right strand to go into. I often use my right hand to help with this. Then, I open my empty middle and ring fingers, and place the strand in my right hand into it.

This will be very clear if you watch the video. Torrin Paige, I believe, uses different fingers, but exactly the same method.

May 9th, 2011, 08:30 AM
I learned from the Anne Akers Johnson book myself. Actually, I learned to Dutch braid (I believe that book calls it an "inside-out french braid") first, and found that easier.

My suggestions:
1) Start with dry hair, so it won't stick to itself or to your hands. (That probably varies with hairtype, honestly.) It might get messy quicker than damp hair, but it makes the separating easier. Similarly, have dry hands. If you have curlier or damaged hair that never glides past itself, you might find oiled hair is easier.
2) Start by gathering hair into a half-up and only braiding a few rounds til you get to the nape of your neck. You can try to get it starting closer to your forehead as you gain experience.
3) After practically every pass of braiding, run your hand down your hair to the ends. Your hair will start braiding up from the ends in a reflection of what you do on your head. You need to gently separate it as you work.

Relax. Go slow. Don't work too tightly -- that comes with practice, and too-tight is no good for your hair. Shake out an arm if it gets tired. And don't get frustrated and start tearing your hair. If you start breaking hairs, it's time for a break.

May 9th, 2011, 10:27 AM
I hope you are able to sort out what's going wrong.

for me, it was trying to watch in the mirror. Once I gave up and just started fiddling while watching tv, it slowly became a 'braid by feel' thing.

I have to braid my hair damp, since I can't stand to pull my curly wurlies apart and only wind up with knots. I sometimes get creeping starts but never felt like it was a problem.

I also found that practicing on somebody else's hair, just to get an idea of how it feels to get it right, helped. Is that an option for you?

good luck!

^^ This :) I also found it helpful that when i stop watching myself in the mirror, but try to imagine what the back of my head looks like and what the next step should be. Try it on someone else first and get the technique down if possible. If no one is available, try it with a bunch of yarn strings and pay attention to the positions of the pieces as you weave. Then you can start imagining that in your head as you're doing your own hair and somehow fingers just find the way. Good luck!

May 10th, 2011, 10:38 PM
Just wanted to update and say that your suggestions made a huge difference. Holding all the strands in one hand and bringing new hair into the braid with the other seems to really help. I'm able to make decent looking single French braids. I hope soon I can make doubles. Thanks awfully, you guys. :)