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Braiding is an ancient art. Pictures on the walls of the pyramids in Egypt depict ladies with braided hair. Coiled around the head or left hanging freely, braids are a fun and easy way to style hair.

Braiding is also used in handmade ropes. A braided rope is much stronger than simple stranded ropes. Horses and ponies also look great when their mane or tail is braided! Raffia or long grass can be braided and used in craft projects!

A braid can be made with three or more strands of hair, rope or other string-type material. The interlacing of strands is called braiding or plaiting. Plaiting most often refers to braiding more than three strands.

Basic three-strand braiding is done as follows:

1. Remove any tangles from the braiding material.

2. Separate the material into three equal-sized strands. The braid will not look even if the strands are of different sizes.

3. Use your fingers to put the left strand over the center strand. The center strand is now on the left.

4. Holding the strands tightly, put the right section over the center section.

5. Continue the pattern of left over center, right over center, left over center, right over center.

6. Tuck any stray ends into the strands as you braid.

7. When the braid is the desired length, secure the ends. With hair, use an elastic band or hair ornament. For rope or twine, wrap small-sized twine around the bottom of the braid and tie tightly.

You have just made a basic three-strand braid!

To make a multi-strand braid, using more than three strands:

1. Remove any tangles from the braiding material.

2. Divide the material into four or more equal strands.

3. Starting with the strand on the left, weave it toward the right side of the braid. Do this by putting the strand under one strand then over the next; under then over, until the strand is on the right side.

4. Now another strand is on the left. Take it under and over the other strands until it is on the right side.

5. Continue taking a strand from the left and weaving it to the right.

The braid will be flat. The width of the braid depends upon how many strands are used.

6. Tuck in the stray ends as you braid.

7. Finish the braid off the same as a three-strand braid.

To make a round braid:

1. Remove tangles from the braiding material and divide it into four or more equal strands.

2. Weave the left strand across to the right.

3. When that strand is on the right, pull it across the back of the braid to the left side and go under the strand there.

4. Now take the next left strand (that you just passed the first strand under) and weave it to the right. Then, pull it across the back and under the left side strand.

The braid will begin to form a round, rope-like shape.

5. Continue weaving the left strands to the right, across the back and under the left strand.

6. Finish the braid as above.

To make a braid fancy:

It is especially nice to embellish braids in hair!

1. Slip beads onto the strands in a random or regular pattern, and braid.

2. Wrap ribbon or yarn around one or more strands and braid as usual.

3. Weave real or artificial flowers into the braid.

4. Add tiny bells or other ornaments to the ends of the braids.

5. Make three braids, and then braid them together. Very nice!

6. Fasten one or more bows anywhere along the braid.

With practice, braiding becomes easier, and it is always fun! Happy Braiding!