How to: French Braid

Hello! My name is Kalyssa (my instagram is @braided_to_infinity) and I’m super excited to be doing a guest post on Braids Without Borders. I’m from the West Coast of Canada and I’ve been braiding on Instagram for a few years now which has been quite the adventure!  Most of my pictures are taken by the ocean in full view of about ten houses. My neighbours definitely think I’m crazy! A lot goes on behind the scenes of braid photos, for example I’m actually crouching on a rock in this photo and my legs were absolutely burning. Who needs squats when you can pose in an awkward position for ten minutes? Braiding develops more than arm strength people.

french braid on kalyssa

I remember the first time I ever did a braid on myself. I was 13 years old and after practically tying my hair in knots for a while, I managed a half lopsided but visible braid. I posted it to Instagram happily claiming my new mastery over the “french braid”. Turns out it wasn’t actually a french braid, which I realized in a few minutes when one of my friends gently informed me it was actually a dutch braid. Oops. I hadn’t even realized there was a difference. To say it (sort of) simply a dutch braid involves crossing strands under the middle section and a french braid involves crossing strands over. If that makes absolutely no sense to you I understand what you’re going through. It took me a while to figure out what the difference was and even today my fingers get a little confused and poof, my braid changes nationalities. In today’s post I’m going to show you step by step how to create a french braid on yourself (a real french braid) so you can avoid my confusion.

Start off by gathering a section of hair at the top of your head and dividing it into 3 equal sections. I usually grab a pretty large section because it makes the braid go quicker and the pieces are easier to keep track of but if you want a more detailed braid go for a small section at the start.

Cross the right strand over the middle strand so it becomes the new middle strand.

Cross the left strand over the middle strand so it becomes the new middle strand.

This is when things get complicated. Before crossing the right strand into the middle, add a small section of hair.

Then repeat the step on the left side. Add a small section of hair to the left strand, then cross it into the middle. Adding hair before crossing it over is the “french” technique and might take a bit of practice.

Happily repeat the pattern until you run out of hair, then braid the ends normally and secure with an elastic. At this point your arms may be burning (me every time) and unable to move any further back. (If your hair is long your shoulder joints may protest if asked to reach backwards any further.)  If it’s easier you can take your shoulders advice and bring the braid over to the front to finish the ends, just make sure you don’t lose the cross over pattern.

Congratulations! You made it! The last step is optional, but I like to gently pull apart the braid to give it more volume. The technique is called “pancaking” and it makes all the difference! If you watch way to many youtube tutorials like me you may have heard the technique described as “gently massaging the braid”, something which I always find entertaining. Gently, lovingly massage your hair strands and all will be well.

So here’s the final look!

I used some flowers to add a splash of colour but if you plan on moving around a lot I would strongly suggest leaving them out. Real flowers look great for pictures but unless many many bobby pins are sacrificed and copious amounts of hairspray is used, you might leave a trail of petals behind you. Braid photos in my house often result in flower explosions or clouds of noxious hairspray fumes and the demise of my bobby pin stash.

Best of luck in your french braiding endeavors. I hope this post was helpful or maybe slightly entertaining. Stay tuned because next month I’m travelling a couple hundred kilometers north. (That was meant to be a joke by the way. What countries are just north of France? haha)

I’m currently in the planning stages of redoing my own blog and I’m super happy to make this post today! Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: These photos were taken during the summer when it was warm and nice out. Right now it’s freezing cold and everything is buried under 30 ish centimeters of snow (or about a foot if you’re about 400km (around 250 miles haha) south of my current place of residence.) No fingers were frozen in the making of this braid and hypothermia was not achieved.

Find me on Instagram @braided_to_infinity

– Kalyssa


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