Arts and craft projects

Revisiting childhood hobbies

2:38 PM

Did you grow up in the 80's or 90's? If you did chances are you either heard or enjoyed making friendship bracelets.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, friendship bracelets looked like this:
Friendship bracelets are called Bracelet Brésiliens in French, and were all the rage in the 80's and 90's. Kids who could knot them were the cool kids.
I am talking about the cotton thread knotted variety of course. In French, they went by the name of "Bracelet Brésilien" which translates as "Brazilian bracelet". The name was fairly accurate considering they are said to have originated in South America. There were two variants of the stories linked to them in the days.

In both case, the bracelet is supposed to be gifted to you by a friend and tied to the wrist to never been taken off.
In the first story, you are to make a wish when it is tied and wait until the bracelet wears off on its own for the wish to come true. In the second variant, you wait until the bracelet wears off and fall on its own, and throw it in the ocean while making a wish.

What is certain, is that these were all the rage among kids and teenagers alike in the 80's until the mid 90's. In my school, if you wanted to be a cool kid, you had to learn how to make them and it was not unusual to see kids with length of thread pinned to their jeans patiently knotting away.
Friendship bracelet making means you need your "loom" to be tight, the best way to secure it is to pin it to your pants and prop your leg up.
Like many of the other girls (and some boys too) I could be found with my leg propped up during recess or in-class free time. We would exchange tips, and try new patterns. Because, YES patterns were a BIG, no HUGE deal. We were all seeking to perfect our skills to be able to ace the most complex designs.
There was also a highly coveted and surprisingly hard to get pattern book, a book that was the holy grail of bracelet knotting. I must have visited every single book shops in Geneva to get it back in the day, until my mom took me to a special arts and craft shop to score the last copy available.

The book covered all the basics one needed to learn and the step by step guide to make a solid 20 different patterns, ranging from the the simplest "Stripe pattern" to the most intricate, advanced, patterns.
Friendship bracelets are nothing more than a series of simple knots tied in a specific order between different colours of thread to form a pattern
Friendship bracelets are deceptively simple to make, and all start with lengths of embroidery cotton threads that the maker painstakingly knot into the desired pattern.
The knots themselves are basic Macrame knots. I remember my Grand ma pointing out that these bracelets were nothing but a way to make Macrame look cool again.

The simplest pattern, which is often called the "beginner's bracelet" is the stripped pattern:
This is the beginner's pattern, we all learn by making this one first.
This picture is actually one of a bracelet I taught Ishita how to make. That's right! It's easy enough a near 7 years old can pull it. The rest is a test of patience more than anything else.
The straight line pattern only use one type of knots (there are 4 in total): the "straight 4 knot" as it is often called:
This is the most basic of all 4 friendship bracelets knots and the first one you need to master.
The reason it is called "straight 4" is because in this knot, you take the thread that is the furthest on the  left and  cross it horizontally  over the next thread to form a "4".
At least this is how the placement of the thread is taught to beginners, once you master it, it is more like a loop knot.

Once the thread (in this case the pink one) has been placed above the second thread (the purple), you slide the extremity of the pink thread under the purple in the loop that has been created and pull it up tight.
This knot needs to be repeated TWICE on each thread in the bracelet until the thread you picked up to the far left ends up all the way to the far right.

Once a thread has completely crossed over to the other side, you take the next far left thread on the left and make it cross the exact same way, by knotting it over each other threads.

As you see, the technique is simple enough.

Once you master the stripe pattern, you usually try your hand at a simple chevron pattern, and then a pattern that combines chevrons and diamonds like this one:
once you mastered this pattern, you can pull any patterns as it contains all 4 type of knots.
This bracelet above covers all 4 types of knots, and once you master this one, you are pretty much ready to take on any pattern.
The Chevron pattern is nothing more than two stripes that meet in the middle. For this bracelet, you need a vertical symmetric axis.

The threads on the left of that axis will be knotted with the "straight 4" knot until they have crossed over all the lefthand threads.
The right hand threads will be knotted from right to left using the "Reverse 4". This knot basically means you pass the far right thread horizontally over the second to last right thread and loop. It's a mirror image of the "straight 4"

To make one chevron, you start with the left thread, make it go to the middle, then do the same with the thread of the same colour on the right. Then you knot both threads with a "straight 4 knot" in the middle, and keep on going with all the colours in turn, until the end of the bracelet.

The diamond shape happens when you first make a X with the thread you used to make the last chevron.  And then make it cross again back to its original position.
It means making sure that all the other half completed stripes are knotted in turn to form a support bridge for the X and then make mini chevrons to form the inside of the diamond.

The two other type of knots I mentioned are the "straight + reverse" and "reverse +straight" knots. As you must always remember, a thread is knotted TWICE on each thread. ALWAYS.
It's either two straight knots, two reverse, or a combo of straight and reverse.

The combo knots are used to make a thread that started on one side to remain on the same side it started from. So if a thread started on the left, the "straight + reverse" will make it go back to the position it started in. It is particularly helpful to make the sharp angles of a diamond, or to preserve the order of the thread on the next line.

If you guys are interested in knowing more about friendship bracelets, I'll put  more detailed tutorial up in the future.


P.S: The reason I suddenly found myself making friendship bracelets again was because I bought this "starter kit" for Ishita in an effort to keep her busy in this heat.
I realise quickly that knotting friendship bracelets, is like riding a bicycle: Once you learned,  you never forget. 

11 comments

  1. Anonymous5:38 PM

    They look pretty but I wonder if any kids will actually like to wear them on their wrists. Because there's a huge difference between today's cosmopolitan kids and the late 90's. Not that they were popular back then but schools never allowed any kind of accessories because those colors really stand out and don't go too well with the school uniform. Friendship bands were the rage in the year 1998 if I'm not wrong because in India that's when the movie kuch kuch hota hai was released showing the lead pair tying and sporting those friendship bands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Forget the kids :-) I wear them with a mix of beads and bangles because I am the type who love that kind of thing :-)

      In Switzerland we did not have school uniforms at all. Ishita loves all kind of bracelets and accessories, which she can't wear in school because of the uniform rule, but wears ALL the time after school and on weekends.

      It seems that my generation is now going back to wearing them because we all reached that late 30's and early 40's blessed time of no longer giving much of a F about what people think. Being labelled a "hippie" in your 20's might still hurt though.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:22 AM

      Friendship bands were a rage in late 1990s. But they were nowhere as beautiful as yours. They were cheap plastic or rubber with all sorts of corny things written over it. Yes, the movie "Kuch Kuch hota hai" did popularise it. The movie itself was a huge hit. We looked at it as one those fads which came to India with Archie and Hallmark cards, soft toys, key chains. At that time, there was this curious intermingling of modern and traditional values in Bollywood in the post liberalized phase in India.

      I also remember that the small backpack bags that we see today so commonly were introduced by another hit bollywood movie in early 1990s called "Maina Pyar Kiya.

      Apple

      Delete
    3. The cheap and fairly corny plastic bracelets became popular in the late 90's early 00's in Europe too, just when the knotted bracelets trend started to decline.

      I guess it all became a matter of instant gratification. Those who grew up in the 80's still found some satisfaction in making something. The kids born in the late 80's and 90's were less bothered. But the trend of making your own friendship bracelets is now making a comeback. Judging by all the you tube videos there are. Heck I even saw that the book that sent me on a hunt across town in the late 80's is still in prints and sold in French speaking regions. If that says anything.

      Delete
    4. The cheap and fairly corny plastic bracelets became popular in the late 90's early 00's in Europe too, just when the knotted bracelets trend started to decline.

      I guess it all became a matter of instant gratification. Those who grew up in the 80's still found some satisfaction in making something. The kids born in the late 80's and 90's were less bothered. But the trend of making your own friendship bracelets is now making a comeback. Judging by all the you tube videos there are. Heck I even saw that the book that sent me on a hunt across town in the late 80's is still in prints and sold in French speaking regions. If that says anything.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous12:50 PM

      I remember plastic bands which would wrap around the wrist with a snap when you hit it against the wrist. These typically came with pack of wafers. These were also called friendship bands.

      Apple

      Delete
    6. I remember these too :-)
      In French the knotted variety which is the original friendship bracelet is called "Brazilian bracelet" due to their originating from South America.

      Delete
  2. Such a sweet post. Kids are so into that kind of thing, and they'd be kind of sweet for adults (only now I'm all about the real bling haha). When my daughter is older I wonder what the friendship bracelet fad will be..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never really been about the real bling :-) unless I really have to go somewhere super formal that is.

      In India we celebrate friendship day on the first Sunday of August, and every shop will start selling all kind of bands and bracelets for the occasion. Most of them are the plastic or rubber band kind, often in neon colors. Last year my daughter wanted to buy "friendship rings" for her friends.

      The day always fall close to another traditional Indian festival called Rakshabhandan during which sisters tie a string around their brother's wrist, so a big market has been created for bands at that time of the year :-)

      Delete
  3. My girls would love making these! When I was a kid we didn't use the pretty thread most were made from the plastic gimp (I think that's what we called it) rope. I used to make a lot of them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't remember the plastic rope bracelets. But the "scoobidoo" trend made with plastic thread. I think the trend was a French thing in the 60's or so : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoubidou

      Delete

Follow me on Instagram

Blog Archive