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Sunday
Jul102011

Molly's Sketchbook: Friendship Bracelets

Macraméd friendship bracelets were all the rage when I was growing up in the eighties. All the girls at my school would obsessively make them for one another in a dizzying variety of colors, widths, and patterns. It's amazing, thinking back, that such young girls could make such beautifully intricate accessories.

I, of course,  tried my hand at making them as well. I would ride my bike down to the five-and-dime store and pick out the most sophisticated color combinations of  embroidery floss I could find, but when it came to the actual macramé I never got beyond plain stripes. There was nothing wrong with plain stripes, except that the other girls seemed so much more advanced with their diamonds and chevrons. A bit intimidated,  I never did become a big friendship bracelet expert.

Fast forward 20 years: Purl Soho started carrying DMC Cotton Embroidery Floss in every conceivable color (including fluorescents! ) and so, clearly, my time with friendship bracelets had finally come! After a bit of research, I discovered that what had eluded me as a child is actually really simple. It turns out that there are only two major friendship bracelet knots, a right knot and a left knot. That's it. After all these years, they only took me a few minutes to learn!

Making friendship bracelets is a  surprisingly easy craft, and best of all, in the end you'll have a bunch of cute summer bracelets to give to your pals. These are also a great thing to make with kids because they don't require any pins, needles, or scissors, and you can make them as simple or as complicated as you want. Once you learn the basics there's no limit to the beautiful patterns you can create!

Materials

Since this is such a free form enterprise the amount of colors of DMC embroidery floss you get is really up to you. We used a package of the DMC Light Effects Fluorescent Embroidery Floss and then picked our individual colors around them. Here is a list of the individual colors we used: Ecru, Blanco, 155, 156, 157, 307, 445, 453, 606, 648, 666, 712, 746, 906, 907, 956, 3033, 3761, 3843. For our full selection of DMC Embroidery Floss click here and for the fluorescent pack click here.

Please not that the fluorescent thread is slightly thicker than the regular DMC floss. So if you are mixing the two together it works best if you pull out and discard one ply of the fluorescent thread.

Beginning

To begin, pick out your colors. For the purposes of this how-to and the following patterns each color will be assigned a number.

For patterns use a doubled length of thread cut each color to a length of 72-inches. Hold the cut pieces together, fold them in half, and then make a 3/4-inch long slip knot at the fold.

Using a safety pin pin the loop to your jeans (or any other stable piece of fabric that you don't mind getting holes in) to keep it steady.

Arrange the threads as instructed in the pattern. In the example above the thread order would be: 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1

For patterns that use a single length of thread cut a 36-inch length from each color. Arrange the pieces in the proper order. Leaving a 6-inch tail, tie a simple overhand knot to start.

The Left Knot

Place a piece of thread  (in this case thread #1) over the piece thread to its right (in this case thread #2) in a sort of a "4" shape as shown above

Pull the end of the thread through this "4" loop creating a knot.

While holding the right thread taut pull up the left thread to form a tight knot as shown above. Repeat once more. Both the Left and Right Knots are actually made up of two knots each.

If you are tying more than one Left Knot in a row you will use the same thread (in this case thread #1) to tie the subsequent knots along the a row from left to right.

Right Knot

The right knot is made in the same manner as the left but in the opposite direction.

Place a piece of thread over its left hand neighbor in the "P" shape shown above.


Pull the thread's end through the "P" to form a knot.

While pulling the left thread tightly down pull the right thread up to form a taut knot. Repeat this once to make a full Right Knot. Remember both the left and right knots are actually made up of two knots each.

If you are tying more than one Right Knot in a row you will use the same thread (in this case thread 1) to tie the subsequent knots along the row from right to left.

Ending

There are a couple of good ways to end your friendship bracelets.

To end a bracelet that starts with a loop separate the threads into two equal groups. Braid each group and tie a knot at the end trimming the ends to be neat and short.

To wear pull the ends though the starting loop and tie a knot.

To end a bracelet that starts with a knot tie another knot at the end of the macramé. Braid both ends and tied knots. Trim to ends to look neat.

To wear tie the ends together in a bow.

Patterns:

Basic Stripes

1. Use a single length of thread and any amount of colors you like. Arrange the color in a pleasing order.

2. Starting at the far left tie a row of Left Knots using the 1st color across the whole width of the bracelet.

3. Repeat step 2 until the bracelet is the desired length.

Chevron

1. Using doubled thread and at least 3 colors arrange the threads in a mirror image. For instance, if you were using six colors as in the example above  you would arrange the threads like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

2. Starting at the far left side make a row of left knots stopping in the middle of the bracelet when the colors start repeating. For instance, in the six color example above you would tie five left knots.

3. Starting at the far right side tie a row of right knots to the middle. When you get to the middle of the bracelet you will meet up with the thread from step 2. Tie this with a right knot as well. You will always be tying one more knot in step 3 than in step 2. For instance in the six color example above you would tie six right knots in step 3.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the bracelet is the desired length.

As another option you can change the arrangement of the threads in step one to make a more varied and braided looking bracelet.

Diamonds

The diamond shape is the most complicated one I tackled so here are a step by step instructions to make a 4 color bracelet. Once you get the idea with the 4 color version you explore thinner or wider versions as well.

Here are the four threads and their corresponding numbers.

Using doubled strands start the bracelet with a loop and arrange the colors in a mirror image: colors 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Start by tying a left knot with both strands of color 4 in the center.

Please note, these photos start at the middle of the bracelet just because it's easier to see the pattern that way.

Then, starting with the right hand thread 4 strand tie a row of 3 left knots as shown above.

Next take the other thread 4 strand from the middle and tie a row three right knots as shown above. This shape will be called the upside down "V" in this pattern.

In this same manner make upside down "V"s with colors 3, 2, and 1 always starting from the center and moving out.

When you get back to color 4 make a left knot in the center.

Using the right hand piece of thread 4 make a right knot with the thread directly to the right.

Using the left hand piece of thread 4 make a left knot with the thread directly to the left.

Tie the two color 4 pieces together with a left knot.

With color 1 make a "V" shape just as you would for the chevron pattern: Starting from the far left side tie a row of 3 left knots. Then, starting from the far right side tie a row of 4 right knots to form the "V" shape.

Make another "V" shape with color 2.

Starting at the far left tie two left knots with color 3.

Starting at the far right side tie two right knots with color 3.

At the far left side tie a right knot with color 4.

At the far right side tie a left knot with color 4.

With the left strand of color 3 tie two right knots in a row to the strands of colors 1 and 4 directly the left.

Do the reverse for the other side: with the right strand of color 3 tie two left knots.

Tie an upside down "V" shape with color 2.

Tie an upside down "V" shape starting with color 1.

Now you're back at the beginning.

Repeat this until the bracelet is the desired length.

Once you get the hang of all the patterns you can mix and match them like we did in the green bracelet above.

 

Reader Comments (104)

Great tutorial! Isn't it (pull the thread) "taut" (under the 11th picture from the top). Perhaps since you are teaching this tutorial, you thought of the word "taught" as in teaching, instead...
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous
OMG I loved making these when I was young, there were a group of us that made them for each other and I think I wore about 4 at the same time :) I cant believe I totally forgot about them until I saw your post. I'm off to make some now. Thanks for the retro 80's memory jog.
Emma x
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbagladee
Hi anonymous-

Thanks for catching that. It's been fixed.
July 11, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Oh my goodness, what a crafty blast from the past! I used to make these all the time in Jr. High. I even carried around the DMC color chart and little order forms as a side business. Thanks so much for posting this and the beautiful photographs of the process. ~Becca
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSewPixie
When I opened this post, my stomach instantly tensed up and I went right back to being ten years old and fretting over how on earth to make diamonds - I felt so comforted by your similar experience! Thank you for giving us all another go... with your tutorial and my adult confidence I am looking forward to whipping out a few of these at the beach next week!

Thanks again :)
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkyra
When I was young I used to make the stripes version, but they always curled up like nobody's business (into a spiral). Did you experience this?
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan M.
Awesome! I have been making bracelets on and off since i was a little girl, such a cheap way to make some great things and have fun too. Loved the post and the colors you used in your bracelets. I still like going back to these but lately i have been trying some harder ones from japanese books, if you search for misanga promise ring a couple great books come up. Great job!
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMyriam
Love this post!

Earlier this year I was curious what internet resources were out there about this since I hadn't made bracelets in years. The best place I've found is http://friendship-bracelets.net, because there are tutorials for the more complicated patterns (like doing your name on a bracelet) and a community on there if you get stuck.
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
I am totally digging out my old DMC floss when I visit my mother's house this weekend!
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKendra
Fabulous!

My daughter will now be nagging me to pick up supplies. I can see we will both be busy. Thanks x
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commentervintagehomespun
what a blast from the past! when i made these i anchored it with my big toe (the loop that is safety-pinned). I was more flexible back then.
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristy
Love these! Making these bracelets was my specialty in school and I would sell them as custom colors and fit to all my classmates (order form and all). A great trick if you don't want to put a hole in anything is to use a piece of heavy cardboard (like from the inside of a binder) and cut a slit at the top and then make a knot at the top of your thread and pop it to the back of the cardboard. This method holds it nice and tight and if you cut slits in the bottom of the cardboard you can pop your threads in and out while you knot and you never lose track of the order and you can stop at any time and know exactly what the next step is without straightening all the threads out and untangling. I still carry my boards around and make bracelets when I am in need of something to keep my hands busy! Thanks for all these cute tutorials :)
(I would also mark out a ruler on my boards to show how long the bracelet was at any point, no extra tools required)
Emily
July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
I actually taught my 5 yr old the basics this summer and she is loving it! We use a clipboard to hold the bracelet steady or our big toe :)
July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrie
Oh yes... good times. I remember I wanted to set up a business at primary school selling them!
Don't think I'd have the patience to make one now though...
this is like, THE BEST tutorial online for this. and ive looked and looked! thank you so much! you have no idea how happy this makes me!
July 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan
Was just in your store buying embroidery floss for this exact thing when you mentioned this blog post. Thanks so much! I've been looking for this all day! Definitely the best instructions I've come across in my search. Would love to show you the bracelets I make when I'm finished :)
July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterModesta
HI Modesta-

Please do bring the bracelets in when they're done. We LOVE seeing finished projects : )
July 13, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
these are so fun. i see this gal is having a friendship bracelet swap. http://makeitmyown.blogspot.com/2011/07/sneak-peak.html thanks for the tutorials!
July 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermandylifeboats
Thanks for the nice and complete tutorial. I'll try to do them for my daughter! Is it similar to "macramè" technique?
July 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa
Hi Teresa-

It actually is macrame!
Thanks for the question!
July 21, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Love the neon! I'm definitely going to try this! Question, though, regarding the small, neon orange and white bracelet. Which pattern did you use there? It's in the basic stripes pattern picture, but is it just using that one pattern? Thanks!
July 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
Hi Anne-

That is indeed just a stripe pattern using 2 strands of white and two strands of the neon orange.

Thanks for your question!
July 25, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love these but am having a bit of trouble. For some reason when I do the stripes the bracelet curles instead of laying flat. What am I doing wrong?
July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Hi Laura-

This is a very common problem. you're not doing anything wrong. It happens to me a lot with the thinner bracelets. The good thing is that they don't have to lay flat because they are going to be worn, but if it still bothers you you can block the bracelet after you are done. I laid mine flat and put it under an unplugged iron over night. In the morning it was nice and flat! Hope this helps!

Best- Molly
July 26, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks Molly - How tight are you doing your knots? I wonder if I am doing them too tight (with the chevron ones it seems like the join in the middle sometimes messes up the knot to the left of center).

One last question :) - when you do the join in the center you cross right over left. After doing that do you switch the side that those threads are on (i.e. the right string becomes part of the left side, while the left string that was just crossed over becomes part of the right)?

I hope that makes sense.

Thanks,
-Laura
July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
After reading your response (re: re curling), I wanted to clarify that mine are twisting around themselves (left to right) not top to bottom. Thanks!
July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Hi Laura-

I understand what you mean by curling, My thinner ones have a tendency to twist as well. Without seeing it it's hard for me to tell if your knots are too tight but if I were you I'd experiment with tying them looser and seeing if that helps.

Regarding your second question- when you tie the middle knot with a right knot as detailed in Step 3 of the Cheveron pattern the threads will automatically switch places. (Ie the right string wiill become part of the left half and vise versa.)

Thank you so much for your questions!
- Molly
July 26, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
And thank you for the answers!
July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Great! Now I just need to figure out how to tie a bow with one hand....
July 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
Great tutorial! We're packing up for a weekend of camping (and a long drive). I grabbed a bunch of floss I had laying around, some safety pins and scissors. The kiddos will have a blast making these! (Me too!) Thanks!
August 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Edmonds
Thank you for the diamond-pattern, I was so happy when I finally found a good guide :)
August 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
I remember making these in school- good times! I'm going to pick up some supplies the next time I go to the craft store. Thanks for the beautiful guide!
August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
What's the difference between chevron and the first example? They both look like chevrons.
September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnon
Hi Anon-

The first one is a chevron, but it doesn't explain the entire pattern, it just details the left and right knot.

Thanks for your question!

- Molly
September 26, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Would you mind posting which colors (numbers) you used for each bracelet? Love them!
January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErika
I tried the basic stripe and it just turned out all wrong! It was twisting and looping everywhere and it got to the point where I couldn't even tell which piece of string went where. I made a big mess!!
February 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfrenchie#1
Thank you so much...
I have been trying too remember for the past years how to make these exact bracelets. Now I can finally get started.
Perfect... I will make this a bookmark.

/linda
February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
I was so delighted when I see this post! Tnx for making us remember good days and real friends :)
I repost this on my blog, I left also ur link hope that is ok :)
http://everythingisaboutdetails.blogspot.com/2012/02/friendship-braceletsnarukvice.html
kissssssssssses from serbia :))))))))))))
February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJovana
i've forgotten how to make these. thank you soooooooo much!
March 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatrina
Oh, I love this.

I, too, am a child of the 80's, and I, too made friendship bracelets for my friends. At one time, during the summer of '89 in a drum and bugle I had a waiting list, all in different shades and combinations of "Bluecoat Blue." I don't think I quite made it through my backlog that summer. I've always felt kind of bad about it. Crazy, huh?

Well, maybe now I can make up for it with your fantastic tutorial.

www.cuteanduseful.com
awe. some.

thank you so much.
March 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjeannette
I was SO excited to see this (on How About Orange)!! I used to make friendship bracelets all the time in elementary school, but I too never advanced beyond stripes. I didn't have anyone to teach me or any books on the topic--or the internet!! Thanks for the refresher and the instruction on the patterns. I am so excited about the fluorescent floss--will have to order some of that right away.

About the striped bracelets curling, I think the thinner they are (the fewer strands used, 4 or less usually), the more likely they are to curl. I remember I used to make my striped ones with at least 5 strands or more and sometimes I would add an extra knot--definitely always did two knots on each strand but sometimes I think I tried 3 to help with the curling. Just some thoughts . . . but it's been a while . Thanks again!!
March 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramber
P. S. Showing the different ways to end the bracelets was really helpful. thanks!
March 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramber
I remember making these! I don't remember how mine turned out. I remember thinking the ones I made were the most gorgeous things ever. I don't even think they came close to these though. Oh good times... Thanks for making me remember. I'll definitely try it again!
April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterATasteOfMadness
The diamond pattern looks like it says " X O X O X O " :)
April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChanning
I love making friendship bracelets. I really like the diamond pattern one too. I may try this one to add to my collect! If I do this one is going right next to my cupcake, watermelon, and Tootsie Roll ones!

www.braceletsbydesign.weebly.com
April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB
Thanks for this clear tutorial! I used to make them when I was a kid as well, but I forgot how to do it! So I'm really happy that you wrote such a clear tutorial. I posted photos of my own bracelets on my blog, with a link to your tutorial. Feel free to have a look!

www.mintstudiocreations.com
May 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNoortje
These bring me back!!! I'm making a ton for my daughter's birthday party, as well as a few for my daughter, niece & nephew for Mother's Day gifts. I featured this tutorial in my Weekend Find blog this weekend, here: http://twotendesigns.blogspot.com/2012/05/weekend-finds-mothers-day.html

Thanks for all the info!!
-Kim
May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim
In 1994 I was in 4th grade and moved from Maryland to Oregon with my mom. One thing I remember most about the drive was sulking in the backseat making friendship bracelets for all the friends I had left. I am getting ready to move from Oregon to Florida for grad school and have started making all my friends friendship bracelets again and it is so fun and nostalgic. I do still have a problem with them curling though, maybe I just always have a tendency to knot too tight.
May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
Hi Anna-

They actually just tend to curl. It's the nature of the macrame stitch and nothing you're doing wrong. You can combat this by blocking the bracelets after you're done, like you would a knitting project. I actually spray them wet and then iron them flat!

Thanks for your comment!

Molly
May 22, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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