Origins and Crafting of Friendship Bracelets

History of Friendship Bracelets

Friendship bracelets, often handmade and knotted, symbolize love and connection when given to someone special. This time-honored tradition celebrates the unique bond shared with our closest companions: our best friends!

While you might picture friendship bracelets as a childhood pastime, they hold a rich history and cultural importance, transcending age and gender boundaries.

In this guide, we’ll explore the origins of friendship bracelets, showcase popular variations, and provide simple friendship bracelet patterns so you can create your own meaningful tokens of friendship.

History of Friendship Bracelets

Which culture do friendship bracelets originate from? The roots of knotted friendship bracelets can be traced back to various cultures.

The earliest evidence of decorative knots, found in clothing and household items, dates back to ancient China around 481 to 211 BC. However, friendship bracelets as we know them today originated within the indigenous communities of Central and South America.

The art of decorative knot-tying, known as macramé and commonly used in crafting friendship bracelets, can be traced back to Arabic textiles from the 13th century AD.

The Moors introduced this Arabic technique to Spain during the 1400s, from where it spread to England, Italy, and France. Interestingly, the French term “macramé” emerged in 1865, likely stemming from the Arabic word “miqrama,” meaning “ornamental fringe.”

A similar concept is the Japanese “misanga,” now recognized globally as an embroidered friendship or “wish” bracelet, believed to grant one’s wish upon the string’s eventual unraveling.

History of Friendship Bracelets

Modern Resurgence

Macramé enjoyed popularity as a pastime during the Victorian Era, but the rise of friendship bracelets in the United States occurred later.

Similar to the trend of mood rings, friendship bracelets gained traction among American youth in the 1970s, coinciding with the popularity of “ethnic” fashion at the time.

However, during the 1980s, friendship bracelets took on a new significance as symbols of protest. They were prominently worn by religious groups during political rallies and by Mayans in Guatemala protesting government repression.

Native American communities also had their own rich traditions of friendship bracelets, crafting intricate patterns like the chevron. They are often credited with originating the practice of making friendship bracelets as tokens of love. Today, many Native Americans wear friendship bracelets as symbols of resistance, as evidenced during the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

Friendship bracelets continue to hold deep symbolism in modern times. Beyond representing friendship and commitment, they can also honor one’s heritage and signify standing up for one’s beliefs.

With this perspective in mind, let’s delve into the various types of friendship bracelets available today.

Types of Friendship Bracelets

Essentially, any bracelet can become a friendship bracelet — it’s all about the sentiment! This means you can sport friendship bracelets adorned with gemstones, beads, wire wrapping, gold, silver, and more. For those fond of gems, a metal friendship bracelet embellished with their friend’s birthstone might be particularly cherished.

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Traditionally, friendship bracelets are crafted using fibers such as yarn, thread, embroidery floss, string, or twine. Among these options, embroidery floss, typically consisting of six strands spun together, is often recommended for its versatility and durability.

As for crafting techniques, the possibilities are endless. Friendship bracelet patterns incorporate methods like macramé, crochet, knitting, braiding, and weaving. For those unfamiliar with these terms:

Macramé involves tying knots by hand to create intricate patterns.
Crochet entails interlocking loops using a single hooked needle.
Knitting involves interlocking loops using two needles.
Braiding is the interlacing of three strands by passing the right and left strands over the center strand.
Weaving consists of interlacing horizontal strands through vertical strands.
While various techniques can be employed, most friendship bracelet patterns utilize macramé knots.

Before diving into your chosen technique and pattern, selecting the right color(s) is essential, as they can convey their own special significance.

Types of Friendship Bracelets

Friendship Bracelet Color Symbolism

Which colors symbolize the bond between best friends? In literature, yellow takes the lead as the primary color representing friendship, closely followed by pink, turquoise, and beige.

While color meanings can vary across cultures, here’s a general overview of what each color typically symbolizes in a friendship bracelet:

  • Red: Excitement, energy
  • Orange: Optimism, creativity
  • Yellow: Happiness, hope
  • Green: Luck, peace
  • Blue: Tranquility, freedom
  • Turquoise: Protection, inspiration
  • Purple: Wisdom, open-mindedness
  • Pink: Love, nurturing
  • Brown: Comfort, warmth
  • Black: Energy, strength
  • White: Goodness, safety
  • Gray: Balance, harmony

With these color associations in mind, it’s time to embark on crafting your friendship bracelet!

How to Craft a Friendship Bracelet

First, let’s walk through each step of creating a friendship bracelet, starting with preparation.

Gathering Your Materials

To begin making a friendship bracelet, gather the following materials:

  • Embroidery floss or your preferred fiber
  • Scissors
  • Pin or tape
  • Surface for securing the floss as you work (such as a clipboard, wall hook, or desk)

Optional embellishments may include

  • Beads (decorative or letter beads)
  • Shells
  • Clamps, rings (like a key ring), or ribbon crimps for bracelet ends

How to Craft a Friendship Bracelet

Determining String Length

The length of your strings depends on the number of strands used and the complexity of the pattern. As a rule of thumb, aim for a length from your shoulder to fingertips, typically 25 to 30 inches.

Alternatively, measure your wrist circumference using a flexible measuring tape or string, then multiply that length by five. For instance, if your wrist measures 7 inches, you’ll need 30-inch strings.

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For bracelets with more than six strands or intricate knotting, add 6 inches to accommodate the extra material. It’s better to have excess string than to run out before completing your bracelet!

Selecting Your Pattern

What’s the most popular friendship bracelet pattern? Native American-inspired designs dominate, with chevron, totem pole, diamond, and broken ladder among the favorites. Chevron stands out as the top choice due to its popularity.

While some patterns are more complex, many require basic knotting skills. So, what’s the simplest friendship bracelet to create?

The three-strand braid is both easy and quick to make, perfect for beginners.

How to Create an Easy 3-Strand Braided Friendship Bracelet

Follow these steps:

  1. Cut three strands of string (or your chosen material).
  2. Align the strings and tie them together in a knot at one end, leaving a few inches above the knot. Secure this end to a surface using tape or a pin.
  3. Spread out the strings, labeling them as String A, B, and C from left to right.
  4. Place String A over String B, making String A the center string.
  5. Lay String C over String A (now in the center), making String C the new center string.
  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5, alternately placing each new left string over the center string, followed by the right string over the center, until the bracelet reaches the desired length.
  7. Tie a knot with all three strings at the end, then trim a few inches below the knot to allow for tying both ends together.

Braids also work well for creating thinner ends to tie together on more intricate patterns.

Interested in an easy friendship bracelet pattern using two strings?

How to Craft Beginner-Friendly Friendship Bracelets with 2 Strings

You can make a friendship bracelet with just two strings using half-hitch knots. Here’s how:

  1. Cut two strands of your chosen material and affix them side by side to your work surface.
  2. Position the left string (String A) horizontally over the right string (String B).
  3. Loop String A underneath String B from the right side.
  4. Thread the end of String A through the loop created in Step 2.
  5. Hold String B taut while tightening the knot.
  6. Repeat Steps 2 to 5, this time using String B to knot around String A.
  7. Continue creating half-hitch knots, alternating sides with each knot.

Refer to the diagram for further clarification.

Enhance Your Friendship Bracelet Crafting

Once you’ve mastered the half-hitch knot, you can explore a variety of intricate patterns. For example, the chevron pattern involves 6-8 strings and utilizes half-hitch knots from left to right, then right to left, and so forth.

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Here are additional knots to elevate your friendship bracelets:

  • Lark’s head / Cow’s hitch knot (ideal for attaching strings to a ring or clasp)
  • Square knot
  • Half knot / Spiral knot
  • Gathering knot (perfect for finishing bracelet ends)

The most effective way to learn these knots is through hands-on guidance from a friend skilled in macramé — a perfect bonding opportunity! However, if you’re both beginners, there are excellent resources available:

  • Video tutorials (such as Lots of Knots Canada on YouTube)
  • Friendship bracelet guidebooks (like Friendship Bracelets 101 by Suzanne McNeill)
  • Online blogs (for example, Macrame for Beginners)

Once you feel confident with your knotting skills, you can personalize your friendship bracelet with unique touches.

Personalizing Your Friendship Bracelet

A classic way to enhance friendship bracelets is by incorporating beads, ranging from simple glass beads to unique charms or letter beads.

Letter beads offer an excellent opportunity to convey a meaningful message on your bracelet.

In search of inspiration? Here are some delightful words to consider adding to your friendship bracelets:

  • Forever
  • Everlasting
  • Believe
  • Strong
  • Love
  • Onward

Once your bracelet is complete, it’s time to proudly wear your creation!

How to Adorn Your Friendship Bracelet

Are there guidelines for wearing friendship bracelets? If so, what are they?

Traditionally, your friend ties the bracelet they crafted for you while you make a wish, and vice versa. By leaving it on until it naturally falls off, your wish is believed to come true.

Is there a preferred wrist for wearing a friendship bracelet — left or right? Spiritually, the left hand signifies self-love and personal growth, while the right hand symbolizes action and energy. Wearing the bracelet on your left hand is thought to attract positive energy, while on the right, it’s believed to emanate positivity. Buddhists consider bracelets worn on the left hand to be luckier.

Ergonomically, the most comfortable choice is your non-dominant wrist, which also helps prolong the bracelet’s lifespan.

Not fond of wristwear? You can fasten it to your bag or clothing or sport it as an anklet.

Craft or Purchase Your Own Friendship Bracelet Today!

Friendship isn’t merely sentimental — research demonstrates that strong friendships contribute to our well-being, confidence, and even longevity.

Friendship bracelets serve as an ideal tribute to this vital bond. Gather your supplies and schedule a crafting day with your bestie to create friendship bracelets together — it’s an opportunity to bond and carry a token of your love with you thereafter.

How to Adorn Your Friendship Bracelet

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