Friendship bracelets are a common token of friendship. Usually handmade, they signify a strong friendship through the strength of the knots used to create them. They have a long and storied history, appearing in several ancient cultures before making an entrance in modern society during political protests and hippie culture.
They are most commonly made out of embroidery floss, though they can be made out of a number of materials. Often, friendship bracelets are a variety of colors, making them as unique as the person you might be making them for! They can be made in all shapes and sizes, with a huge variety of patterns making them as thick or thin and as simple or complicated as you can imagine.
Overall, they are a fantastic way to engage with your crafty side, as well as a very personal way to demonstrate the meaning of a friendship.
What are friendship bracelets, and where are they from?
Friendship bracelets as we know them today are given from one person to another to symbolize the strength of that friendship — “a handmade bracelet intended for a special person.” They can also be given to groups of friends for the same reason! Most commonly, we are familiar with them as small, colorful cloth bracelets made using a form of macrame.
A series of colorful threads are knotted to produce a pattern, and this combination of colors and a huge variety of knot patterns makes friendship bracelets extremely customizable — especially if you make them yourself.
Friendship bracelets are very distinct in today’s society. They experienced a resurgence in the 1980s where they were most commonly associated with hippie culture, which is a large part of the influence they still have today. However, a lot of that assumption in recent years is misplaced.
The 1980s saw the disappearance of many Latin American cultures where friendship bracelets have many of their roots, and they are part of traditional culture there. These bracelets made a reappearance in global culture during this time as a form of political protest, showing solidarity with those cultures — a friendship across political and geographic boundaries.
Friendship bracelets have long played a role in cultures across the globe, and it’s only in recent history that “friendship” became the most identifiable meaning. In ancient times, these bracelets symbolized social statements and folk art as well, with origins almost 2,000 years ago in ancient China, although Central America is considered their “real birthplace.”
What are friendship bracelets made out of?
Friendship bracelets are made from colorful strands of thread, made through a series of knots into a repeating pattern until it reaches the right length. Ultimately, the only defining material is color. Friendship bracelets could theoretically be made from any sort of thread, including yarn, string, and rope.
Since friendship bracelets are a form of macrame, the latter option would yield something closer to a full macrame hanging if the rope is thicker! In fact, many of the knot patterns are the same across these two styles.
These days, friendship bracelets are most commonly made from embroidery floss (or embroidery thread). Embroidery floss is thin, usually made up of several small threads, which makes small and neat knots for friendship bracelets.
The same knots could be made from anything that ties, though it’s best with a “thread” that is round in shape. Keep in mind that the thicker the strands, the thicker the final product. Different thicknesses of thread can make anything from delicate bracelets to chunky anklets, statement belts, and, you guessed it, macrame hangings!
Friendship bracelets are also not limited to just the most common patterns we see today. In fact, some traditional styles use thick, flat threads in a braided pattern. The most important thing is simply giving the bracelet to a friend — what it’s made out of and the knots or style you use to make it are completely up to you.
Can friendship bracelets be made from yarn?
Yes! While friendship bracelets as we know them today are most commonly made from embroidery floss, they can also be made from many types of yarn. Yarn is a really broad category of “theads” that includes many different types of materials, including wool, acrylic, cotton silk, and even embroidery floss itself!
Different yarns have different properties and thicknesses. Wool, for example, is a very natural fiber that is warm but can be scratchy. Silk is very soft, but often produced in very thin strands, or coupled with another material like an acrylic.
Some yarns are made for winter knitwear uses, and have a lot of loose fibers — these would not be great for friendship bracelets since they would be difficult to knot. For a bracelet, a thin, sturdy, and compact yarn would be the best choice.
When making a friendship bracelet from yarn, you’ll want to be mindful of how thick the strand is. Embroidery floss is quite thin, usually not thicker than a millimeter or so, while some other yarns can be almost a centimeter! Traditional finished friendship bracelets range from a few millimeters to a few centimeters across.
That width is a function of the thickness of the individual strands, the number of them being knotted, and the size of the knot. The thicker the strands, the thicker the bracelet.
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a material is how well it will hold up, especially if you and your friends plan to tie them on permanenlty. Things like showering, playing sports, and so on will all add to the wear and tear on the bracelet. Thicker yarn will also absorb a lot of moisture that can be difficult to dry, and could be uncomfortable to carry around all morning.
Making friendship bracelets by hand is already the most important step, in that you’re making a completely unique and personal gift for a friend to share with them and symbolize what they mean to you!