Measuring Friendship Bracelets in Time

So this week I’m doing this a bit different. I’ve got a lot of footage that I shot and so much to explain. I also have the announcement of this week’s winner of the contest that was announced on Instagram. Be sure to follow me on Instagram as well as subscribe here on Youtube, because you never know where I’ll post for a giveaway.


If you entered for the giveaway previously, you still might just be a winner. Thing is, you guys came up with some great questions and we’ll see what comes up. If you haven’t entered you should do so as soon as the next contest comes around. I mean heck, you never know what question I’ll use. Like this week’s winner had a question that I thought was silly at first, but with some thought realised that it opened the door to so much info that I really could share.


This Week’s Winner

So this week’s winner is dusty pup 74. Her question was, “Does it take very long to complete a bracelet?”


At first I thought, well it really depends on a lot of factors, right? Things like size and difficulty come into play. But the fact is it takes us all a bunch of time to make our art. More than we sometimes give ourselves credit for.


For instance, I’m working on a small bag here, and it uses 128 strings. Exploring these small bag projects has really been a lot of fun for me. I’ll try to get around to doing a tutorial to better show how I finish the bases when it’s a circular type like this one, as opposed to a flat one.

128 string bracelet

But before that, I have to bring both sides together to form the complete tube, and here’s where it’s important to slow down and take some time about it. See, if you get this wrong, everyone will always know where you joined it together – and you kinda lose the magic a bit. But I digress…


Then and Now

Back when I first started, I was only making candy stripe bracelets, the simple straight diagonal rows that everyone starts with. And they took me awhile, right? Then with practice, I got better at it, and faster. So I moved on to chevrons, and that took me a bit longer. From there I moved on to a bunch of other patterns, each more difficult. So as my skills got better, my work reflected that.


So realistically, when someone asks how long it takes me to tie a bracelet, it all depends. I can crank out a candy stripe bracelet in no time at all. But there would be no challenge in it for me any longer, apart from maybe making a quick buck or two. But I don’t think that’s why most of us are in this art to begin with. I suppose there will be those who love the candy stripe and enjoy doing it over and over for years. But for me, I just go and find the most difficult thing I think I can tackle, and just attack it.


You might have started your bracelet-making journey differently than I did. Today there’s videos like mine, and websites with patterns you can copy from. So you might have jumped right into the difficult stuff. I know this, because sometimes I look at stuff that people have posted and you can see that the time for learning and practice was skipped. Developing certain skills takes time and that too is part of the process.

3rd bag

Like if you look at my work, you’ll see that all the knots are evenly spaced, and evenly sized. If you come across something that is a bit off, sometimes it’s because a slightly different gauge string might get mixed in there occasionally. But generally, what keeps my work consistent is really all about the tension. And if you watch this video tutorial, you’ll get some extra tips on how to get that consistency. Because if you can’t achieve a certain consistency with a simple candy stripe bracelet, for example, then you’re really not ready for more challenging patterns or projects. Once you have taken the time to get that down, then you’ll find that everything you make will be that much better.


Back to The Knotty Question at Hand

Ok, so here’s a question to the bracelet makers out there. When someone asks you how long it took you to make that bracelet, what do you count? How long you sat there knotting? Do you factor in how long it took you to cut the lengths of string? Getting the floss untangled from when you first got into it? Perhaps you wound it onto bobbins? Does that count too?


The whole idea of how long it takes really throws me for a loop. There are so many things we do to make a bracelet.


The Prep Work

When I buy string these days, I order skeins in the thousands. My wife and I seriously take an afternoon just to decide on individual projects and pick out colors for each. We get out the boxes that hold the 447 colour samples so we can get the combinations just right. Choosing colors – and figuring out how many of each to get – is a huge part of the process.


When I receive my order, I also wind them on bobbins and organise them into boxes. Cutting string takes a bunch of time for me. Most of the time I’m taking what wasn’t set for particular projects to wind them on bobbins. This is great because it gives me a chance to inspect the floss. Sometimes a skein might have a knot in it and I can’t use that bit. So I’ll see if I can use what’s left in cut lengths. I have something like 12 boxes of full skeins and one that’s cut to the size I use. In case you were wondering, I typically cut each 8-meter skein into thirds.


So I wind ’em up and possibly organise them in groups that I meant them for when I made the order. That’s no guarantee that they will become that bracelet because I concentrate more on what I’m doing now, rather than what I might make tomorrow. Experience has shown that I’ll break apart a dozen projects if it means that the awesome idea I just had can be made now. Being able to see what’s available to use also helps greatly in that part of the creative process.


Another reason I go to the trouble of cutting and winding the string onto bobbins is so that when it comes time to creating the project, I know that I just have to unwind and go. I don’t have to worry about getting entangled, which is a huge time killer and a huge creativity killer in my case too. So I take out one day (or two) to focus on cutting and winding everything up, so I don’t have to worry about it later.


Loopy Time

So now what about the time spent on making the loops? Today I see that a lot of people are into the macrame for the loop, where one string is used to knot around the rest of the strings. And that’s cool if you’re using strings from a ball where you can cut one string extra long. Or if there’s a color in your pattern that you’re not using too much.

Back in earliest days, I started with just halving the string around my finger, tying a knot and starting there. Then some time in the early 90s, someone criticised it, saying that I went through so much work to make the bracelet perfect, but I wasn’t taking any effort at all on the loop. It was a pretty big wake-up call. So I started braiding it, like the normal three-strand braid.

Until I discovered Kumihimo. It’s a Japanese form of rope-making that I’ll cover in another video. But safe to say it has its advantages. There’s a reason most rope you could buy was done on a machine using the Kumihimo principle. It makes a group of strings more durable. Besides it looks great, shows off ALL the colors of the bracelet and doesn’t require a couple of strings to be cut differently because they all get used at pretty much the same rate.


But at the end of the day, whether you braid the loop, make a kumihimo rope, or macrame it, it takes time too. So did you factor this in when talking about how long it takes you to make a bracelet?


Pattern in Progress

And for people who don’t actually make the bracelets and are watching this out of curiosity, you may not know that different patterns also take different amounts of time.

2nd bag

My second bag, for example, took more than three times longer than my first, even though it used the same number of strings! In fact, I thought both bags were going to be the same size, but I had bought a different gauge of string, and the second one turned out almost twice as large. But the thickness of the string or resulting size of the bag wasn’t why it took longer to make. Rather, it’s the pattern itself, that required I keep picking up different areas of string rather than focusing on one row at a time. Some patterns are just easier to knot than others.


And that doesn’t even take into account coming up with the pattern, if you choose to come up with original designs like I do. So for those who didn’t know that and you’re just getting into the hobby, that’s something to consider.


So How Long?!

In answer to “Does it take very long to complete a bracelet?”, there isn’t a real answer. You have to take all these factors into account, from choosing colors to tying the final knot. But I’d say it’s always going to be time-consuming, and the bigger the challenge, the more time-consuming it will be.


It’s also what makes pricing your work tough when it comes to selling. The raw materials may not cost you much, but how much time and effort did it really take? Realistically, you’re never going to get rich doing this. I know some people who say they can make a living, and kudos to them, but it’s not like luxury living.


But there are other ways you can benefit from it. For me, it’s super therapeutic. Knotting keeps me calm and the challenge of bigger, more exciting projects keeps me excited. Basically, it’s something I enjoy. So if like me, it’s something that makes you happy, perhaps you’re giving them away as gifts and the recipients are happy, then the amount of time it took? Doesn’t really matter, does it?


P.S. Speaking of how long, this is the longest video tutorial I’ve done to date, so please let me know what you thought of it. Cheers!

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