So I’ve been making some friendship bracelets lately, and recently branched out to making my first pattern of my own!
But I think there’s kind of a steep barrier to entry for a lot of people: the diagrams look really complicated. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and never really get going. But you’re missing out, y’all! So let me try to explain how to read the patterns.
I’m going to use my own submitted pattern because that seems like less of a copyright concern, no? I mean, I did create the thing myself.
So, first things first. This is what the bracelet looks like:
Now, there are a couple of things to remember here. For one, there’s no fixed number of times that the design needs to repeat. You just make it as many times as you think you need to to get an appropriate length for a bracelet.
Also, this is the perfect princess digital version. So… it doesn’t look exactly like that as a bracelet. It’s hard to explain why, exactly, but something about how the knots stack and the embroidery floss stretches plus the tension you hold it with… yeah. It gets complicated.
Now, here’s what the pattern looks like:
Please don’t run away! I can explain!!!
Take a deep breath. Good? Ok.
The very first thing you should notice is that we’ve only got two colors going on. A (black) and B (blue). The reason we bother to say A or B instead of just the color is because you can and should pick whatever color combos you want; this black/blue is just a suggestion.
The second thing you want to look at is the very top row:
Never mind the arrows for now–just notice how many strands of thread you have “leading into” the first row. You’ve got A B B A A B B A A B here. Which is 5 A strands and 5 blue strands.
You need to know this because your next step, if you want to try following along, is to cut 5 strands of each color you want to use.
The million dollar question: how long do I cut each strand?
Good question, pal. I’m still trying to figure out how to guesstimate this more precisely, but most people use a rule of thumb of the length from the tip of your middle finger to your shoulder. Per strand, mind you.
(There are also a lot of people who double this length and fold each strand in half to form a loop at the top. I think this sounds very legit, but I haven’t actually tried it yet, so I can’t really talk about it :D)
Ok, so you have your embroidery floss, right? 10 strands, 5 of each color?
You can just knot them all together in a simple overhead knot about three inches down from their ends. It will be thick and you’re about to tie a billion other knots directly below it, so don’t worry about it being super secure. This is just your starting point.
I would recommend you somehow secure this end to something solid before we go on, though. I like using a clipboard, but maybe that’s weird?
Ok, back to the scary diagram:
If you’re following along, you’re basically sitting at row 0 right now.
Now each row tells us–according to how the last one led into this row–how we tie each knot. Because each knot only includes two strands at a time, and you can skip strands on the ends (more on that later).
So if we look at the very first knot:
A is supposedly on the left and B is on the right, because we read top-down and left-right. (I only say “supposedly” because at the very beginning, you just have a random arrangement of strands coming out of your overhead knot. When you reach the bottom of the pattern and repeat, however, you will actually see the arrangement in “row 0.”)
So what that arrow tells us is that A is wrapping over B first. So you lay A over B like an L first before pulling A back through the loop it just made. It’s important that you hold B straight in your right hand while you pull A tight (like really tight) and all the way up as close to the original overhead knot as you can get. Then do that exact same thing again. Loop A over B, etc.
You should have made your first real knot–congrats! So any diagonal arrow in a diagram means make two knots with the same two strands in the same direction.
Now, my friend: set those two strands off to the left. Seriously. You will NOT be able to keep track of where you are if you don’t habitually set your completed strands aside.
Now, the second knot is eerily similar:
EXCEPT: we should start with a B/blue strand on the left and A/black on the right. And we wrap B around A, holding A tight and straight in our right hand. Don’t forget to actually do the knot twice and then set these two strands aside, too.
Oh no, a new challenger has emerged!
So the third knot in the first row is our first departure from the one type of knot we know, but, spoiler alert: there are only 4 basic types of knots and only 3 of them are in this pattern!
So the only real difference is who’s looping over who at any given time. Again, if we look to row zero, we should have an A on the left and a B on the right. But instead of looping A/left/black over B/right/blue first, we’ll lay B/right/blue over A/left/black. So instead of an L, we get… a backwards L shape. But we still pull B through the loop it just formed. And we hold A straight in our LEFT hand instead of our right.
Remember to do the same knot twice and set those two strands off to the side!
Still with me? God, you’re killin the game. Nice work. Soon you’ll be making friends and friendship bracelets left and right.
Here’s the whole first row again:
You should have just set two more strands off to the side for the third knot. So I think you can handle the last two without me helping you out! Go on. I have the utmost faith in you.
By the way–if you were to mess up a knot, you can easily undo it by sticking a needle or a pin in the offending knot. It’s actually surprisingly easy. And worth it, trust me.
So if you’ve gotten here, you probably knotted that whole first row, right? BIG CONGRATS
I would recommend at this point that you print off the pattern and trace what row you’re on by following it with a paperclip. I’m sure there are a million other ways to do this, but that’s my method.
Ok, so peeking at the second row:
I want you to notice first that what we did in the first row matters. So even though in the first row, we had black on the left and blue on the right in that very first pair, it’s now flipped around. You should see that your strands have a natural preference to lie in a specific order now–and you should let them.
Over time, you’ll get better at not mixing up who’s who, but in the beginning, just do your best to see where everything wants to go. Like if you collect all the strands together and let them fall, what order do they like? The point being that you shouldn’t have to force any strands over or under another one to have it in the correct place.
You should also notice that we have TWO different symbols going on.
So on the far left there, you should have a blue strand coming down. LEAVE IT ALONE. That’s literally all that means. Take your leftmost blue strand and just set it aside without knotting with or on it at all.
Your first knot will be with the next two strands, which are A/black. I trust you know how to do this and the next knot. Good luck. 🙂
All right, now the third knot in on the second row has some funny business taking place. Just what does that confused arrow even mean, you ask?
So it’s a bit unfortunate that in this example, both strands are the same color. But the principle will remain the same. Let’s call the black strand on the left Al and the black strand on the right Fred.
This confused arrow means we WON’T make two little knots in the same direction–rather, we need one of each. And because the arrow first points left and then points right, this means that Fred will cross over Al first (as if it’s a left-pointing normal arrow) and once that ONE knot is tightened, Al is gonna cross over Fred (as if it’s a right-pointing normal arrow). You’re still only tying one knot made up of two smaller knots; it’s just not made of two identical ones like it normally is.
I really hope that makes sense, y’all. You can tell me if it doesn’t and I’ll try to explain again!
The rest of knotting is just… keep going! When you reach the end of all of the rows, go back to row 1! I won’t cover how to finish it off here, but rest assured you can just tie a basic overhead knot again if all else fails.
I honestly think that’s the bulk of how to read patterns. The only one direction not shown here is the confused arrow that first points right and then left, but it’s the same principle as the other confused one.
I really hope this helped! I had to figure some of this stuff out on my own and it was pretty confusing. Please let me know if something is unclear.
By the way: to see this pattern in full for yourself, click here.
You can find my profile on Bracelet Book here.
And, finally, if you’re just interested in any patterns, check out Bracelet Book.
Thanks for reading! See you soon!