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A boondoggle is a plastic lace that comes in a rainbow of colors. These strips are often called gimps, also spelled "gymps." Gimps can be plaited, knotted, and woven into various trinkets, such as keychains. These woven creations are also known as scoubidou, scoubi, and scoobies after the weaving technique used to produce them.
Weaving together boondoggles requires knowledge of knots. Square knots and spiral knots are a common basis for these creations. When repeated using three to six strands of gimp, the knots form patterns. Many of the more common patterns have amusing names such as the staircase, cobra, and butterfly.
Boondoggles are relatively easy to create, durable, and colorful, so they are seen primarily as a children's craft. Traditionally, the making of boondoggles is associated with summer camp in the United States. Most commonly, boondoggles take the form of lanyards, keychains, and friendship bracelets.
Keychain boondoggles arguably have the most varied designs. Often boondoggles will take the form of animals, such as fish and frogs. The plastic laces can also be knotted to make symbols, such as hearts. There is even a pattern for making boondoggle eyeglasses.
Some boondoggle strands are simply flat pieces of extruded plastic. Others are hollow inside. A piece of wire can be slipped inside the hollow strands so that the strands can be bent and hold their shape. This second type of boondoggle lace is excellent for creating more complicated designs, such as animals who need flexible bodies or tails.
The skills used to create boondoggles are often passed from person to person. There are also children's books with picture instructions. There are even a few Internet sites devoted to the art of the boondoggle, with instructional videos showing the various knotting techniques.
Boondoggles have many other names, perhaps because the craft is popular among children in many countries. The craft first originated in France, then migrated to the United States in the 1950s. The names scoubidou, scoubi, or scoobie comes from the French name for the weaving technique used to make boondoggles. The technique is also the origin of the name for the kids' TV show Scooby-Doo.
This craft has continued to make its presence felt in popular culture. The 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite has a humorous reference to boondoggles. The character Deb, who is trying to earn money for college, goes door to door peddling boondoggles.
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