Friendship bracelets are decorative bracelets made from cotton, silk, linen, yarn, or hemp thread. They are exchanged all over the world as symbols of friendship and peace, mostly among young adults. Traditionally, friendship bracelets are handmade, so that the friend wearing the bracelet has a gift of time and energy as well as ornamentation. Friendship bracelets should be worn until they wear through and fall off naturally, a process which can take anywhere from a few months to over a year, depending on how the bracelet is made and worn.
The most common type of friendship bracelet is made with embroidery floss, which is sturdy and brightly colored. Other types of textiles can be used as well, although the thread is generally kept thin so that friendship bracelets will not get too bulky after they are made. In some cases, beads will be added to the friendship bracelet for extra decoration. The process for making a friendship bracelet is related to macrame or crochet, and involves making a series of small knots. To make a knot, a thread is passed over and then under a neighboring thread before being pulled through and knotted again. When the double knot is complete, the crafter moves on to the next section of the friendship bracelet.
The number of threads used to make friendship bracelets varies widely, generally between two and forty threads. Larger numbers of threads can be used, but reflect the expenditure of a great deal of time and energy, and result in a very wide friendship bracelet. Small friendship bracelets made with two strands are very common, as are six strand bracelets, with the six strands standing for the letters in “friend.” Long tails of thread at either end are tied around the wrist, usually by the person giving the friendship bracelet, and can also be decorated with beads and braiding.
The roots of friendship bracelets can probably be found in Native and Central American traditional fiber arts, which included brightly colored wrist and ankle bands made from knotted threads. The designs used are also very common in Native American art, and include elements like stripes, simple animal figures, and checker patterns, depending on the skill of the crafts person. Friendship bracelets appear to have become popular in the United States in the 1970s, when many people were exploring traditional crafts, and soon spread to the rest of the world as well.