As a kid, I loved making friendship bracelets with my best friend Sarah at sleepovers. She was the bracelet queen and could weave a perfectly knotted, perfectly even strand like no other. I moved away from her when I was seven. Every time I saw her after that, she’d be wearing a stack of new, pretty bracelets and would proudly present me with one of her best creations, which I treasured.
After more than ten years of living in different states and different countries, the bracelet queen and I are still BFFs. This summer, she’s a camp counselor. She posted this status on Facebook last week after attempting to make braided bracelets with her twelve-year-old campers:
I was told today that friendship bracelets “died last year.” So I put away my string and faked a conversation about One Direction for forty-five minutes. #downwiththekids
How devastating is that?! Have friendship bracelets really died?
French jewelry designer Aurélie Bidermann doesn’t think so. Her “Copacabana” collection is a fresh, grown-up take on the quintessential friendship bracelet. When I saw one of her works featured in Teen Vogue, I thought it was so cool; that is, until I saw the price. She’s passing off this baby for $440.
But never fear–where there’s a will and a crapload of embroidery floss, there’s a way. Taking Bidermann’s bracelets as inspiration, I set out to make my own modern friendship bracelets for a fraction of the cost. It was even easier than I expected.
If you’d rather follow along with this tutorial on your phone, I made a Steller story with the same pictures and info.
The tutorial is for the purple one on the left, but the one on the right is an easy adaptation. The process isn’t hard at all, and it doesn’t take much time to complete–you can finish a bracelet in three episodes of Scandal on Netflix.
First, get your materials. I went to Forever 21 and bought two basic cuff bracelets. The one on the right was $4.80 and the larger one on the left, $7.80. Look for a cuff that has thin bands of metal on the top and bottom around which you can loop the braids. Then, head to a craft store and pick up some embroidery floss. I’d buy three little bundles for each braid you want to do–I got 6 bundles for the purple bracelet and 9 for the blue–plus one extra for tying the braids to the cuff (I suggest gold.) For a Bidermann-inspired look, pick out colors that are in the same family but not identical. The purple bracelet is a mix of periwinkles and violets plus a few gold strands, and the blue is black, navy, slate blue, and charcoal grey. You’ll also need scissors, tape, a straight pin or needle and some clear nail polish.
Open each little bundle of floss and unwind it, cutting it roughly in half. (This is so each of the two braids will have an equal mix of all the colors.) Then re-bundle each half, winding it around your fingers or a piece of cardboard, into new bundles that are about ten inches long (or, the distance around your cuff plus two inches of overhang on each side.) If the floss doesn’t stop perfectly at one end of the bundle, cut off the remainder. Repeat with all the bundles, then gather half of your new bundles (one of each color) into a big bundle.
About two inches down the new big bundle, tie all the strings together tightly with a scrap piece of floss. Then, snip the loops on both ends of the bundle.
Tape your bundle down to a table just above the tie and divide the strings into three sections, making sure that the colors are divided evenly between each section. Braid. The braid should be tight enough that the plaits are uniform, but loose enough that each section is kind of fluffed out and plump, if that makes sense. Stop braiding about two inches from the end and tie the braid with another scrap piece of floss. The braid should be the length around the cuff from one edge to the other.
At both ends of the braid, wrap a scrap piece of floss around the original tie. Leave a 1.5-inch tail at the beginning of the wrap and stop with 1.5 inches of floss left so that you can tie the ends together.
Repeat all these steps to make another braid with the remaining floss.
Cut a piece of gold floss about two feet long. If you have a needle with a large eye, use that for these next steps. If not, MacGyver yourself a needle like I did with a straight pin: tie a big knot in the end of the floss and stick the pin through the knot.
Line up the end of your first braid with the edge of the cuff. Starting from the inside of the cuff/backside of the braid, insert the needle/pin (I’m just going to say “pin” from now on) in between two strands of the braid and carefully push it through, pulling the floss through the braid. Wind the floss around the cuff and then up the back of the braid. Stop pulling when there’s about three inches of floss left and tie the pin-end and the three inch-end in a knot around the cuff, securing the braid to the cuff.
Continue using the pin to wrap the gold floss through the braid, around the cuff and up the back. To keep your wrapping consistent, always go through the braid at the same point (for instance, where the left strand crosses over the middle strand.) When sticking the pin through the braid, take care to thread the floss through an “empty spot” in between two strands of the braid. If you try to go through a strand instead, you could snag other pieces of floss with the pin and mess up the braid.
Keep wrapping until you reach the end of your braid and the other end of the cuff. Watch the tension of your wraps–allow enough slack for the braid to stand on top of the cuff, but wrap tightly enough that the braid doesn’t flop down over the cuff.
When you get to the end, thread the remaining floss through the backside of the last loop around the cuff and tie another knot, securing the braid to the cuff on both sides. Cut the excess gold floss.
Flip the cuff over and repeat the process on the other side.
When both braids are done, cut the ends to a uniform blunt length. Use big scissors and do it in one fast chop to get the look of Bidermann’s piece.
The last step is to secure your knots and ends. Dab clear nail polish on all the knots to help them stay in place. If having little ties (from the gold thread and the wraps on the braids) bothers you, you can tape those ends to the inside of the cuff with a piece of Scotch tape. I’d do that instead of trimming the ends short just in case a knot unravels and you have to tie it again.
And there you have it–a modern, adult version of the friendship bracelets we all love. For this one, my total costs were under $10…a steal compared to $440 for Bidermann’s version.
For a different look, buy a taller bangle with multiple rows of metal. The only differences here are the number of braids I used (three) and what I did with the ends of the gold ties (frayed them and left them out instead of hiding them away.) The colors and size make this bracelet a little more edgy than the first, and I love it.
Since they’re easy and relatively cheap to make, make two like I did and send one to your best friend. The purple one is headed off to Sarah’s house as a late birthday present. After all the beautiful friendship bracelets she’s made for me over the years, I’m glad I finally have one to share with her.
Enjoy your Sunday, friends! Wishing you lots of coffee and a long walk outside after dinner.
Have you ever made a copycat version of something you couldn’t afford? I want to know how you did it!
(linked up to: Skip to My Lou, Join the Gossip, I Have a Degree in This, Still Being Molly, DC In Style, Fizz & Frosting, Walking in Memphis in High Heels, Style Elixir, Funky Polkadot Giraffe, New Nostalgia, Ladybug Blessings, Coastal Charm, Simply Just Lovely, My Romantic Home, The Shabby Nest, Chic on a Shoestring)