Back when I was a cub scout one of our crafty things to do was to make lanyards from bits of plastic strips. Tandy Leather sold (and still sells) the stuff by the spool. I got pretty good at various braids, and made several lanyards that never really got used.
Fast forward 40+ years…
Braiding with strips of stuff is back. It even made its way into 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite…
Deb: Well, maybe you’d be interested in some home-woven handicrafts?
Deb: … And here we have some boondoggle key chains. A must-have for this season’s fashion.
Napoleon Dynamite: I already made like infinity of those at scout camp.
This season’s fashion, though, uses parachute cord, aka 550 paracord instead of plastic stripping. The height of fashion seems to be the “survival bracelet”. I had seen these at outfitter stores, and even at the occasional quick stop shop, but didn’t pay much attention until I was given one at the EdTech conference back in October. I’ve been wearing mine since then, more as an uplifting reminder than for any need for an emergency supply of parachute cord.
This fall and winter I’ve had lots of time spent just sitting. I managed to get lots done on my laptop, but sometimes I just want to get away from anything that looks like a screen. I started looking at my survival bracelet, and decided to see if I could make one.
I always keep a supply of cord for kayaking and camping. I found that I did have some paracord. I didn’t have any bracelet buckles, but I did have some lanyard swivels and snap swivels left over from when I modified my camera straps.
I found a simple set of instructions for a key fob online at Instructables using the “cobra weave” and started from there. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to how the weaving was supposed to alternate. I wound up with something that looked more like a loose DNA strand than a key chain.
Soon, though, I figured it out and was able to create a flat fob with the correct weaving pattern.
I used my paracord to practice weaving several more of these, and during that process I discovered why people are attracted to repetitive actions such as weaving, knitting, and macramé. It’s soothing. Once I got the pattern down it was a mindless thing to do while sitting around, and I found I could tie one of these things fairly quickly.
I was ready to move on to bigger and better projects, something other than key fobs and zipper pulls. For that I needed more paracord. I was able to find more cord in a couple of colors, as well as some inexpensive snap buckles. On a lark, I decided that if this was going to be a true “survival” bracelet, it needed a compass, so I ordered some small ones from Amazon, too.
These turned out very well. I first made a simple single-color bracelet…
…then figured out how to combine two cords for a multi-colored bracelet.
Finally, I figured out how to thread the cord through one of the compasses so I could include one of those on the bracelet.
I had an olive drab field bag that only had a shoulder strap. I decided it needed a handle, so I figured out a way to do a cobra weave between the two loops. I guess I could have used lanyard swivels so that it could be removed, but I wound up just tying it to the looks themselves.
Now I’ve got enough of these things so that I can survive just about anything!
Speaking of which, as I was looking up instructions and supplies for these things I had to laugh a bit at the language – “tactical”, “survival”, “cobra weave”. etc., etc. Even the predominant color, olive drab, hints at military origins. Wikihow gives this origin of the bracelets…
Within some military units, it’s a tradition to make what is known as a “combat bracelet” using paracord from a soldier’s trouser ties and a button from their uniform. Each soldier makes one for the next so each one has a bracelet made by someone else. These are then worn on the mission by each soldier and only taken off when the whole unit returns.
While this site doesn’t mention a specific war, other websites have hinted at origins in the first Gulf War. There’s probably an element of truth to each of these. What I have seen is that vendors selling these bracelets often play upon these as a way to “honor” veterans. Maybe. Most often I’ve seen vendors describe the fact that you’ve got 8 to 10 feet of paracord to use in an emergency. Certainly, the $20 SurvivalStraps bracelet from ThinkGeek plays upon that to justify its exorbitant price.
Personally, I find 20 ft of cord in a nice hank where I can get to it easily much more useful than 10 ft woven in a tight braid around my wrist. Paramilitary associations and survivalism are not the appeals for me that they might be for someone else. I’ve got my own reasons for wearing the one I keep. I keep making them simply because I can, and because it’s relaxing. Who knows? Perhaps by the time I retire they will be back in style, and I can make a fortune off of the key fobs I’ve accumulated.
2 thoughts on “Tactical Macramé”
You are now an honorary Eagle Scout. BTY, I’ll buy one of those compass ones from you – I stay lost a lot.
I like the title of this entry.