Lanyard Making – The Art of Scoubidou

Lanyard Making

A lanyard was traditionally used by sailors in the 1700’s to tie tools around their neck so they had their hands free for climbing the rigging. It’s usage then expanded into holding pistols and swords for the military, being used as decorative awards and honours, to even arming the fuze mechanism on aircraft bombs during WWII. Despite the lanyards rich history, most of us will know lanyards from their current widespread use as ID badge holders. Lanyards have had a surprising number of uses over the years, but in reality their basic function hasn’t changed very much. Instead of tying things to a bit of rope and wearing around the neck however, we now have clips and attachments. And thankfully, more comfortable materials! As with many traditional items, some creative minds among us decided there was some fun to be had with the making of lanyards and so Scoubidou (or boondoggle) was born.

Initially invented by creative French women to entertain their children in the early 1950’s, Scoubidou earned its somewhat odd name from a song by the French singer Sacha Distel. Originally based on the lanyard weaving of old, a new generation of children began to learn how to tie complex knots and make decorative designs. There is some ambiguity as to whether the art of scoubidou has its roots in Chinese lace weaving, but no matter where the craft originated, it has no doubt taught children creativity and dexterity and brought delight to children and adults alike across the world.

Originally, thread or thin straps of rope were used to create the colourful patterns and knots, but more recently the craft has had another surge of popularity, resulting in a more modern advancement. Called loom bands, hollow, plasticised PVC tubes are now used, and instead of lanyards, children are making friendship bracelets. A mini industry has sprung up around the art and the plastic tubing can be purchased in almost every colour variation and length, whilst scoubidou parties – where children can go and make various items whilst eating pizza with their friends – are becoming increasingly popular.

So if you have some time on your hands, or want to entertain your children. You may be wondering what sort of knots are involved? Are they complicated? Can I do it?

The Square stitch

The square stitch is a basic stitch in weaving, before moving onto anything else, it is useful to have mastered this one. It is also sometimes called a box stitch. You need two strands of equal length and to cross the middle points over one another. Holding onto the crossed middle points, take the underneath strand and fold it away from you over the other strand to create a loop. Do the same with the other end of the underneath strand. Take the right side of the top strand and go over the first loop and then under the second. The last end is woven over the first strand loop and under the second loop. Pull together tightly and you have your first successful knot!

The Double Square stitch

The same process applies, you just double the amount of strands!

The Cobra knot

This is a common knot used in lanyard making. This is quite decorative and these knots form the braid you will see on military uniforms. Again you have two strands, fold them both in half so you have four strands facing downwards. Bring the right hand strand underneath the middle two strands and take the left hand strand over the centre strands and through the loop on the right. Then alternate this. Remember to pull the strands tight after each knot.

The Spiral Stitch

This is a weave knot you will commonly see aboard ships. Instead of alternating the directions of the strands when you are doing a square stitch, move the strands in the same direction each time. This causes a twisting or spiral effect to form.

The Double Spiral stitch

The same process applies, you just double the amount of strands!

The Butterfly Knot

The butterfly knot is also know as the ‘linesman’ knot and is used predominately in mountain climbing or when workmen use lanyards to help keep them safe when working at heights. Needing only one strand, you twist it to form the shape of an eight, fold the top loop down to the bottom and then up and out through the lower opening in the eight and remember to pull tight!

The Triangle Stitch

This is similar to a square stitch, but thankfully you only have three strands. Tie these three strands into a loose granny knot, or the first knot you make when you tie your shoes! Separate the strands and let them fall into their own direction, take the first strand and place it over the strand next to it, then take the overlapped strand and place it over the first and third strand. The third strand then goes over the second strand and under the first one. Pull them tight to have your first triangle knot!

These are just a fraction of the weaving knots found in lanyard making or Scoubidou. The patterns they create can be beautiful whilst the knots and lanyards themselves are quite strong. And even though in this case Scoubidou is used for entertainment and art, the essence and functionality of a lanyard is still evident. Although I would stick to practising at home. We may be far from the dangerous days of roiling seas and treacherous trips up the rigging, but your own little pirates may get in trouble at school if they are seen with a bracelet, lanyard or loom bands, many UK schools have banned the craft due to a health and safety risk. So please, Scoubidou responsibly!