String Figures

I’m Jamis Buck, and I enjoy string figures. This page is where I record string figures that I particularly like, or which I’ve unvented.

In the descriptions below, “CFJ” is used to refer to the classic book String Figures and How to Make Them by Caroline Furness Jayne. The notation used is the ISFA notation, as described in this PDF, but some (especially later ones) are also described in Mizz code.

“Unventions”  

These are figures that I’ve unvented. Some or all may already have been published independently, somewhere, so if you happen to know a source for any of these, please drop me a line and let me know!

Gemstone (or Strawberry) 27 Jul 2009

This is a variation of Ten Men.

  1. Perform the first 7 steps of Ten Men as described by CFJ.
  2. 2 picks up 1f.
  3. Perform steps 12 and 13 of Ten Men as described by CFJ.

Alternatively, you can get to this pattern via “Ten Men” (though it doesn’t extend quite as nicely):

  1. Perform Ten Men.
  2. Release 1, but do not extend.
  3. 1 picks up upper 2n, extend.

Cat (or Spider) 27 Jul 2009

I stumbled on this one while experimenting with techniques from the “String Figures of Nauru Island” book by Honor Maude.

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1, from above, removes 5 loop.
  3. 5, from above, removes lower 1 loop through upper 1 loop. (Pinch lower 1n between 4 and 5 to help get the loop off.)
  4. Amwangiyo (see pg. 21 of String Figures of Nauru Island)

The steps above produce what looks (to me) like the face of a cat. If you omit the rotation of thumb in the amwangiyo step, you wind up with a spider sitting in it’s web!

If, instead of amwangiyo, you do eongatubabo, you end up with a figure similar to Eadeto (#1 from the Nauru book), except the diagonal strings in the center cross without looping. Rotating the 2 loops once before the eongatubabo gives a result closer to Eadeto, but lacking the small central diamond.

Also, try performing Nauru Ending after the amwangiyo!

Unnamed 28 Jul 2009

A pretty variation on the Cat (above):

  1. Opening A.
  2. left 1 and 2 move through right 2 loop and remove right 1 loop, pull through right 2 loop, and replace on right 1. repeat for right 5 loop, and left 1 and 5 loops.
  3. perform steps 2 through 4 of Cat.

As with Cat, if you omit the thumb rotation in the amwangiyo step you get a delicate mesh figure. Further, performing Nauru Ending after the amwangiyo gives another neat figure.

Rosebud 28 Jul 2009

This is a variation of Owl’s Net, which simply adds a Caroline extension.

  1. Make Owl’s Net.
  2. 1 removes 45 loop.
  3. 5, from above, removes 2 loop.
  4. 2, from above, removes 1 loop.
  5. 1 picks up 5n, removes 2 loop.
  6. Caroline Extension.

The result looks (vaguely) like the profile of a rosebud beginning to blossom.

Mother Hen Sheltering Her Chicks 29 Jul 2009

A variation on Eongatubabo:

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 picks 2f.
  3. 2 picks up lower 1 loop, release upper 1 loop.
  4. 1 moves through lower 2 loop from above, picks up 5f, release 5.
  5. 1 removes upper 2 loop.
  6. 5 removes 1 upper loop from above.
  7. rotate 2 loop. (This is the only step that differs from the figure described in the Nauru book.)
  8. repeat steps 2 through 7 as many times as desired. (Each repetition will add two “chicks”, one on either side of the central “mother hen”.)
  9. Eongatubabo.

This one works best with a long string (2 spans, at least). You should get a central “Mother Hen”, with chicks on either side, and her wings on the outside sheltering them.

Unnamed 3 Aug 2009

Use a long (2 to 3 spans) string for this one. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this is very similar to Itubwer 1 from the Nauru book, differing really only in which strings get held down in step #3.

  1. Nauru Opening 2.
  2. Rotate all fingers.
  3. 1 through 2 loops from above, through 3 loops from below, hook down 3f and 4n.
  4. 2 into 5 loops from above, hook back 5n, 4f, 3n, and 2f to near side of 1, 2 hooks up 1n.
  5. 1 picks up 5f, release 5.
  6. 1 removes upper 2 loop.
  7. 5 removes upper 1 loop, from above.
  8. release 2, 3, and 4.
  9. 2 removes 1 from above.
  10. 1 moves under 2 loop, picks up 5n from below, removes 2 from below.
  11. Caroline Extension.

There is a whole set of variations on this one that you can do simply by varying which fingers you twist in step #2. For instance, try twisting:

  • all fingers except 3
  • 2, 3, and 4
  • 2 and 4

Froggy 4 Aug 2009

Use a short (1 span), stiff cord for this one. (3mm nylon rope works well.)

1. Opening A.
2. Release 1.
3. 1 goes under 2 loop and picks up 5n from below.
4. Proceed as with Osage Diamonds, from step #4.

Moose, or Owl in Flight 11 Aug 2009

This is a variation on “Mataka Lai-Lai” (see below). I’m not yet sure what to call it; it looks either like the head and rack of a moose as seen head-on, or an owl in flight, wings extended, flying right at you.

  1. Begin as with Mataka Lai-Lai, steps 1-3.
  2. Insert 4 and 5 through 2 loop from above, pinch 1f strings and pull through 2 loop, placing 1f strings on 5.
  3. Drop 1.
  4. 1 goes under 2 loop and removes 5 loop.
  5. Perform Mataka Lai-Lai steps 4-8.

A Star 11 Aug 2009

This is another variation on “Mataka Lai-Lai” (see below).

  1. Begin as with Mataka Lai-Lai, steps 1-3.
  2. Insert 4 and 5 through 2 loop from below, pinch 1f strings and pull through 2 loop, placing 1f strings on 5.
  3. Drop 2.
  4. Extend by pointing fingers away from you.

Boarded-up Well 15 Aug 2009

This is a variation on “A Window” (see below), and is named because of it’s similarity to Fence Around a Well.

  1. Make “A Window”.
  2. Find vertical strings connecting the 1 and 2 TV strings. 5 picks up corresponding vertical string.
  3. Navajo 2. Navajo 1.
  4. Release 2.
  5. 1 picks up 5n.
  6. Caroline Extension.

TIE Fighter 15 Aug 2009

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 picks up 2f.
  3. 2 picks up (lower) 1f.
  4. Release 1.
  5. 1 moves through lower 2 loop from above, under 5 loop, removes 5 from above.
  6. 5 removes upper 2 loop from above.
  7. 2 >>.
  8. Repeat 2-6.
  9. Release 2.
  10. 2 removes 1 loop from above.
  11. 1 moves under 2 loop, picks up 5n, removes 2 from below.
  12. Caroline Extension.

If you replace steps 9-12 with the Apache Door ending, you wind up with “Princess Leia”. :)

Galaxy 24 Aug 2009

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 picks up 5n.
  3. 3 picks up (lower) 1f.
  4. Release 1.
  5. 1 moves through 2 from above, under 5 loop, removes 5 from far side and above.
  6. 5 removes 3 loop from above.
  7. 1 moves through 2 from above, picks up 5n.
  8. 5 moves through 2 from above, picks up 1f.
  9. 2 hooks down palmar 2 string, holding it against the palm.
  10. Release 1, allowing dorsal 2 string to slip over knuckle and off.
  11. Rotate 2 toward you and up.
  12. Transfer 2 loop to 1 from below.
  13. Extend with fingers pointed away from you.

For a wider extension (but one which turns the “galaxy” into something more like a flower), rotate 1 and 5 a full turn before extending.

Owl’s Face (or, maybe, Two Trees?) 24 Aug 2009

  1. Butterfly opening (see Galaxy, above, steps 1-5).
  2. 5 removes 3 loop from above.
  3. 1 picks up 5n.
  4. 5 picks up 1f.
  5. 2 hooks down palmar 2 string, holding it against the palm.
  6. Release 1, allowing dorsal 2 string to slip over knuckle and off.
  7. 1 removes 2 loop, inserting 1 distally.
  8. 5f has two strings, one of which is transverse (A), with the other going diagonally into the pattern (B). Lift B with 3 and pinch A (under B) between 2 and 3 (with A on the back of 2).
  9. Release 5. 5 removes 2 loop from above.
  10. 1n has two strings, one of which is transverse (A), with the other going diagonally into the pattern (B). Lift B with 2 and pinch A (under B) between 2 and 3 (with A on the back of 3).
  11. Release 1. 1 removes 3 loop from above.
  12. 2 removes 1 from above.
  13. 1 moves under 2 loop, picks up 5n, and removes 2 loop from below.
  14. Caroline Extension.

You can also do A House in the Forest by performing steps 1 & 2 twice before moving onto step 3. Do steps 1 & 2 three times to get A Mountain in the Forest.

Interpreting the owl’s face as “two trees”, this could become a story. You go for a short walk (butterfly opening once), and find two trees (a forest, maybe). The next day, you go a bit further (butterfly opening twice), and find a house in the forest. The next day, you go even further (butterfly opening thrice), and find a mountain!

Bow (on a gift) 24 Aug 2009

This works best on a small string, about 2/3 span or so.

  1. Butterfly opening (see Galaxy, above, steps 1-5).
  2. 5 removes 3 loop from above.
  3. Release 2 and extend gently (don’t let the diamond collapse too far).
  4. Release 5 (but don’t extend).
  5. Insert 2 and 3, distally, into 1 loop and pull tightly on the 1n (transverse) string to display the bow.

Dissolve the figure by inserting thumbs toward you into the “bows” (loops connecting transverse strings), removing all other fingers, and extending.

Mataka Lai-Lai (Sparse) 31 Aug 2009

A sparse half-net version of Mataka Lai-Lai:

  1. Opening A.
  2. Give 1 a full rotation toward you.
  3. Give 2 a half rotation away from you.
  4. Perform steps 2-8 of Mataka Lai-Lai (see below).

A similar (identical?) pattern may be obtained by using a modified Butterfly opening:

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 picks up 2f.
  3. 3 picks up 1f, release 1.
  4. 1 moves through 2 loop from above, moves under 2f, 3, and 5n, picks up 5f and returns, releasing 5.
  5. Finish by performing “B” and “C” of “Yet Another Net” (below).

In fact, it turns out you can get there by skipping step 2, above, or by doing various different variations on step #2 (e.g., 1 picks up 5n and 2f, etc.).

The Fijians actually call this pattern “Lalakai” and perform it just as Mataka, but instead of 345 pulling down 1f to the palm, 345 enters the 2 loop proximally and pulls 2n to the palm. Then, 2 hooks up 1f and 345 release their loops, and the pattern is extended between 1 and 2.

Yet Another Net 8 Sep 2009

Here’s an experiment combining the Kwakiutl Butterfly Opening with the Mataka ending.

(A) Butterfly opening:

  1. Opening A
  2. 1 picks up 5n.
  3. 3 picks up 1f, release 1.
  4. 1 moves through 2 loop from above, moves under 2f, 3, and 5n, picks up 5f and returns, releasing 5.

(B) Then:

  1. 1 moves over 2n, under 2f and 3n, picks up 3f and returns, releasing 3.

(C) “Mataka” ending:

  1. 345, under 2 loop, enter 1 loops from above and hook down both 1f strings.
  2. 1, from below, picks up 2n. Navajo the 2 lower 1 loops over the upper
    loop.
  3. Touch the tips of 1 and 2. Slide 2 loop onto 1.
  4. 2 enters 345 loop, from above, and catches up the double 345n string from below (after it passes through a loop).
  5. Slowly release 1 loops and rotate hands so that the palms face outward.

The result is very similar to Mataka, with the exception of two crossings consisting of twisted loops, instead of crossed loops. There are lots of possible variations here; varying the Butterfly opening, or modifying the route of the thumb in the step preceding the Mataka ending, etc.

Mataka (single diamond) 8 Sep 2009

I’ve found there are several different ways of building this figure (all of which I’ve stumbled upon by accident), but I’ve only been able to recall this particular method:

  1. Opening A.
  2. Rotate 5 a full turn toward you.
  3. 1 removes 5 loop.
  4. Mataka ending (see “C” above, in “Yet Another Net”).

Alternatively:

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 moves through 2 loop from above and removes 5 loop.
  3. Mataka ending.

I actually like the following method best, since used iteratively it can create all the even-numbered Mataka figures.

Begin with Opening A. Then, call the following (for lack of a better term), the Net Opening. (It is identical in effect to the TT(1,1) maneuver described in “String Figures of Tikopia” in the 1997 BIFSA, Volume 4.)

  1. 1 picks up 2f.
  2. 3 picks up 1f, and release 1.
  3. 1 moves through 2 loop from above and picks up 5f from below, and release 5.
  4. 5 removes 3 from above.

Then, set up for the extension:

  1. 1 moves through 2 loop from above and removes 5.

Lastly, if you can end with the Gilbertese Extension, or with what I’ll call the “Lalakai” extension (So called because Hornell describes it as the extension for the Fijian “Lalakai” figure):

  1. Insert 345 into 2 loop from below and hook down 2n to the palm.
  2. 2 enters 1 loop from above and hooks up all 1f strings, pulling them through the original 2 loop and letting that original loop slip off 2.
  3. Release 345 and extend.

If, after starting with the “Net” opening, you do the Lalakai extension, you’ll end up with Mataka-0. If you do the Gilbertese extension, you’ll end up with Mataka-2. And if you perform the Net opening twice in a row, Lalakai will give you Mataka-2 and Gilbertese will give you Mataka-4. If you perform the Net opening n times, Lalakai will give you Mataka with 2(n-1) crossings, and Gilbertese will give you 2n crossings.

Note, too, that if you do the TT(1,1) maneuver zero times, you get Mataka-0! And doing the TT(1,1) maneuver zero times, followed by the Lalakai extension, you get an interesting “negative” Mataka (not interesting to look at, but interesting from a mathematical point of view).

Mataka-6 15 Sep 2009

Although you can use the technique in the following note (Building a Net) to get to any even-numbered Mataka mesh, this will get you to Mataka-6 directly:

  1. Opening A
  2. Rotate 2 loop a half turn away from you.
  3. Rotate 5 a full turn away from you.
  4. Mataka ending.

Building a Net 9 Sep 2009

I’m very excited about this one! Once I had found Mataka (single diamond) (above), as well as the sparse net, I wondered if it would be possible to go from the single diamond, to the sparse net, to Mataka itself. Some analysis showed that the single diamond version had zero crossings across the transverse strings, the sparse version had two crossings on each transverse string, and Mataka had 4 crossings.

So, I started experimenting, and found this. Starting with “Mataka (single diamond)” above, do the following:

  1. 1 removes 5 loop proximally.
  2. 5 removes 2 loop proximally.
  3. Each palmar string has a loop encircling it. 2 picks up the distal string of that loop.
  4. Release 1.
  5. 1 moves to the far side of 5f and removes 5 from above.
  6. Rotate 2 a half-turn away from you.
  7. Gilbertese Extension.

This adds two crossings across the transverse strings each time you apply it. Thus, doing it once gives you the “sparse” Mataka, doing it again gives you Mataka, doing it again gives you a denser weave with six crossings, etc. The versions with 6+ crossings require considerable manual arranging, but can be quite pretty.

Further: if you rotate the thumb twice during the mataka extension, you get 2x the number of crossings. Thus, to get to Mataka-8 quickly, just do Mataka-4, but rotate the thumb twice instead of once (after picking up the little finger loop).

Mataka + Amwangiyo 11 Sep 2009

The Nauru Amwangiyo maneuver is really just the Gilbertese Movement, followed by a rotation of the thumb, followed by the Gilbertese Extension. Since the Mataka series are just the Gilbertese Movement applied to some configuration, I wondered what would happen if you applied Amwangiyo to the patterns in the Mataka series?

The simplest way to build these nets is via the procedure described above under “Mataka (single diamond).” If you do a single TT(1,1), and then Amwangiyo, you get a mesh of crossings, where 4 of them intersect by twisting. Interestingly, if you replace the Gilbertese Extension with the Lalakai Extension, you get the Nauru “Iwinbawo” figure!

So I wondered what would happen if you tried to join the Nauru “Amwangiyo” figure with the Mataka mesh?

  1. Opening A.
  2. TT(1,1).
  3. Rotate 1 a full turn toward you. Rotate 2 and 5 a full turn away from you.
  4. Amwangiyo.
  5. Optional: Nauru Ending.

You wind up with “Amwangiyo”, but with two central (and interlocking) suns!

Banana Slug 14 Sep 2009

  1. Navaho Opening.
  2. Insert 345 into 2 loop from below, and 345 hook 2n to the palm.
  3. 2 hooks up 1f, pulling it through the original 2 loop and letting that original loop slip off of 2.
  4. Release 1.
  5. Release 34 (leaving 5 to hold its string to the palm).
  6. 1 shares 2 loop.
  7. Insert 345 into 12 loop and let 12 loop slip down to wrist.
  8. Return 5 to an upright position by rotating it toward you and up.
  9. 1 picks up 5n.
  10. Opening A.
  11. Release wrist loops and extend.

You can get a Snail instead if you replace opening A in step 10 with Nauru Opening 2. (Needs a longer string, though!)

Unnamed Opening 25 Sep 2009

I’ve always loved the Kwakiutl Butterfly opening, and the Tikopian TT(1,1). Here’s a version with a very attractive symmetry, and which may offer a fun avenue for future exploration:

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 moves under 2 loop, picks up 5n and 2n.
  3. 2 picks up 1f, release 1.
  4. 1 moves through lower 2 loop from above, under 5 loop, removes 5 from above.
  5. 1 removes upper 2 loop from above.
  6. 5 removes upper 1 loop.

(10/04) I think this is identical to the following opening:

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 moves through 2 loop from above, returns with 5n.
  3. 2 picks up 1f, release 1.
  4. 1 moves through lower 2 loop from above, under 5 loop, removes 5 from above.
  5. 1 removes upper 2 loop.
  6. 5 removes upper 1 loop from above.

Butterfly 3 Oct 2009

  1. Opening A.

Then the “Net Opening” :

  1. 1 moves through 2 from above, returns with 5n.
  2. 3 picks up 1f.
  3. Release 1.
  4. 1 moves through 2 from above, under 3 and 5, removes 5 from above.
  5. 5 removes 3 from above.

Then:

  1. Exchange 2 loops, left through right.

Then “two-kick” ending:

  1. 1 moves through 2 from above, returns with 5n.
  2. 5 moves through 2 from below, returns with 1f.
  3. 2 and 3 move under “inner” (non-transverse) 5f, pinch “outer” (transverse) 5f, and rotate down and back to position, leaving 5f on back of 3.
  4. Release 5 from all loops.
  5. 5 removes 3 from above.
  6. 2 and 3 move under “inner” (non-transverse) 1n, pinch “outer” (transverse) 1n, and rotate down and back to position, leaving 1n on back of 2.
  7. release 1 from all loops.
  8. 1 removes upper 2 from above.
  9. Caroline ending.

If you do the apache door ending instead of the two-kick ending, you get a lily-pad floating on the water (display by pointing fingers at the ground to make the figure lay flat).

Bow and Arrow or blinking eyes 16 Oct 2009

Mizz code, baby!

  1. 1-5,s
  2. R2,p/
  3. R2ab[10]
  4. R1-5,R2
  5. L1,5a
  6. L5,1b
  7. 1 kick
  8. 5 kick
  9. R3.6,p1
  10. SPR & arrange (left inner pull) [arrow on bow]
  11. R3 [shooting arrow]

For best presentation reverse the direction on R1 and R5 in the next-to-last step.

For blinking eyes, omit the finger rotations in step 3, and don’t release R3 in the last step. Instead, pull R3 to make the “eyes” blink.

Electric Guitar 22 Oct 2009

  1. Position 1.
  2. R2 picks up left palmar string from above and rotates away and up, returning to position.
  3. L2 picks up right palmar string from above, through R2 loop, and rotates away and up, returning to position.
  4. 1 picks up 5n.
  5. 5 picks up 1f.
  6. 2 hooks down over palmar string and releases its loop over the knuckle.
  7. Release 1.
  8. Transfer 2 to 1 distally (2 loop is the one held to the palm).

Now, rotate figure counter clockwise:

  1. R2 removes R1.
  2. R1 removes L1.
  3. L1 removes L5.
  4. L5 removes R5.
  5. R5 removes R2.
  6. Display with L1 and L5 touching, and R1 and R5 spread far apart.

Bushy Mustache 23 Oct 2009

This is a variation on the Burbot (http://www.isfa.org/arctic/42.htm.)

  1. Nauru Opening 2 (or any other 5 loop opening, e.g. Murphy’s 5LDNA).
  2. 1 gets 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, in that order, so that all 5 loops are stacked on 1.
  3. 5 enters 1 loops from below, moves to far side of uppermost 1f (it will be transverse), and hooks it down through the loops, holding it to the palm.
  4. 2 and 3 enter 1 loop from above and pinch lowermost 1n (it will be transverse), pulling it up through the loops, and rotating back to position with the loop on 2.
  5. Release 1. (At this point, you have a “thicker” version of the Burbot, with diamonds walled by 4 strings instead of 2).
  6. 1 removes 2.
  7. Carefully remove 5 and reinsert it from the opposite side.
  8. Repeat steps 2-5 (with loops only one 1 and 5). You may need to push the palmar loops toward the center of the figure with 2 in order to make the finger loops larger.

The result is a bushy mustache framed by two diamonds!

And now, in mizz code, because I want to practice…

  1. nauru opening 2
  2. 1,2
  3. 1,3
  4. 1,4
  5. 1h,5
  6. 5.6,(1bl)1bh (1bl=all 4 1bl strings)
  7. 1 kick (kick=1al, target=all 4 1ah strings) [Burbot 5]
  8. 4.6,5.6a
  9. 5
  10. 5T4
  11. repeat 2-6

Diamond Bridge 23 Oct 2009

Opening
0 3-loop base
1 R2ab

First Inuit Weave
2 1,(2b)5a
3 3,1b
4 1

Second Inuit Weave
5 1,(2b 3 5a)5b

Continuation Move
6 5
7 5T3

Shift loops
8 1,(2b)5

Gilbertese Ending
9 345.6,(2)1b
10 1h,2a
11 (1h*)1l (1l=two strings)
12 1T2
13 2,345.6aj
14 1

For a stronger presentation:
15 1T2
16 5
17 5T34.6
18 SPR & arrange with inner pull

Untitled 31 Oct 2009

0 base
1 1,(2b)5a
2 1 kick
3 5,(2b)1b
4 5 kick
5 1,(2a)2b
6 1 kick
7 5,2a
8 5 kick
9 repeat 1-8[n]
10 inuit out

The result is reminiscent of “Mother Hen Sheltering Her Chicks”, though it gets you more “chicks” faster.

Two Eyes 1 Nov 2009

This requires a long-ish string. (2 spans, at least, I’d say.)

0 base
1 1,(2a)2b
2 1 kick
3 5,2a
4 2 kick
5 repeat 1-4[2]
6 Eongatubabo

Heart in a Box 10 Nov 2009

2-span string

0 base
1 1,2b
2 5,2a
3 R2,2c/ (two strings)
4 L2,2c/ (two strings)
5 1h&5h [3-loop opening with caged mouth]
6 SPR
7 [Apache Door out]

It is important that steps 3 and 4 be done in that order: right hand first, then left. Otherwise you get a different (but attractive) figure, kind of like a flower. Similarly, steps 1 and 2 must be done in that order (thumb, then little finger) or yet another figure results.

One problem with the 3-loop opening with caged mouth is that it is noisy—the three loops on 2 alone result in the need for (1) a long string and (2) thick boxes when you end with apache door. It turns out with some careful removing of strings you can whittle it down to just a single loop on 2, and still preserve the mouth in the middle.

0 base
1 1,2b
2 5,2a
3 R2,2c/ (two strings)
4 L2,2c/ (two strings)
5 1h&5h
6 2ao (two transverse strings)
7 SPR [3-loop opening with mouth]

The next question is: are all these string gymnastics really necessary for the essentially simple configuration at step 10? Might there not be a more direct method of achieving this?

And…done! After reverse engineering the above, here’s what I came up with:

0 5,s
1 L2ad,5a
2 R2,2c/
2 1,(2b)5a
4 2
5 2T1
6 L1ad,(2b)qd
7 R1,1c/
8 SPR

(I originally formulated the above with (0) 2ldna (1) 2,1, but replaced it with steps 0-2 above to show similarity to the other two chiral derivations below.)

The question now is: can you achieve the different chiral variations of the original using this derivation? Swapping R and L in steps 0-2, or 5-6, only achieve mirror images, rather than different figures altogether.

For the chiral version where you pick up L instead of R in the original (e.g. swapping steps 3 and 4), the derivation is:

0 5,s
1 L2ad,5a
2 L1,2b
3 R1,5a
4 R2,(L2p)Rp
5 R2ab
6 SPR & arrange (inner pull R1b and R5a to move cross to center)

For the chiral version where 5 gets 2a first (e.g. swapping steps 1 and 2), the derivation is:

0 5,s
1 2ad,5a
2 R1,(R2p L2p)L2b
3 L1,R1a
4 SPR

This last one appears to be the same as the first derivation (“mouth”), but mirrors across the x-axis (i.e. far and near are swapped).

Bug Face 17 Nov 2009

Works best with a short or doubled string.

0 [kwakiutl opening]
1 345.6,(2b)2a&1b
2 2bd,(2b)1a (auto-off 2 old)
3 345.6
4 5,(s)qd
5 1
(then, two-diamonds ending)
6 1,5b
7 1h,2a
8 (1h*)1l
9 2bd,(2b)qd (auto-off 2 old)
10 5
11 Caroline

Assuming your string was short, you should see the eyes and mandibles of an insect!

Orion 6 Dec 2009

0 4-loop opening
1 2,(1b)2
2 3,(5a)3
3 1,(2a)1
4 5,(3b)5
5 2,(3a)2
6 3,(2b)3
7 1,5a
8 5,1b
9 2.6,2p (auto-off 2)
10 3.6,3p (auto-off 3)
11 1&5
12 1,2.6
13 5,3.6
14 SPR & display

Variations:

  • Try 1ba[2] and 5ab[2] after step 2.
  • Try replacing steps 7-13 (the “bokola” ending) with small amwangiyo.

Steer skull (also, puppy head) 7 Dec 2009

This is a variation on the Laia flower. The altered steps are in red, below:

0 base
1 0T5
2 L5bd,(0)1a
3 R5,L5b
4 1,(5)1
5 1,2
6 1,5a
7 2,1b (1b=two strings)
8 1&5
9 5,2bo (2bo=string moving into flower)
10 SPR & arrange

Owl in Flight 29 Jan 2010

0 base
1 5h,2b
2 (5h*)5l
3 1h,2a
4 (1h*)1l
5 2
6 R2,1
7 R1,1/
8 L1,5
9 L5,5/
10 R5,2
11 L2,p1/
12 R2,2p2/
13 1,5a
14 5,1b
15 2.6,2p
16 5 (auto-off 2-old)
17 Caroline

Hanging Net

1 0,s
2 5,0a
3 1,(5b)0b
4 R2T0/
5 L2T0/ [proto-net]
6 1,(2)5a
7 5,(2a)1b
8 2
9 SPR, arrange & display

Stories I’ve Created  

These are string stories I’ve created. In some cases I’ve reused figures from previously published sources, and in others I’ve invented my own figures. I’ll indicate those that were published elsewhere.

The Anniversary 2 Sep 2009

A husband wanted to surprise his wife on their anniversary, so he went to the jewelers and look at the diamonds in the display case.

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 picks up 5n.
  3. 3 picks up (lower) 1f.
  4. Release 1.
  5. 1 moves through 2 from above, under 5 loop, removes 5 from far side and above.
  6. 5 removes 3 loop from above.
  7. Extend with fingers spread, and pointing away from you.

The jeweler hurried over and asked if he could help the man in any way. The man paused for a moment, and then said, “I’ll take that one!”

  1. Release 2 and extend with fingers pointing away from you.

The jeweler gleefully put the diamond in a box and wrapped it all up with a bow.

  1. Gently release 5.
  2. Insert 2345 distally into 1 loop, add add tension to 1n (near transverse string) ONLY.

The man hurried home with his gift and proudly presented it to his wife. His wife eagerly opened the box…

  1. Insert thumbs toward you into the two loops in the middle of the figure.
  2. Release 2345 and extend.

But there was nothing inside except a loop of string! Things might have turned nasty, then, except the husband was a fast thinker. He quickly grabbed the string and showed his wife how to make diamonds of her own!

  1. Perform “Gemstone”, above.

The Monster on the Mountain 2 Sep 2009

I went for a walk the other day, and I came to a bridge.

  1. Index Opening.

After crossing the bridge, the land began to slope upward, so I climbed up…

  1. L3 enters lower 2 loop proximally and hooks down upper 2f and holds it to the palm.
  2. R3 hooks down lower 2f and holds it to the palm.
  3. Insert 45 into 3 loop proximally, to help hold the loop to the palm.

And up…

  1. Transfer 345 loop to 1, proximally.
  2. 3 hooks down lower 2n pulling it through the 1 loop and holding to the palm.
  3. Insert 45 into 3 loop proximally, holding loop to the palm.
  4. Release 1.

And up…

  1. Share 345 loop with 1.
  2. 3 hooks down upper 2n, pulling it through the 1345 loop and holding it to the palm.
  3. 45 release original loop, insert into 3 loop proximally, and hold loop to palm.
  4. Release 1.

And up!

  1. 2 hooks up 2f (effectively wrapping 2f once around 2).
  2. Extend with 2 pointing upward, the other fingers held to the palm.

I had just climbed a mountain! At the top of the mountain, there was a dark cave.

  1. There is a diagonal string (A) running across the backs of 345, and another string (B) which used to be the lower 2f, and which runs perpendicular to the palms. With the back of 3, push A back behind B, and hook B down through the 345 loop.
  2. Release 45 from their original loop, and transfer to the 3 loop, holding that loop to the palm.

I decided to peek inside. It was very dark.

  1. 3 hooks upper 2n down through the 345 loop (use 1 to help hold 345 loop wide), and transfer 45 to the new loop, releasing both the old loop, and upper 2 loop.

Fortunately, I had a box of matches. I lit one, and saw a horrible monster!

  1. Locate the transverse string running between the lower 2n loops. Hook this string up on the back of 2 and extend with 2 pointing up, and the other fingers held to the palm.

He tried to get me, and I dropped my match! It was pitch dark again, while I struggled to escape.

  1. Release upper 2 loop. Pull hands apart, “struggling”.

I finally escaped from the cave, and ran all the way back down the mountain and across the bridge.

  1. Release 345 and extend (should return you to the index opening).

To this day I’ve never gone back to see if the monster is still there. Maybe you will?

Favorites  

These are figures that I’ve seen elsewhere (either published in a book, or posted online), but which I wanted to remember, or which could benefit from a clearer rephrasing.

Five-Pointed Star 30 Jul 2009

This is a figure reported on the ISFA mailing list, in this post. The following are my rephrasing of the instructions given in that post, which are a little clearer to me.

  1. Double string, and place it on L2 and R1 and R5.
  2. L1 picks up right palmar string from above.
  3. L5 picks up R1f.

Banana Tree 4 Aug 2009

Found on the String Figures mailing list.

  1. Opening A
  2. 2 hooks down and pulls back 4 and 5 loops (via 5f), removes 1 loop from above.
  3. 2 insert into 5 loop from above, rotate toward you and up. (Should have three loops on 2 now).
  4. 1 picks up 2n strings (except palmar string running from 5 to 2).
  5. release 5.
  6. each 5 picks up, from above, nearest diagonal strings running from 1n to 2f TV strings over the figure.
  7. release 2.
  8. hold hands with fingers pointing up, palms turned away you. Identify strings that cross in middle of figure, and pick up with 2 the corresponding string segment above the cross.
  9. identify 1n that becomes 2f and remove that loop from 1.
  10. 1 picks up 5n.
  11. Caroline Extension.

Translated to Mizz code:

0 base
1 2bd,(5a* s)1b
2 1
3 2ab[2]
4 2ad,(s)5a
5 1,2ajo (two strings)
6 5
7 5,d1
8 2
9 2ad,(1)d2d
10 1ai
11 1,5a
12 2.1h,1bi
13 caroline

Incidentally, after playing around with some totally different movements, I accidentally stumbled on a figure that looks very, very similar to the Banana Tree. (It’s not identical—in the original, the loops on the lower transverse string go directly to the upper transverse string; not so in this version).

  1. Opening A
  2. 1 picks up 5n
  3. 2 picks up 1f, release 1.
  4. 1 moves through lower 2 loop from above, under 5 loop, removes 5 from above.
  5. 5 removes upper 2 loop from above.
  6. 2 removes 1 from above.
  7. 1 moves under loops, picks up 5n.
  8. 1 removes upper 2 loop.
  9. Navaho 1.
  10. 1 moves over 2 loop, picks up 5n.
  11. Caroline extension.

I like this one better—it’s much easier to describe, and can be done without having to set the strings down.

Mataka Lai-Lai 6 Aug 2009

A Fijian figure, collected by James Hornell, posted to the String Figures mailing list by Will Wirt (message #329).

1. Opening A.
2. 1, under intervening strings, enters 5 loop from below. Rotate 1 down,
then toward the body, and up.
3. Release 5 loop. There will be two loops on 1 and one loop on 2.
4. 345, under 2 loop, enter 1 loops from above and hook down both 1f strings.
5. 1, from below, picks up 2n. Navajo the 2 lower 1 loops over the upper
loop.
6. Touch the tips of 1 and 2. Slide 2 loop onto 1
7. 2 enters 345 loop, from above, and catches up the double 345n string from below (after it passes through a loop). This represents dawn.
8. Slowly release 1 loops and rotate hands so that the palms face outward. A great day has arrived.

A Window 15 Aug 2009

This was from Ed Sterchi’s article in the 1997 Bulletin of the International String Figure Association (Volume 4).

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1 picks up 5n.
  3. 3 picks up (lower) 1f, release both 1 loops.
  4. 1 over 2 loops, under 3 and 5 loops, remove 5 from above.
  5. 1 under 3 loop, remove 3 from above.
  6. 2 shares upper 1 loop, extend.
  7. Remove 1 loops.
  8. 1 shares 2 loops, extend.

Eyes of the Blind Snake 17 Aug 2009

This was apparently in Volume 9, Number 2 (June 2004) of the String Figure Magazine, but I found it online here. What follows is my rephrasing of the french translation at that site.

  1. Place string on wrists.
  2. 1 hooks up 1n.
  3. 5 hooks up 5f.
  4. 5 picks up 1f.
  5. 1 picks up palmar 5 string. (At this point, you have two loops on each 1 and 5, and a loop on each wrist.)
  6. Release wrist loops to create two hourglass figures, one at each hand.
  7. R2 and R3 pick up the base of the nearest triangle of the left hourglass.
  8. L2 and L3 move through R23 loop and pick up the base of the nearest triangle of the right hourglass.
  9. With right hand wind L2n once around L23, and L3f once around L23. Repeat with left hand on right hand. You’ll now have three 23 loops.
  10. Extend hands apart, revealing a central diamond. 2 picks up corresponding lower edge of diamond, and 3 picks up corresponding upper edge.
  11. Navaho lower three 23 loops over upper 23 loop.
  12. Move R2 and R3 through L2 loop, remove L1 loops through L2 loop, and replace loops on L1. Repeat for R1 with L2 and L3.
  13. Move R2 and R3 through L3 loop, remove L5 loops through L3 loop, and replace loops on L5. Repeat for R5 with L2 and L3.
  14. Release 2 and 3.
  15. Extend by pointing fingers away from you.

The Salt Cave 18 Aug 2009

This is a neat variation on Jacob’s Ladder.

  1. Opening A.
  2. 2345 remove 1 from above.
  3. 1 goes under 2 loop and 5n and picks up 5f (not 2345f).
  4. 1 picks up 2f.
  5. Release 5.
  6. 5 picks up 1f.
  7. Release 1.
  8. 1 picks up 5n.
  9. 1 shares 2345 and 2 loops (by picking up 2345n and 2n near 2).
  10. Navaho 1.
  11. Insert 2 into small triangles near 1 and perform Osage Extension (very loosely).
  12. Carefully insert 5 proximally into 1 loop and hook down the hanging transverse string through the 1 loop, releasing 1 in the process.

Do not extend this figure too tightly or the diamonds in the archway will collapse.

Solo Cat’s Cradle 13 Sep 2009

I’ve been looking all over for this one. I know it’s been published in (e.g.) the BIFSA, and maybe a String Figure magazine, but I don’t yet have access to those. I found this description here.

A. Cat’s Cradle

  1. Japanese Opening (e.g. Opening A, using 3 instead of 2 to pick up palmar strings).

B. Soldier’s Bed

  1. 2345 removes 1 from above (let 2345 loop slip down to the far side of the wrist).
  2. 12345 remove from 5 (but not the far wrist string) from above (and let the loop slip down to the near side of the wrist).
  3. 1 removes 3.
  4. 34 pick up 4f.
  5. 345 pick up far wrist string and extend.

C. Candles

  1. Turn right hand palm down and release left hand from all loops.
  2. L2 picks up R22.
  3. L1 picks up R12 and extend.

D. Diamonds

  1. 5 picks up 1f, release 1.
  2. 1 picks up TV 2n.
  3. 1 removes 5.
  4. Navajo 2.
  5. 2 picks up TV 1f.

E. Cat’s Eye

  1. 5 enters 2 from below and returns with oblique 2f.
  2. 5 picks up 1f.
  3. Release 1.

F. Drum

  1. 1 moves below 2 and picks up oblique 2f.
  2. 2 hooks up TV 5n (letting original 2 loops slip off finger).
  3. R1 and R2 grasp L5n, release L5.
  4. Insert L5 toward into loop held by R1 and R2, and hook it down.
  5. Release R1 and R2.
  6. Repeat 3-5 with L1 and L2 on R5.

(Alternatively, instead of using R1 and R2 to hold the upper 5 loop, you can transfer it to 4, release 5, and then transfer 4 back to 5, hooking it to the palm.)

G. Clothes Horse (the instructions at the link above get hard to follow here, so this may or may not be exactly right, but it works)

  1. 1 removes 2.
  2. 2 shares 12.

H. Cat’s Cradle

  1. 345 enter into double 12, allowing double loop to slide down to wrist.
  2. Rotate 5 toward you and up.
  3. 1 picks up 5n.
  4. R3 picks up L palmar string.
  5. L3 picks up R palmar string through R3 loop.
  6. Release wrist loops and extend.

Laia Flower 6 Oct 2009

I have no idea what a Laia flower is (and Google isn’t any help), but the string figure is sure beautiful.

  1. Opening A.
  2. 1234 remove 5 from above.
  3. 5 shares 1234 loop, letting loop fall to wrist.
  4. L5 moves under wrist loop, enters 1 loop from below, and returns with 1n.
  5. R5 shares L5 loop.
  6. 1 removes 2.
  7. 1 picks up 5n.
  8. 2 picks up 1f2.
  9. Release 1 and 5.
  10. 2 has two far strings. One becomes the opposite 2n, and the other becomes the opposite far wrist string. 5 picks up the latter.

Or, in mizz code:

0 base
1 0T5
2 L5bd,(0)1a
3 R5,L5b
4 1,2
5 1,5a
6 2,1b (1b=two strings)
7 1&5
8 5,2bo (2bo=string moving into flower)
9 SPR & arrange

Clothes Line 24 Nov 2009

This is an Eskimo figure recorded by Gordon and mentioned by Jayne. Gordon’s instructions are HARD TO FOLLOW. What follows is how I’ve interpreted his instructions. The figure doesn’t blossom consistently, though, so I’m not certain my understanding is complete.

1 1-5,s
2 R1ad,5f
3 L1,5f/
4 5
5 5.6,(1bi*)1bo
6 2,1ai
7 1 (SPR)
8 1ad,(2b qd)d2d
9 2l,1 (2 old becomes 2h)
10 1,2h
11 2
12 2,1
13 1,(s qd)qu (qd=d1j, qu=d1jj)
14 2lT1 (2 old becomes 2h)
15 1,2h
16 2
17 2,1 (keep string high on 2) (optional: inner-pull R2a for better final extension)
18 1T5.6bj
19 1bc (optional, improves final extension)
20 5.6
21 Caroline (do not separate hands any more than necessary; extend by moving 5b as far down as possible)

Kwakiutl Two Trees 30 Nov 2009

This was an experiment in describing a Kwakiutl figure in mizz code. I think it lends itself quite well to it, although the northwest coast intertwine maneuver is a bit verbose. (Well, verbose for mizz code, anyway).

0 base
1 1,(s)5b
2 3bd,(5a 2)1b
3 1bdh,(2 3a)5aj (auto-off 1ai, keep 1ao)
4 3
5 1 kick
6 345.6,5

(steps 7-11 are the “northwest coast intertwine” maneuver)
7 3.4,1b*
8 345.6 (keep 3.4, 345.6 becomes q)
9 345.6,3.4
10 3.4,qu*
11 repeat 8-9

12 2
13 SPR & display