More Easy String Figures


Video clips have been added for most figures. If you have difficulty following a description of how to make a string figure, look at the end of the description and click on Slow dial-up, Dial-up, or Broadband. To view the clips you will need Window's Media Player. For best viewing enlarge the view. If you want to view better quality clips, Right Click on the Dial-up or Broadband link (even if you don't have DSL or other high speed connection) and select "Save as" to download the clip to your computer for fast, high quality viewing anytime you want.

 

A Bow

Navaho

1 NO:T mo-pu fFS
2 M mo-pu fTS:RL mu-gr nFS
3 re T, ex

Do the Navaho Opening. (This involves picking up the string loop on the forefingers that are held close together, pointing away from you, and with palms down. The left thumb then grabs the right far forefinger string that is hanging down. The right thumb then grabs the left far hanging forefinger string. Rotate thumbs up and extend hands apart. Click on link above for illustration.) The thumbs now move over the near and pick up the far forefinger strings. (2) Middle fingers then move over the top near forefinger strings and pick up the far thumb strings. The ring and little fingers move under the far middle finger strings and grab the near forefinger strings. (3) Release the thumbs and extend the figure.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Lightning

Navaho #10S

1 Step 1 of A Bow
2 R mo-pu fTS:L mo-pu nFS:ht all S
3 re T, kl:T mo-pu fRSnL:ex T up

Do step 1 of A Bow using a long #10 string. Ring fingers move over the near forefinger strings and pick up the far thumb strings. Little fingers then move over the far ring finger strings and pick up the near forefinger strings. Squeeze your fingers together so that none of the strings can slip. (3) Release the thumbs, keeping the thumb nooses lose, but not letting any of the other strings slip. Thumbs then move over the loose thumb nooses and pick up the far ring finger strings near the little fingers. Extend thumbs up and snap hands apart to create the lightning bolt. A smooth string helps to extend this figure.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Super Lightning

#12+S

1 Step 1 of A Bow
2 M mo-pu fTS:
3 as steps 2-3 of A Bow

Do step 1 of A Bow using a long #12 string, or longer. (2) Middle fingers move over the near forefinger strings and pick up the far thumb strings. (3) Ring fingers move over the far middle finger strings and pick up the near forefinger strings. Little fingers then move over the far ring finger strings and pick up the far middle finger strings. Squeeze your fingers together so that none of the strings can slip. (4) Release the thumbs, keeping the thumb nooses lose, but not letting any of the other strings slip. Thumbs then move over the loose thumb nooses and pick up the far ring finger strings near the little fingers. Extend thumbs up and snap hands apart to create the lightning bolt. A smooth thin string helps to extend this figure.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

A Butterfly

Navaho

1 NO:F mt-tw FN 2 to 5 times
2 T pu nFS:na T
3 lT & lF mr-th-pu rTN & rFN
4 rTF ml-bt nt&bTS pu t&bTN:kl
5 rMRL gr rfFS&nTS:kl
6 tr lt&bFN to lT&F & gr same as rH

Do the Navaho Opening. Forefingers then move towards you twisting the forefinger nooses 360-degrees 2 to 5 times. (2) Thumbs pick up the near forefinger strings, then navaho the thumbs (remove lower strings). (3) The left thumb and forefinger then move right, go over and through their respective right thumb and forefinger nooses, and then pick up these nooses removing them from the right hand. Keep the top and bottom nooses on the left thumb and forefinger separate. (4) The right thumb and forefinger now move left, going between the top and bottom near thumb strings of the left hand, then spread apart picking up these strings and removing them from the left thumb. Keep strings loose. (5) The right middle, ring, and little fingers then grab first the right far forefinger string, then the near thumb string that is hanging down. Keep strings loose. (6) Now transfer the top and bottom nooses on the left forefinger to the left thumb and forefinger, and grab the lower strings in the same manor as they are held by the right hand. Shift the strings to adjust them so the figure resembles a butterfly.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Siberian Hut

Arctic

1 OA:FMRL gr fTS, fl nTS over H
2 T mo nHS mu S pu-pt fHS
3 re HN to form hut
4 re FN, ex: polar bear appears & two Eskimo run away

Do Opening A. Turn palms toward you and grab all the strings up to and including the far thumb strings with your forefinger, middle, ring, and little fingers. Flip the remaining near thumb string over your hands. (2) Thumbs now move over the near hand string, under all the other strings, and pick up/pull through the far hand string returning the thumbs to their original position. (3) Remove the hand nooses to form the hut. (4) Now tell a story about how one day a polar bear came along, broke into the hut, and how the Eskimo had to run away. Release the forefinger nooses to collapse the hut and extend to make the Eskimo run away.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Siberian House

Arctic

1 T pu SN:M pu fTS:L pu fMS
2 OA with F & R
3 Steps 2-4 of Siberian Hut
4 re F and storm blows roof off
5 re M and house rebuilt
6 re R and weaker house attacked by polar bear and the Eskimo have to run away again.

Pick up the string loop on thumbs only, and you'll need a long (#12) string. Middle fingers pick up the far thumb string, then little fingers pick up the far middle finger string. This is like Position 1, with a string around the middle finger. (2) Now do Opening A with forefingers, and with the ring fingers. There are now nooses on every finger. (3) Do steps 2 to 4 of Siberian Hut. (4) This is a much stronger house than the hut the polar bear destroyed, but a storm came along and blew the roof off. Release forefingers to open up the roof. (5) Release middle fingers to rebuild the house from what is left. (6) The rebuilt house isn't as strong and a polar bear comes and destroys it. Release ring fingers and the two unfortunate Eskimo run away again.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

The Wink

Pacific

1 rFM pu SN
2 lTF ht rfMS tw-ar rFM tr to rT
3 rT pu rtFMS:na rT
4 lTF md-ht rPS tr to rT

Pick up the string loop with your right forefinger and middle finger only, with palms down and the string hanging down. (2) With your left thumb and forefinger take hold of the right far middle finger string just below the middle finger and twist it around the middle of the right forefinger/middle finger one time, then transfer it to the right thumb. (3) Now pick up the top forefinger/middle finger string with your right thumb, and remove the original string that was on the right thumb. (4) With your left thumb and forefinger grab from below the string that hangs down from the right forefinger over the right palm and transfer it to the right thumb. Now grasp the two hanging strings with your left hand and pull to make the eye wink.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Wink'n Blink

#6S

1 FM pu SN:T de nFMS
2 tw fFMS ar FM
3 T ma-mu fFM mt-mu nFMS pu tFMS
4 na T:L mu fSS de nSS
5 T ma-bt SS, re L, ex P out

Use a somewhat shorter than usual string (#6) so the eyes will not be too far apart. Pick up the string loop on the forefingers and middle fingers only, and depress the near forefinger/middle finger string with your thumbs. (2) Now twist the far forefinger/middle finger string around the forefingers and middle fingers. (3) Thumbs move away from you and under the far forefinger/middle finger string, then towards you briefly picking up the far string as thumbs go up and over the near forefinger/middle finger string, and finally pick up the top forefinger/middle finger string that goes across the front of the forefinger/middle fingers. (4) Remove the bottom thumb strings. With your little fingers, move under the far straight string going between your hands, and depress the near straight string. (5) Your thumbs can now move away from you and go between the two straight strings. Release the little fingers and extend the figure with palms pointing out. For best results, keep the string near the ends of your thumbs and fingers. Note that unlike other illustrations this one is as seen by others, and not you.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

You can now open and close both hands to make the eyes blink, or do just one hand to wink suggestively. (This variation of The Wink by Eric Lee)

 

Crow's Feet

American Indian

1 OA:P mt, FMRL gr fTS
2 fl nTS over H
3 T mo nHS pu FN (re F)
4 tr HN to M:L mo fRS pu nLS
5 na L:re T:ex

Start with Opening A then turn your palms so they face you. With your forefingers, middle, ring, and little fingers grab the far thumb string and all the other strings except the near thumb string. (2) Flip the near thumb string up and over your hands. (3) Thumbs then move over the near hand string and pick up the forefinger nooses removing them from the forefingers. (4) Transfer the noose going around the hands to the middle fingers. Little fingers then move over the far ring finger string and pick up the near little finger strings. (5) Remove the lower, original little finger straight string (navaho little fingers). Release thumbs and extend the figure. You can grab the middle of the figure with your mouth to make the feet stick out, then move your hands up and down to pretend the crow is walking. In the UK this figure is known as the Leashing of Lochiel's Dogs.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Fighting Headhunters

Murray & Dauar Islands

1 OA:L mo S pu fTS, re T
2 T mu FN pu 2LDS, re L
3 L mo FN pu 2fTS
4 F pu 2cDS, re bFN
5 re T:F ma-tw FN 3 times
6 re F:ex H:ls lHS to fight

Do Opening A. Little fingers move over all strings and pick up the far thumb strings, then release thumbs. (2) Thumbs move under the forefinger nooses and pick up the two little finger diagonal strings (one is far, one near), then release little fingers. (3) Little fingers then move over the forefinger nooses and pick up the two far thumb strings. (4) Forefingers move towards the center of the figure and pick up the two short center diagonal strings that form the sides of a small triangle. Remove the original bottom forefinger noose. (5) Release the strings on the thumbs. Forefingers now move away from you, twisting the forefinger noose around and around three times. (6) Release forefingers, and extend hands slowly apart letting only the strings on the left hand slip to bring the two fighters together. Use tiny jerks to tease the headhunters closer and closer together, still letting only the left hand string slip until either the two strings fall apart (both headhunters loose), or a knot remains in the right string that goes around the string between the two hands. Now let the string in the right hand slip and the victorious Murray Islander carried the head home to the right hand (Murray Island). If you are visiting Dauar Island, then you better make sure the Dauar Islander wins (start with Opening B and let the right hand string slip as they fight).
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Man on a Bed

Pacific

1 OA:T mu FS pu nLS
2 LR mo-th FN ht-pt fTS tr L
3 re F

Do Opening A. Thumbs move under the forefinger strings and pick up the near little finger strings on the knuckles of your thumbs so you can pull the near little finger string under the forefinger strings and return the thumbs to their normal position. This is a bit difficult at first and requires practice. (2) Little fingers and ring fingers move over and through the forefinger nooses, then hold tight to, and pull through the forefinger nooses, the far thumb strings, transferring them to the little fingers. (3) Release the forefingers.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

A variation: Start with Position 1, turn your palms away from you with your thumbs remaining between the two strings, and rotate your thumbs out and down picking up the far little finger string, then back towards you, twisting the string around the thumbs as you bring them back to their normal position. Continue with Opening A as above to create The Winking Star. Insert your forefingers into the nooses going around the thumb/little finger string and pull to open up a hole in the center of the figure (invented by Ryan).
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Pole Star

1 OA:T ma-tw TN:L mt-tw LN
2 T mu FN pu nLS
3 LR mo-th FN gr-pt fTS pu on L:re F

Do Opening A. Moving your thumbs first away from you, down, and up, twist the thumb nooses one time. Now first moving your little fingers toward you, down, and up, twist the little finger nooses 360-degrees. (2) The following moves are the same as for Man on a Bed: With your thumbs, move under the forefinger nooses and pick up the near little finger strings. (3) Now with your little and ring fingers move over and through the forefinger nooses and grab/pull through the far thumb string picking it up on your little fingers as you do so. Release the nooses on the forefingers.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Darkness

Hawaiian

1 OA: T mt-tw TN:L ma-tw LN
2 steps 2-3 above

Do Opening A. Moving your thumbs first towards you, down, and up, twist the thumb nooses one time. Now first moving your little fingers away from you, down, and up, twist the little finger nooses 360-degrees. (2) The following moves are the same as steps 2 and 3 of the Pole Star. When you release your forefingers, darkness falls like a curtain.

 

Lizard Twist

Pacific

1 lH pu SN:rH ml-th lHN
2 rH m-mr-twd-up lfHS:H stay together
3 rH mu-th lHN, ex

This figure is a string puzzle that you can demonstrate in about two seconds, then challenge any observers to duplicate. Few are observant enough to do so the first time even if you do it slowly. First pick up the string loop (a long one works best) on the left hand with palm down and string hanging from it with fingers pointing towards the right hand. Move your right hand to the left and through the left hand noose just under the left palm, then (2) move it down and to the right twisting up on to it the left far hand string. The right hand is now in its normal upright position just under the left palm with a noose around its wrist. Do not extend the right hand away from the left hand. (3) Now pick up the left near hand string and bring the right hand up through the left hand noose. Extend hands apart and the string on the right hand will twist around the wrist and slip off.
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

Mosquito or Fly

South America

1 T pu SN:lFMRL pu n+f lTS
2 rL mo-pu l2dHS:lL mo-pu n+f rTS
3 re lWN:ex:smack, re LN, ex

Pick up the string loop on thumbs only with no twists. With your left forefinger, middle, ring, and little fingers pick up the left near and far thumb strings which will then go across the back of the left hand. (2) Right little finger now moves over and picks up, between the left thumb and forefinger, both of the strings going across the back of the left hand. The left little finger then moves over, towards you, and picks up the right near and far thumb strings. (3) Remove the left wrist noose, and extend.

What are you going to do if you have a fly between your hands? The saintly might admirer it, but most people would smack it. Clap your hands together quickly, then quickly extend hands apart, releasing the little finger strings as you do so, and you find that, as usual, you missed and the fly is gone. Or you can release your little fingers first and show the fly with wings hanging on the forefinger nooses (never mind that mosquitoes and flies are dipterans and have only one pair of wings). Now try to smack the fly and extend hands quickly apart. Oh, no, you missed again!
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 

A String Trick

1 T pu SN:Put SN ar neck
2 rF gr lfTS, re rT:ex, rT pu rFN

Pick up the string loop on thumbs only with no twists. Put the string noose up and over your head so it goes around your neck (or waist or leg). (2) With your fists close together use your right forefinger to grab the left nearest (which is the far) thumb string, release right thumb, and extend. As you extend hands apart, put the right forefinger noose on your right thumb so the string noose ends up on both thumbs as it was at the start. The string, however, will have magically passed through your neck.

This is an absurdly simple trick, but it will mystify many, especially kids, and is well worth doing. Do this trick as a warm up before doing Cheating the Hangman. A little showmanship helps. Announce that you can do an amazing string trick. You can make the string go right through your neck! (If you say the magic words or whatever). Bring your fists up towards your chin and act like you're going to give the string a good pull (necessary, you explain, if it is to go all the way through your neck). Warn about never trying this dangerous trick without years of supervised practice under a master magician. Grit your teeth and give the string a tug. Oh no, it didn't work! Promise to get it right next time. Concentrate, try again. This time as your fists go out to tug on the string, quickly release your right thumb and transfer the left nearest string onto your right thumb with help from your right forefinger. If you're quick, no one will notice. Be sure everyone sees that the string is on your thumbs both before and after the trick. Never, ever, reveal the secret of this trick to anyone!
View video: Slow dial-up, Dial-up, Broadband

 


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