Native American String Figures

February 17, 2009 at 9:00 am (Uncategorized)

One of the things I love about homeschooling is how I learn as much as the kids do!  Over the weekend I was doing research for our Kaya American Girl Class and I came upon some interesting information about string figures.  If you don’t know what a string figure is you might also know it as string games.  When I was a girl in the schoolyard (many moons ago) I doubt a day ever went by that I did not have a loop of yarn in my pocket to play string games with!  You know the ones?  You take a long piece of yarn, tie a knot in it and then loop it around your fingers to make all kinds of neat things like Cats Cradle and Jacobs Ladder?  All these years later I am just now learning that those string figures I made so frequently are part of the Native American tradition!  I had no idea!  But, there is more than that.  As I was looking around at all the different websites about string figures I learned that many ancient cultures did some sort of string figures!  Isn’t that amazing?  I find it so interesting that people thousands of miles apart were doing the same thing at the same time? 

After all the fun I had reading I decided I wanted to show the girls how to make at least one string figure.  Whew, it is harder to relearn these all these years later!  LOL  Luckily I found a video online that refreshed my memory on how to make a Jacobs Ladder….

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/yt-hJHi-3gpato/jacobs_ladder_instructions/

Honestly, I know I won’t be able to teach 14 girls to do this in the time we have at club.  But hopefully they can visit my blog and watch the video and practice on their own. :^) (How is that for fun homework!)

As I was looking at string figure videos I came across this cool video of a Native America grandmother telling a Native American legend.  She is speaking in her native tongue while making traditional string figures to illustrate the story.  It is really sweet and towards the end you see that her grandchildren are behind the scenes learning the string figures too. You can view the video below.

Navajo String Games by Grandma Margaret
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qdcG7Ztn3c

Another website I enjoyed that has dozens of patterns to learn a variety of string figures.

http://alysion.org/figures/main.htm

This site was really good because the patterns are put together as Easy, Fairly Easy, Kind of Easy, etc so you can keep moving on to harder ones as you master the easiers ones.  (Although easy is a relative term with these!  LOL)

My daughter is in LOVE with this new hobby!  She has had a string wrapped around her fingers since the moment I told her this existed!  LOL  Oh, one more interesting thing I learned is that these games were only played in the winter.  After seeing how much time my daughter has spent trying to master them that totally makes sense.  I can only imagine that a lot less work would be done in the months it is most needed if all the girls were off playing with string!  There is even a legend to go along with the rule that the string figures can only be made in winter.  You can read it here.

I hope you all are enjoying learning all this as much as I am!

Happy Homeschooling,

Jamin

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous said,

    Cool Thanks!
    I started playing with a string a few weeks ago.
    I learn how todo about,,, 10 things. It is sooo fun!
    I have been homeschooled all my life, it is the best thing in the world.
    God Bless you and your family!

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