String Figures
This toy was common years ago when grandmother would often be the one to make "cat's cradle" and other figures. The writer's interest in this subject was stirred during a visit to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto during The Native Heritage exhibit and live demonstrations, June 15-September 6, 1976. During that exhibit the string figures were a part of the activities that dealt with the Woodland Indians and the Inuit.

The above string figure is called "Osage Diamonds". It was scanned from Jayne's book1, pg 27.


In terms of expense one of the least expensive toys is that required to make string figures. Any kind of string can be used but there is an advantage to purchasing certain types. One needs a length of string about six feet long. One can simply tie the ends together but the knot can prove to be a nusiance; therefore, a synthetic material, such as nylon, with a slight roughness is preferable. One can then heat a soldering gun to melt the ends of the string and the two ends are joined to make a continuous loop. If one looks carefully at the light blue string above (closer to the left hand end) it can be seen that the two ends are joined together. This is accomplished by rolling the joint between the fingers after the ends are put together; burning of the fingers does not occur. The heating was accomplished by attaching a small piece of brass sheet to the end of the soldering iron tip so that the two string ends face each other. The two ends were then slid off for the joining.

Reference
1) Caroline Furness Jayne, String Figures and How to Make Them, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1962.