string figures

Years ago, I became a student of string figures, thanks to a book that my parents gave me. It’s called String Figures and How to Make Them: A study of cat’s cradle in many lands, by Caroline Furness Jayne. I used a loop of string as a bookmark, and tried Navajo figures, Apache figures, African Pygmy figures, and Pacific island figures. I experienced the joy of spreading my fingers open, stretching out a tangled mass, and watching a beautifully woven and looped design emerge, like magic, between my hands.

When I first happened upon Zentangle, I was charmed by Maria Thomas’ and Rick Roberts’ use of the word string to describe the pencil drawing that forms the foundation for a Zentangle drawing. I am continually reminded of string figures. The Zentangle string is also magical. Out of it grows amazing imagery, drawn, stroke by stroke, with a simple black pen.

This week, for challenge 104, the diva Laura Harms challenged the Zentangle crowd to use string 003 from That string is also reminiscent of an actual string figure, and full of Zentangle possibilities. You can take a look at what others have tangled on Laura’s website. Here are my three interpretations.


The tangles used on this tile: tripoli, onamato, quandary, betweed, socc, y-ful, spinning, palrevo, striping, n’zeppel, paradox and chillon. It’s a veritable patchwork of tangles!

ZTdiva104bThe string is a little more apparent in this tile. The tangles are: oof, strircles, knase, avreal, sez, onamato, tipple, mi2, diva dance, and striping.

ZTdiva104cI tried adding some new tangles to my usual favorites in the last tile. The tangles I used: jalousie, flukes, équerre, sláinte, striping, knase, knightsbridge, and palrevo.


2 thoughts on “string figures

  1. I think all three are beautiful. The second one is my favourite, but the third one too…. Well, I just cannot make a choise. They’re great.

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