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Lacing Lanyards

Make plastic lanyards with help from this article.

Lacing Lanyards


A lanyard is a small cord or rope for securing or suspending small objects, such as a whistle or key, around the neck, often woven of several flat strands of plastic, leather, or other material.


The word boondoggle was coined by Robert H. Link, an American scoutmaster. It means a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hat band, or ornament. The word later came to mean a wasteful or impractical project or activity ofen involving graft. Who knew?

You've seen 'em. Every lifeguard worth his salt has a whistle hanging from a plastic laced lanyard around his neck. Plastic lanyards are used because they're durable, don't mind the salt water, and come in all those cool colors. Bird watchers and duck hunters wear them, too, to hold all those funny whistles and callers they use while traipsing around in the marshes. And if you ever were a Boy or Girl Scout, you probably made one.

Well, lanyards, or boondoggles, as they're sometimes called, are cool again. And they can be as basic or advanced as you want, depending on the type of weave you choose.

There are two lanyard kits with accompanying books that should help you get started. One, The Lanyard Book, comes with a book, plastic lacing in several colors, lanyard clips, key rings, and plastic pony beads. The second kit is called Boondoggle: A Book of Lanyard & Lacing. This one includes a spiral-bound book (which is nice because it lays flat when you're working) and comes with plastic lacing or boondoggle, a key ring, two lanyard clips, a bolo tie slide, and a metal bracelet blank.

You can use these kits or just buy the plastic lacing and metal accessories separately from a craft or hobby supply store. In addition, you'll need some scissors, some big metal sandwich-type paper clips, some clear plastic tape, and perhaps some additional beads, buttons, or charms.

One braid that's generally taught to beginners is the box, and that's the one I'm going to describe in Project: Lanyard Key Chain.

Now that you've mastered your first lacing, try some of the other stitches, like the diamond, the zipper, the spiral, or the snake. You can make woven covers for barrettes or bracelets. You can get glow-in-the-dark lacing for added fun.

Bet you Didn't Know

Modern lanyards are the descendants of those created by cowboys, who made lassos and halters out of strands of leather; and sailors, who spliced and knotted ropes.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you create lanyards:

  • Don't be afraid to pull apart your lacing and try again until you get a particular braiding technique down.

  • You may want to start off with manageable lengths (20 to 24 inches is good) before you try to weave something longer, just for practice.

  • Snip the ends of your laces on a slant to make them easier to thread. Don't allow your laces to twist, but keep them flat. If they do twist, undo your lacing to where the twist is, then continue.

  • Unravel your lacing and smooth it out before using, since it will probably come looped and tied or wound on a spool. That'll make it easier to work with. Keep tightening your work by pulling and coaxing strands together with your fingernail. Don't stretch too hard, though, or your lace may break.

  • If you're a lefty, don't forget to reverse the directions!

If you decide you like lanyard lacing, I suggest you find a book or an expert to show you the more advanced techniques. They take a little practice and it's especially helpful to be able to see them done, rather than try to follow written instructions.

One of the great things about lanyard lacing is its portability. Make up a small kit with lacing in a variety of colors, some hooks and rings, beads, and photocopies of the instructions for a few different stitches. Throw it all in a zip-top plastic bag and you're all set. Kids can take it with them on a long car trip, to the beach, on vacation, or just to occupy a rainy day.

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