“I have an idea . . . but it’s a little crazy.”

The weekly marketing meeting began with this disclaimer from me. I proposed that we, my team of six people, would make 2,000 friendship bracelets — one for each attendee of the ACA National Conference.

And each bracelet would need to be unique. Two-thousand words. And a whole bunch of beads.

As a sponsor of the conference, Redwoods had the opportunity to “put a flyer” on every chair of the opening keynote. But we weren’t particularly interested in sharing a flyer. We wanted something that drove community, belonging, and relationship, as opposed to insurance sales. And that’s because we view community, belonging, and relationship as being at the very heart of how you effectively deliver on safety.

When I proposed the concept, I had no idea what it would take to make the bracelets. But I knew that those bracelets would be well received. And I also knew—the ACA community being what it is—that camp people would inherently understand the idea of engagement, and even ‘fun,’ as being a core component of safety.

In the end, with the help of some terrific additional volunteers from across the Redwoods team (thank you!), we brought 1,865 bracelets to the conference, and I personally made more than 500.

My first bracelet took at least 90 minutes to make, as I watched The Golden Bachelor one night (Go Team Ellen!). This post is about how I honed my craft to the point where I was ultimately spending about 3.5 minutes per bracelet.

These could be great conversation pieces for staff. They could serve as a thoughtful gift to welcome folks to camp, and get them thinking about community and relationships. Or, they might simply be a fun craft for you to do as you unwind from the stresses of camp.

Whatever the reason for your interest, my hope by writing this is that I can save you all that trouble I went through. And that making these bracelets offers you a fun and different way to connect with your camp community.

Because, ultimately, connection and community is what camp is all about.

Have fun!

BTW – I know there’s A LOT of information in the instructions below. That’s why I’m including a short video tutorial at the end. Feel free to skip to that if you just want the basics.

Materials & Supplies

I initially priced out having a company (or a person on Etsy) make the bracelets for me. The prices ranged from $4–$12 per bracelet — more than I wanted to spend.

By ordering the materials ourselves and making the bracelets ourselves, the ultimate cost was $0.91 per bracelet — and I have plenty of remaining supplies

I ordered everything on Amazon. (This is a straight sharing of links — we receive no ad revenue or commission, nor do we endorse any of these brands.)

Bead Spinner

Spinners are for heishe beads only. If you choose pony beads or pearl beads, you will need to hand-string each one.

  • BeadAct Spinner: I found the BeadAct spinner to be the best. I purchased just the spinner (not the bundle). It includes a USB-C cord and two needles.
  • Tilhumt Spinner: I also tried the Tilhumt “hands-free” spinner, but personally found it more difficult to use than the BeadAct one.


I would recommend using 6mm Heishi beads, made of clay (as opposed to pony beads or pearl beads). The spinner will randomize the order of the Heishi beads, so I usually purchased solid colors only, which allowed me to choose which colors I wanted.

  • Coiris Heishi Beads: Coiris was my preferred brand of beads. They were soft and comfortable on the wrist, and came in many color options. It will take about 100–125 beads per bracelet. I found the assorted boxes of heishe beads to be very difficult to use. The space for each color was too small for my fingers to reach in and easily pull out beads. I would recommend purchasing beads on a string, like the ones linked above.
  • RedTwo Assorted Beads: If you would prefer to try the boxed bead route, RedTwo is a very good brand that offers assorted boxes.
  • Pearl Beads: I used one Pearl Bead per bracelet to cover the knot. You could make the entire bracelet out of these beads, or you could leave the knot exposed. There are many options. My recommendation is acrylic beads that are 6mm in size.
  • RedTwo Letter Beads: There are many letter beads to choose from, including various colors. I liked the RedTwo brand the best, as the letters are bolder and darker. My only recommendation is to buy the same brand letter beads, so that your letters look consistent within each word.


  • Stretch Magic Elastic String: You’ll want an elastic string that has some stretch. I found the 0.7mm width string the best, and this brand—Stretch Magic—as the best.

Optional Additions

  • BeadSmith Bead Board: For me, the bead board was not optional. It gives an organized working area, and a build in ruler. The ruler was the most important aspect of this, and the grooved channels helped a lot.
  • G-S Hypo Cement: The elastic string is a little “slippery.” If the knot is not tied properly, it could come unraveled. I used a dot of glue on each knot, to ensure it would stay. If you’re confident in your knots, this is not necessary, but could still be very helpful. The G-S Hypo Cement brand dispenses the glue through a small needle, that is very precise and very helpful. There are many other options that are a little less expensive, but this is the best.
  • Singer Detail Craft Scissors: When trimming the excess string, I found these scissors to be effective. It allowed me to cut very close to the knot, and not have small pieces poking your wrist.
  • Extra Needles: The bead spinner comes with two needles. By the end, mine were bent and out of shape. If you’re making mass quantities, I liked having extra needles. These are a little thinner than the ones that come in the spinner, but they still work well. You can buy other brands, but I’d recommend a curved needle, not a straight needle.
  • Vowel Letter Beads: You’ll likely run out of vowel letter beads, or a specific letter. These specific letter beads can be helpful. For example, I planned to make several REDWOODS bracelets. I knew it would take twice as many O’s and D’s, so I bought more of just those letters.
  • Math Letter Beads: You can purchase all kinds of extra beads. With symbols, emojis, punctuation, etc.

How to Make Friendship Bracelets

  1. Choose Your Word: The biggest “time suck” in bracelet making is the planning. Go into each bracelet with a word in your mind. You don’t need to spend time writing it down or organizing the letter beads, just know in your head where you’re going. If you’re making mass quantities, I liked making “series” of bracelets. For example, I used pink, yellow, green (“90’s colors”) and made several bracelets using words from Saved by the Bell (ACSLATER, ZMORRIS, LTURTLE, KKAPOWSKI, SCREECH, BELDING,  BAYSIDEHS, THEMAX, etc…). I found the ideal number of letter beads was between 6 – 12. And remember, all rules are meant to be broken. (I made one that said “THEONEWITHNOCOLORBEADS” and used only letter beads.)
  2. Measure and Cut String: I liked extra-long strings to give me enough room to tie the knot. I usually cut at least a 12” (30cm) string. Your ultimate bracelet will be about 6.5” (17cm), so you’ll need at least 8” (20cm) to start.
  3. Add a Bead Lock: A “bead lock” is any item that prevents beads from falling off of the other end of the string. I used a chip clip. You could use masking tape, a binder clip, or anything else to catch the beads.
  4. Load Bead Spinner: Fill the spinner with your chosen beads. There’s a balance of too many and not enough, that you’ll find through practice. Not enough beads means they won’t “push” onto the needle. Too many beads means your needle bends and won’t “catch” the beads.
  5. Spin: I liked my spinner to rotate counter-clockwise, and I held the needle in my right hand. I only used the larger bowl for the spinner, and did not use the top / cover. Through practice, you’ll find the right angle and speed to catch the most beads.
  6. Load Needles: I liked working in stages. I loaded six needles with beads before moving on. This allowed me to save time by focusing on one step at a time. I aimed for about 3” – 4” of beads on each needle. It’s easier to take beads off than to add them back on, so I often over did it.
  7. Load String: Thread the string through the needle’s eye and just pull the beads down. (It’ll work, I promise!)
  8. Add Words: You’ll have to hand-string the letter beads. I held the bead in my right hand and the string in my left, then threaded it through. I did not add more color beads for spaces, I just mashed words together. This is up to your preference, if you use multiple words.
  9. Load String: I then added the rest of the color beads, so that the word was in the middle of the bracelet, with the knot at the end.
  10. Measure: At this stage, I removed the bead lock and measured. You’ll want the color beads to be about the same length, and the overall bracelet to be between 6” to 7” (15cm to 17cm). If it’s too long, remove some beads.
  11. Add Pearl Bead: If you want a peal bead to cover your knot, add one bead now.
  12. Pre-Stretch the String: This is a very important step. Pull your string as far as you can to pre-stretch it. If you do not pre-stretch, the beads will be “loose” on the bracelet and saggy. This must be done before you tie the knot.
  13. Tie the Knot: For extra security, I tied four knots on each bracelet. You’ll need at least two. Here’s the knots:
    1. Tie a “Granny Knot”: This is the knot you usually use when you start tying your shoe: over, under, pull. I always start left over right. This is important because you’ll have to alternate each knot.
    2. Tie a “Surgeon’s Knot: This is a very similar knot. You’ll go over, under, over, under, then pull. If you started left over right on the first knot, you’ll need this one to go right over left.
    3. Tie another “Surgeon’s Knot”: Again, alternating direction from your previous knot—now left over right—over, under, over, under, pull.

    4. Tie a Final “Granny Knot”: Finally, alternate direction once more—right over left—and just do one over, under, pull.
  14. Tighten the Knot: If you tied it properly, it will not slip. At this stage, test your knot, and tighten your knot. Pull it in all directions.
  15. Trim the Excess: Cut the excess string as close to the knot as you can.
  16. Glue the Knot: I like to add a dot of glue on the knot, to make sure it holds. To do this, I put the bracelet over a water bottle or a cup (wrapped in plastic wrap). This pulls the beads away from the knot. If you do not do this, the beads will glue onto the knot. The GS Hypo Cement will dry fast—about 10 minutes.
  17. Share Your Bracelet: Now you’re ready to swap, trade, and share your bracelet with friends. Congratulations!

Video Guides

Tutorial #1

  • Measuring & cutting string
  • Using the bead spinner
  • Threading beads onto needle
  • Threading beads from needle onto string

Tutorial #2

  • Adjusting length
  • Pre-stretching string
  • Correct tying of alternating knots

This blog is sponsored by The Redwoods Group — a mission-driven insurance carrier that only insures camps and other youth-serving organizations. Redwoods' model leverages data and insights from its insuring relationships to help customers scale their mission, protect their campers and create safe communities for all.

Periodically, the American Camp Association (ACA) makes timely and relevant information about products and services available to its members so they can make informed decisions for their camps. However, the ACA does not endorse products, services, or companies.