String figure glossary

Evolving Star

string figure Invented by Martin Probert 1998. The centre of the star is a perfect weave. A fine well-proportioned star with seven strands to each ray (see illustration) can be made with an eight foot (or 2m 50cm) wide loop of thin nylon. A good 4-strand star can be made with a five foot (or 1m 50cm) wide loop of cord. A three foot (or 1m) wide loop will give a satisfactory 2-strand star and a somewhat cramped 3-strand star. To show every star of the evolution, perform every numbered step. To proceed rapidly to a particular star without showing the intervening stars, replace the boxed numbered steps with the bulleted steps on the right.

  1. Insert the little fingers into the loop and extend.
  2. Insert the right thumb down into the left little finger loop from above and, rotating the right thumb towards you, pick up the near left little finger string.
  3. Insert the left thumb from below up into the right thumb loop, and extend.

To form and display the 1-strand Evolving Star

To skip this star

  1. Remove each thumb loop from above with the index finger.
  2. Remove each little finger loop from above with the index finger.
  3. Transfer the index loops to the thumbs; insert each little finger up into the thumb loops alongside the thumb; extend. You have 1-strand Evolving Star: each of the four rays of the star consists of a single strand. (To stop here, dissolve the star by skipping to step 44.)
  4. Note the transverse thumb string. Hold each thumb against the base of the index finger to prevent the transverse thumb string slipping, then release the little fingers; pass the ring fingers over the far thumb strings and pick up the transverse near thumb string, releasing the thumb from the ring finger loop; extend.
  5. Transfer each thumb loop to the index finger.
  6. Remove each index loop from above with the thumb.
  • Omit steps 4 to 9.
  • Transfer the little finger loops to the ring fingers.
  • Continue with step 10 below.
  1. Insert the left little finger from above down into the right ring finger loop and, turning the left little finger away and up, pick up the far right ring finger string; with the right little finger hook up the far left little finger string (so that the little fingers are alongside one another inside a newly formed loop); extend.
  2. Give the left ring finger loop a half turn towards you (by removing the left ringer finger loop from above with the left thumb, then removing the upper left thumb loop from below with the left ring finger).
  3. Give the right ring finger loop a half turn away from you (by removing the right ringer finger loop from below with the right thumb, then removing the upper right thumb loop from above with the right ring finger).
  4. Transfer the ring finger loops to the index fingers.

To form and display the 2-strand Evolving Star

To skip this star

  1. Remove each thumb loop from above with the index finger.
  2. Remove each little finger loop from above with the index finger.
  3. Transfer the index loops to the thumbs; insert each little finger up into the thumb loops alongside the thumb; extend. An additional strand has been added to each ray giving a 2-strand Evolving Star. Note the weave in the centre. (To stop here, dissolve the star by skipping to step 44.)
  4. Note the transverse thumb string. Hold each thumb against the base of the index finger to prevent the transverse thumb string slipping, then release the little fingers; pass the ring fingers over the far thumb strings and pick up the transverse near thumb string; release the thumb from the ring finger loop; extend.
  5. Insert each index from below up into the thumb loop; extend.
  6. Note the far index transverse string. Press the middle finger against the index finger to keep the far index transverse string slipping; release the thumbs from all loops; pass the thumbs over all intervening strings and pick up the far index transverse string; release the index from the thumb loop.
  • Omit steps 14 to 19.
  • Transfer the little finger loops to the ring fingers.
  • Continue with step 20.
  1. Insert the left little finger from above down into the right ring finger loop and, turning the left little finger away and up, pick up the far right ring finger string; with the right little finger hook up the far left little finger string (so that the little fingers are alongside one another inside a newly formed loop); extend.
  2. Give the left ring finger loop a half turn towards you (by removing the left ringer finger loop from above with the left thumb, then removing the upper left thumb loop from below with the left ring finger).
  3. Give the right ring finger loop a half turn away from you (by removing the right ringer finger loop from below with the right thumb, then removing the upper right thumb loop from above with the right ring finger).
  4. With the right hand transfer the left index loop to the left ring finger; transfer both left ring finger loops together to the left index. With the left hand transfer the right ring finger loop to the right index.

To form and display the 3-strand Evolving Star

To skip this star

  1. Remove each thumb loop from above with the index finger.
  2. Remove each little finger loop from above with the index finger.
  3. Transfer the index loops to the thumbs; insert each little finger up into the thumb loops alongside the thumb; extend. An additional strand has been added to each ray giving a 3-strand Evolving Star. Note the perfect weave forming in the centre. (To stop here, dissolve the star by skipping to step 44.)
  4. Note the transverse thumb string. Hold each thumb against the base of the index finger to prevent the transverse thumb string slipping, then release the little fingers; pass the ring fingers over the far thumb strings and pick up the transverse near thumb string, releasing the thumb from the ring finger loop; extend.
  5. Insert each index from below up into the thumb loop; extend.
  6. Note the far index transverse string. Press the middle finger against the index finger to keep the far index transverse string slipping; release the thumbs from all loops; pass the thumbs over all intervening strings and pick up the far index transverse string; release the index from the thumb loop.
  • Omit steps 24 to 29.
  • Transfer the little finger loops to the ring fingers.
  • Continue with step 30.
  1. Insert the left little finger from above down into the right ring finger loop and, turning the left little finger away and up, pick up the far right ring finger string; with the right little finger hook up the far left little finger string (so that the little fingers are alongside one another inside a newly formed loop). Extend firmly - pulling at the near index strings with the thumbs is helpful.
  2. Give the left ring finger loop a half turn towards you (by removing the left ringer finger loop from above with the left thumb, then removing the upper left thumb loop from below with the left ring finger).
  3. Give the right ring finger loop a half turn away from you (by removing the right ringer finger loop from below with the right thumb, then removing the upper right thumb loop from above with the right ring finger).
  4. Insert each thumb into the index loop from below. Extend, spreading the thumbs and index fingers to widen the index loops. Observe (on each side) how the far index strings fan out from the index. (Make sure you have a neat fan - if necessary rearrange the strings so that they fan out neatly from the index.) Also observe where each fan intersects a diagonal string (running from thumb to ring finger). Observe how the fanning (far index) strings pass alternately below and above the diagonal string: on the left the farthest string of the fan passes below the diagonal string; on the right the farthest string of the fan passes above the diagonal string.
  5. Lower the left fan onto a supporting surface (such as the knee): make sure the fanning (far left index) strings are still in a neat fan. Now, with the right hand, raise the fanning (far left index) string(s) that pass below the diagonal string; lift the raised string(s) off the left index; transfer the removed loop(s) to the left ring finger; then transfer all the left ring finger loops to the left index.
  6. Lower the right fan onto a supporting surface (such as the knee): make sure the fanning (far right index) strings are still in a neat fan. Now, with the left hand, raise the fanning (far right index) string(s) that pass below the diagonal string; lift the raised string(s) off the right index; transfer the removed loop(s) to the right ring finger; then transfer all the right ring finger loops to the right index.
  7. Remove the thumbs from the large loops that surround both thumb and index.

To form and display the next Evolving Star

To skip this star

  1. Remove each thumb loop from above with the index finger.
  2. Remove each little finger loop from above with the index finger.
  3. Transfer the index loops to the thumbs; insert each little finger up into the thumb loops alongside the thumb; extend. An additional strand has been added to each ray of the Evolving Star. Fine adjustment of the central weave (once the figure has evolved sufficiently so that you can actually reach to the centre) may be effected with the tips of the index fingers. Also, by inserting an index finger between the strands of an opposite ray, and sliding the index from the centre outwards and around the thumb or little finger as appropriate, any ray that has not come out neatly may be smartened up. (To stop here, dissolve the star by skipping to step 44.)
  4. Note the transverse thumb string. Hold each thumb against the base of the index finger to prevent the transverse thumb string slipping, then release the little fingers; pass the ring fingers over the far thumb strings and pick up the transverse near thumb string, releasing the thumb from the ring finger loop; extend.
  5. Insert each index from below up into the thumb loop; extend.
  6. Note the far index transverse string. Press the middle finger against the index finger to keep the far index transverse string slipping; release the thumbs from all loops; pass the thumbs over all intervening strings and pick up the far index transverse string; release the index from the thumb loop.
  • Omit steps 37 to 42.
  • Transfer the little finger loops to the ring fingers.
  • Continue with step 43.
  1. Return to step 30.

To dissolve the Evolving Star

  1. To dissolve, pinch the far little finger string between the tips of the right index and middle fingers, and pinch the near thumb string between the tips of the left index and middle fingers; release thumbs and little fingers; draw the hands gently apart.

Copyright © Martin Probert 2003
HOME PAGE: The Survival, Origin and Mathematics of String Figures