This craft tutorial for traditional Chinese good luck knots makes the perfect adornment for DIY plaited napkin rings which set an elegant tone for Chinese New Year along with quick washi tape decorated chopsticks. The knot demonstrated here is known by various names among diverse Asian cultures… Good Luck, Auspicious, Chrysanthemum, and One Mind. As a traditional Chinese folk art, decorative knots have been made in the same manner for well over a thousand years, though they originated in prehistoric times. These creations have been used to decorate homes, jewelry, clothing, and have functioned as stand-alone gifts as good luck charms. Knot, 中国结 or Jie in Chinese, translates as vigor, harmony, and unification. Therefore, they have been regarded as a token of blessing when gifted for friendship or love and for special occasions like weddings. This sentiment has led to many being passed down through the generations. As the Chinese New Year is a time for provoking good fortune, and yellow is regarded as a lucky royal color as it was once reserved only for use by the emperor, a yellow gold cording was chosen for the napkin rings so that guests will dine as royalty in the burgeoning of a prosperous year.
Begin by purchasing enough cord in silk or satin (in a “rattail” width) to complete the project. You’ll need 21 inches for each plaited ring (126” for 6) and 26 inches for each good luck knot (156” for 6)… totaling 47 inches for each ring with knot (almost 4 feet) or 182” for 6 (23½ feet). (I got mine inexpensively in bulk size from Fire Mountain Gems, whose sale link is in the sidebar, which is a great source for all types of cording in varying quantities.)
I’m demonstrating the good luck knot here by pinning the cords to a cork plant saucer, because it makes clear photography of the process easier. You may find it easier to make a symmetric knot this way, but it can be easily made without pinning anything down. Don’t get discouraged if your first knot looks askew, just untangle the cord and try again. It will get easier with each knot you make. Practice does indeed make perfect!
Start by cutting a 26 inch length of cord with sharp scissors to prevent fraying. Fold this in half to find the center point, which becomes the middle of the top loop (pinned in purple). Fold the left strand to find its center which becomes the middle of the left loop (blue pin). Repeat this on the right strand (red pin in the next picture). Note that I’ve pinned the very center in neutral white to keep the central points flat. The cording should resemble a cross at this point.
Next, fold the top (purple pin) loop over the left side (blue pin). It should now appear as a person with bowed head and outstretched arms.
Then, take the right loop (red pin) and slip it under the top fold-over (purple pin). It should now give the impression of a windswept girl with arms down at sides.
Now take the bottom two straight strands (no pin yet) and slip them under the fold-over above it (red pin). It should look a bit like a yoga contortion at this point.
Next, fold the left loop (blue pin) over what was once the top loop (purple pin), and then slip it under what was previously the bottom strands (no pin yet). It should now bring to mind a game of twister.
Pull all of the outside loop ends outwardly, a little at a time, until the center is taut. It should look like an upside down cross.
Repeat the previous fold-overs going clockwise. Fold the top loose strands (now a pink pin) over the right loop (blue pin). It should give the idea of a girl with really long hair.
Next, fold the right loop (blue pin) over the loose strands (pink pin). It should bring to mind a girl with really long hair, bowing with one arm outstretched and one crossing the abdomen.
Now fold the bottom loop (purple pin) over the left loop (red pin). It should appear similar to a squashed bug.
Take the left loop and fold it over what was once the bottom loop (now the top, purple pin) and slip under what was once the top strands (now the bottom, pink pin).It should bear a resemblance to an unfortunate wad of hair matted in bubble gum.
Pull the ends straight out from the center. It should form another upright cross.
Lastly for the knot, pull the smallest loops outwardly until it forms petal-like structures of equal size. It should now seem more like a Celtic cross. (If it doesn’t look right to you, just pull the whole thing apart and try again. No harm done!)
For the plaited napkin rings, cut 3 pieces of cord (7 inches long) for each ring. Hot glue one end of each piece together like a tripod.
Clip the glued end onto something sturdy for easier braiding (like a small pail full of pens). Make a classic 3 part braid, and then glue the ends together forming a strand. (A classic 3 part braid is like a simple hair braid… made by folding the left strand over the center, then the right strand over the new center, then the new left strand over the new center, then the new right strand over the new center… over and over again until you get to the end.)
For these napkin rings, the knots will need 4 equal loops. To easily do this, just fold one loose strand over to the underside center until it forms the right size. Cut it to the center of the knots back, and then glue it down. Next, take the last loose strand and fold it over tightly against the knot without any gaps. Also cut this strand at the center-point and glue it down. Now take a braided strand and glue each end to this same gluey underside of the knot (without overlapping the ends).
Finally, flip it over and look at your amazing creation!
I saved the easiest project for last. Any inexpensive chopsticks can be made beautiful in a just few seconds with the addition of washi tape. You can even take some extra chopsticks home for free along with your takeout. (These came from the grocery store sushi counter.) They are disposable like plastic utensils, but are so much more environmentally friendly.
Simply adhere the top corner of a piece of the paper tape to the top of the stick. Wrap it around until it overlaps, and then cut it. Press it down hard to make sure it doesn’t unwrap at the dinner table. Use as many layers of it in as many styles as you like. (I used thick neutral tape twice over which matched my table runner.)
See more of these projects in action in my Elegant Chinese New Year of the Monkey Dinner Party Tablescape Décor Ideas Article.
Kung Xee Fa Chai… Congratulations & may you be prosperous!