# introduction to vertical nets and tennis nets

Today string figures are often viewed as useless relics of pre-literate societies. Few scholars appreciate the role they once played in the development of analytical thinking skills. In this book I present the last two string figure “systems” I use to teach math skills to my students. In the ‘Vertical Net’ system complexity is generated by iteratively weaving multiple loops stacked on the index fingers. In the ‘Tennis Net’ system loops are “braided” to generate highly ornate designs that rival the classic mesh figures of Pacific Islanders. A symbolic “circle notation” for recording the intricate moves is also introduced.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

The ultimate need for every human being is to organize the self. Everyone needs help in reaching their human potential. String figures are universal and touch the human in each of us. Learning them is a bit of a struggle until you have reached a certain level of ability. Most previous how-to books haven’t caught on because they often present a series of “new” figures to learn. After mastering the first four or five figures the learner is daunted by the time and effort required for learning the next one.

My system, on the other hand, is based on just three figures and after you have learned the first (‘Osage Two Diamonds’) you will rapidly acquire the ability to make any number of diamonds. Then, when you learn ‘Ten Men’, you will be automatically empowered to make millions of different figures, many if not most of which will be new and heretofore not produced by anyone else. Then, after mastering the ‘Inuit Net’ you will literally be able to spend a lifetime making variations without ever having to learn from scratch a new figure ever again (if you so desire). My bet is that you will round out your string figure abilities with figures from the classic literature as well as new systems of your own devising.

Before attempting to make the ‘Vertical Net’, the ‘Tennis Net’, and all their wonderful variations the reader must be well-acquainted with: (1) methods for building 3-, 4-, and 5-loop looms; (2) methods for rolling 3-, 4-, and 5-loop configurations; and (3) methods for finishing 3-, 4-, and 5-loop figures using the Inuit Out weaving sequence. All of these are reviewed below.

The section ends with a review of how to do the first Inuit weave inverse (I-1′), and a review of how to apply the Power Lift and Caroline Extension to figures that end with Inuit Out.

LESSON 1: DNA LOOMS

Although most traditional string figures begin with Opening A, i often begin with a modified version that i call a 3-loop DNA Loom. The only difference between Opening A and a 3-loop DNA loom is the parity of one or more string crossings. Also different is the way the loom is built: rather than starting with Position 1, a DNA loom starts with a single loop on each little finger.

I call it a DNA loom because of the way the strings form a spiral or double helix as loops are added to the hands. Furthermore, the loop-adding procedure can be iterated (repeated) to give 4-loop and 5-loop looms. An L-DNA loom is formed by adding loops with the left thumb; an R-DNA loom is formed by adding loops with the right thumb. I tend to favor left-handed versions in my work.

3-loop L-DNA loom

• Begin by placing the loop on each little finger so that the near and far strings are parallel and do not cross.

• Create a second loop as follows: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the little finger loop and return with the near little finger string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

• On each hand transfer the thumb loop to the index finger.

• Now create a third loop: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the index loop and return with the near index string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend

To confirm that the loom is correctly formed, rotate your left hand 90° so that the fingers of your left hand point away from you. If none of the string touch the loom was formed correctly.

4-loop L-DNA loom

• Begin by placing the loop on each little finger so that the near and far strings are parallel and do not cross.

• Create a second loop as follows: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the little finger loop and return with the near little finger string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

• On each hand transfer the thumb loop to the middle finger.

• Create a third loop as follows: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the middle finger loop and return with the near middle finger string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

• On each hand transfer the thumb loop to the index.

• Now create a fourth loop: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the index finger loop and return with the near index string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

To confirm that the loom is correctly formed, rotate your left hand 90° so that the fingers of your left hand point away from you. If none of the string touch the loom was formed correctly.

5-loop L-DNA loom

• Begin by placing the loop on each little finger so that the near and far strings are parallel and do not cross.

• Create a second loop as follows: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the little finger loop and return with the near little finger string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

• On each hand transfer the thumb loop to the ring finger.

• Create a third loop as follows: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the ring finger loop and return with the near ring finger string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

• On each hand transfer the thumb loop to the middle finger.

• Create a fourth loop as follows: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the middle finger loop and return with the near middle finger string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

• On each hand transfer the thumb loop to the index.

• Now create a fifth loop: Insert the left thumb, from above, into the index loop and return with the near index string (rotate the left thumb toward you and up); insert the right thumb, from below, into the left thumb loop and extend.

To confirm that the loom is correctly formed, rotate your left hand 90° so that the fingers of your left hand point away from you. If none of the string touch the loom was formed correctly.
R-DNA looms are formed by reversing “right” and “left” in the three descriptions given above.

ROLLING A FIGURE

Rolling is a technique for “turning over” a loom or a partially completed figure so that the underside can be manipulated. Rolling achieves a +1/2 rotation of the entire figure. Rolling a 3-loop figure is easy, but rolling a 4- or a5-loop figure requires practice. To practice rolling, first build one of the LDNA looms described above, then proceed as described below. The end result should match what you started with since the upper surface of a DNA loom looks the same as the bottom surface when rotated about a horizontal axis. (Note: this is not true for Opening A!).

Rolling a 3-Loop Figure

• Transfer the thumb loop to the middle finger, inserting the middle finger from above (this introduces a +1/2 rotation).

• Pass each thumb away from you under all the strings, pick up the far little finger string and return with it, then drop the little finger loop (this is merely a way of transferring the little finger loop to the thumb while simultaneously introducing a +1/2 rotation).

• Transfer the middle finger loop to the little finger, inserting the little finger from below.

• Transfer the index loop to the thumb, inserting the thumb from below, then retransfer this loop to the index, inserting the index from above (this introduces a +1/2 rotation). The entire figure has now been rotated a half turn away from you. If you started with a 3-loop L-DNA loom you should once again have a 3-loop L-DNA loom on your hands.

Rolling a 4-Loop Figure

The entire figure has now been rotated a half turn away from you. If you started with a 4-loop L-DNA loom (fig. 5) you should once again have fig. 5 on your hands.

Rolling a 5-Loop Figure

• Transfer the thumb loop to the top of the middle finger, inserting the middle finger from above (this introduces a +1/2 rotation).

• Pass each thumb away from you under all the strings, pick up the far little finger string and return with it, then drop the little finger loop (this is merely a way of transferring the little finger loop to the thumb while simultaneously introducing a +1/2 rotation).

• Transfer the upper middle finger loop to the little finger, inserting the little finger from below.

• Transfer the index loop to the thumb, inserting the thumb from below, then retransfer this loop to the middle finger, inserting the middle finger from above (this introduces a +1/2 rotation).

• Pass each thumb away from you under both middle finger loops, transfer the ring finger loop to the thumb, inserting the thumb from below, then retransfer this loop to the index finger, inserting the index finger from above (this introduces a +1/2 rotation).

• Transfer the upper middle finger loop to the ring finger, inserting the ring finger from below.

• Transfer the remaining middle finger loop to the thumb, inserting the thumb from below, then retransfer this loop to the middle finger, inserting the middle finger from above (this introduces a +1/2 rotation).

The entire figure has now been rotated a half turn away from you. If you started with a 5-loop L-DNA loom (fig. 6) you should once again have fig. 6 on your hands.

INUIT OUT FINISHING MOVES

Finishing moves reduce the number of loops on each hand to two so that the design can be displayed using the Power Lift or the Caroline Extension.

Since I often use the entire Inuit Net weaving sequence as a finishing move, I invented a special term for this procedure: Inuit Out. Inuit Out means “make the Inuit Net from the beginning, as if you had Opening A on your hands.”

Inuit Out can also be applied to 4- and 5-loop figures if the extra loops arefirst combined with other loops to give double or triple index loops. The standard (3-loop) Inuit Out sequence is reviewed below, as well as the modifications you must make to apply the procedure to 4- and 5-loop figures.

(3-LOOP) INUIT OUT

The Loom

Begin with a partially completed figure in an Opening A-like configuration (i.e., the figure has a thumb loop, at least one index loop, and a little finger loop, and the near thumb and far little finger strings are transverse or “straight across” strings). Note: If you’re just practicing, begin with a simple 3-loop loom (either Opening A, or a 3-loop DNA loom).

First Inuit Weave (I-1)

• Pass each thumb away from you over the near index string and under the far index string, then pick up the near little finger string and return.

• Pass each middle finger toward you over both index strings and down through the upper thumb loop, then pick up the lower far thumb string and return.

• Drop both thumb loops and extend.

Second Inuit Weave (I-2)

Pass each thumb away from you over the near index string and under all other strings, then pick up the far little finger string and return.

Shifting the Loops

Drop the index loop;

• Transfer the middle finger loop to the little finger, inserting the little finger from below;

• Transfer both little finger loops to the index, maintaining their relative order;

• Transfer the thumb loop to the ring and little finger (i.e., insert the ring and little
finger into the thumb loop from below, close the near thumb string to the palm, and withdraw the thumb). It really doesn’t matter which of the three lesser fingers you use here: any combination will do.

Fixing the Bottom

• Pass each thumb under both index loops and away from you through the ring-little finger loop, then pass the thumb up behind the strings and insert it, from below, into the upper index loop;

• With each thumb hook down the upper far index string and draw it down through the ring-little finger loop until the thumb is below the far little finger string, then with each thumb pick up the far little finger string and draw it through the loop on each thumb, which slips off as you return.

• Drop the ring-little finger loop and extend.

Cleaning the Top

• Transfer the thumb loop to the little finger (i.e., insert the little finger into the thumb loop from below, close the near thumb string to the palm, and withdraw the thumb). Again, you may use only the little finger, or the ring and little fingers, or the middle, ring, and little fingers here, whatever you are comfortable with.

• Transfer both index loops to the thumb, maintaining their relative order.

• Insert each index, from above, into the upper and lower thumb loops, pick up the lower near thumb string, and draw it through the upper thumb loop; then curl the tip of each index around the upper near thumb string, drawing this string away from you and up through the index loop, which slips off.

• Drop both thumb loops and extend to complete the figure.
Note: If, for practice, you started with Opening A rather than a partially completed figure, the result is simply ‘Inuit Net’ (fig. 7).

4-LOOP INUIT OUT

The Loom

Begin with a partially completed figure in a 4-loop loom configuration (i.e., the figure has a thumb loop, an index loop, a middle finger loop, and a little finger loop, and the near thumb and far little finger strings are transverse or “straight across” strings). Note: If you’re just practicing, begin with a simple 4-loop DNA loom.

• Combine the index and middle finger loops as follows: Transfer the index loop to the middle finger, then transfer both middle finger loops to the index, maintaining their relative order.

The Weaving Sequence

You now have something that resembles Opening A on your hands, the index loop being doubled. Now do all the weaves of the 3-loop Inuit Out sequence (skip The Loom), treating the double index loop as if it were single.

Note: If, for practice, you started with a 4-loop DNA loom rather than a partially completed figure, the result is simply ‘4- loop Inuit Net’ (fig. 8)
.
5-LOOP INUIT OUT

The Loom

Begin with a partially completed figure in a 5-loop loom configuration (i.e., the figure has a thumb loop, an index loop, a middle finger loop, a ring finger loop, and a little finger loop, and the near thumb and far little finger strings are transverse or “straight across” strings). Note: If you’re just practicing, begin with a simple 5-loop DNA loom.

Combine the index, middle, and ring finger loops as follows:

• Transfer the index loop to the middle finger, then transfer both middle finger loops to the ring finger, then transfer the three ring finger loops to the index, maintaining their relative order throughout.

The Weaving Sequence

You now have something that resembles Opening A on your hands, the index loop being tripled. Now do all the weaves of the 3-loop Inuit Out sequence (skip The Loom), treating the triple index loop as if it were single.

Note: If, for practice, you started with a 5-loop DNA loom rather than a partially completed figure, the result is simply ‘5-loop Inuit Net’ (fig. 9).

FIRST INUIT WEAVE INVERSE

I-1′ (first Inuit weave inverse) is a key element in many of my iterative figures (e.g., ‘Cherokee Seven Stars’) and is referred to extensively in this article. For sake of completeness the method is reproduced here. If you wish to practice, begin with Opening A then proceed as follows:
First Inuit Weave Inverse (I-1′)

• Pass each thumb away from you over the near index string and under the far index string, then pick up the near little finger string and return.

• With the help of the opposite hand, remove the upper thumb loop, rotate it a half turn towards you (a -1/2 rotation), and reset it on the thumb as an upper loop.

• Pass each middle finger toward you over both index strings and down through the upper thumb loop (this takes some practice since the upper loop is now very tight), then pick up the lower far thumb string and return.

• Drop both thumb loops and extend.

Power Lift

• There are several good illustrations of this move in my first books. Here’s how to apply it to a figure that ends with Inuit Out:

• Transfer each index loop to the thumb, inserting the thumb from below.

• Gently withdraw the little finger from its loop and reinsert it from the opposite side. The figure now lies flat between your hands.

• With each thumb pick up the near little finger string.

• Pass the index and middle fingers toward you over both strings of the upper thumb loop and pinch between them the lower near thumb string, then wrap the string around the tip of the index by rotating the pair away from you and up.

• To expand the central design, separate the indices and little fingers as far as possible and push the thumbs toward the center of the figure (two ringlets tightly encircle each thumb). As an example, see fig. 63.

Caroline Extension

The Caroline Extension, otherwise known as the ‘Pindiki’ move, is used throughout the Pacific to display finished patterns. Here’s how to apply it to a figure that ends with Inuit Out:

• After Cleaning the Top and extending the figure, pass each thumb away from you, under the index loop, and pick up the near little finger string and the far index string; Release the index loop.

• Gently release each little finger loop and reinsert the little finger from the opposite side.
With the tip of each index pick up the lower far thumb string, but as you return press the thumb against the first joint of your index finger to keep the string you just retrieved from slipping. Extend with palms facing away from you.