Taz.berlin advent calendar 5: wrapped around the finger

In this year’s taz.berlin advent calendar we present many nice games to match the winter shutdown. Today: Thread Game.

All beginnings … but this is how the thread game will work (an archive photo) Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/dpaweb/Rainer Jensen


It’s that time again: In this year’s taz.berlin Advent calendar, we’re presenting lots of nice games to go with the winter lockdown.

This game was invented by my grandma. At least that’s what I thought as a child. Because grandma was great at everything. Probably also invent. Because all she needed was a woolen thread. And that was all it took to amuse me. And there was more than enough wool in our household in my childhood days, grandma lived with us, she and my mother knitted a lot. I and my siblings wore sweaters, jackets, scarves, caps with pom-poms, stockings, even underpants made of wool.

So in the beginning there was a woolen thread. But any piece of string or anything else is just as good. The main thing is that the length and flexibility of the material is right. Simply knot them together and off you go. With the closed cord you form figures, so to speak, stylized images from a thread. To do this, you take both hands and wrap the cord around your hands and fingers not once, but twice, so that there are loops on the left and right – where you then use one finger (or more) of the other hand to pull the thread/threads in such a way that figures are formed.

We always played it in pairs (although you can play it alone or with several people in turn). The thread is taken over with each new figure that is created, so the thread always changes hands. Until it no longer works, no new figure is created or always the same two, which then bores – or – in daring as well as failed attempts – a knot is created.

Grandma was a master of this game. But unfortunately, the last time we played thread together was 45 years ago. I’ve forgotten most of the figures, I can recall a few standards, not even from memory – fingers and hands remember (like a keyboard command they know, but which I couldn’t recite just like that).

"Fumble Fingers."

I haven’t thought about this game from childhood in a long time either. After all, I don’t play hide and seek anymore. But on one of my annual visits to Prague, I once by chance (maybe grandma’s ghost was involved) ended up in a toy store a bit off the beaten path and found a game of thread that had the English name "Fumble Fingers". There was a thread, which I have long since lost, and a game manual, yeah!

This shows at least three figures with drawings that depict the individual steps, and has explanations in several languages, including German. I don’t know the name of the rather simple "witches broom", but the figure is very well known to my fingers. The same goes for the "cat’s whiskers". Only the "harbor bridge" I have never seen.

Is the thread game actually recommended in Corona times? Yes, I think so. Since we present games for winter afternoons and evenings with the family in our Advent calendar. Just give it a try. It’s fun! Leave yourself to the play of your fingers, they know.

Oh, and who invented it? "The original origin of the ancient game can no longer be determined," Wikipedia knows to report. "The probability speaks for a parallel development in different regions of the earth. The oldest known written record of a thread game comes from Heraclas in the 1st century." But it should be much older. For me, though, my grandma invented it.

Required: A desire and a whim – and a long thread

Target audience: For all who want to train fine motor skills and imagination.

Whoever plays this, also plays: Gummitwist, Mikado, I pack my suitcase and: I see what you do not see

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