Borromean Baubles

These simple mathematical baubles can be made in lots of different ways and either hung as a decoration, or used to hold a small gift.

The Borromeo family originated in Rome – that’s where the Rome bit of their name came from. In the twelfth century they set up a bank in Milan and became very wealthy and influential. For hundreds of years they controlled a large area around Milan. The descendants still own some of the land today and their gardens are a popular tourist attraction.

Mathematicians are more interested in their coat of arms than the history of the family. It contains three interlinked rings that are now known as Borromean Rings. They form just a small part of the crest and are thought to represent the links between three families.

The reason these rings are special is that you cannot remove one and leave the others connected. Technically, they are known as Brunnian links.

It might not be immediately obvious how the baubles are related to rings – but they are. They are basically cubes made from three strips of knitting, crochet, paper, or anything else you can think of. The strips are just wide rings.

These are all knit and crochet.

The video explains how to make a cube. There is almost no stitching to be done. You can put a gift inside and remove it without damaging the cube at all. It also shows how the rings become a cube.

These are some of the cubes from the video

Add extra sparkle and beads to make them more Christmassy.

Use some sparkly yarns
Add beads
Embroider letters
Fancy yarns make the cube look like a ball
Cut shapes from sequin waste and stitch them on
Six are needed if you want one on each face
Four letter words fit nicely round the cube
Think carefully about the placement and orientation of the letters

Small cubes keep their shape very well, even when you hang them or put things inside. It is possible to make larger ‘boxes’ though it probably isn’t worth the effort. There is a lot of knitting involved and fairly accurate measurements need to be taken.

Baubles don’t have to be knit and crochet. They can be made from some quite surprising things that you might have lying around. My favourite are these made from plastic folders. In their natural state the folders are fairly uninteresting. They are usually available in red, blue, green and yellow but when the colours are overlapped you can create a myriad of different shades and the translucent shapes look more like glass or ceramic.

These are quick, cheap and easy to make but not quite so good for putting a gift inside. You need to unfasten the cube to remove the gift but you can fasten it up again afterwards. They need to be measured accurately and folded sharply to make a good cube shape.

Let your imagination run riot with coloured card, holographic foil, etc. You can even mix materials in the same cube.

Download Borromean Baubles pattern
Download Cube Thing pattern


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