Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DIY Paracord Zipper Pull/Keychain Tutorial

With wrestling season just about finishing up I began thinking of what I can get for the kiddos and the other coaches for their end-of-season gift. Last year I made goody bags with (awesome) foodstuff, but this year I wanted to get crafty and make something. 

Hydro Flasks are all the rage in Hawaii right now and I don't know why. It's an insulated bottle that keeps your water cold or your coffee hot all day long. I think a Thermos works perfectly fine. AND they can hold soup. I might be the only person in the entire state who still uses a squeeze water bottle but that's okay; the way I see it, when you're parched you don't care if your water is cold or not as long as it hydrates. Anyway, the newest Hydro Flask fad is putting parachute cord ("paracord") handles on them. Since every single kid and coach on the team has a Hydro Flask I thought I'd make them paracord handles. 

Then I did the calculations. Each requires about 9' of paracord and I'd have to make 35 of them. That's a whole lot of freakin' paracord, and since money - and time - was a factor (I need to finish these by next Saturday), I needed to find something cheaper. Then I stumbled upon these DIY paracord zipper pulls that use only half as much material as the handles. I know it's not a Hydro Flask handle, but it's still practical; I mean, we all have zippers, don't we? It also doubles as a keychain which is what I would probably use it for.

Sarah (original post here) provides great step-by-step instructions for these zipper pulls/keychains on her blog Frugal Fun For Boys, but I'll go over it here as well using my own photos. She explains how to make one- and two-color pulls. In this tutorial I'm making the two-color ones. Since I'm making these for the high school kids I decided to make it in the school colors, red and yellow (well gold but there was no gold paracord at the store). 

2.5' of paracord Color #1 (550 thickness)
2.5' of paracord Color #2 (550 thickness)
Masking Tape

STEP 1. Cut a 2.5 ft length of each color. The cord will immediately fray when you cut it, and since the outer sheath is ever-so-slightly elastic it will begin to shrink back from the inner fibers. Stop the fraying by fusing each end. To do this, hold a lighter to it for about 5 seconds or until the fibers melt together. But don't hold it too long or else the end will turn black and look like a mushroom.

STEP 2. Fold one end of each color up about 1" and wrap masking tape around the folds to hold it in place. The fold is to give the end of the keychain a nice rounded look. Pass 3" or 4" of the folded ends through a keyring, depending on how long you want the finished product to be. My keys and zippers aren't super huge so I think a 3" keychain or zipper pull looks more proportional.
This is why I don't want to buy glass tables anymore. I just cleaned it yesterday and LOOK at it.
STEP 3. The first knot is the most important. Tie a square knot around the two center backbone strands. Here's how: Make an "L" with Color #1 (the red one in the picture below). Pass the Color #2 over the red one, under the two center strands, and over the red again. Basically you're tying a knot around the backbone strands. Pull the knot tight so that it's snug around the keyring.

Front of the keychain
Back of the keychain
STEP 4. Continue making square knots, alternating starting strands each time (left, right, left, right). An easy way to remember this for a two-color keychain is if you start with the red strand, then you're always going to start with the red strand (since it'll alternate sides when you tie the knots). This keeps the keychain flat, or else it'd twist and look like a spiral.

STEP 5. When you reach the folded ends, keep tying square knots over the ends. Pull each knot tightly so that the ends won't slip out and unfold. Once the ends are secure you can remove the masking tape.

STEP 6. Keep making knots until you reach as far down as you can go without risking the knots slipping over the folded ends. Cut off the excess paracord and fuse the ends again. It may help to fuse it to the surrounding cord as well by heating up the area immediately around the ends and applying pressure to the fused surfaces for about 15 seconds or until they cool. Just remember that the heated cord will be VERY hot so don't use your bare hands for this last part!

Here's what the finished product looks like:
I was able to make six of these in a couple of hours so making 35 by next Saturday's state tournament is totally doable. I'm still working on fusing the ends nicely, but I hope by the time I reach #35 it'll look almost flawless. :) Each keychain/zipper pull takes about a dollar's worth of material to make, and I bet these could go for $5 at a craft fair. Easy money! A word of warning, though: after making about three of these my poor fingers were rope burned so I highly suggest wearing band-aids or something around your fingers while tying your knots.


  1. Nice tutorial, you really explained it well. If you are interested in learning a few more different techniques and patterns, here is another great tutorial:

    1. Those variations look very nice! Will definitely be trying those out. Thanks for the link!

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