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Practical Plants - Cordage/Rope



As complicated as it may sound, making your own cordage or rope in the wild is fairly simple. You can use material from a wide range of plants, and the technique is easy to master (but it certainly does take practice).


Collecting the Material
1. Time of the year:

Whether it is bark or stem that you are making your cordage out of, it is easier to pull the material off the plant if the sap is flowing at that time of the year, which corresponds to spring/summer for most Northeastern plants. 

2. Layer:

The fibrous material we want is the inner layer of the bark, which means you need to strip off the outer bark before you collect the material. (Except for Milkweed, for which, you want the outer skin layer)

3. Pulling off:

After you get a grip on the layer you want (inner layer, or the outer skin layer), simply hold a piece at the base and pull it up smoothly, stripping your material
  1. Easy Twist:

This is a very basic technique that will still give you sturdy cordage.

Step 1. Take two strands of fiber.

Step 2. Tie them into a knot.

Step 3. Take the strand further away from you, twist it up and towards you. Now, the strands have switched places.

Step 4. Keep the strands in place with your fingers. Repeat step 3, and continue to shape your fiber strands into a double helix.

Step 5. If you need to lengthen your cordage, you can simply add new fiber strands by adding on a new fiber strand: simply roll it onto the short strand a few times (until they hold together) and continue the double helix.


  2. Native American Twist:

Known to be used widely by the Native American, this technique takes more time to master but is a much faster way of making cordage, compared to the easy twist.


Step 1. Take two strands of fiber.

Step 2. Tie them into a knot.

Step 3. Hold the knot with your left hand, while you lay the strands (with your right hand) on you leg. (Figure 1)

Step 4. Keep the strands well apart.

Step 5. Now, when you are holding the knot with the left hand, lay your right hand on the strands and against your leg, and push it forward. The two strands should roll forward individually. (Figure 2)

Step 6. Now release the knot, and the two strands should roll into a twist on their own. (Figure 3)

Step 7. With your left hand, grab the cord on the end of the double helix (Figure 4). Now repeat steps 3-6 to make the cordage longer.

Step 8. If one strand comes short, again add on a new fiber strand by rolling them together a few times. (See Easy Twist, Step 5).



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