Saturday, June 29, 2013

Solving Knotty Problems the Sailor’s Way

Jewelry makers understand the necessity of tying strong knots that secure the placement of beads on a necklace or bracelet strand to create a professional product. Knots are not only functional. They are beautiful. A singular knot, if well done, can serve as the focal point of a piece of jewelry, clothing, or work of art.

Decorative knots have been around for many years, but the knots from which they came were the result of need and invention. Sailors created different types of knots for different uses.
Modern-day campers can easily relate to the shifting motion of a ship as their motor home careens down the highway. Tying things down and securing them with a knot that is secure yet can be undone quickly is extremely important.

Sailors used knots to secure fragile things from breakage. They kept their wood dry by knotting wood pieces together and hanging them up. When the ocean billowed over the edge of the ship, the wood was tied safely above the thrust of the water.

The “monkey’s fist” (See image 1, lower right) was a large knot that was used as a weight and tied to another rope which the longshoremen used to pull the ship into the dock. Now used as a decorative knot, the monkey’s fist is solid and attractive. Knob knots were used for drawer handles, and for stanchion rails to whip the horses or at least scare them into going faster.

One of the most important books today in the arena of decorative arts is an old maritime book called “Marlinspike Seamanship.” If you would like to see samples from this book or get one for yourself, go to

A popular craft today that uses the same knotting principles is called “Paracording,” and uses parachute cord instead of rope for its lightweight qualities and strength. 

Paracord bracelets are the current fad, especially for runners and bicyclers who like their bright fluorescent colors to warn drivers and others of their presence.
Since their inception, The Boy Scouts have used knot tying skills  as a Merit Badge. Knots are used to tie down a tent, secure a boat, hang up supplies to keep them off the ground, and for securing a clothes line to dry out wet clothes. 

Knot tying prepares Scouts in the event that they are lost in the wilderness and need to stay safe and protected. Knowing how to make a shelter by tying branches together or to provide a make-shift stretcher to drag an injured friend is a valuable skill.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced the frustration of trying to tie a square knot and ending up with a granny. "Right over left" works when you’re not tying a bow, but if you want to place a bow on top, left over right first works best.

How many times have you tied your dog to a tree or a post, only to find that he’s wriggled away from your slip-shod slip knot? It pays to master the art of knot tying. The next time you try to tie something up; instead of swearing like a Sailor, learn how to tie knots like one!

"Bella Bellisimo" 16x20 acrylic on canvas