Making Cordage

Making Cordage

Mar 25, 2021

Learning to make cordage is such a beautiful and simple skill that we can teach ourselves and others in minutes. In these current times of weirdness where everything that possibly can is being pushed online, making time to teach ourselves these nature-based tangible skills is super important.
Making cordage is a fun and easy way to help ourselves be a lal bit more self reliant and in a world that's moving away from natural fibres to synthetic crap and plastic, twisting yourself up a piece of string is a pretty cool and radical thing to do :)

I often get asked 'but what do you use it for' and the answer is whatever you'd use string for of course! Personally though, one of the main reasons I like to make cordage is to get a feel for a new fibre. It's the perfect way to learn about the plants different qualities - drying time, soaking time, strength, texture, flexibility, shrinkage, how it changes over time etc.

In the past, cordage would have been used in literally all aspects of daily life - making shelters, fires, fishing nets, traps, clothing.. all sorts. This magical way or transforming relatively short, weak fibres into strong string/rope of any length, allowed us to evolve into the creatures we are today..
Ahhh that cordage has got a lot to answer for ey..

It really is a beautiful place the mind wonders to whilst twiddling fibres, almost meditative and definitely relaxing.

You have been warned though, it has been known to be somewhat of an addictive practice and there is a small danger that in some time your house may be filled with tiny bunches of drying leaves. And don't even try to walk through a botanical garden whilst you've got fibres on the brain..

How To Make Cordage

  • Select two or more strands of your dampened fibres, making sure the ends finish at different points and are not flush with each other!

  • Hold somewhere vaguely in the middle of your bunch of fibres and start twisting like so, twisting the right side clockwise away from you..

  • Fold this twisted section in half and you will notice a little loop appearing at the top, this is the beginning of the cordage starting to form :)

  • Take this little loop and hold it between your finger and your thumb in your left hand.
    Now that your fibres are folded in half you will see that both elements are twisting in the same direction. Throughout the entire cording process it's important that they always get twisted in the same direction as this is what locks the fibres in place together.

  • With the fibres secured in your left hand, use your right hand to twist the top strands clockwise away from you, then bring them down crossing over the bottom bunch of fibres to take their place.
    Number 2 now essentially becomes number 1 and you repeat the process. Again and again annnnd again! Until you notice one or both sides getting a bit thin.

  • If it's just the one side that's becoming a bit too thin, take another leaf, or whatever fibre you're using and place it alongside that bunch and it will be locked in place as you continue twisting.

  • If both sides need extra fibres, simply fold one of your fibres in half.. Join one half of the folded fibre to one bunch and the other half to the other and carry on twisting.
    This method of adding fibres in has the added benefit of leaving no annoying sticky out ends to tidy up when you're finished!

  • Once you have make your length of string, you can tidy it up, either by snipping the loose ends off with some snippers or if you're close to a fire letting it dangle in the flames for a lal bit. Just be careful not to leave it too long..

And you have have your cordage :)
I realise a lot of folk with already know how to make cordage but just in case!
I'm afraid the instructions/photos are of right handed cording, please reverse if you are left handed.

At this time of the year we're still a bit short on the ground of cording materials to play with but there are a few to be found ! such as -

  • Leek

  • Rhubarb

  • Daffodil leaves

  • Shedding Honeysuckle bark

  • Cordyline

  • NZ Flax

  • Soft/Hard Rush

Soon there will be loads more too! I've noticed Dandelions popping their beautiful little heads up and in no time we'll be overwhelmed with all the planty fibres :)

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