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rope-msg -11/16/99


Medieval ropemaking. rope materials.


NOTE: See also the files: lucet-cord-msg, ships-bib, boat-building-msg, straw-crafts-msg, whips-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: lennyb at snet.net (Lenny Bloom)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ropemaking, period cordage, and decorative knotwork

Date: Tue, 26 May 1998 03:19:52 GMT


Dwight Hall <dwihall at ix.netcom.com> wrote:

>Can anyone point me to references to:


>1) Ropemaking in medieval and Renaissance times, particularly as might

>have been done in rural areas by just one or two people working



>2) Reasonably priced sources of natural (hemp, linen, cotton) yarn

>suitable for ropemaking.


>3) Decorative/practical knotwork in period, including braiding and

>plaiting. Most of what I can find dates to the Napoleonic wars and the

>golden age of sail.


>Does anyone know if the famous Celtic "knots" seen in stone work and

>ilustrated manuscripts were ever actually worked out in rope and cord?

>Many of them appear to be possible, but as far as I can track down they

>were solely surface decorations. Of course, fiber arts are rarely well

>preserved in the historical or archeological record.


Dwight:  I'm sorry I don't have sources for you but the best work I have seen

on knotwork is (The Ashley Book Of Knots, By Clifford W. Ashley

Pub 1944 from Doubleday, Doran & company, Inc.  620 Pages)

This large collection of 3854 knots and how to tie them has some,

knots that look a lot like "Celtic" style knots. I hope you can find this

book, I don't know if it was ever republished. I found it at a local library

book sale for 25$. and the bibliography lists over a hundred other books

of intrest to the knotmaker.


Leon the Navigator

Barony of Dragonship Haven

Lenny Bloom



From: Mark Hendershott <crimlaw at JEFFNET.org>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ropemaking, period cordage, and decorative knotwork

Date: Tue, 02 Jun 1998 12:04:23 -0700

Organization: Oregon Public Networking


Mary Iliff wrote:


[deleted stuff about knot books.]


The original poster also asked about ropemaking.  I'm unaware of any

books but did find -- www.midtown.net/~merv/mropwalk.htm


This describes the ropewalk method of making roping as well as gathering

wild plant fibers and making ladders etc.


Assuming that medieval ropes were made on a ropewalk, this would be a

fine demo craft as well as producing a saleable end product.  We all

need rope.


Simon von der Eisenhandlung

Summits, An Tir



From: miliff at cello.qnet.com (Mary Iliff)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ropemaking, period cordage, and decorative knotwork

Date: 2 Jun 1998 16:08:58 -0700


Mark Hendershott  <crimlaw at jeffnet.org> wrote:

>Mary Iliff wrote:


>[deleted stuff about knot books.]


>The original poster also asked about ropemaking.  I'm unaware of any

>books but did find -- www.midtown.net/~merv/mropwalk.htm


There's a nice set of fairly detailed instructions on how to make cord

in the new tassel book that just came out.  Substituting sisal for the

decorative fibers would produce manila line quite easily.


There's also a nice picture of the cord/rope maker, with instructions

for its use.  I think it's a little too pricy for me, but all I want is

cord for tassels.  While the device is probably too lightweight for

production use, it would work well for occasional ropemaking.  This is,

obviously, one notch down from a ropewalk but I didn't have the impression

that the original poster was going into production so it may well serve.


Essentially, the technique is to twist the fibers into a number of Z-twist

cords and then S-twist these into the line or finished cord.  You can do

it the other way, with S-twist cords and Z-twist line, but that isn't how

it's usually done, according to Ashley.  The rope maker lets you do all

this single-handedly by flipping rods or latches.


I'll produce the name of that book as soon as I can, and try to find some

sources for the rope maker.  I'm pretty sure both book and maker are

available at Lacis.  I ordered the book through Waldenbooks after seeing

it in the Lark Books catalog, but I don't think Lark sells the maker.



From: miliff at cello.qnet.com (Mary Iliff)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ropemaking, period cordage, and decorative knotwork

Date: 3 Jun 1998 15:35:12 -0700


I have two books that have fairly detailed instructions on how to make

cord and, by extension, rope.  These are both really about passementerie

(decorative fiber arts including fringes, frogging and braids, tassels,

and so on) and have only small sections on cord and rope making.  However,

it's so simple that this is probably sufficient.  The two are "Tassels:

The Fanciful Embellishment" (TEFE) by Nancy Welch, Lark Books, 1992, and

"The Tassels Book" (TTB) by Anna Crutchley, Lorenz Books, 1997.  Both are

available from Waldenbooks, although I ordered TEFE from Lark as part of a

package deal with a tassel-making tool.


TEFE has instructions on how to make cords by hand, with an electric drill

and a hook, and with a rope maker.  It also has explicit instructions and

good drawings for making a rope maker with a modest amount of wood and

heavy-duty wire clothes hangers.  In addition, it has sources for sisal

and a rope maker.  In conjunction with your rope walk information, I think

it would be feasible to make rope using the information in this book.


The trick to making rope is to twist fiber together into strands in one

direction and then to twist the strands together into the rope in the

opposite direction.  This direction switching makes a rope that doesn't

kink but lies nice and easy.  It does take some practice to get the amount

of twist right, but what doesn't?  The book also has cord braiding and

some knot tying.  


For a long time this was the only book around on passementerie.  I've made

a number of things from it and found it to be very easy to follow, with

complete instructions.  The projects are not extremely detailed, but a

good explanation of the general procedure is given and various materials

and variations are suggested.  The projects are not overly elaborate,

although elaboration is suggested and described.  It's still available

from Lark (so is the tassel maker) and Waldenbooks.  (I keep mentioning

Waldenbooks because I have one of their preferred reader cards and the

time-of-sale discount does a little more than pay the sales tax and the $5

rebate for every $100 spent on books stretches my budget a little

further.)  Also, there's a good list of suppliers, many of which still

advertise in Piecework, etc, so they're still aroung.


TTB has an excellent section on cordspinning, including instructions on

using the commercially available rope maker I haven't tried anything from

this book yet, but I've read it carefully and it looks to me like it will

be an excellent source.  Again, a good list of suppliers. This book has

more elaborate projects than the other.  Some are a bit overdone in my

opinion.  Instructions are more detailed than TEFE's, but they need to be.


TEFE has wonderful pictures of passementerie through the ages, including

many ethnic and some period examples.  It also has a gallery of modern-day

passementerie makers.  TTB has a few such pictures, but most of its photos

illustrate the processes and projects.


If you can, buy them both.  If you want to make rope and simple to

somewhat elaborate tassels, buy TEFE.  If you want to make elaborate

tassels, buy TTB.  TEFE is from the US, TTB from the UK. They're both

lovely books that will have you ordering catalogs and itching to have the

fibers in your hands in no time.



Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 02:27:12 -0500

From: Melanie Wilson <MelanieWilson at compuserve.com>

To: "INTERNET:sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu" <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Rope


>I would love to get any good referances you have found on period rope,

>it's making or use. What materials did they make rope out of?


I have found refs to the use of straw for rope making, the coils were made

into all sorts of things, chairs, beds, you name it, much like archery

butts.  This technique was use until the 1920-30 in parts of the UK. On the

basis we see bee hives of this straw rope in medieval ms, I think it is

very likely the used it for other things too. Hemp was also made into rope

and other similar fibres, birch, nettle etc..


For details on this see Dorothy Hartleys books, also the Jack Hill book I

mentioned on traditional crafts. Also The Country Man at Work-Hennell,

Living Crafts- Huges, Rural crafts of England-Woods. have bits on it.


You need the long thatch straw (do you get that in the US ?) modern straws

have been bred too short and don't work. I've made a bit, it is really

strong !





Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 14:53:03 -0600

From: Roberta R Comstock <froggestow at juno.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Rope


The making of cords and ropes is extremely ancient - predating both

weaving and pottery.


There's a dandy little book  called _Rope, Twine and Net Making_ , Shire

Albums number 51, published by Shire Publications Ltd., Aylesbury, Bucks,

UK.    I don't have my copy handy to give you author and ISBN  at the

moment, but I highly recomend the Shire Publications series (in addition

to the albums on dozens of historical technology and rural life themes,

they also publish series on ethnography and archeology).


Some of the titles listed  on the volume I have in my hand now (_Spinning

and Spinning Wheels_ by Eliza Leadbeater, #43) are:


Agricultural Hand Tools -  100

Baskets and Basketmaking  -  92 (which I don't have yet)

Bricks and Brickmaking - 75

Shepherding Tools and Customs - 23

Straw and Straw Craftsmen - 76

Woodworking Tools - 50




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org