Decorative Knots

Nautical Decorative Knots.

decorative knots

Nautical knotwork, decorative knots, fancy knotting, creative rope craft and knotting are just some of the phrases used to describe the traditional craft that was popular with mariners the world over during the age of sail. Serving both a practical and decorative purpose, nautical knotwork was a sort-after skill to have and knowledge of this craft would prove a great advantage when looking for employment onboard the square-riggers of old.

It seems obvious that knotting skills were of great importance to crew for practical reasons well before the age of sail.  It would be impossible to sail without some knowledge of knots.  With plenty of rope to hand, it was logical to see how rope could also be used as a resource to protect parts of the ship from damage.  Thump pads were made to protect the deck from such things as blocks and anchor chain.  The ships wheel was covered (coxcombing) to help with grip and to indicate the king spoke.  Rope balls (monkey fists) were fashioned to weigh down lines and fenders were made to protect the ship when in dock.  All the decorative knotwork had intricate designs which were aesthetically pleasing.  Pride was taken in how the ship looked, it showed the ship was respected, it was after all the sailor’s home away from home.

Decorative knots were also a way to occupy sailors in their spare time.  Much like carving scrimshaws, it was important to keep morale high amongst the crew.  With long periods away from home and the often monotonous work involved with sailing, it was vital the crew had a creative outlet.  They could, if they were enterprising too, supplement their meagre wage by making decorative knotwork items to sell in the next port.

There is a plethora of websites and videos online to show you the basics of nautical knotwork.  It’s fairly easy to learn and doesn’t really require a great deal of equipment.  Different types of rope, cord or string can be used to fashion an innumerable amount of items from bracelets to keyrings to thump mats and doormats, for the boat or home.

Here is a particularly good resource to start you off.  Animated Knots shows you a breakdown of the steps for a variety of different knots.

Below is a great video on how to tie a Monkey’s Fist knot:

And no boat should be without a mat or coaster for the galley.  This video shows a simple 3 bite design:

Lastly, an idea from Good Old Boat to decorate the wheel.

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