In the mid-18th and early 19th centuries, industrialization took place in Europe. The process of production changed greatly; machines overtook the work that men did by hand. As a result, various traditional crafts, trades, and customs took a backseat. However, attempts are being made to restore and preserve these lost traditions. One such tradition is hemp rope making. The whole process of traditional hemp rope making is quite complex but interesting at the same time.
Hemp is a great material for making rope and the plant grows rapidly. The plant has the capacity of producing almost 75 tons of dry fibers per acre per year. The best thing is that the hemp plant grows in poor soil. It does not need care, fertilizers, or pesticides. When compared to flax or cotton, hemp produces more fiber per pound. Extraction of hemp fibers is quite easy for making twine, hemp rope, or cord.
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Initially, the process involves the refining of raw hemp fibers. Once the refining process is complete, the fibers are twisted into long cords with the help of hands. The length of the cords varies and so does their thickness. The cords are combined into solid ropes of different sizes, lengths, and weights.
It is a fascinating fact that the work of making rope by hand was prevalent till a few decades back. But with the advent of machines and advanced technology, the art of rope making by hand seems to have become a foreign thing now. Still, in many places, the traditional process is followed.
Here we will try and cover the traditional process of hemp rope making in the traditional way.
Making Hemp Rope: The Steps
The first step of making hemp rope is separating the hemp fibers. You can also unwind the hemp yarn and then cut it. The length that you cut should be approximately double the length of the rope that you want. Continue the process of cutting till you have a considerable bunch of fibers almost half the size of the diameter of the rope that you intend to make.
Take the fiber bundles and grab them in a way so that you fold them in half. For securing the fold, take a dowel rod and place that through the loop into the ground. You need to smooth the fibers in the bundle. For that, you have to run your hand throughout the length of the cord. Take a damp cloth in your hand and then run through the cord; it will prevent hand abrasion.
Divide the bundle into two parts. You have to hold half of the fibers in your left hand and half in your right hand.
Take each bundle and twist it in a clockwise direction so that the cord that you are making starts kinking and looping. When you are twisting the bundles, pull them as hard as possible. This improves the quality of the cords to a great extent.
Take two cords and twist them together. There is a particular motion that has to be followed for this. You have to wrap one chord over another with a counterclockwise motion. Try wrapping the cords as tightly as possible to form the rope.
Make overhand knots for securing the ends of the rope, otherwise, they will get entangled. After the first end is tied tightly, slip the rope on the dowel rod and tie that as well.
For making a cable, repeat the process and twist two ropes together. You can twist more ropes to make stronger and thicker cables.
Turn on the subtitles and watch the process used by traditional Spanish hemp rope makers in this video: