I’ve written previously about preparing nettles and sweet chestnut inner bark for making natural cordage but haven’t shown how to turn the prepared fibres into cordage. So now seems the time to rectify that. In the photos below Bob is using nettle fibres, but the process is the same whatever fibres you might have to hand.
Start by holding the nettle about 1/3rd of the way along. This means that any joins should be staggered and not in the same place.
The rest of the instructions are for a right handed person, so if you’re a left hander, reverse everything.
Pinch the nettle between your left thumb and index finger. Twist the nettle away from you with your right thumb and index finger until a kink forms in the nettle.
Now pinch the kink with your left hand.
Take one strand and twist it away from you until about 5cm is twisted. Hold this strand between your middle and ring fingers of your left hand. Make sure you maintain the tension.
Now twist the other strand away from you until about 5cm is twisted. Hold it next to the first strand you twisted and pinch them both with your right thumb and index finger.
Now twist both strands away from you with your left hand. They’ll want to twist anyway, so you’re just lending a hand.
Keep twisting until the twist meets your right hand. Your cordage should now look something like the photo below.
Now pinch the two strands just at the end of where the twisting ends, again with your left thumb and index finger.
Twist one strand away from you for about 5cm and pinch it between your middle and ring finger. Then twist the other strand away from you, pinch the two together with your right hand and twist away from you with your left.
Keep repeating this process. At some stage your going to have to join in another piece of fibre as one of the strands runs out. This is especially easy with nettles but the process is more or less the same for any fibres. Before you run out, lay another fibre next to the one that’s getting short. Nettles are nearly always wider at the bottom than at the top, which means that when you prepare the fibres, one end will be thicker than the other. So if it’s a fat end running out, join in a thin end. And if it’s a thin end running out, add in a thick end.
Twist the new and old fibres together, away from you.
And now carry on as previously.
There’ll be a couple of ends sticking out, just trim them off at the end.
And just keep going! You can then make 3 lots of 2 ply cord and plait them together, but that’s a whole different post!
We make natural cordage on many of our courses, including the IOL Bushcraft Competency Certificate course, our 5 Day Bushcraft Course, and of course on our Cordage & Containers day. You can see plenty of photos from all of these courses on our Facebook page.