Peddler DIY

A Monkey What? A Monkey Fist Nautical Knot

Monkey Fist nautical knots are all the decorating accent rage right now. You see them as fillers everywhere – displayed in simple vases or used as bookends.

Photo Feb 15, 10 08 08 PM

I’m drawn to natural materials like jute and sisal so it was not surprising that I started to become obsessed with these intriguing little decorations.  Not to Photo Feb 15, 3 41 09 PMmention I’ve had this spool of THICK twine that’s been burning a hole in my DIY overalls.  I got it from this dealer at the Liberty Antique Festival (another must see NC antique festival – – he said he’d been carrying it around with him for years and was happy to pass it on to me – I think I recall his exact words were “I’ve never seen anyone so happy about twine before”.  I got it for a steal!  This twine has always been destined to be transformed into Monkey Fists.

Functionally, sailors use monkey fists at the end of heaving lines or buoy lines. It’s a complex looking knot with a mysterious no start and no end appearance. Thanks to the internet…….I set off to learn how to make a monkey fist knot.

Materials:   (will vary depending on size desired – included below are the measurements I used)

  • Rope (approximately 24.5 ft; diameter 1/4″ inch)
  • weight inserts – floral sphere or tennis ball (approximately 3″ diameter)
  • straight pins (they help keep the rope in place while you work)
  • scotch tape (wrap ends of rope in scotch tape – this will help the rope to not fray while threading around the sphere.)

Photo Feb 15, 8 40 54 PM

Step 1.  Loosely wrap the sphere with the rope about 8 times.  Place a straight pin in the first row to keep things static while you work and then the last row once you complete the wrapping.

Photo Feb 15, 8 43 53 PM

Step 2.  This will be your first turn.  Now wrap the sphere 8 times winding the rope around the sphere toward you.

Photo Feb 15, 8 45 12 PM

Step 3.  Once you’ve finished Step 2, we will make another turn – see green straight pin – Picture A below.  You will now thread the rope down under the RIGHT horizontal wrappings (Picture A – side with green straight pin) and up under the LEFT horizontal wrappings (Picture B – side with black straight pin).  Continue wrapping.

A.   Photo Feb 15, 8 48 52 PM       B.  Photo Feb 15, 8 56 17 PM

Step 4.  Using your starting end, tighten the rope while re-tracing each rotation around the sphere.

Photo Feb 15, 9 31 26 PM

Peddler Tip:  If your monkey fist is looking more like a jumble of rope than an organized knot, do not abandon things yet – walk through step 4, tightening the rope before you give up (or hopefully just start over).  Step 4 gives a true understanding of the knot – being able to retrace the exact flow of the rope is key – and often times once the knot is tightened it takes just the right shape.

There are a variety of ways you can add finishing techniques – with handles or no handles.  I prefer no handles and just continuing tucking the ends in until I have a seamless ball or I will bring the ends up at the same exit point and tie a simple knot.

Happy DIYing!
– the urban peddler –


1 thought on “A Monkey What? A Monkey Fist Nautical Knot”

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