Chapter 3 Introduction Chapter 5
Pre-Revolutionary Ropemaking in the American Colonies

4. Two Strand Rope

Good luck and bad luck are strands of the same rope.
Sakura Tsukuba


Two strand rope is easy to make, you twist one strand in each hand, both hands twisting in the same direction. Then you wrap the two strands around each other, in the opposite direction.

Sketch showing how the forces in two cords twisted in one direction and wrapped in the 
other direction, balance.
Figure 4.1: Two Strands Twisted Clockwise, Wrapped Counter-clockwise.


Figure 4.1 shows how the twisting of the two strands, clockwise in this case, is balanced by the wrapping in the opposite direction.

Sketch of anchoring fibers for hand twisting.
Figure 4.2: Anchoring Fibers.


The easiest way to start twisting is by looping a wisp of fibers around a fixed object. A hook on a bench, a nail in a post, branch of a tree, a friend's finger, your big toe. Do not center your fibers on the hook, but rather make one side twice as long as the other. This lets you add more fibers on one side without creating a weakness on both strands in the same place.

Sketch: hand twisting two bundles of fiber in the same direction.
Figure 4.3: Twisting Each Bundle in the Same Direction (Clockwise or S Twist).


Twist each strand individually in the same direction. In Figure 4.3, the twist is clockwise, making an "S" twist. You can twist the other way if it is more comfortable.

Sketch: wrapping bundles in opposite direction of twist.
Figure 4.4: Wrapping Bundles in Opposite Direction (Counter-clockwise or Z Twist).


Next, wrap the two yarns around each other in the opposite manner. If you twist with an "S" twist, wrap the right yarn over the left yarn, making a "Z" crossing. Then another set of "S" twists, and a "Z" wrap. Another "S" twist and another "Z" wrap, "S" twist, "Z" wrap, until your rope is finished, you've run out of fibers, or you run out of patience.

If you started with "Z" twists, be sure you wrap in the "S" direction.

Sketch showing addition of more fibers to one bundle during hand twisting.
Figure 4.5: Adding Additional Fiber to One Bundle.


When you notice one side getting short, or thin, take another fiber and lay it alongside the yarn you are twisting, and roll it in.

Sketch : twisting new fibers into the bundle.
Figure 4.6: Twisting in New Fibers.


Twist the new fiber in, then wrap like before, and keep twisting and wrapping. You can also loop the end of the added fiber around the second yarn, and twist both parts of the new fiber in with the yarn. The little fuzzy ends of the added fibers can be shaved, or burned off, when the rope is finished.


Tobacco is often sold as a "twist". Especially at gatherings of historical reenactors.

Sketch of tobacco twist.
Figure 4.7: A "Twist" of Tobacco.


You'll notice the twist is actually a two-ply cord. Most often this is an "S" twist, but "Z" twists are not uncommon. Preference of the twister no doubt.


Three Strand Rope


Chapter 3 Introduction Chapter 5
Colophon Contacts