Yachting Monthly literary contributor Julia Jones reviews the latest edition of Creative Ropecraft, which was first written with the aim of maintaining knot-tying as a living art.

Creative Ropecraft (5th edition)

Stuart Grainger

Adlard Coles, £16.99

This is the most recent edition of a book first published in 1975.

The origins of the craft are considerably more venerable, harking back to the era of sailing ships – on blockade duty during the Napoleonic wars, for instance.

Materials for recreation would have been scarce but ship’s cordage and canvas provided the foundations for what the author rightly describes as a folk art.

Knot-tying is of course a supremely functional skill but what’s moving and impressive is to see this evidence of human creativity extending far beyond the utilitarian to produce knots that possess ‘a clear beauty’.

The basic techniques needed to produce knots, bends and hitches burgeon into a range of intricate individual projects.

Seafarers were not the only group of people needing to devise a range of knots for use in their everyday lives.

Grainger’s introduction mentions farmers, steeplejacks, circus hands and weavers and I can remember being deeply impressed by the skill of lorry-drivers when rope, rather than webbing, was the usual means of securing loads.

Today, there are few trades that need a range of knots and the initial impulse behind Grainger’s work was to maintain knot-tying as a living art.

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Making links to other crafts, such as crochet or macrame, could be one approach but the consistent  popularity of initial work suggests that there is sufficient challenge and fascination in ropecraft itself.

Look for instance at the section on plaits and sennits or covering and netting and the possibilities for innovation appear to grow across the page.

Stuart Granger died after publication of the fourth edition (2005) but his legacy lives on through the expertise and understanding of Des Pawson who has overseen the preparation of this fifth edition and written its foreword.

Pawson rightly points to Gainger’s drawings as being his outstanding contribution to the clarity of his message.

Some colour photographs have also been added to this edition and the whole redesigned in a contemporary and appealing style.

I think the originator would have approved.

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