Permission to Create (Ropes and Knots!)

Permission to Create (Ropes and Knots!)

“I believe we all enjoy watching ourselves and others transform, because everyone wants that. When you’re not growing, you’re stagnant. That’s not living.”—The Year of Knots, p. 133

Schacht’s staff decided to start our year with a creative bang. We were inspired by a beautiful book and used The Incredible Rope Machine to make ropes that we then tied into knots. Our Sales and Marketing team was over the moon for Windy Chien’s book The Year of Knots. We loved her clean, modern design and thoughtful story. She provides not only instruction and projects, but an introduction that will move you to pick up any creative work you have put on the back burner. Chien describes the course of her career and creative path as intertwining experiences and opportunities to give herself permission.

Throughout the knot challenge, we gave ourselves permission to create. Here’s what we discovered.

 natural dyestuffs and tool accents

Carrie, Marketing and Education Coordinator

Dyed Tool Accents

Chien’s decision to prioritize her creative work resonated with me on a personal level, since I'm a parent and artist too. After reading her story, I felt motivated to take on our office knot challenge and see what I could create. As I have moved into the routine of a small home studio, I have loved developing my skills with natural dyes. When I looked at the gorgeous all-white knots in Chien’s book, I was very excited to see how color would interact with twists and turns of the knots. The dyes I used were marigold, onion skin, and logwood. I tried these in different combinations, dyeing linen and cotton before and after making them into ropes. I also worked with some pre-made ropes to see the difference in dye effect. I focused on developing functional ornaments for my tools, including fly fishing forceps, nippers, antique embroidery snips, and a joiner’s mallet. I experimented with the snake knot, the turk’s head, and the ringbolt hitch.


spliced leather closure and ombre feather

Ben, Content Manager

Spliced Leather Rope Closure

After trying a few of the knots from Windy Chien’s book The Year of Knots, I took on the splicing technique. I made a rope with thin strips of reclaimed leather, attached together with golden weaving yarn using a wrapping technique. My final rope was only about 30" long, so I created a simple motif that I spliced in two places. I could see this being used as a simple shawl closure or decorative brooch.

Ombré Macramé Feather

When you produce your own ropes with The Incredible Rope Machine, you can make any color you like with different thread combinations. For this project, I used three different colors of thin weaving yarns in dark blue, medium blue, and creamy white. By changing the combination of threads in each rope, I created an ombré effect. I made seven 48" ropes using the following combos:
Rope 1: 4 threads of dark blue (DB)
Rope 2: 3 threads of DB and 1 thread of medium blue (MB)
Rope 3: 2 threads of DB and 2 threads of MB
Rope 4: 3 threads of MB
Rope 5: 2 threads of MB and 1 thread of white (W)
Rope 6: 1 thread of MB and 2 threads of W
Rope 7: 3 threads of W
I cut each rope into 8" sections for the feather’s fronds. I made another dark blue rope approximately 30" long for the stem. I used this tutorial to make my feather, skipping the fabric stiffening spray step.

 Wood & Rope kitchen tools

Hannah, Sales Administrator

Wood & Rope

I had the opportunity to travel to Italy a few years ago, and on my trip, I stopped at a small medieval hill town in Tuscany for a day. As I climbed the sloping streets, I found myself drawn into a woodworker’s shop. When I left, my pockets about twenty euros lighter, I carried with me a beautiful handmade olive wood cutting board and spoon.

When I saw Chien’s Rib Stitch Hitch knot, I wanted to revisit Italy, so I got out my Rope Machine. I made some simple ropes from mercerized cotton and jute cord. I sat down and started to wrap my spoon and cutting board, letting myself daydream about Tuscany.


wrapped tiles


Judy, Sales Manager

Ornamental Tiles

I made finer ropes with silk yarn to wrap around tiles. As a simple color exploration using The Incredible Rope Machine, I made one rope with yellow and peach and the other with the same peach and coral. The color transitions are subtle for each rope and work well as a pair on the tiles. It was a fun exercise to incorporate knots within the wraps. Windy’s book was an inspiration on many levels as she encourages the journey of discovery, prioritizing creativity, and embracing the process.

gift knots


Jane, Creative Director

Gift Knots

If you are new to knots, the gift knot is an easy place to start. For these experiments, I tried different kinds of materials.

The golden gift knot could be used for a closure or brooch. Shiny and sparkly yarns twisted tightly together create a hard cord that holds its shape beautifully. I used two metallic threads (Twist from Kreinik) that were close in value and color, along with a gold 5/2 perle cotton and two light yellow shades of embroidery floss. I tied the knot around a small book. Afterwards, I removed the completed knot from around the book and cut the loop to make 4 tassels.

The bronze gift knot is a stunning accent to a gift box. A shiny bronze rayon unspun yarn accents 5/2 perle cotton in bronze. The rayon was added in along one of the three twisted strands just before back-twisting the yarns together for a subtle barberpole effect.

The linen gift knot is comprised of many strands of fine singles linen with a single end of blue cotton that takes the ordinary to the extraordinary. The result: a chunky, rustic cord with a speck of blue. I modified the gift knot, tying it with a single strand instead of the doubled of the original.

Hint: Over, under, over under. It helps to keep in mind that knot tying is like weaving. You almost always are weaving over and under the strands.

Hint: Tighten, tighten, tighten. To achieve the compact look of a knot, you need to tighten the knot. You want to work from both sides of the knot (so that one end doesn’t become just longer than the other). I usually begin in the center of the knot and gradually work out the excess until the knot is tight and holds its shape.
The Incredible Rope Machine makes it possible to customize any size and style of rope that I want for a project. It got me thinking, too, about how much I love to coordinate a custom trim with my handwoven fabric.

flat knots


Denise, Accounts Receivable

Flat Knots

I tried The Incredible Rope Machine after looking through our new book The Year of Knots. The knot that enticed me was the Square Knot and Solomon Bar. This is a flat knot with bulk that Chien suggests can be used to make a dog leash. I enjoyed the easy use of The Incredible Rope Machine and produced great results on my first try.


thump mat

Pete, Shop Wizard

Thump Mat

Pete was kind enough to let us photograph a knot project he created several years ago. This piece is called a Thump Mat and is used in traditional sail boat rigging. It would be placed under the deck mounted block to keep it from thumping on the deck when the line goes slack. You can find more information on the history of this item here.

 “I have always believed that famous line about the eye needing to travel . . . it gets at the human desire for stories.”The Year of Knots, p. 8

Please share your studio stories and experiments. Tag us in your social media posts #schachtknotchallenge or just send us an email!
We love to hear about projects created with Schacht equipment.
And look for Windy Chien’s feature on The Incredible Rope Machine in February!

IG @windychien

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