Where does your user name come from?
I chose 'Stormdrane' as a screen name back in the mid 1990's, back when internet service still charged by the minute, glad those days are gone, lol. I think I've always had a dark sense of humor and my friends would say my mind was often in the gutter, so 'Stormdrane' fit. The off spelling just made it more unique.
What brought you to Instructables?
I was aware of the instructables site from looking for 'howto' and 'DIY' tutorials and I think someone suggested I post some knot work there to get more exposure than what I did with my knot tying blog, 'Stormdrane's Blog', and find a wider audience to freely share with folks that have a common interest.
What is paracord and how is it used?
Paracord is short for 'parachute cord', also called '550 cord', and was originally used in the construction of parachutes in the second World War. It's been used by both the military and civilian market for all kinds of utility uses since then, and some consider it the 'duct tape' of the cordage world. With it's relative inexpensive cost, growing availability, and ever increasing color options, it's popularity continues to grow. I use many different types of cordage for decorative and useful knot work, but paracord has always been my favorite cord of choice.
What first got you into knot-tying?
Before joining the Boy Scouts as a kid, aside from tying my shoes, I don't remember using rope, cord, or string except for something like tying fishing line to hooks and lures or rigging up a kite with a spool of string, and then it was usually a mess of overhand knots. The Scouts taught me many proper working knots and when and where to use them. Most of what I learned back then involved building camp furniture, setting up tent guy lines, building snares for hunting small game, and more involved projects like building a bridge and even a tower. I actually remember failing to earn the 'Sailing' merit badge because I couldn't figure out how to splice rope, going from the Boy Scout manual alone. It really helps having someone show you how to tie a knot, than just reading a text description, or looking at a photo or diagram, and the internet has opened up learning to a new level with knots and rope work.
I didn't get into the more decorative aspect of knot work until around 2004 with a knot book I'd bought, and later started selling some of what I made to at least support the material cost of my hobby. Making lanyards and fobs for things like pocket knives and flashlights, fit in well with my interest in assorted gadgets and gear.
How do you keep improving your skills? Where do you look, and what do you look for?
I'm always looking for new knots to try from knot books and online resources. Seeing the same knot tied from different perspectives can help when learning to tie them, and finding different ways to combine knots and new ways to apply them keeps knot tying interesting. Practice and patience are helpful when learning, and teaching others can be rewarding in itself. There are so many knots, braids, weaves, and sinnets that can be tied, and variations and combinations of them, that someone could spend years trying different things and not get bored. Folks like JD of TyingItAllTogether(TIAT) come up with new things to try and variations of older knots, and that helps grow the audience for knot work, along with forums like Knot Heads World Wide and the International Guild of Knot Tyers. These online forums have very knowledgeable people that are glad to answer questions about knots and help out and share information on knotting projects.
How do you decide which projects should go to Instructables versus say the EDC forums or anywhere else you might share your work?
I try to choose the best outlet for a project for the audience it's intended for, and would often post to a particular forum or just to my blog where I thought it would be most appreciated. But it's easy to see the volume of traffic sites like instructables and YouTube have, so it just makes sense to use the opportunity to share and learn with others. A project or blog post that comes down to just a few minutes on a video or pages of text and photos in a tutorial, can take quite a few hours in actual time spent from start to finish in preparation and editing. So, I try to choose projects that are different than what others may have done before, aren't readily available to everyone like having access to knot books, or offer a different perspective to learn from when existing information may be hard to follow on it's own.
Finally, what are three practical but unusual uses for paracord?
I've heard and read of folks using paracord to rig up a fan belt for a vehicle for temporary repair when an old one breaks, although I've not had the misfortune to try that one out myself, knock on wood.
Paracord can make a more durable replacement for shoe strings or boot laces.
And one I've used myself and have an instructable for, is to attach a garbage can lid to the garbage can with a paracord tether, so you don't lose the lid on windy or stormy days where it can get blown away...