Step 6: Reverse wrap

This is a highly tactile activity, so instructions can only go so far. Bear with me as I explain the reverse wrap from several different perspectives. Refer frequently to the diagram and video, but also experiment with different techniques.

Start your strand

About a quarter of the way along the strand, twist a short segment in opposite directions to form a tight loop. (Twist away from you on the right hand side, towards you on the left.) Pinch this loop with your left thumb and forefinger.

There are now two strands, one closer to you and one farther away.You are ready to start.


For each iteration:
1. With your right thumb and forefinger a centimeter from your left, twist the farther strand "away" (clockwise if you are looking from the right). It should be twisted tightly, but not starting to loop. This step is called "twist away".
2. Use your (right) middle finger to clamp the closer strand to your (right) forefinger. Rotate your wrist 180 degrees back towards you, swapping the strands. This step is called "take back".
3. Nudge the Y-junction between the strands with your right forefinger a bit to keep the wrap tight.

Repeat many times!

How it works

Have you ever taken a wall-mounted hand-cranked pencil sharpener apart? (Of course you have.) The two grinders are precisely like the two strands in a reverse wrap. The friction they exert on a pencil represents the friction between the two strands, which keeps them from unwinding.

Alternative techniques

  • If you want to do a quick'n'dirty wrap, twist a long section of fiber until it starts to loop and kink. Allow one kink to grow and twist. (The first time you do this, have another person help you by gently twisting the forming rope.)

Time required for wrapping

Unlike the previous steps, this one is variable according to your needs. Here I have used the entire three-foot bundle for the starting cord, but I would ordinarily separate the bundle into several 3-foot sections to be spliced in later. This results in a much thinner, longer cord. If you divide the stalk into 2 3-foot sections, the cord will be half the width and twice the length, but will take something like *four* times the amount of time. (Twice as many twists per inch, twice as long.)

Show your work!

Upload pictures of your finished work into the comments.
I made it out of fresh grass as it was the only resource accessible to me. I am currently drying some to make the cord/rope out of dry fivers. Very helpful thanks.
I've used poplar bark and even tall grass from lakesides for cordage. The bark is strong, the grass is for small stuff only
For the grass could you make several strands then braid them together for strength?
<p>I've done something similar with nettle fibers...Disclaimer, nettles don't bother me at all, so don't blame me if you get stung! Actually crushing the plant is the cure for the stings. They smell particularly green too. I've also made cordage from the inner bark of a cottonwood tree, and it comes out surprisingly supple...I could almost see knitting or crocheting clothing from it.</p>
great tutorial! and a useful skill
<p>you can also make rope and other things from your own hair, provided you are letting it grow out. A lot of tribes use their own hair in jewelry making and rope making because it is so durable, strong, and attractive looking (shiny and smooth if weaved correctly). </p>
<p>you do not need to cut your hair, just make a simple wooden comb with 5 spikes, brush your hair regularly, then collect all of the hair that falls out and put onto a spindle. it accumulates very quickly. </p>
How do you finish it?
Educational thanks for sharing
How do you splice?<br>
I have been known to tear paper napkins into strips, twist them, and then reverse-twist the strands into a short cord. It's something to do when I am kinda bored.
Very informative in<em>(de)</em>structable.<br> Thank you very much!<br> The <strong>Images</strong>/<strong>Vids</strong> provided, cleared up something that had me confused with the whole process for a long time.<br> <br> Incidentally,<br> I made a quick <strong>2 strand cord</strong> using plastic (<em>carrier</em>) bags.<br> Plastic strips were approx <strong>2inches thick</strong> (<em>before twisting</em>).<br> I spliced in one extra plastic strip to add a touch more length, and to test my splicing abilities.<br> <br> &lt;img src=&quot;<strong>http://i1140.photobucket.com/albums/n575/Spark110/Image24_zpsde290bad.jpg</strong>&quot;/&gt;<br> ** Appologies, the 'Add Images' button doesn't seem to want to work for me.<br> &nbsp; &nbsp; You can copy/paste the url into your browser if you like, but it's just a little picture of my 2strand plastic cord, with my lighter for visual scale.<br> <br> Once the <strong>2strand 'carrier-bag' cord</strong> was done done, it measured in at:<br> <strong>762mm (2'6&quot;) in length</strong><br> and average of <strong>4mm (1/8&quot;) thick</strong> .<br> I tied a quick slip-knot in it and tested its strength.<br> <strong>It held 6 Kilos </strong>(my 2 smallest dumbbells) and did not break for 5 minutes of suspension.<br> I will try more weight at a later date, wanted to show the idea to a friend before demolishing.<br> <br> Not bad at all for 10 minutes of twisting carrier-bags!<br> I'm going to spend a week in the woods now and try out the different fibres I can find.<br> Who'd have thought rope-making could be this addictive.<br> <br> Thanks again for the wealth of information!<br> +1 Kudos<br> All the best,<br> Paul, GKSC
you should try this with hemp ^.^
awesome! i'm gunna make me wun uf dese
I've made rope from dogbane before. It was surprisingly strong. I made a bracelet from it.
Cool! I have made this with yucca before (live in Colorado) and it is UNBELIEVABLY strong!
Yucca has been used for thousands of years. Hemp has also been used likewise in many different countries. I believe that yucca and hemp are some the strongest natural fibers you could use. Something great I saw and need to look at again for details is either the yucca or agave that has the needle on the end of their growth also has thread attached if carefully removed that is exceptionally strong and can be used for a great many things.
It's agave that has the needle and thread.
By the way, I just got back from the Denver/Golden area and notices the yucca growing everywhere. Actually I was dragged into one by my paraglider.
i think there is no dogbane in my location! i should probably drive for day to get to the north of country to find dogbane!
A while ago i started a project that involved making plastic bags into &quot;yarn&quot; and then knitting with it. I cut the plastic bags into loops and then put those together by looping them through each other. It didn't really work because the finished yarn was sort of like your plant fibres before you made them into cord. It kept breaking and I gave up. When I read your instructable I just went &quot;Aha!&quot;. After twisting some of it, it is much stronger and looks pretty, too. Using loops simplifies splicing because you can easily add more loops when you need to. It hurts my hands, though. Do you think you could make a hand crank out of a pencil sharpener?
Great instructable! I noticed in step 1 under urban sources you suggested plastic bags. Since I had more than a couple I thought I would try it and I have pictures of the results. As you can see I started by making several 2 stranded cords. I then combined 3 two-stranded cords to make a 3 stranded cord. Second picture. then I combined 3 three-stranded cords to make a threefold rope. Your instructable made it easy to work out the details. Pictured with the rope is the only tool I used. Thanks again!
I would love to know how much tensile strength is in this plastic rope?!!?!?! :D Does it have any durability, or does it just tend to stretch and break apart?
I made some rope and used it to tie down my trash can and to make a rope hook to keep open the trash can while it was being filled. I was amazed at how long it lasted in the open Arizona sun. I was expecting it to come apart from UV damage after a few months but it lasted over a year and a half. It is fairly strong and not that stretchy. Again, I haven't tested it to the point of failure but it is good for most light rope needs.<br><br>I have since enhanced the process using spindles and spreaders so that you can make rope as long as you want without having to twist long strands. You can even make it in your room. If there is interest I can make an instructable on how to do it.<br><br>thanks for your interest.
How strong is the finished plastic cord?
I haven't tried to see how strong it is but it seems to be quite strong. I made some spindles to make the rope making process simpler and the ropes that I have made with them seem quite strong. I use them as general purpose tie off ropes where I tie off my trash bin to keep it from blowing over in the wind and it seems to hold up OK but not great in the outside sun light. When I make rope with twine or survey line it is quite strong. Can you make good usable rope with plastic bags? Yes you can! Is it strong enough? That depends on what you are using it for. I haven't tested it to its limit yet but I haven't pulled apart any of my ropes yet. I am not strong enough to pull them apart by hand. I know that doesn't answer your question but it is the only one I have.<br>Sorry.
Beautiful! I have trouble making cord out of cord, because I'm so used to wrapping one direction, and you have to reverse direction at each level. Maybe I can switch hands to pull it off. Any suggestions?
When I spin cordage into cordage, I use the reverse reverse rap. As you can tell by the name, you're reverse raping backwards. It's a little painful and confusing at first, but after a while you adjust.
No not really. It was your instructable that I learned to do this from. I have seen some roll on the thigh methods of making cordage on Utube but you are undoubtably all over that already. I made the above rope to learn the process of making rope with hands and no tools. With no natural fibers to play with I chose plastic bags. Of necessety I learned to reverse wrap like you showed both ways from the start. Plastic bags aren"t perfect to make rope with but they are a cheap and convenient way to learn if you don't have ready access to natural plant fibers. You're light years ahead of me already. I can't tell you anything you don't already know. Thanks for getting me started on a fasinating hobby.
"You're light years ahead of me already. I can't tell you anything you don't already know." Nonsense! I don't know anything about this beyond what I posted and what other commenters have written. You've succeeded at making cordage out of cordage, which I haven't. On Instructables, there's no real difference between "teacher" and "student".
Thank you for the kind words. I was surprised you said that you hadn't made cordage out of cordage given your excellent Instructable. In case you are wondering, you just do the reverse wrap backwards. After making cordage the normal way (top strand twist away turn both strands back toward), you take three strands of already made cordage and then take the bottom strand and twisted toward you and then take the top and bottom strands and turned them away and on top of the third strand and then repeat. You are twisting each strand tighter before you turn both away. At least that is how it works with plastic bags. I still haven't had a chance to do it with natural fibers to see if there is a difference. Hope that made sence.
I'd be curious to hear about it if you use your plastic bag ropes for anything, and how well they hold up!
Actually I only did this last week and this is all I have done. I am using it mostly as a learning tool to learn how to do it. I may have some uses later for some light hanging displays but I don't intend to hang anything heavy with it. Also I understand that grocery bag plastic degrades in the sun so I don't intend using it outside. Eventually I want to make "real" rope with "real" plant fiber and when that time comes,I want to be ready.
Hi there! Thanks for sharing these tips, I will find this very useful at times and have used it briefly over at http://www.instructables.com/id/Natures-Survival-Mini-Saw/ <br> <br>If this was done on a ridiculous scale, say, like a large ship rope, can the reverse twist technique be used to join several braids of rope into one very large diameter and long rope? Or would the whole lot just be braided, or even twisted ( I have seen old rope twisting devices that were hand cranked ) .. i hope that makes sense.
So when I first saw this ible, I got a grocery bag and started practicing. went well but had a hard time with the splices. Later, I had a basket full of plastic grass like is used in easter baskets. I got better at the splices and made a 6' length of pretty good twine. then while gathering firewood, I tried some of the stringy stuff from inside the bark. it was pretty weak string. I don't know if my fibre was old and rotton or what. anyway, now I have practiced some I'm back to revue the details. I find it very therapudic to make cordage. Kinda a mindless handwork.
Facinating! I alway wondered how that was done. your instructions for twisting is very clear to me, but I' think the hard part is in finding the fiber. I would like to see a video of making a splice.
you said your fibers were 3 feet and when twisted together were only 2 feet but what if i want somthng longer then that how would i connect two sections together
I require something a bit thinner. I want to tie up plants, like tomatoes with something which is also biodegradable, so that at the end of the growing season I can just throw the plant into the compost bin.<br><br>At the moment I have to spend ages removing cable etc that I have used to tie the plant up.<br><br>Any suggestions ?<br><br>Incidentally as a church bellringer I use hemp ropes which are much better than any man-made material.
My dad always used some kind of very coarse twine (maybe jute?) for this. It composted pretty well.
Once you get through all of your cordage you can fold the rope over itself and do the reverse wrap step again, except you twist towards you and put forward
i think this is how they make abaca rope
Can you make a video for this step because I don't really understand it?
im a texas cowboy and this is somethin i do all the time this instructable is okay for a survival situtation but if your just makin rope to use round your house or somethin out on a farm or whatever your usin it for (i use it to hunt deere, i laso them and then tackle them and stab them) any dead plant will work but you want good rope and maybe your feelin like bein old fashion one day and makin rope like texas rangers did before wayback when they were still shootin six shooters and single loaders and around the time of sam houston then use any dead plant and wax it up real good with candle wax....wind up your fibers then wax it up real good with candle wax and then when the wax dies take a match and cinch the ends of the rope and then if you want to put nots on the end put more wax and bend the rope into the not and hold it like that till te wax dries up<br>
this cordage can be used for many things, a good suggestion would be a primitive sling!
I don't live around a forest or park so i can't get plants like that BUT i did have a plastic bag in my bedroom / " evil genius " lab and it looks pretty interesting. I like this instructable. Maybe someone could make long enough cords from plastic bags to strap the raft that you make out of garbage ( not sure what that instructable is called...) than it would be fully made out of garbage !!
Hey, that sounds pretty sweet! A word of caution: Plastic is designed to break down under ultraviolet light. You'd want to check the strength of the straps very carefully each time before taking the raft out for a spin.
Hi I wrote you about June 2009 about using plastic bags to learn to make rope. First of all I think you are absolutely right about checking the strength of plastic bag rope left out in the sun. However I have since made a lot of rope with plastic bags and found something odd. I used some out side and left it out in the Arizona desert sun for over a year expecting it to deteriorate within six months. So far I have seen very little deterioration. I am just as surprised as anybody. <br>Still, get plenty of experiance with plastic bag rope before you trust it with anything important (like life or limb)
Really? i had no idea that plastic was designed to do that... Thanks for the word of caution, i certainly wouldn't want my boat to fall apart in the middle of a lake.
I found the link <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Boat-made-of-Trash--Recyclables/">it</a> is pretty cool.<br/>
i dont either<br>

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