Make rope out of dead plants -- with no tools


Step 6: Reverse wrap

Picture of 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.
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rileius3 years ago
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
savain6 years ago
how do you do the reverse wrap if you would have three or more pices of fiber than two? asome intestructable by the way:D:D:D
gallop28 savain6 years ago
with three or more strands you do exactly the same thing - you twist outward and take back - first becomes last.
phyzome (author)  savain6 years ago
I don't know that it would work. You could try it and report back! Personally, I would make several cords out of two pieces each, then wrap the resulting cords together.
savain phyzome6 years ago
i have find a way:D:D it drivd my nuts that i did not could find i solusion so after i little more try and error i find a way. it is mutch harder, you must now with fiber you sould wrap. so you dont wrap one fiber 5 times and the orther 2 times. very difficult if the fibers look a like. but it is possible:D:D:D
savain phyzome6 years ago
i have tryd it and it dident go well. it dont gett that rope pattern it just become a ball sort of.
foobear7 years ago
It'd be interesting to see a video of how you splice in new strands with the reverse wrap.
phyzome (author)  foobear7 years ago
Interesting idea. I'd have to figure out how to time-lapse chunks of the video for brevity.
MOBucky7 years ago
If I understand this correctly, the twist-away turns one fiber onto itself, then take back twists the two cords together. Is that right?
phyzome (author)  MOBucky7 years ago
That's correct.
nhpr8 years ago
After watching a Ray Mears show, I was looking for some detailed instructions on how to make cordage. Unfortunately for me, I only found this website weeks after learning bits and pieces through multiple poorly-written, confusing websites. I wish I had found this one first.
i like the instructable. also since i just came home from camp, we were making small ropes out of paper towels(the brown ones that u find in bathrooms) and we would get them wet with our hands and then twist the whole thing and bite in the middle then twist both sections together and i will make a instructabe for it
beastbunny8 years ago
A very interesting Instructable. We used to do this with young tree bark as kids. In rope and yarn making this step is called plying. Just FYI.
phyzome (author)  beastbunny8 years ago
Thanks for that tidbit, that's good to know.
Meragness8 years ago
this is so cool! and that pencil sharpener explanation made it very clear for me!
highwaykind8 years ago
Twist the strands clockwise, and wrap them around each other counter-clockwise. You can also braid your hair this way (which is how I knew how to do it...gets nice curls), but I didn't know you could use plant fibre to make wire!
wow!! awsome dude!! i used that wrapping technique for cotton rope i made from my worn thshirt