Ah, Paracord! The manliest of cordage. So compact and tough that it's the cord of choice for nuts who like jumping out of airplanes.
Looking at the guides available, though, you might start to think it's only useful for lanyards and fobs. Today I'll show you the steps to turn it into a snappy looking can koozie sporting your two favorite colors.
I stumbled on this idea on Stormdrane's Blog. While Stormdrane's instructables are thorough, this one is only on his blog and he only hints at the how -- enough to figure it out, but not everything.
Once I'd sorted out the how, adding the second color was a simple change.
In the following pages, I'll show you what you need, How to stitch from start to finish, and suggest some ideas for creating your own variation on the theme.
Step 1: Supplies
For this project you'll need:
- two strands of paracord - 23-25ft each - you'll need at least 45' total to finish a typical can. When selecting your length keep in mind that it's better to have more than less. You can always trim off 2' of cord, but it's hard to add on an extra 2'. For this Instructable, Cord A will be played by popular and soothing "Blue" and Cord B will be played by the bright and energetic "Orange".
- cord-lock or lanyard bead - I've selected a Glow-in-the-dark Key fob I bought recently.
- A can to use as a form - don't plan to drink it anytime soon (your last soda is OK, but for goodness sake, don't use your last beer).
- Sharp Scissors
- Source of flame - hand torch, lighter, gas stove, candle (or matches if you're very quick) - used for dressing the paracord ends.
- Measuring tool - a yard-stick is ideal, but a ruler will do.
Optional tools that could make your life easier:
- blunt pointy tool - a substitute for a Fid or Marlinspike, which is used for "dressing" knots. A knitting needle, embossing tool, or small Phillips screw driver will do. It just needs to be thin, strong, and able to poke into the knots to pull tight strands loose and loose strands tight -- moving the slack around the weave. you can use your fingernails as a substitute, but it's really hard on them.
- tool for stitching (not pictured) such as:
+ bent needle-nosed pliers or hemostat - useful for pulling the cord through the stitch. See Step 5 for an example of use.
+ 2 jumbo permalock needles - allows you to push the cord through the stitch.
- a small rubber band - used early on for marking the cord.
Finally, Knotting geeks tend to use some basic terminology. If you're unfamiliar with any terms I use check out the wikipedia article on knots.
Step 2: Prep
Measure and Cut:
If you haven't done it before hand, measure out your selected length and cut to size. As mentioned before, it's better to err on the side of too long than not long enough.
Dressing the ends for work:
Once your cord is cut, now would be a good time to dress the ends to keep them from fraying badly. There are three ways you might want to dress these: Simply melting the end, gutting and sealing the end, and trimming and melting the end for a permalock needle (not pictured).
Before I discuss these, I just want to emphasize: DO NOT TOUCH THE MELTED END. Not only will it look bad, liquid nylon can cause very nasty burns. It's tempting, but just don't do it!
- Simple melting -- it's just that. A controlled melt of the cord's end.
Light your torch/candle/burner and slowly move the end near the side of the flame. As it gets close enough you'll see the end start to melt. Hold it there and let the nylon slowly melt. If you see it darken, it's getting too hot, so back away a little. Once it's melted to your satisfaction, either let it air cool to form a nice rounded end, or press it against a flat piece of metal (like the side of your lighter or a piece of silverware) to form a flat look.
- Gutting and sealing the end -- useful for threading ends through tight openings.
Simply pull out 2-3" of the core cord and snip. The remainder will shrink back into the sleeve. Trim up the end to a point and seal the end using your flame source.
- Preparing for a permalock needle -- a permalock needle is a brass shaft about the same size as the cord with a hollow threaded opening in the back. A jumbo sized permalock needle is just big enough to work with paracord.
To prepare, cut the cord at a steep angle (45-60 degrees). Gently melt the cord, trying to keep the angled point on the top. Fit into the needle's end and twist -- trim if necessary.
Put on the rubber band and bead:
If you've chose to sacrifice a rubber band, now is the time to use it. Wrap it loosely around the cord and slide it ~1.5' down.
Put on your cord lock or lanyard bead. Slide it down far enough that you have the cord you need for the finishing knot. I tied a Knife Lanyard knot, so I needed about 1'. If you want to be frugal about the cord, you can tie this knot now and move the excess over to the koozie side.
With the lanyard bead and rubber band in place, we're ready to mark, tie and tighten our first knot!
Step 3: The first knot
The first knot is an easy one -- a simple fixed loop knot. You can pick and choose your own, but I'm going to show the "overhand loop", since it's small and oh-so-easy to do. Before we tie it in, we'll need to find where.
Mark the knot:
Simply wrap the cord once around the can starting from the lanyard bead toward the working end (the "working end" is the long end from here on, with the "standing end" being "fixed" to the lanyard bead).
Tie the overhand loop knot:
Remove the can and grab the rubber band from the standing end side (the side attached to the lanyard bead). Take about 6" of color A cord and make a 3" "bight" -- that's where the cord loops back on itself without crossing.
1. Grab the rubber band, Cord B and Cord A + bight between your thumb and the first knuckle in your for finger.
2. Wrap the bight loosely around your index finger.
3. once it is all the way around the finger move your thumb up to hold the bite in a loop.
4. slide your index finger out of the way and tuck the end of the bight in the loop.
5. Pull the loop all the way through and you've tied your first knot!!!
Tuck the lanyard bead and the extra cord through the loop this should form a nice, almost can-sized loop.
The first knot is too big, however, so we need to tighten it down to where the two strands.
pick one of the cords at the bottom of the knot. using your fingernails or blunt pointy tool, pull on it. if the loop above tightens in response, you're pulling on the right cord.
pull on it until the loop is just big enough for both cords to easily slide through.
push the excess slack around the curve of the knot and pull it tight by holding onto the cord with the bottom half of your hand and pushing on the knot with your thumb and for finger. If it doesn't move with modest force, make sure you're pulling on the right cord (try the other one).
Wrap it around the can with Cord A on top and pull the lanyard fob tight. If you haven't already, cut off the rubber band -- we're done with him.
Now we're ready to stitch our first row!
Step 4: The first row
Tying the second knot is easier than the first -- it's a simple half hitch:
The Half Hitch:
 We'll start with cord B. Slip your blunt pointy tool between cord A and the can just opposite the lanyard bead.
 Slip cord A's end UNDER Cord B going from the bottom to the top.
 Looping back toward the standing end, go back OVER Cord B.
 Finally loop UNDER the standing part. You've tied a half hitch. All that's left is to pull the slack out.
[5 & 6] pull all 20+feet of slack through the knot and out of the standing end under then over cord B, then under cord A.
 Pull it tight and check that it's still centered -- 2 down, Oh so many more to go.
And the next knot . . .
That's Knot #2, let's move on to #3:
 UNDER,  OVER,  UNDER and pull tight -- and that's three!
 Make sure you keep a little slack between the knots. We'll tie the next row of half hitches into this slack then pull the slack out when we no longer need it.
Tie a total of 9 half hitches in cord B, spaced evenly between the midpoint and the first knot. Why 9? We need a total of 18 around the can. 20 is too many -- the weave won't fit tightly around the can. that leaves 9 per cord. 8 is acceptable, but the weave will be a little looser - it's up to you.
Dressing the knots
Before we move on to cord A, we need to dress the knots -- the process of evening out the slack in these knots.
 first insert your blunt pointy tool (or grab it with your fingernails) into the middle of the knot.
 gently pull up to draw the slack out from the standing part between the knots until it's at the desired tension.
[15, 16 & 17] Insert the tool into the standing part and pull down to tighten the hitch. Keep working the slack down the line. Once you reach the end, it's time to repeat with cord A.
[18, 19, & 20] For cord A, start with a gap that's twice as wide. This will allow us to constrict the top a little.
Make a total of 8 half hitches from cord A.
Wait . . . What? 8? What happened to 9?
So why 8 instead of 9? Where did the missing stitch go? We need to skip one so we can constrict the top. If you chose to tie 8 hitches of cord B, tie only 7 of A. Make sure the hitches are spaced evenly around the can when your done
Start the next row and off we go . . .
 To start the next row, switch back to cord B. Tie two hitches in the large loop.
 From now until we start the bottom, tie one hitch into each gap. Keep tying hitches until you reach the loose end of cord A, dress the hitches in cord B (we don't need the slack in the loops anymore), and start tying hitches on cord A until you get back to B again.
Step 5: Dress for success
As you tie, a few useful observations:
first, this takes a LONG time. It's worth it, but it takes a while. what do you do when you need a break? wrap it up and go! Just wrap the excess around the can and when you get a spare minute or two, unwrap and start again.
As I mentioned before, you need to dress your knots. This is the process making the knots consistent by moving the tension down the weave toward the working end. In picture 2, you'll see where I last left off dressing cord A. You see even, tight hitches on the right, loose hitches on the left. Since we've tied on cord B, we need to pull all the slack down toward the working end.
As before, start at the first loose knot and pull the slack around the knot. Keep pulling the slack around the knot, and on to the next. As you move it down, you'll pick up more slack from each knot.
Twists and Tangles:
It's not going to take long and your working end is going to twist up. If you don't do something about it, before long, it will tangle. When it twists up, pull the twists out by pulling on both sides of the twist
Separate the two cords and push the twist down the working end. To move the twist, grab the cord between your hands, gripping tightly on the standing end and holding loosely on the working end. pull your hands apart letting the cord slip through one hand. you should feel the cord slowly turn below your hand, pulling the twist toward the working end. Move your gripping hand up and repeat until you get to the end.
Using bent needle-nosed pliers or hemostats:
Slip the pliers through the loop backwards and open it up.
place the cord end into the jaws and close. Pull back on the pliers. Don't let it go yet. pull all the slack and then slip the pliers back under the standing end. release the pliers, grab the end with your hand, and pull the slack again and you've finished the knot.
Get a good rhythm going and you can stitch pretty fast with the pliers.
Step 6: Coming to an End
After you've been at this for a while, you're going to wonder: "When is enough enough?!?!?"
Pick your end from your beginning:
After you have about 10 rows, slide the weave up to the top of the can and decide how high you want it to be. Too high and the cord is too close to the lip of the can -- makes it hard to take a sip. Slowly slide it down until you're happy with it. Once you like it, pull the first knot tight using the lanyard bead
Nearing the end:
Keep tying knots until you get within a row of the end. From here, stop tying knots when your cords are opposite each other. From here on, tie only one knot before switching to the other cord.
Turning the corner:
when a full row folds over the end, you're ready to start dropping stitches. In the same way we added a stitch around the first knot to make the weave expand, we'll drop a stitch to close the weave. You drop stitches by skipping a loop with each stitch. ONLY MAKE ONE STITCH PER CORD AT A TIME. It won't take many skipped stitches before the next place to tie can be confusing.
Eventually, tying one knot at a time, one cord will catch up with the other and you've got no where else to go.
You've just tied the last stitch! Dress the stitches to finish forming the flat bottom.
Slip the can out of the koozie and put it away for a good long rest.
Take a look at the bottom and look for the smallest gap next to where your working ends are poking out. slip the working ends into this gap and pull the slack through.
Turn the koozie over. tie a loose overhand knot with both cords -- we need to push the loop down to the base but the koozie is pretty deep, so we'll bring the bottom closer to the top.
Turn the koozie back over and push the bottom inward toward the top. You don't have to push so far that the koozie inverts.
Flip it back over again and pull the overhand knot down and tight.
Trim and melt the end. This one doesn't need to be pretty -- you'll never see it again.
Pop the bottom back out and you're finally finished!
Step 7: All done -- What's next?
Well that was fun, and you're Cold Ones will take longer to become cool ones!
But Wait . . . What about all your friends?!?!? Do you DARE let them drink a not-so-cold one?!?!? What kind of friend would you be? And why not make something a little different?
If you've done two, three is easy! Instead of tying 9 knots, of each cord, tie 6.
4 Cords? are you Crazy?!?!?
Why knot? 4 cords might be a bit much pulled around the top, so only pull cord A through the first knot and tie off the remaining three strands dividing the gaps by four. Again, instead of 9 knots, tie 4 of these. yeah, the total isn't up to 18, but its close (and 18 doesn't divide evenly by 4).
Changing the color as we go? but I thought you said we can't add on cord?!?!?
No, I said it was hard to add on cord. Check out this instructable with hints about splicing in other colors. With a little bit of care and creativity you can make some really unique patterns -- just be gentle on your splices.
What? More than just cans?!?!?
yup, you can do this around almost anything that needs a small case. The trick is to find how many stitches around you'll need, and tie the first row with half as many stitches. On the second row add a stitch for each loop, and off you go!
And all this from overhand knots and half hitches! With a little bit of creativity and a lot of cord, you can make some great things with paracord!