Ever been at one of those old fashioned type events where they demonstrate how to twist ropes together into one bigger rope? That was always very interesting to me, but I was always curious on how they made the small ropes. Is there a machine that spins plants into threads? There are machines that make everything nowadays, but a long time ago, none of those machines had even been thought of.
Rope has always been a useful tool to humans, and we have always known the importance of having it as strong as possible. In this Instructable, I am going to teach you how to make a rope from one of the weakest materials that you'll find out in the wild: Grass.
Not only that, but I'll show you how to do it using no tools other than your bare hands.
Step 1: Gathering Materials
To be completely honest, you can make rope out of pretty much anything that you can twist. Using different materials will make your rope stronger or weaker. For the sake of an example, I made my rope completely out of grass. I chose grass because it is extremely weak and I wanted to prove that as long as you do it right, you can get a strong rope out of whatever. I also chose grass because there is a lot of it everywhere, and so it is easy to gather. There happens to be a lot of Giant Fescue nearby where I live, and so that is the type of grass that I used. I made sure to use the type of grass that is easily twistable, and left behind the "stalk." Remember, you can use whatever you would like. Choosing grass is not a good idea for a strong rope, but it is doable.
If you decide to also make your rope from grass, just know that you will need a LOT of it. I calculated that I used around 2,880 pieces of grass to put this all together, so it helps to either have a lot of help or a lot of time. Find some good audio books to listen to or something.
Other than the grass rope, you need something to sit on. I found an few strong smooth sticks that worked out. I gathered them while keeping in mind how I wanted them to be attached together.
Step 2: Spin the Individual Ropes
Now twist Twist TWIST TWIST!!!!!!
I am going to try my hardest to explain how to twist rope the best I can in words. If it is still confusing, just look at the first picture.
You are going to need two strands of twisted grass. Once you twist the individual ones, you twist them both together. If you do this correctly, it will hold its position. Just make sure that you twist the individual strands the opposite direction that you twist them both together. So if you twist the individual strands to the left, twist both strands together to the right. When you start to run out of grass, just add another strand.
The method that I took involved making a lot of individual small ropes and twisting them into one giant rope. If you wanted to, you could skip this step and just make one rope all at once with a ton of rope. That is definitely a lot faster, but if you want to make it a true labor of love, make the individual ropes first.
I made eight ropes, each 12 feet long. Just keep in mind that when the individual ropes are twisted together, the final rope will be shorter. My final rope ended up being 9'6" even though the individual ropes were at or around 12 feet long.
Step 3: Finish Putting the Rope Together
Now that you have eight individual ropes, all you need to do is twist them together into one big fat rope. I used some other test ropes made from tree bark to whip the ends. What is whipping? Look at photo one. It is essentially the method of typing the ends in a way that won't come undone.
One the ends are whipped, use the same method to twist the ropes together as you did to make the previous ropes. It is very satisfying to see it all come together. Like I mentioned earlier, the final rope will be a lot shorter than the original ropes, so don't be surprised when that happens.
It helps to have a friend twisting the individual ropes together to save yourself a lot of work, and it also keeps it all a lot more organized. Once it's all twisted and whipped, you'll have a neat rope made completely of grass!
Step 4: The Seat
Now would be a good time to use other materials for rope if you would like to. You can still use grass for the rope to tie the seat together, but after making the rope I got a little bit sick of grass. The cord that I used to tie the seat together is made from yucca leaves. Let me know if you want a tutorial about how to make cord/rope from yucca.
Once the seat is tied nice and snug, all the hard work is behind you.
Attach the seat to the rope. Your rope swing is complete!
Once again, I just want to emphasize that you can make the rope out of whatever you want. By using grass, I had to use a lot of it to make it strong enough to hold myself up. I made 96 feet of the thin rope. After that was strung together into the fat rope, it was only 9'6". It's a lot of work to make a strong rope from such a weak material, so make sure that you use a strong material to make a strong rope much easier.
Step 5: This Method Is Used in Many Places
Now that you know the in's and out's about making rope, you'll find that most ropes or strings are made from the same method. If metal is twisted together, it makes strong wires used to hold bridges up. If plastic strands are twisted together, it makes strong twine. If cotton is twisted together, you end up with fairly normal rope that you can find in all sorts of places.
Just remember, this instructable taught you how to make a rope from grass, but hopefully that won't stop you from making it from other materials. Rope making has kept me entertained in lots of situations. If I on the phone at work, I will be twisting pieces of paper together. At a boring dinner? Tear off strips of the napkin and make a rope from that. It's fun to get into, and once you start, it will be hard to stop.
Disclaimer: The photo used as the thumbnail for this project is not completely real. While I made the rope swing and it DOES support my weight, it is still not strong as it is made of grass. Because of the questionable strength, I don't intend to use it other than for instructional purposes or to show off that I made a rope from grass.