Knotting Basics

International Guild of Knot Tyers

Learn to twirl a rope or lariat like a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl. It's really easy, once you know the secret.

th-twirl-rope1Figure 1

Thread a metal washer or a big bead onto a length of braided cord that is no thicker than your little finger and no longer than you are tall. The hole in the middle of the bead or washer must be large enough to let the cord twist and turn easily inside it.

Then tie a simple knot to keep the thing from coming off one end, and make an adjustable loop with a tight sliding knot at the other end. Your lariat is now ready to use(Figure 1). Slide the loop knot along until the single bit of line, called the spoke, is a little more than half the length of the closed loop.

Lesson 1

Click to see the full size figure 2Figure 2

Grip the end of the loop between the thumb and first two fingers of one hand, so that your lariat hangs upside-down. Twirl it by drawing small quick circles in the air with your finger tips and a relaxed wrist (Figure 2). See how the cord bends, forming a kind of elbow at the sliding knot, so that the spoke comes up straight and level with the floor. Feel it happening. This is how to spin rope. Use your left or right hand and spin the rope either clockwise or counter-clockwise (it doesn't matter which).

Lesson 2

Click to see the full size figure 3Figure 3

Now swap ends and hold the bead or washer between thumb and fingers (Figure 3). Take care that the knot can turn freely. Twirl as before, so that the rope bends at the loop knot, causing the loop to lift up and (hopefully) open out into a circle (Figure 4). Often it works first time. Just make the lariat bend at the knot.

If the loop won't open right away - make sure the end knot is turning freely inside your grip on the bead or washer, not catching on the thumb or fingers. If the loop still refuses to open (sometimes it does) make a few quicker or slower circles in the air with your finger tips to wake it up. At the same time, make these circles a big bigger too. This should teach it how to behave. Once it is going around properly, settle down to a gentle rhythmic hand action, no faster or stronger than needed to make your lariat work.

Click to see the full size figure 4Figure 4

Hey! Look at you!! You're twirling rope!!!