Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Friday, December 04, 2009

A square knot by any other name.....

Is still Macramé!

I keep an eye on the various "wilderness survival" sites and blogs. It's a subject of interest to me, and I often find useful information on these sites. A few of them are quite good as a matter of fact.

Of late, I have noticed a new fad in gear, the "survival bracelet". This has been described as a bit of "tactical wear" that allows you to conveniently carry an extra six feet or so of para-cord. Most of the bracelets I was reading about were described as being done in "cobra weave". I have to allow as I had never heard of "cobra weave" and I have a life-long interest in such things. So I found a picture of a survival bracelet made with "cobra weave" (also being called cobra stitch) that was clear enough that I could see what they were doing.

It was macramé.

I guess the "soldier of fortune" crowd just couldn't bring themselves to admit they were wearing a macramé bracelet and so made up a really macho name for the thing (ummm...... I know, lets call it Cobra Weave, that sounds like something Steven Seagal would wear)

Now I'm not saying that this bracelet isn't a good idea, it is to my thinking. And I'm not making fun of the wilderness survival people, most of whom are thoughtful folk who are following a passion that I share with them, some of whom I count as friends. I just find the "cobra weave" thing a bit funny.

As I have mentioned before, I'm an old hippy. Back in the day, if you didn't know how to make macramé jewelry and such, you were at a bit of a disadvantage. (it was a great way to impress the girls and to pick up a bit of extra cash) As it happens I was quite good at it. Mostly because I have had a lifelong interest in working with cord, rope and other sorts of fiber. I also had the opportunity to learn knotting and such from some very knowledgeable people when I was young.

So I sat down last night and made myself a survival bracelet out of a bit of paracord I had laying about. This is the finished product.

I used a button and loop closure rather than a buckle or shackle for the same reason I don't put the strap of a boonie hat under my chin.

Now here's the fun part. A little history on the subject of macramé, (it'll drive the Islamophobic right wingers nutz)

The word macramé comes from the Arabic migramah (مقرمة) which relates to the fringe on a scarf. It is an art that was developed in the Arabian Peninsula which spread across North Africa, up into Spain and then, like so much science, art and culture from the Muslim world, into Europe.

The art was quickly adopted by sailors, who called it "square knotting". The whole art of macramé is built on the foundation of just two knots, the half knot (think of how you tie your shoe, the half knot is what you make before the bow) and the half hitch. a series of knots is known as a bar in macramé speak. The bracelet you see here is a simple "Salomon's bar" which you make by doing half knots in one direction, then the other (right over left then left over right) forming a series of square knots. (aka reef knots) The reason they are known as square, I was told, is because they lay "square" when done this way. When you do the half knot all in the same direction it makes a double spiral down the core cords.

So the people who are making these bracelets are helping to preserve a bit of traditional Islamic AND traditional Hippy culture. How kewl is that?

I did a bit of looking online, youtube and such, and discovered that while there are a few tutorials on how to do tactical macramé, all of them I could find do it the hard way.

There is a trick to making the Solomon's bar quickly (it takes a quarter of the time or less than the way it is being shown around) known only to Muslims.

At great personal risk, I will reveal this secret technique to all the uncircumcised infidel dogs non-Muslims who might want to experiment with making survival bracelets using this traditional Islamic art as soon as I can get someone over here to operate the camera. (I do hope that you all realize that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek here, but then again, there will be a few Islamophobes reading this, so maybe not) So stay tuned for my next installment.


jasonencke said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Mushtaq,

This is very interesting. I had no idea about the Islamic origin of macramé. My mom tried macramé when I was a kid and asked my dad for help and next thing you know our house was covered in macramé my dad had made, lol.

I have enjoyed tying knots since I was in Boy Scouts. My scout master used to tie a monkey's fist knot and I was always amazed. What knowledge I had came in handy later in Navy boot camp; I ended up teaching many of my shipmates how to tie the knots we were tested on.

I would be very interested in learning how to make this bracelet or anything else you'd be willing to teach. I guess since I'm part of the non-infidel club you don't have to take a personal risk to teach me, lol. Do you know of any good books or websites for learning macramé or more intricate knot tying? I think it would be something good to teach my children as well

Sun Bear said...

The Islamic hx of macrame is cool. Didn't know about...but I'm not surprised.

My Dad did macrame back when I was a kid, and taught it to his students when he had his home economics classes about 5-10 years ago(he taught math...and home economics. got stuck with the latter when they lost another teacher and ended up being the most popular one they'd ever had-they had to add another period of it). I never learned it, but I could do very basic knitting (remember those yarn-covered hangers years ago? lol) and needlepoint as early as elementary school.

Mo'in said...

Dear Mushtaq,

Thanks so much for this! I too have an enduring interest in survival topics.

I had no idea of macrame's Moslem's roots. There is much lore, cross-culturally, regarding weaving, and it makes me wonder how the origins of macrame may have intersected with knot-tying, untying, etc., in the context of Islam and tasawwuf, and all the associated intents behind that art.

How interesting!

I do look forward to your next installment!!

All good wishes,


ROCKLAND said...

you have been on a tactical bracelet kick for quite a while now...i am curious as to where you will take all of this.

cool post Mushtaq.

transit said...

I showed my wife your post and told her that i would make a macrame paracord belt (to get as much length of cord as possible). She took a look and suggested a crocheted paracord belt instead. That way, you could unravel the belt in one quick pull rather than tediously unknotting the thing inch by inch! She's just waiting for me to buy the paracord and then she'll show me how to crochet the belt, while making one for her own use.


Mushtaq Ali said...


Your wife is absolutely correct, unraveling this bracelet would be a pain. The next bit of tactical jewelry I am going to show will be a bracelet made with a particular chain sinnet (the double loop). Your wife will recognize the chain sinnet as how one starts crochet.

Ron said...

Thanks for passing on the technique. I was tying one a while back and kept thinking there has to be a way to tie what I would think of as a full knot but didn't put much time into trying to figure it out. Knot tying has humbled me on my low 3-D visualization skills.

Love the philosophical tact you take.