Rope Magic

bowknot-rope magic

Knot tricks and rope magic primer

I must confess that my decision to include some rope magic in this website turned into an unexpected surprise for me.

I have long been fascinated and curious about knots, especially some of the more decorative and complicated ones, but my experience with them before preparing to include them on this website had been limited. Not only have I learned some new magic, but just working with ropes and knots has provided me with a whole new set of practical skill which I can apply in much of my daily life.

As an example I've learned a quick and easy way to deal with a long length of cord which is left when pulling up a long drop-down window shade and there's no hardware installed to accommodate it.

What I do, is make several loops and place these in a half-sheepshank, with the end hanging down so that it can be easily and quickly undone.  I realize that if, you've had little to do with knots this sounds like pure gobbledegook to you, but after you've become more familiar with knots this will make more sense. But, I can encourage you to undertake learning a bit of rope magic for it's practical value in addition to the entertainment value that you will gain from it.

Rope magic and knot tricks are a popular sort of magic which can be learned easily.

Many different kinds of rope, cord or string can be used for many of these tricks, but to begin you might wish to begin with:

  • a single strand of soft white hollow-braided cotton cord of four to five feet in length.

Nylon and synthetics are often hard and too slippery for easy use in performing rope magic.

Play around with the knots and the rope frequently until you feel completely comfortable with it. Getting used to the feel and the reaction of the cord as you handle it, twist it and coil it, will help you gain dexterity in doing all the tricks.

It is also very useful to practice in front of a mirror so you can see the way your movements appear to those who will be watching you.

First basics of Rope Magic

The first thing to do when you get the cord you're going to practice with is simply to handle it.

  • Twist the cord this way and that and notice how it reacts to your moving it.
  • Hold the cord between your thumb and forefinger of each hand with a couple of feet of the cord hanging between your hands.
  • Now roll the cord toward you in the left hand while you roll it the other way in the right hand.

Notice that when you bring your hands closer together as you roll the cord, the cord will twist around and begin to spiral in one direction and then the other, depending on the way you roll the cord between your fingers.

Your first knot

This takes far longer to read about than it does to do.

rope magic 1

Lay the left end of the cord across your left hand, palm up with a few inches of the cord hanging down from the thumb side. Close your hand to form a fist and let the rest of the rope hang down.

Next grab the rope with the right hand just below the left hand, also forming a fist with your right hand, thumb on top. (The photo shows what this looks like to someone in front of you.)

Slide your right hand down the rope until only a short amount is left hanging below the fist. The rest of the rope will be hanging loosely between your two hands.

overhand knot startBring your two hands closer together, level with each other, and open your fingers, lightly pressing the rope between your thumbs and the hand. As you open your hands you'll see that the left end of the rope will be behind your left hand as you look at it, while the right end will be hanging in front of the right palm closest to you.

Now, keeping your hands open slide your right hand behind your left hand until you can clip the end of the rope that is hanging behind it between the first two fingers of your right hand. At the same time, use the first two fingers of your left hand to clip the end of the rope hanging closest to you.

After you've clipped the two ends with your fingers, raise the thumbs of both hands so they don't hold the rope and separate your hands. As your hands draw apart, an overhand knot will be formed in the rope between them.

overhand knot
rope magic - the overhand knot

After you practice this a few times it will become very simple and quick to do. After you get the basic moves down, you'll likely notice that the knots are often twisted and oddly formed. This can be controlled by rolling the ends of the cord between your thumb and fingers as you draw your hands apart, to produce a nicely rounded overhand knot every time in one quick smooth movement of your hands.

The shoulder knot

A lot of rope magic consists of using the same basic knot, but producing it in different ways.  The shoulder knot is still a basic overhand knot, but comes from a different set of movements.  As with the knot above, this will take longer to read about than it will to do.

  1. Start with the end of the rope held in the left hand which is extended slightly in front of your body.
  2. Use your right hand to throw the other end of the rope over your left shoulder and leave it laying there.
  3. Move your left hand closer to your body toward your right shoulder. As it gets closer to your right side, move your right hand under your left arm, but above the rope which is hanging below.
  4. Reach up to your shoulder with the right hand and pick up the end of the rope that is laying there.
  5. Drop both your hands to a lower position allowing the rope to fall below them and an overhand knot will be formed in the part which has fallen down.
  6. Raise your hands, separating them to cause the knot to take shape and reduce in size.

The arm knot

This is another variation of an overhand knot.  Once you learn a variety of ways to produce it, you can start stringing these together to form part of a knot tying routine.

arm knotThe arm knot  also starts with one end of the rope held in the left hand.



arm knotThe right hand tosses the other end of the rope over the right forearm as the arm is extended in front of you. This will leave a loop of rope hanging between the left hand and the forearm.
 Reach through this loop with the right hand and grasp the end which is on the other side of the arm.

Now, holding both ends, one in each hand, lower your hands to allow the rope loop to fall off and a knot will be formed in the part below. Separate your hands to reduce the size of the knot and pull it into shape.

The wrist knot

This begins with one end of the rope being held in each hand as in the previous knots, arms slightly extended in front of you and the rest of the rope hanging between your hands.

Holding the right end in the right hand, reach your right hand over your left arm and down in front to where the loop from the right hand end of the rope is hanging below your left arm.

Still holding on to the rope, move your  right hand through the loop and use the back of your right hand to lift that part of the loop up. Now pull your left hand to the left and slide it out of the loop which you've formed.

As you separate your arms now, an overhand knot will be formed around your right wrist. (If you're simply reading this for the first time, this may seem very complicated, as it did for me.  When you actually have the rope in your hands, and have worked your way through the preceding knots, this will be much simpler.)

The bowknot

To conclude this first section of rope magic we'll introduce the bowknot, which is nothing more than a simple overhand knot which has not pulled the ends completely through.

bowknotStart as you did with the first overhand knot except that instead of holding each hand near the end of the rope, you hold the rope with each hand at least a foot or more from each end. You proceed to form the knot in exactly the same way, except that when you pull your hands apart you will be pulling loops through instead of the opposite ends of the rope.

Once you feel comfortable with these knots, move on to Part II of Rope Magic.

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