So You Want to Make a Rope Rug Eh!

So You Want to Make a Rope Rug Eh!

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Mountaineering

The Beginning

Well since I was kicked out to the Guild of Radical Ice Climbing for publishing 'So you Want to Sharpen your Tools!'

I figured, 'what the hell!', I might as well get thrown out of the International Guild of Knot Tyers as well. So here is the result

For a long time I have been tinkering with trying to tie one of these

Of course I could just go here Rope Rugs and get them to do it much more cheaply and quickly that I ever could but what is the fun in that.

Some Background

What one is attempting here is a Turk's Head knot which comes in more shapes and forms that you can imagine. Whole books have been written about it.

I have looked at quite a few and they always seem obsessed with wrapping one of these things about the main-mast, a tiller, ore or some other such thing. Considering most of these books have titles like 'The Marlinespike Guide' and 'Knots for Sailors' one can understand this wrapping obsession. Unfortunately this does not help in what we want to do here.

As a way of aside this knot has been befuddling for many many years. I first saw them being tied while I was in the Navy by the senior bosuns, whose only other job was to make life for us jr. Officers a right horror.
They kept it as a trade secret and never let any of the uninitiated see them make one until we could prove we could make one ourselves. I never did get in the club.

Endless Frustration

Well armed with my rather dog-eared copy of 'The Admiralty Manual Of Seamanship' I started on my quest again.

This time I was also armed with the power of the Internet. Well there are any number of sites out the best I have seen is Alan Folsom's knot page but the same problem kept coming up no matter how clear the instructions I just couldn't get any of these knots tied.

My usual result was a long stream of expletives followed by a knot salad thrown against a wall in a fit of frustration.

I would see these picks like this

and just get hopelessly lost as I was trying to tie it.

Also most knot tiers seem obsessed by the words Bight and Lead and one typically sees a pattern marked and number accordingly like this

which is a 5 bight by 8 Lead pattern.

The Bights part is easy enough, 5 turning points across the top. It was always the Leads that confused me. I only ever see 4 Leads when in fact there are 8, 2 for each turning point.

Just to make it more confusing one can start from any point in the knot, and most diagrams are made to wrap around something one can see why I was always getting lost trying to figure out how to turn the right hand side of the knot.


That is until now. I finally stumbled on the pattern and figured it out. So without further ado here is how to do it.

The key is that the grid numbering of the Bights and Leads has nothing to do with the order of wrapping them.

So below I have create 6 Bights by 10 Lead pattern where the turning points are sequentially numbered.

6*10 pattern6*10 pattern

and if you do not like these colours here is another view

6*10 pattern6*10 pattern

I have kept with knotting tradition using bars at the crossing points but with the color it is much easier to see which goes over and which under.

So in my pattern I have 6 Turning points across the top and 5 turing points on the sides and I closed the right hand side of the turns and have numbered each turning point in order just to make it super easy.

The next point to remember is that one complete loop is called a Turn. After one Turn the pattern just repeats it self, so if you get the first one correct there is no excuse to get the rest of your Turns wrong. The key
is to remember the Turns always lay next to each other.

Get Pegged

So lets get started First get yourself a good working platform I use an old table top that I can hammer nails into but a sheet of 1/2 plywood will do just fine.

So I hammered in my nails 6 across the top and 5 along each side and slightly past the last row. It does not really matter if they line up exactly or if they are exactly evenly spaced because the knot will work itself out if it is tied correctly.

In my example below I made the space rather large to you can see that is going on. For your first mat this is the way to go as it is easer to see the pattern.

However you will be spending a long time tightening you knot afterwords.

Normally for a 60m rope you would get a mat about 70cm by 50cm wide.

As well in this example of a 6*10 I will get about 5 complete turns in the mat with none of the rope left over.

So once you are pegged in we will start.

Step 1

1-2From 1 to 2!

Hey as some fat guy once said 'All Journeys begin with a single step!',
so here is our first.

Here I am pulling the rope out of the coil and passing it around each of my turns. You could just as easily start the other was and pull all your rope though each time but that is too much work.

Step 2

3-4Around 2 then around 3 and Across to 4!

OK be steady this is our first big turn coming up.

Step 3

4-5Around 4 and Across to 5!

Oh no we have to make our first decision. Over or under?? Well unlike many things in life we can just look at out pattern above and see what to do.

Looking at the pattern one sees a bar so that means over we go.

Step 4

5-6From 5 and down to 6!

Well simple enough you might think but this is were I was always getting into trouble!

So watch you step because if you make a mistake here you will knot (ha) know it until later and you will be spending your time undoing what you have just done.

Step 5

6-7From 6 up to 7!

OK now put you thinking caps on because here come the tricky part

Looking at our pattern we have to go over the first line (21-22). Hey it isn't there? So you have to just pretend it is.

Next we go under the next line (2-1) well shiver me timbers we have to go over the next line (3-4) and then over the imaginary line (19-20) and then
around Turn 7.

Actually if you got this far you will most likely get the rest so congratulate yourself.

Step 6

7-8From 7 up to 8!

Well another easy one.

Step 7

8-9From 8 over to 9!

Again we have to cross some more imaginary liens. Just keep your pattern sheet handy and you will get though it.

We have Line (19-20) to go over then (3-4) to go under then (You guessed it) over line (1-2) and then down to old post #9.

You might begin to notice a few things here at each turn you always go over the next line ahead and likewise the line behind is always going under.

This is the pattern. Remember this and you can do this without all these post and pattern papers which I am to understand the goal of all knot makers.

step 7

9-10From 9 over to 10!

Enjoy this one it is the last one that you will not have to think about.

Step 8

10-11From 10 up to 11 and then 12!

Well this time I am going to let you go by yourself.

So enjoy figuring this one out.

Step 9

12-13From 12 back down to 13 and around to 14!

Well how did 10 to 12 grab you.

Lots of fun eh! Guess what you are also half way there.

Well this one is the same and you can check your progress here if you want.

Look at Line (10-11) and Line (12-13) they should be opposites of each other meaning when a cross on (10-11) is over the opposite cross on (12-13) should be under.

If this is not the case, Check you Lines before you go any further as something is awry.

Step 10

14-15From 14 up to 15!

Well the same thing again.

Remember to check you pattern and note that this Line (14-15) should have the same over and unders as Line (10-11)

Step 10

15-1615 over to 16

By now you are thinking this couldn't be any easier.

Just check to make sure that line (15-16) runs under (12-13) and over (10-11) and you should be sitting pretty.

Step 11

16-17No 16 over to 17

Hey this is beginning to make sense!

Step 12

17-18No 17 over to 18

Now it seems much easer eh!

Step 13

18-19No 18 over to 19

On the home stretch now!

Step 14

19-2019 to 20

Almost there!

Step 15

20-2120 to 21

The last little one!

Step 16

21-2221 to 22

Now you are done. doesn't that feel good.

Go get a beer, coffee, double malt or whatever is you poison.

You have passed your test and are Worthy!!

Well what now!

Well now it come to the boring part.

You simply run the other end of your rope back the way you came. Over and over again until you run out of rope.

It should look something like this.

Rope Salad??? No it is a Rope Rug!! Almost!Done (Well Almost)

A rather loose collection of lines I know. The key to remember here is you are just following the original turn so when it goes under you go under and when it goes over you go over.

something like this

Over and UnderOver and under

also when you are at a turn remember to place your rope on the inside like this

Always on the insideAlways on the inside

and be consiteant in always placeing them inside the turns if you mix them up you will be spending hours trying to sort them out later.

You might notice I am pulling a bight through here and that is to save time. What I do is start on one side with the running end like this

Pulling it togetherRunning end

and then on the pass around the next turn I use a bight like this

A BightBight End

This is so I can pull the rope faster as it will be properly flailed for each pulling.

With two people you can get this part done very quickly even more so if the board is up on a table.

Tightening down is what you have to do now.

Now special tricks to this. Just start a one end and pull out the excess keeping the weave a little loose so you can feed in more turns.

The Bitter End

and so we are done.

As I said at the beginning this was done very loose so I took me a good 3 hours to tighten this one down.

Normally I try to peg down the first turn at about the approximate size for the mat I am making. Oddly enough standard climbing rope sizes of 50 and 60m come out at about the same size so there is no need to change you basic set up for one rope length or another.

Once you have done it a few times it takes about 35mins to create one fully tightened down but for your first one expect to spend most of the day on it.

Also to keep it simple I did not create a large number of Bights and Leads on this mat. The best results for a 10 or 11mm rope is 7 or 8 Bights with at lest 9 or 10 Leads and 3 turns.

9mm and smaller ropes you can go with more Turns 4 or even 5. With the large ropes you can go down with as few as 5 Bights. I did this once and
the mat looks nice but is not as flat as some like.

I have also tried to tie one with only 3 Bights, 4 Leads and about 15 Turns, the result was a mess that did not lie flat at all and fell apart into a rope salad if it was moved.

The problems is that with more turns, the weave gets very tight but the edges get flimsy. The optimum is about 3 to 5 turns in a mat. If you have too much rope you can just cut it off.

I have also tied one with 10 Bights and 13 Leads and only two Turns in the weave but this did not look good and it was too flimsy even when tighten down.

I have also made one with a 5 Bights and 8 Leads with 7 Turns with a 45m rope which looked very nice. Fortunately, it was a very stiff rope so the edges do not flap about that much.

So depending on your rope thickness between 3 to 5 Turns works best.


For super bonus points can anyone tell me what year the rope was made in!!


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 26
Jerry L

Jerry L - Jan 23, 2007 6:17 pm - Voted 10/10

Lost me

You lost me at step 2. I'll just buy one I guess.


Deb - Jan 23, 2007 6:32 pm - Voted 10/10

Holy Sh!t!!

Wow, what a castrophie! And to think, I just twirled the rope in a spiral to sleep on in Whitney's summit hut. Nice detailed page though.


CharlesD - Jan 23, 2007 6:51 pm - Voted 10/10


That's very detailed. Thanks.

Strangely, this same subject is being discussed on MountainProject. There are some really impressive designs here:


rhyang - Jan 23, 2007 8:26 pm - Voted 10/10

Cool !

Would you believe I was interested in such things as macrame and net-making as a kid. When I go to retire one of my ropes I am definitely going to follow these instructions :)

Matt Worster

Matt Worster - Jan 24, 2007 2:56 pm - Hasn't voted


Oaklander just made one of these a few months ago. I was quite impressed, and a bit envious.


robojeda - Jan 24, 2007 4:03 pm - Voted 10/10

Very Nice

I've got some old rope that I think is headed this direction. You got me thinking... cordolette trivet? Cheers!


MountaingirlBC - Jan 25, 2007 1:07 am - Voted 10/10

omg how cool is that?

I have an old rope I'm tempted to try it with but I'm not sure if I'm mentally stable enough. Could go very very badly!


JScoles - Jan 25, 2007 3:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: omg how cool is that?

I would be careful as well as once it get one done it becomes very very addictive.

I actually had to stop my self from trying to make mats out of the three good ropes on my rack.

I wonder if there is a "knot tyers anyomous" out there



Nelson - Jan 26, 2007 12:11 am - Voted 10/10

Re: omg how cool is that?

Back in 1974 I worked for the San Fransisco Maritime Museum and was able to get a good deal on spools of manila rope. I got into making these kind of things, and still have several of them - rugs, Turk's head picture frame, bell pulls, buttons. It was an addictive habit. I even carried some cord to work on during backpacking trips in the Sierras.

My inspiration came from The Ashley Book of Knots. My old copy is still on my bookshelf.

Great article, by the way!


zachary_dc - Jan 26, 2007 12:25 am - Hasn't voted

this is a very good idea

however there was an article in a Rock Climbing magazine from a few years ago that showed a different style that involves no knots or weaving. All you have to do is coil the rope around itself to form a large circular rug. Then just duct tape the side you dont want showing in a few different directions, flip it over and wa la you have a large rug. Their are a few more detailed steps, but that was the jist of it. If you want the article, send me a message and i will send it to you.

Ed F

Ed F - Jan 29, 2007 4:51 pm - Hasn't voted

Circular Rope

If anyone wants to do this the easy way...

Make a giant spiral out of the rope, ensuring that each spiral is really tight. Bind each rope end with metal wire and tie them off. Flip the spiral onto whatever you want to be the "bottom." Cover the entire thing with caulk - about one tube for a 50m rope. Cover the caulk with duct tape. Add non-slip stuff if desired. Viola... This method takes about 1 hour of actual labor, and a night or two to allow the caulk to dry.

menotyou - Jan 29, 2007 10:13 pm - Voted 10/10

Sewn Rope Rugs

Rugs can also be sewn, the resulting rugs are larger (a circle has roughly a 35" diameter for a 60m rope) and flat. Sewn rugs are much more durable than the tape and glue variety. By hand expect to spend several days at 2-3hr per day. You can also send your rope into the guys at and let them make it for you.

Timothy Pearl

Timothy Pearl - Feb 1, 2007 9:48 pm - Voted 10/10


What a nice winter project! Nice pics and desc. I'm gonna give it a try with some cord first for mini practice.


nurettin - Feb 9, 2007 10:51 am - Voted 10/10


I thought it would be cool if I can make one but after reading the whole page I decided to save this page for my retirement.

Thanks for sharing!


IceRavines - Mar 19, 2007 1:51 pm - Voted 10/10

Great idea !

I think it is a great idea. Im going to give it a shot...I have retired ropes that have become topics with fellow climbers .

UncleBob - Apr 30, 2007 3:36 pm - Voted 9/10

Geez ...

So this is what happens when you're trapped inside.

Think i'll stuff one of these into my pack and ask my second to start flaking when I want to quit for the day ...

dylangroup - Nov 15, 2007 2:10 pm - Hasn't voted


i ran out of rope at the end of the knot (3 1/2 turns) and now i cant figure out fow to tighten it. the directions just say "Just start a one end and pull out the excess keeping the weave a little loose so you can feed in more turns." do i pull the 3/4 parts of the rope together? do i take the end that hadn't finnish the last turn and start yanking on it? (ropedrag!). sorry i got lost on this one but i'm afraid of messing up at this late stage. thanks to anyone that can help.


corashea - Jul 8, 2008 2:23 pm - Voted 10/10


What a great breakdown of the Turk's Head.

I've been using the much lazier (and arugably less cool looking) Prolong Knot (caution, those are PDF instructions). You can see a couple of my rugs here. I hope I can graduate to this!

chayagordon - Nov 12, 2008 7:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Tightening it down?

This pattern was very easy to follow, especially compared to all the other patterns I looked at. I had some issues at a couple points in the process, but through trial and error I was able to work it out.

Now I am at the point where I have a 50 meter; 10.5 rope, woven with three turns, on a 36x36 piece of plywood with 22 screws driven into it. I can not figure out how to tighten it.

I tried taking it off the pegs, and feeding the rope through, but I wound up with rope salad, and spent a good long while getting it back ont the pegs, untangeled. Please point me in the right dierection; I am super stoked I got this far, but I am stuck.


JScoles - Nov 12, 2008 8:12 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Tightening it down?

No easy way to do it except to be very careful.

Best advice 'Take your time'

1) get it off the pegs
2) lay it flat
3) start with one end and pull about 50cms out till till starts to tightned at a trun.
4) go to that trun and do the same to the next trun
5) pass that 50cm back to the start
6) repeat until it tightens

Slow process I know but it will eventually get get there might take 4 or 5 hours though.

Like I say the pegs are far apart in the example so you can see what is going on in real life when I make one my pegs are much closer.

John Scoles

Viewing: 1-20 of 26