All Tied Up in Knots: 3 Tips for Tying Ornamental Knots

The finished Guinevere's knot necklace with focal bead by Lisa Peters Art.

Does anyone else remember those hemp necklaces that were so popular with kids twenty years ago? Yes, I was one of those kids who wore knotted hemp necklaces and bracelets. All through my last year of college, I wore a hemp necklace with a seashell I picked up on the beach at Galveston Island on a visit to my parents. I would spend hours with a safety pin stuck into my jeans, patiently working my macramé knots and sliding on big, chunky beads that I got from craft stores and bead shops. Knotting hemp was one of the things that kept me hooked on jewelry making, particularly with larger beads that I couldn't easily incorporate into smaller beaded jewelry.

Well, my knotting (and my beadwork) is all grown up now! Not that I don't still love doing those old macramé knots, but I wanted to do something a little more sophisticated with my knotted jewelry. Flipping through my copy of Ornamental Knots for Beaded Jewellery, I saw a project that caught my eye. Guinevere's Necklace looked like it would the perfect fit for a couple of handmade ceramic beads by Lisa Peters Art that I've been hoarding for a while, and I decided to give it a try.

I used U-pins to hold my knot in place while I was weaving instead of sewing pins.

Knotting with satin cord really isn't as hard as it looks. The diagrams I followed were clear, and once I got the hang of the over-and-under patterns, I could clearly see where each piece of cord was supposed to go next. It was easy to make the first "draft" of the finished knotted pendant because you weave it very loosely, and then tighten it up once you're finished. My decision to use two highly contrasting colors of satin cord made it much easier for me to see what I was doing, both during the weaving and during the tightening of the final knotted pendant. As I worked, I realized three very important things when you're weaving decorative knots with satin cord:

1. Make sure that you finish the ends of your cords. It made it much easier for me to perform the over-and-under weaving when I could poke the ends of the cord in the direction they needed to go. There were several suggestions in this book for finishing the ends of your satin cord, and all of them were easy to do.

2. Use jewelry pins instead of sewing pins. While the book suggested using sewing pins, I didn't have any handy. Instead, I used the jewelry pins (sometimes called U-pins) that I had in my craft show supplies. While the pins held the satin cord securely, they also allowed me to slide the cord around a bit. This made it much easier to make adjustments to my first weaving of the pendant and helped me to keep everything nice and even.

3. Have a chain nose pliers handy. The chain nose pliers were very useful when I was pulling my satin cord through a tight space. I could poke the tip of the satin cord under another piece of cord, and then pull it through smoothly with the chain nose pliers.

While I was weaving the Guinevere's Necklace project, I could understand why someone would be fascinated with these knotting techniques. There's a rich history behind knotting techniques, similar to the history of off-loom beadweaving.These knots were developed over centuries by sailors and merchants, and they traveled around the world, changing a little bit each time someone learned them.

My final necklace was something reminiscent of Renaissance peasant jewelry – very elegant and understated using just simple materials and a little (or whole lot) of skill. I didn't need any fancy tools or materials (you can find satin cord at most craft stores and many local bead shops) and my favorite beading work pad was all that I needed.

If you want to try something new with your favorite big focal beads, check out Ornamental Knots for Beaded Jewellery. You'll find ten gorgeous projects and loads of helpful diagrams and instructions for all the knots you'll need to learn to create each project. Carry on with an ancient crafting tradition with Ornamental Knots for Beaded Jewellery and see what else you can add to these time-honored techniques!

Bead Happy,


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