Monday, August 06, 2007


This weekend, I visited the Deventer Boekenmarkt, Europe's largest open air second-hand book fair. I found some very interesting (and very cheesy!) seventies books on macrame. How to knot your own knight in shining armour using macrame, yeah :-)

Anyway, I wanted to show you this page, taken from the same book. Seventies books might be cheesy, but they are also packed with technical details that you don't find in modern books. I think this book shows a technique that might have been used to make knots to embellish 14th century purses.

Click here for a picture of the type of knots I'm talking about:

These knots were made with silk gimp or gold thread, using 4-8 paralel strands of thread and working over a core of e.g. wood.

This is a tutorial for making "de knoop voor het keesje" ( I don't know why they call it like that :-). Click on the picture to enlarge. The pencil points at step 1 and I think the pictures don't need a translation. According to the Dutch text, you have to put some kind of "core" in the knot to mould it into shape.

This really looks like the type of knots from the picture above. I think this technique works better for making knots with more than 3 parallel strands of thread than this technique, but I haven't tried it yet... My problem with the latter technique, when I try to use more than 3 threads, is that I can't keep the threads parallel and that they start to cross each other. I think this technique doesn't have that problem.


Gina-B said...

Hi Isis!
Yes, 70s books here are always better at technical details too!

This knot looks like one which is often called a 'monkeys fist' in English

Isis said...

Hi Gina! :-) It's actually Machteld who wrote this post! I have only seen something about the second hand book market in Deventer on TV last weekend! But, next year we are planning to bring it a visit too!

However, about the monkey fist knots! Yes Machteld they do resemble the knots on the sides of several medieval purses very closely! I have tried to make several of these knots a couple of years ago. It's not very difficult, it's easier to tie these than to tie a Turk's Head knot. Good luck!!

Unknown said...

The knot is called, in English: the "Monkey Fist" knot.
An excellent "Bible" of knots and knotwork is
Ashley Book of Knots

Shell Handbook of Knot

Also try the search term: "Marlinespike"- it is an awl usd to loosen tight knots in sailing jargon.
Sailors used to be required to know all manner of knot and macrame for work and also the "doldrums" the no wind periods.

The Marlinspike Sailor- Hervey Garrett Smith

Turk's head tute

Properly dressing a monkey's fist

Paracord can-cozy?

See the boys are into Macrame and Posamenten big time- it just have to involve"camping" or something deemed "not effeminate".

Although not strictly period- perhaps these kind of tools could make your work a little more rapid?
I am sure workers way back in medieval & renaissance times employed some form of labour/time-saving tools.

dominicwords said...

hi gina and machteld'
been occasionally following your blog for a year or so.
i specialise in knots. a lot of people at the braids2012 were asking about these knots on old purses. they are mostly diamond knots, with a few different variations; and sometimes turks heads, but not monkey's fists which i have only seen in sailors work. if you compare the 2 knots you will see that in a monkey's fist the strands appear perpendicular to one another and in diamond and turks heads they are diagonal. if you want more information contact me through
best wishes
dominic taylor

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