Tying the Knot: Sailmaker’s Whipping and True Lover’s Knot

Diane and I got married this past weekend in Union Ct. We wanted to do something during different during the ceremony for us and something we can have later on. People have done things like combining different color sands into a single container, lighting of candles, etc. Diane came up with the idea of literally Tying the Knot. Sounds like a plan, I did a little research and there’s plenty of knots out there. I even picked up this one a bunch of years ago: Handbook of Knots.

In it I found the True Lover’s Knot, which was a tradition that went way back to sailor’s out at sea. Read more here. We had a little story to go along with the process in our ceremony, I will post it here once I transcribe it.

Perfect. We got some manila rope at the local Home Depot, to use for other things during the reception (hanging curtains, etc) and I cut two equal pieces out of that.

Manila Rope

Because this was something that we wanted to have long after the ceremony, we had to take care of it and keep the ends from unraveling. I found a decorative whipping would do the trick (a word I learned looking for the True Lover’s knot).

I went with a Sailmaker’s Whippping, it seemed simple enough and had a nice look that would compliment our knot nicely, plus it would last, even though our knot wouldn’t have standard wear and tear.

I had some wonderful waxed nylon thread I had used to attach some straps from my snowshoes onto my hiking backpack that worked perfectly. The thread was tough, didn’t slip, and stayed in place nicely.

The variation I used was quite simple:

  • Unravel the rope, make a loop around one of the three strands.IMG_1766
  • Make sure that the shortend, loop and long end are all on different sides of the three strands.
  • Wind upward.IMG_1758
  • After covering the desired length, loop the loop over it’s strand and pull down on the short end. This will tighten the loop and make it fall into the groves of the strand it “traces”.IMG_1759
  • Take the short end and trace the remaining strand up to the top. Tie it tight with a double knot to the long end in the center of the strands.IMG_1761
  • Trim off the extraIMG_1765

I used two types of waxed nylon string and the end result came out really well:IMG_1767

Knot Ceremony Transcript

Kevin and Diane have chosen to “tie the knot” to symbolize their union.

The story goes, that around the turn of the nineteenth century, an art form arose from the ranks of deep-water sailors. That art form was “knotting”. Sailors used rope to create knots that were anywhere from simple to elaborate. Some knots were purely for use, some only for decoration, and some knots were used to signify meaning. One knot that arose during this time period was the “true-lover’s knot”.

It was a simple and clear knot, implying its forthright goal. It is made up of two overhand knots, linked together, much like true lovers are in their hearts. A deep-water sailor would tie the knot loosely, and send it to his “intended” back home. Upon receiving it, the woman could:

  1. untie it, meaning the sailor shouldn’t show his face around the next time he was in port, or
  2. she could send it back, leaving it loose, the way she received it, meaning the sailor would be welcomed home, but he better be on his best behavior, or
  3. she could tighten the knot before returning it, meaning the sailor should hurry his way to the homestead.

(To Diane and Kevin): Kevin, since you are asking Diane to marry you, take these cords (officiant hands Kevin the ropes), which represents the bond between you, and tie the knot which signifies your intentions for your gathered friends and family to see.

Diane, will you please give your response by tightening the knot, representing that you will always hold Kevin’s heart to yours.

(Diane tightens knot and hands rope to Officiant. Officiant holds knot up for all to see.)

It is known to be one of the simplest knots to tie, but it is also one of the strongest there is; it will not break, and will only become stronger when under pressure. The rope itself will break before the knot comes undone.

(Speaking to Diane and Kevin): These two cords represent your pasts- your own individual and separate lives before today. As you intertwine your pieces, you are joining your two lives into one, representing the present. The finished knot symbolizes your future, and how your love and marriage will continue to be strong despite any trials life may throw your way.

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