Breathing new life into an old friend is easy — just a little caulk, duct tape, and you’re golden.
I become dangerously attached to my old ropes. I use them until they have the nap of an old blanket and the hue of a faded pair of jeans. When I get a new rope, I’ll still keep breaking out the old one when I’m in need of the mountain karma of my youth, or a whiff of the lichens of yore. After a few dozen years climbing I accumulated a collection of old cords that was a menace to my friends. When I pulled one out of the pack for its annual run up memory lane, my partner would claim to have forgotten his harness and suggested a day of bouldering. Fortunately, before my nostalgia actually injured anyone, I discovered rope rugs. Finally, a way to stay near the old Kernmantle Conquistadors without freaking out my friends. I was sure I’d heard about beautiful rope rugs being patiently stitched — probably by winter lamplight in a yurt above Telluride — but after spending half an hour trying to make three stitches, I decided that fine textile work wasn’t my calling. I consulted the muses — and the hardware store — and stumbled upon a technique much more my style. Here’s how to make a rope rug with less than an hour’s work.
Materials: l One or more old rope(s) l A few feet of strong nylon thread and a stout, curved needle l Silicone caulk and a caulk gun l Duct tape For the basic, one-rope rug, loosely flake out the rope near a hard, flat surface in an area that you can spare for a few hours, and can keep free from pets or roommates. If your rope spent its life sport climbing in dusty caves, wash it first; if it lived high on clean, granite walls, you may be able to use it as is. Starting with the tightest spiral of rope you can make, wind the entire rope into a circle. Firmly lay the rope against itself, but not so tight as to squeeze the strands. You can keep the crucial inner coil tight against itself with a single stitch of thread, or simply pin it in place with a hatpin. Finish the end of the spiral with another stitch. If you desire a completely smooth outer profile to your rug, rather than a protruding rope end, you can cut the rope end on a long diagonal and meld it to the coil. Now, coat the entire top face of the rope coil with caulk to bind the rope-rug strands together. One tube per rope is the minimum — two tubes per rope is better. Let the caulk dry. This the most time-consuming part of the rugmaking. Head out for an evening ski or a session in the gym, or better yet, let the project sit overnight. Next, cover the caulked face with duct tape. Try first laying three or four cross strips, then taping the entire bottom perpendicular to the strips, overlapping generously. (This was my trial-and-error solution to the problem of the tape separating when I rolled my first rugs.) Trim the tape edges with scissors so they match the circular footprint of the rug. Voila! Flip it over and say hello to your colorful new fireside companion or doormat. You can make the rug oval-shaped by beginning with a flat bight of rope; the longer the loop, the more oblong the rug. You can make a bigger and multi-colored rug by adding a second (and third) rope to the spiral by simply butting the ends and maybe adding a stitch or two at the joint. For a fancier pattern you can wind two or three ropes simultaneously, but this technique has hidden difficulties that become apparent as you begin winding. If your rope sense and foresight are as poor as mine, you’ll create a formidable Gordian knot. (Hint: start with each rope flaked into a rope bag.) That’s it. Now your friends can share in your fondness for old ropes without risking their lives.Jeff Achey is the Editor-at-Large of Climbing. He is also a closet craftsman when he’s not putting up obscure death routes in Glenwood Canyon.