ISSUE 25  |  The Life Aquatic

A New Twist on the Nautical Knot

June 25, 2014 3:00 PM

BY Margot Guralnick

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The monkey’s fist knot is a sailor’s classic, tied around a stone and used to add weight to rope and, on occasion, as a weapon. Its form has an enchanting complexity and symmetry. Which perhaps explains why I succumbed to a looped green-and-white monkey’s fist not so long ago at, of all places, a pet supermarket. It was billed as “doggie dental floss”—during games of tug of war, your canine’s teeth are miraculously cleaned—but my mutt wouldn’t even sniff at it. I didn’t care. Dog toy or not, I like the way it hangs fetchingly on a doorknob. 

Recently, I came across sculptor Cassandra Smith’s artful take on the form and felt vindicated. “They have a crafty, vintage feel yet are very precisely made,” she said by way of explaining the appeal. I’m now ready to upgrade to a wall of her color-blocked twists. 

Above: A sampling of Cassandra Smith’s hand-painted knots, size small; $42 each. Based in Milwaukee, WI, Smith specializes in decorating unexpected objects, such as mounted deer heads, and is best known for her painted antlers.

Above: Smith’s knots come in sizes ranging from extra small (6 inches in circumference) to large (12.5 inches in circumference) and are priced at approximately $14 to $58.Each knot has a wooden ball in its center.

Above: Custom color combinations are available on request via Smith’s Etsy shop, Made by Cassandra Smith

Above: Smith reports that most people hang the knots or perch them on shelves; they also make good curtain tiebacks. The loops vary in length from 5 inches to 20 inches.

Above: Some of the knots are patterned with tiny dots. 

Above: Smith’s next project is creating painted monkey’s-fist garlands, and, by popular demand, monkey’s-fist necklaces.

For more maritime inspiration, browse our image gallery of Nautical Design, including DIY: Nautical Stripes on Stairs and High/Low: Nautical Rope Lights. See Gardenista for Nautical Rope Doormats.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on October 18, 2013 as part of our Handyman Special issue.