Chinese Knotting Supplies
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One of the joys of Chinese knotting is that there are very few
supplies you need to complete most designs. Some string, a
cutting tool, maybe a bobby pin and some tweezers. If you're
getting into the really complicated knots you might want
a macrame or padded board and some pins. For finishing you might
want a lighter, needle and thread, perhaps some beads. But the
one thing you can't do without, the most important thing you need
is string (or cord if you prefer).
An important feature of Chinese knotting is the cord used must
have a certain amount of stiffness or "body" to hold the structure
of the knot. Completely limp strings will almost never produce
the desired effect, and something that is too stiff (ie.
wire) will probably not survive the knotting process for
anything but the simplest designs. Caveat: I've never
tried to use wire and I'm not a metal-worker.
These days you can find a small selection of the appropriate
cording in just about every craft or bead store as well as many
fabric stores under the name of "rat-tail" (mouse-tail or
bug-tail) or "satin cord". It is usually made of nylon or
occasionally rayon, sometimes with a cotton core. Of course, if
you live in Taiwan, there are (or were when last I visited in
1996) whole stores dedicated to the craft much like bead or yarn
stores in North America.
I almost want to say that satin cord made of nylon is the
"traditional" material to use since it seems that way based on the
Chinese knotting books that you can buy, but obviously that can't
be true. In all likelihood the "traditional" material was silk,
but that is expensive and somewhat difficult to come by in modern
times. The modern knotter will more likely than not be using
nylon satin cord or braided "parachute" cord (also nylon, or the
equivalent for our purposes
polyester/polypropylene), and there are several reasons why
this would be the case.
- satin cord has a close approximation to the look and feel
of silk, also it holds the shape of the knots and loops well.
Rayon based satin cord is softer and more slippery than nylon,
making it trickier (though not impossible depending on the
knot) to work with.
- nylon can be heat fused and heat sealed ensuring that the
ends either will not fray or can be joined quickly and easily
without the need for whipping, splicing or glues. This is not
true of the rayon/cotton cords.
- the fabrication method by which most satin cord is made
means that the fibre for a matching tassel is easily obtained
by "unweaving" the cord and steaming the crinkled fibres for a
- President's Braid
- The nylon satin and parachute cords that I have been
referring to previously in this document are round. Another
popular type of cord made of the same type of materials and
similar in texture is "president braid" (defined on the Wright's
Glossary page as "A braided cord with two defined
edges.") often seen in the premade, packaged frog buttons that
you might find in a fabric store.
- twisted/spun cords
- cords formed by rope-style twisting. Any tassel book will
give the basic instructions for this.
- cords, lacing, braided strips, etc.
- a squarish or round plastic cord that is often marketed for
use with the big plastic beads to make "beady buddies",
lanyards for kids, or just to create designs on plastic
- kumihimo cords
- hand braided (usually) silk cords.
Satin cord can be found in most craft, bead, or fabric stores.
Parachute cord suitable for decorative applications is more often
found in outdoor supply/sports/mountaineering/marine supply and
occasionally hardware/building supply type shops.
President's braid can occasionally be found in a really well
stocked fabric store. If you want to spend a lot of money on a
little bit of cord, this style of cord is currently popular as a
shoelace (oval laces).
In North America, there are a tiny handful of stores
specializing in Chinese knotting supplies. The locations listed
below are places I have personally visited, but hopefully more
info is forthcoming from the friendly net.people around the
world .... 8)
Note: I have never purchased from any of these
sources, but I've been accumulating the addresses against the day
where my need for string outweighs my need to see things before I
buy them. Actual experience based recommendations when that
happens (although if you decide to bite the bullet, please share
your experiences with the rest of us!)
- Vancouver, BC
Alpha Craft (Yaohan Mall, Richmond)
- #2405-3700 No.3 Road, Richmond, BC, V6X 3X2
p: (604) 231-0881
A general Asian craft store with some knotting cord, lots of
fancy yarns, some origami supplies, some beads, books and a
little bit of just about everything else.
- Los Angeles, CA
Chinese String Arts
- Monterey Park Plaza
922 E. Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91755
Tel: (626) 280-0699
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 11am - 6pm
From the ashes of String Arts Inc, a leaner and trimmer store
in the same strip mall has been opened by an associated
- Houston, Texas
- I have a report of a store specializing in Chinese Knotting
supplies in Texas, but no other details.
Barre Army and Navy Store
- Milspec 550 and 450 pound test parachute cord in many color
and length choices from a store in Vermont.
Creation Date: Thu Nov 15 17:15:53 PST 2001
Last Modified: Tuesday, 20-Jul-2004 20:36:03 UTC
Page accessed at local time: Thursday, 27-Nov-2014 20:32:40 UTC