There are many different types of rope to choose from when considering which rope might be right for you. Each type of rope has its own pros and cons, the biggest thing to consider when choosing rope is the ‘stretch’ of the rope.
Rope that is going to be used in suspension should have zero stretch such as hemp, jute, some nylons etc. What no stretch means is that the diameter of the rope doesn’t change when there is tension on it.
Rope like bamboo, silk and others stretch and are dangerous for suspension but give a different feel on the skin and are highly desired for rope on the ground.
Ropes come in many different prices, lengths, thicknesses, colours and many types come with different treatments. Each type of rope requires their own type of care though all are stored the same. Proper storage includes wrapping or bundling ropes, partly to make them easier to use in the future and also help maintain their shape. Ropes should always be stored away from moisture to prevent mold.
Cotton is a good choice of rope for those who want a soft feel without the expense of some of the more high end types. Cotton is a good choice for beginners, it’s cheap, easily available and light to carry. It’s easy to work with, feels soft to touch, and has a fair amount of stretch.
Cotton is a popular natural fiber used to make the yarn that composes rope. Twisted cotton rope has maintained its popularity due to its strength, flexibility, soft and non-abrasive texture, and easy uptake of colored dye.
It is not the most durable rope however over repeated use, and would not be suitable for suspension. It can be dyed to make a very decorative rope however, and it is available in an array of colors and patterns.
Cotton is great for most forms of bondage, just make darn sure to keep those EMT shears handy and be prepared for a bit of swearing and frustration over the knots if it’s a loose braid.
- Readily available.
- Holds knots well.
- It’s washable.
- It can be dyed.
- Comes in an array of colors and patterns.
- Reasonably light and easy to carry.
- Knots compact down because of stretch.
- Difficult to unpick knots.
- In all cases requires safety scissors/EMT shears.
If you are looking for something stylish that wears well and photographs well, this is an ideal solution, especially if you don’t want to use synthetic or nylon rope. Be careful about knots becoming tighter over time, if you are a beginner, try not to overdo it and take your time. Always have your safety shears handy.
Jute is a plant fiber and is used to make rope, twine, fabrics, rugs, Sarees, pillows, bags, baskets, stair runners, place mats, sacks, necklaces and also knots for floggers to name some common uses for this fiber. The making of these items is accomplished by spinning the fiber into a coarse thread. Despite its rough texture and that Jute serves as Hem’s counterpart, the two contrast in almost every way, since fine Jute threads may be used to create imitation silk. Jute is long, soft, shiny yet if spun accordingly can be a coarse, strong thread. Jute is quite strong, yet is the cheapest of natural fibers available today. With excellent insulating properties, Jute has low thermal conductivity and antistatic characteristics. However Jute over time can become brittle and yellow in sunlight, lose its strength when wet, thus vulnerable to infestation with microbes when used in humid climates.
Because high quality Jute rope does start out very firm, it has become a favorite rope among many sadists and masochists who desire to add a bit of edge to their play. And also because of its firmness decorative knots hold their shape. In general Jute rope is a photographer’s dream for its natural sheen plays to the camera. Jute fiber weighs next to nothing and thus adds to the rigger process possibilities. Movements are fluid and the weight also assists those who wish to do outdoor bondage since it is easy to carry quantities traversing woods, mountains and other landscapes. Jute rope is very durable, yet may be loosely woven thus giving it a short lifespan. Jute however has enough grip to stay in place, yet nowhere near as well as Hemp. Further after washing Jute they must be stretch dried with tension to prevent shrinkage.
Strength of a rope is always a concern especially in suspension bondage, thus a breaking strength must be considered. This strength is generally considered to be at what average weight will a rope break in testing. An approximation and understanding that to rely on this approximation is an invite to disaster, it is only an approximation, for no one can truly tell you a breaking strength of a particular rope without actually breaking it first! Plus these approximations do not take into account wear, conditioning and many other factors that may cause a rope deterioration. Thus a conservative ‘safe’ working load is often used. Jute breaking strength may be approximately 300lbs. for one strand of 6mm, however its’ ‘safe’ load at 6mm is considered at only 30lbs.
This may give the impression that Jute may not be a good choice for suspension purposes however riggers typically double over their rope when doing suspension bondage. This doubles the safe working load and also riggers will run it back and forth several times between points as a rule to distribute the load between the body. Still, caution needs to be used when hoisting someone into the air. As a comparison here are other rope “safe” breaking strengths for one strand of 6mm. Hemp would be 40lbs.; 100lbs. for MFP; and 120lbs. for Nylon.
Another factor of course is diameter and this choice influences maneuverability, handling, safety and comfort. Thicker diameters of 7mm and 8mm often are chosen for superior strength. Yet most riggers will use 6mm and most Jute lovers who are into performance bondage even prefer 5mm for superior handling due to lightness. Also to consider is length if being used in suspension type bondage. Most generally accepted length is 50 feet for body harnesses in rigging.
While Jute and Hemp are similar in that being natural fibers with good grip, they are very different to tie and work with. When new, Jute can be scratchy, the rope may be very fuzzy. It also can have a very strong smell, tends to wear out quickly, thus being replaced within 6 months to a year. Yet many prefer Jute for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is speed. With half the weight of same size ropes, Jute ropes fly. Through the ties, around turns, Jute is like a Grand Prix racing car. And Jute shines!! In bright lights, photo flashes, Jute looks like polished gold. Jute has a look and feel of no other rope!
Polypropylene comes in a couple common types, one with a webbing and inner core while the other common one is a solid braid. The webbing style is not my favorite and while it is one of the two common types I personally would not recommend it. The solid braid style is what I use for many ties and the type I will refer to mainly here as I do like it and would recommend it to others. They are fairly inexpensive, easily available and pretty light weight. This type of rope is also a smooth style so not very abrasive on the skin as far as rope burns go making it a fast rope for ties. I have personally used this type of rope in the solid braid for suspension and some other ties and have been happy with the results. It holds up well, comes in a variety of sizes and can be quite comfortable against the skin.
Natural hemp has been in use for thousands of years as one of the first fibers to be spun into useable material by humans. Hemp (cannabis sativa) is a part of the cannabaceae plant family and is often confused with cannabis/marijuana. Although they are from the same family, they are different in chemical composition. Hemp fibers have been used by humans for many different purposes such as for clothing, food, building materials, and yes rope.
The benefits of using hemp rope in bondage
Besides being the classic or traditional material used for shibari and bondage, hemp rope is softer and more pliable than jute fiber rope, and therefore easier to work with. The more you use the hemp rope, the softer and more pliable it becomes. Hemp rope will also compress tighter than most other ropes without compromising the strength.
As mentioned, hemp rope is very strong and depending on the conditioning process, can be as rough or smooth as one chooses. In both it’s forms, hemp rope is notable for holding knots and rigging very well compared to other rope material. Hemp rope has the traditional natural or organic look and feel to it compared with synthetic ropes if that is what one is going for. It photographs very well when going for that natural look or style.
The drawbacks of using hemp rope in bondage
Hemp rope like most natural fiber ropes require maintenance and conditioning to keep the rope in good condition and to stay strong. Hemp rope will rot if it gets wet without proper conditioning. Even if the outside of the rope is dry, the inner cores will probably still be wet and therefore rot from the inside out, weakening the rope and possibly failing at an inopportune time.
Hemp rope is fairly expensive when compared to synthetic rope, it also sheds its fibers from use and can be a bit messy depending on the application. Hemp rope can easily cause rope burns because of its strength, fibers, and it is not as smooth as synthetic or cotton ropes.
Like most things, there are pros and cons to them and hemp rope is no different. Whatever rope you choose, ensure it is rated well above the weight or breaking strength you plan to use it for. You should choose the type of rope for your personal taste, skill level, feel, and that is aesthetically pleasing to you. To me personally, hemp rope has the look and feel of the more traditional style of rope bondage, and is overall a very strong rope.
Diameters, types and lengths
When choosing a rope try to keep in mind that there is not a one size fits all type, size or length. Different ropes will work better for certain people and ties than others. For instance hemp may feel amazing to you in a leg tie but not for suspension. The feel of the rope against your skin, the flex or stretch of it during different uses, the color even can all be factors. Lengths will also vary depending on your skill level, the type of rope (smaller diameter rope may need more wraps for example) and the tie involved. A smoother rope may need more knots to keep it from shifting on the body versus a more abrasive rope, and the diameter of the rope can be a huge factor depending on the desired outcome of the tie. Smaller diameter rope may work better for more intricate ties or detailed knots yet will need more wraps to provide the same support. Larger diameter rope can be great for supporting weight comfortably but can be more difficult to tie as it is more bulky. Most people go with lengths between 12’ and 40’, adding in more pieces as needed.
Diameters are usually 6mm to 8mm for most rope work although again this is a personal choice. For CBT many prefer 4mm for example.
- The cost is relatively low.
- It’s easy to find.
- Soft and smooth.
- Clearly marked weight limits.
- Many diameters available.
- Easy to tie with.
- Limited colors.
- The inner core style is tougher to tie.
For a synthetic rope this one is one of my favorites for many ties. It is smooth, soft, comfortable and thick enough to offer great support for suspension yet easy to do leg ties, hip harnesses and chest harnesses with. It can be semi bulky so tying intricate knots like some shibari or CBT may not be the appropriate choice. Plus aesthetically due to the limited colors it may not look the best. But overall if I head out hiking and plan for a bit of outdoor bondage I grab some of this rope every time. Definitely go with the solid braid though, it is much easier to work with than the webbing style with the inner core. Enjoy!
Educational Practical Components
Watch the rope handling video and practice both types of rope coiling.
Following the tutorial practice the two different techniques for extending or joining your ropes.
There are lots for different ways to finish off the ends to your ropes and it is purely down to personal preference.
These educational topics wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication from our Dom(me)sLife contributors – Thank you MM