January 03, 2020 2 min read

The monkey fist knot, or monkey's paw, has it's origins in the marine world and was originally used and tied by sailors. First pictured and named by E.N. Little in Log Book Notes (New York, 1888). Also known as a sailor's knot, it was key in accurately passing lines from a ship to shore or from one ship to another ship.

How to tie a monkey fist

The monkey fist is used at the end of a line to add weight. Generally a rock or other heavy object would be placed inside the knot to add weight before tightening the knot. This hard core helps carry the weight of the heaving line as it is cast in a coil from a ship or dock. (Now the UK Maritime and Coast Guard Agency recommends no weights be used in the making of marine monkey fists for safety reasons).

Manila monkey fist by Mystic Knotwork

Once tied, the monkey fist is attached to the end of a light weight line which then is attached to the heavier lines that need to get to the dock or other boats etc. The monkey fist is thrown easily with the lighter line, able to reach its destination with accuracy, then the heavier line can be hauled in.

Heaving line with monkey fist

Manila monkey fists by Mystic Knotwork

In pair trawling, where two fishing boats work one net together, the monkey fists are also used for weighting the lines to quickly get the net in position.

At one time the monkey fist was very popular in mountain climbing. They were used as anchors by placing them in cracks during a climb.

Rumor has it that they were also used to secretly store and transport fine gemstones. Of course it was a secret so not much information was found on this use of the monkey fist.

And surprisingly a new use for the monkey fist is as a handle to open your parachute. The monkey fist being more firm that the traditional deployment handle found on parachutes. And a bonus for fashion conscious jumpers, you can coordinate the colors with your parachute!

 

 

Monkey fist ornament by Mystic KnotworkMonkey fist ornament by Mystic KnotworkMonkey fist ornament by Mystic Knotwork

Nowadays the monkey fist has worked it's way into home decor, holiday ornaments and jewelry!

At Mystic Knotwork we tie monkey fist bottle stoppers, drawer pulls, napkin rings, table decor, ornaments, dog toys and key chains.

The monkey fist key chain is versatile as it can also be used as a zipper pull. We tie the key chains in three styles and many colors.

Traditional monkey fist with split ring by Mystic KnotworkTraditional monkey fist with brass clip by Mystic KnotworkModern monkey fist with split ring by Mystic Knotwork

Modern monkey fist key chain by Mystic Knotwork

 

 

Monkey fist wine stoppers by Mystic Knotwork

The bottle stopper is a must have for every home and boat with colors that match our trivets and coasters.

Monkey fist snowman ornamentOrnaments by Mystic Knotwork

 And above, last year's Accidental Snowman. We were fooling around in the workshop when a group of tyers came up with this wonderful and popular Snowman ornament!

Sue Waterman
Sue Waterman


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