articles and tutorials bondage tips Rope bondage
There is no one right rope for rope bondage. Sorry. Each type of rope has its pros and cons.
I personally keep a mix of hemp, jute, multifilament polypropylene (MFP), and parachute cord in my toy bag, and occasionally also carry cotton, cheap nylon (for when I know my rope will get trashed in a scene), silk cording or ribbon (for body and head harnesses), and whatever else strikes my fancy.
There is nothing wrong with mixing media; tying someone’s hands and chest in polyester then using hemp for everything else is okay, as is being a cotton purist. Read through the list of pros and cons, find sources that allow you to feel each one that sounds good, and buy what works for you. Some people even like combining multiple types of bondage by doing chest harnesses with leather wrist cuffs or rope corsets inside a spandex body sack.
Different individuals will prefer different types of rope. People with a passion for color might choose to buy ropes that match their favorite fetish outfit. Individuals with grass allergies or who have challenges with dust might avoid natural fiber ropes. If sensitivities to laundry soap are a concern, playing with polyester that was washed in such soaps might not be an option.
You might also choose to invest in new ropes due to a specific relationship. There are some couples who will choose to buy a set of rope that is “just theirs,” or a Bottom might have rope that only gets used on them. This rope might have an emotional attachment, or because they want their own for hygiene purposes.
This is a great option for novices or sensual players: it’s soft, has high burn speed (i.e., it takes a lot of pressure/speed to burn the skin), and becomes even softer with washing. It can be very erotic, and you can choose whether you want twisted or braided cotton rope. Cotton is easy to dye to a color you like, or you can give the aesthetic of Western bondage if you leave it white.
A caution: cotton can become fuzzy and dirty, so try to keep it clean. Like all natural fibers, cotton can get hard when wet, making knots difficult to undo, and can become moldy if it stays wet. This rope also stretches a fair bit, with bondage that was snug becoming looser if a Bottom struggles.
For those of you living in situations where having lots of kinky toys is tricky, keep your “story” about your rope in mind. It can be hard to explain the 400 feet of custom-dyed jute, but easier to say “this is for hanging clothes” if you have just a few pieces of cotton or MFP. Having a single storage space for your toys is a great option. This applies even if you are free to have your rope anywhere. It lets you know where your rope is for quick access and ease of play.
Though rough on the skin, fairly stiff, and quick to burn, this rope will certainly hold up if you’re putting a lot of stress on your line. Why? Because that’s what it was built to do! It comes in a wide array of colors and patterns, but it can be very pricey and its stiffness makes it challenging to work with in fine detail.
This natural-fiber rope is made from coconut husks, is very light weight, floats, and is scratchy. Coir also rope burns easily, and is fairly stretchy as far as natural fibers go. If you’re a sadist or masochist, this could be the rope for you.
Hemp rope is one of the traditional materials for Japanese-style rope bondage, along with jute rope. It is a warm golden color, or with treatment and age, can become a beautiful ash brown. Some folks also dye their hemp rope in myriad colors. Hemp smells like grass or hay, does not stretch much, and holds knots very well. Hemp has a moderate burn speed if treated, but burns quickly if left untreated.
There are different types of hemp rope: twisted tightly (which are firm, sometimes thought of as “Western hemp”), twisted loose (which are soft, but can untwist with some forms of fast tying, sometimes called “Japanese hemp”), and braided hemp. Check which type you are buying, and whether the level of processing and firmness will suit your desires.
If you buy hemp rope in bulk, it comes 100% untreated, is very rough, and often is very light in color. The rope is likely to have splinters in it, and is sometimes uneven in weave. This is good for Bottoms who like painfully intense sensation, but not for many other folks. There are a number of distributors out there who process or dye hemp rope for bondage, as well as “finish” the ends for you. It is possible to treat hemp rope yourself and, though time consuming, many rope artists enjoy the process because they emotionally bond with their rope.
Here’s my process for treating hemp rope:
Get a huge pot. Fill it with water and set it to boil. Cut the rope into the lengths you want and tie tight overhand knots at each end to keep it from fraying. Throw the rope in the pot, and let it boil for an hour while stirring regularly. Strain. Squeeze excess water off of the rope, and drape over a pole or drying rack in big loops, with pressure (such as a second pole) on the bottom of the loops to keep tension on the rope. Let it dry for a few days.
Once the rope is completely dry, clear a large open area, remove fire hazards and set up a candle or other small fire source. From one end to the other, run the rope through the flame while rotating or twisting the rope. This will singe splinters or rough spots off the rope. Don’t stop moving or you will burn the rope itself. This can be a slow, boring process; put on some good music and stay focused on the project.
Lastly, find a piece of heavy canvas, or, if you are the hands-on type, use your hands for this step. Put a small dab of hemp oil or mink oil on the cloth or your hand, and slowly pull the rope through the cloth from one end to the other. This small amount of oil will allow the rope to slide more smoothly across the skin.
You don’t need much. Then run your hand back over it again and make sure it looks and feels even and has no big globs of oil anywhere. Beeswax is also a good tool to consider. Hang your rope up to dry again—voila!—you’ve treated your rope.
Though hemp is technically machine washable, machine washing can untwist hemp, remove natural oils, or break down the strength of hemp over time. Some people prefer to boil their rope after it has been exposed to bodily fluids, but it’s your choice. If you choose to wash or boil your rope, consider re-oiling it from time to time to keep it soft and supple.
Once you have the basics down, try to create unusual variations, such as this combination made from jute rope.
Another natural fiber like hemp, jute has more of a licorice smell than a grass smell. There are some Riggers who have developed a strong passion for jute over hemp, while others are happy to play with either. It has a deeper golden brown to it, and is a favorite of many erotic photographers for the rope patterns it leaves on the skin and its “classical” appearance.
Jute expands when it gets wet, more so than hemp, so think twice before throwing a bound Bottom in the bathtub unless you have a pair of shears or a marlinspike nearby. This rope has a burn factor slightly higher than that of hemp, but that friction can also be used as a delightful sensation toy during play. It holds knots very well, but when it is first being used, it can creak a bit. Jute can be processed in the same manner as hemp if desired, and many fine retailers carry a variety of jute rope.
Cheap, widely available, and popular, this smooth and silky rope is flexible and soft on the hands and body. However, it does stretch (though not quite as much as cotton), and has a low burn speed. Nylon is perfect for slow romantic or sensual scenes, even with a bit of struggling. Unfortunately, due to its silkiness, nylon does not hold a knot as well as natural fibers. Sometimes it will be necessary to tie an additional hitch after all your bondage work is done, just to make sure the rope doesn’t slip.
A great bonus? Nylon does not expand when it gets wet, and thus is wonderful for using on sweaty Bottoms or in the shower. Nylon comes in three major varieties: solid braid, hollow (or cored), and twisted. Solid braid is nylon all the way through, in the same material, in a single weave of material. Hollow braid is a braided sheath of nylon over a core of another material—sometimes nylon, sometimes monofilament propylene, sometimes multifilament propylene. I like to call hollow rope “mystery rope” because you have no idea what is going on inside the rope—whether internal strands have broken, if your rope is moldy, etc. I recommend against using hollow braid unless it’s a spur-of-the-moment scene. The third variety is twisted nylon rope, which is usually three to six strands of nylon (each made of up to a hundred threads) twisted together to form a single rope.
Parachute Cord or Para-Cord
Available in a wide variety of colors, this fine line is perfect for detailed binding, like gently tying a one-column tie around the cock and balls, lashing fingers to one another, or doing intricate knotwork on breasts.
Parachute cord has a nylon sheath and a filler core of some sort, varying by brand. If wanting something sturdy and durable, “550 Cord” is the traditional cord of choice for actually jumping out of airplanes, since not everything called parachute cord is actually cord for parachutes. You can either choose to work with para-cord as is, or you can remove the core for a line that will lay flatter against the skin.
Often used for macrame in the 1970s, polyester ranges in firmness from stiff and rough to silky smooth. Available in solid braid, hollow braid and twisted, it comes in a diverse palate of colors, and competes with nylon and MFP as an option for bondage, especially decorative rope work. Purchasing your polyester from a bondage vendor makes it far more likely to be of the softer and silkier variety than buying it at a local hardware store.
There are two major types of polypropylene rope—multifilament polypropylene, and monofilament polypropylene. Monofilament polypropylene is not recommended for rope bondage since it is hard and unforgiving. You would best know monofilament as the stuff used to lift crates off of cargo ships! But multifilament is great. When MFP is referred to in this book, we are always referring to multifilament line.
MFP is soft and vibrant in color and its stretch properties are almost identical to nylon, while holding knots slightly better. It is not susceptible to expansion in water, resists damage from many oils and lubricants, and comes pre-dyed in a wide variety of colors. Machine washable and colorfast, MFP can be used in the hot tub without the color fading. I strongly recommend MFP as a bondage rope, especially for binding areas that are likely to get exposed to bodily fluids and thus need the rope washed more often.
Though not a form of rope, ribbon of any sort, from vintage lace to present wrapping-ribbon can be used to weave ornate body harnesses, do intricate nonrestraining ties, and coordinate bondage with any outfit. Multi-media decorative bondage can be a delight when combining jute with vintage lace or black MFP with metallic trim.
Sisal is a natural-fiber rope made from the leaves of agave plants and has stiff fibers. Though usable on masochists who like splinters or a serious challenge, I do not recommend it for the rest of us.
Silk or Sash Cord
Soft, silky, and perfect for sensuous bondage, sash cord is available in a variety of sizes and colors from fabric supply shops or used clothing stores. It is not in fact silk, but can feel delicious. Actual silk ropes can be fairly expensive and have a fairly low burn speed so fast bondage is not ideal, but if you’re seductively binding your lover, it’s amazing. Exploring the varieties of exotic materials can be a delight—silk, bamboo, mohair, alpaca, linen, cashmere—so many choices to indulge in.
Webbing is a wide, flat material, and comes in cotton, hemp, nylon, polyester and polypropylene. Available in hundreds of colors and patterns, this material is great because it can lay flat along a wider area of the body with fewer wraps around a column. Try it out and explore. Burn speeds vary depending on the type of webbing.