What are ropes made from?

Rope can be made from a variety of fibres.  There are mainly two groups which are natural fibres and oil-based synthetic fibres.

Natural fibres are sisal, cotton, jute and hemp.  Nowadays, however, the majority of ropes produced in the World are from oil-based synthetic fibres such as nylon and polypropylene.

The main difference's between the two groups are that natural fibres will rot if soaked over a long period of time, due to the action of micro-organisms.  Although man-made fibres are stronger than the strongest natural fibres and will not be damaged by micro-organisms, they will deteriorate in bright sunlight and melt at a lower temperature than the natural fibres.

Rope manufacture

The skill of rope manufacturers has changed dramatically over the years, and the rope products now on the market bear no connection with the rope of old.  Ropes used to be made by the traditional method called the 'the rope-walk', which was considered more versatile because it was able to produce a greater selection of rope widths.

The rope-walk

The rope-maker worked at the "rope-walk" (sometimes known as the "band walk"), where hemp was spun into yarn.  Hemp fibres were tied to a hook attached to a wheel which was slowly turned whilst the rope maker walked back down the rope walk, feeding out additional fibres from the supply he carried.  Groups of yarn were later twisted together to the desired thickness of rope.


People, as hunters, farmers, craft workers, traders and soldiers, have used ropes for many purposes throughout their history.  Ropes are depicted in Spanish cave paintings dating back 20,000 years.  Examples of Egyptian ropes from 2600 BC and ropes carried by the Roman legionnaires can be seen in museum collections today.  The earliest ropes in Britain were made from twisted strips of lime bark.