Decorative knots are a staple in Japanese gardens to secure bamboo fencing, joining together crisscross bamboo poles. Nails are used sparingly, because the traditional black hemp and palm fiber rope are considered functional and aesthetically pleasing, according to the book "Serene Gardens" by Yoko Kawaguchi. Some knot knowledge is necessary when recreating the Japanese aesthetic in a Western backyard or garden. But, with a bit of natural fiber rope and some tying techniques, creating Japanese knots can be fun and easy.
Create the Japanese square knot, also known as square lashing, by folding a piece of rope (approximately 1 1/2 foot long) in half, creating a loop. With the two bamboo poles intersecting, loop the rope around the bottom part of the vertical pole, then over the horizontal pole and behind the top of the vertical pole. The rope should create a square shape.
Continue by bringing the rope down over the horizontal pole, then behind the bottom of the vertical pole. Repeat this technique two more times, so that there are four loops around the horizontal pole and the remaining rope falls towards the top of the intersecting rods.
Twist the rope around the front of the vertical pole and cross the ends before bringing them down the back of the horizontal pole. This will help to secure the horizontal pole, and keep it from sliding up and down. At the bottom crisscross the rope again, across the front, and continue bringing it up to the top. After two more times there should be three loops on either side of the vertical beam.
Finish the decorative knot by tying a double knot on the bottom of the vertical pole, so that it tucks underneath the horizontal pole. Loop any excess rope over either side of the horizontal beam before tucking the ends into the knot.
Tie the simpler Japanese knot by looping the end of a 1-foot piece of rope around the bottom part of the vertical pole, so the loop is in the front of the beam. Take the right side and wrap it behind the horizontal pole, bringing it to the top of the beam. Cross it over, in front of the pole, bringing the rope down to the opposite side. Continue looping the rope behind the other side of the horizontal beam, to the top and back over to the other side.
Repeat this crisscross pattern up to three times, only using one end of the rope. Tie the two ends at the center of the rope with a neat double knot.
Tips & Warnings
- Using damp rope can help secure the knots, as the rope will get tighter as it dries.
- "Elements of Japanese Gardens"; Lsao Yoshikawa; 1990
- "Knack Knots You Need: Step-by-step Instructions for More Than 100"; Buck Tilton, Bob Hede; 2008
- Ropeworks.biz: Japanese Square Lashing
- Japanesegardening.org: Fence Knot
- "Serene Gardens"; Yoko Kawaguchi; 2008
- Alaska Museum of Fancy Knots: Fancy Knots from Japan
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images