Tying the Knot
A history of the nautical rope bracelet by Kiel James Patrick
As a young lad growing up seaside in New England, visiting the island of Nantucket was my summer tradition. I can vividly recall the ferry ride from Hyannis, circling the upper deck with untamed anticipation and a Roy Rogers gripped firmly in my hand.
Among my favorite and most treasured summer memories, acquiring a sailor’s knot bracelet from Nantucket remains today the most cherished. For centuries, the knot has been a symbol of function, tradition and survival for sailors and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Beginning first as a pastime, sailors fashioned bracelets from excess rope found on their ships. Soon, it became an opportunity for them to showcase their craftsmanship and eventually represented much more. If they weren’t wearing them at sea to wipe the sweat from their brow, they would braid them as good luck charms for their loved ones upon arriving home.
To this day, these rope bracelets continue to embody the true spirit of coastal living. I’ll never forget the experiences my friends and I have had over the years. Once you slip that twisted cotton cord over your wrist and submerge it in water, you know the season has officially begun. From hot days exploring sandy beaches, to the cool nights fireside with your sweetheart, the bracelet endures. And when eventually Labor Day rears it’s ugly head, we must say our bittersweet goodbyes to yet another summer and painfully cut off the now shrunken and perfectly faded bracelet. That is until now.
Contemporary designers (I may know one quite well) have taken their love for this historic beachside accessory and made it better. Today’s bracelets now fasten with anchor clasps or buttons (at least the well-crafted ones), allowing you to wear your bracelet when you want to—and take it off when you need to. No more must we cut away our memories of love and salt and lobster.
Kiel James Patrick crafts handmade accessories in his native Rhode Island.
With a strong commitment to local artisans and American manufacturing, Kiel has taken his cottage industry worldwide and, along the way, become a social media phenomenon.
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