Have you ever wondered how to make rope from plant fibers? Strong rope can be made out of various plant materials and does not require the use of tools.
In a survival situation, rope can be used for many purposes, including as lashings for the construction of shelters, tools, and weapons, and in snares, trip wires, and fishing lines.
According to the DIY website Instructables, Dogbane makes an excellent material for rope-making because of its strong fibers. Instructables recommend the following steps:
Step 1. Locate Dogbane
Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum -- cannabinum means fiber-plant) is an excellent source, though milkweed and other plants will work just as well, or better. Related to milkweed, dogbane is likewise poisonous if ingested. Additionally, some people may react adversely to the latex sap. But handling dead stems should be fine for most folks. If you are prone to allergies or have easily irritated skin, I recommend finding a different source of fiber, such as milkweed or bark.
Dogbane grows readily in waste areas and disturbed soil, and seems to prefer partial shade... You'll recognize the plants by their 4-foot tall dark brown stalks and their dangling seedpods. Initially, the seedpods are paired tubes that come together at their ends but bow away from each other at the middle. As the pods decay, the tubes peel open, slowly releasing the fluff-carried seeds to the wind.
Step 2. Harvest Fibers
The best stalks are tall (for efficiency), brown (gray is too old), and have high branches (to reduce the number of pesky branch nodes). Gray stalks are from one to two years ago, and the fiber may have degraded by now. Recently dead stalks are more difficult to clean, since the bark has not decayed as much. The happy medium seems to be one-year-old stalks. At the time I write this, new shoots are coming up, so last year's stalks are perfect.
Nothing eats the dead stalks, so feel free to take as many as you like. Be gentle, though -- they are still attached to the living rhizome, from which future stalks will grow. The lower end is brittle enough to snap with a quick side-to-side motion.
Break off the branches and top, but carefully; both tend to take fiber with them. (I define the "top" as the upper section beyond the point where the stem has narrowed by about a third. More intuitively, this is the point after which there are too many branches and not enough fiber.)
Step 3. Break Out Core Wood
Flatten a stalk longitudinally to break the core "wood", and separate it into two roughly equal halves.
The wood is delightfully easy to remove. Starting at the thick end of one of the halves, snap off inch-long section of wood. To avoid peeling, pull up one end, then the other, until the strip is removed. Discard these. (You may notice that each half splits again into two quarters -- this is natural.)
Step 4. Tenderize and Clean
You now have two ribbons, one side of each covered in a flaky, dark brown outer bark. While the outer bark is only a bit annoying, the curly ribbon shape makes the fiber quite difficult to work with. Also, there are likely bits of branch nodes and small pieces of wood hiding in there. We can kill three birds with one stone by tenderizing the fiber, which is as simply as grinding it between your thumb and forefinger...At this point, you have two strands, and each narrows along its length. To get a constant width, reverse one strand and lay it along the other. Rub them together a little bit so they stay roughly connected.
Step 5. Cordage Fibers
Splice only one strand at a time. (Only one strand should end at a time.) Dry fiber can be wrapped more tightly than wet fiber. So make sure your fiber is dry. Wet-made cordage will fall apart when it dries. A finished cord can be used as a strand in a larger cord. That's how they make those awesome rope bridges in the Andes -- out of grass. Wrap tight, wrap sturdy. There's no way to fix a loose cord, aside from unwinding the whole thing.
Step 6. Reverse the Wrap
About a quarter of the way along the strand, twist a short segment in opposite directions to form a tight loop. (Twist away from you on the right hand side, towards you on the left.) Pinch this loop with your left thumb and forefinger...There are now two strands, one closer to you and one farther away.You are ready to start.
For each iteration:
1. With your right thumb and forefinger a centimeter from your left, twist the farther strand "away" (clockwise if you are looking from the right). It should be twisted tightly, but not starting to loop. This step is called "twist away".
2. Use your (right) middle finger to clamp the closer strand to your (right) forefinger. Rotate your wrist 180 degrees back towards you, swapping the strands. This step is called "take back".
3. Nudge the Y-junction between the strands with your right forefinger a bit to keep the wrap tight.
Repeat many times!
Refer to the following video for a step-by-step guide for the reverse wrap.