Cannabis sativa is the plant from which the most commonly used rope for Shibari - the art of Japanese bondage - is made. But how do you condition your rope for Shibari? Our guide reveals all.
 

Good hemp rope has a beautiful, transcendent scent for some of us who love it. However, cheap hemp rope, the kind you find in your local hardware store, smells like a mix of the earthy, sweet grass scent of hemp and the motor oil that’s used to treat it.

But properly conditioned hemp rope smells like nothing but sweet, dry grass on a warm day. Moreover, a good hemp will create a halo of this scent around the wearer. As a result, this becomes one of the strongest sensory aspects of a rope experience. Scent is, after all, one of the strongest triggers for memories.
 

What kind of rope is best for Shibari?

Another common plant-based rope used in Shibari in Japan specifically is jute. But this is often more difficult to find in the West, and a bit lighter than hemp with a different kind of earthy smell. Additionally, there is Linen, which is less commonly used for bondage. This is light, made from the flax plant, and usually “fluffier” than hemp rope. It has little to no smell.

There are also more commonly found natural ropes like Sisal, Manila, and Coir, but these all have much larger fibers that can “splinter” and are very rough on the skin. Furthermore, they’re harder to tie properly.
 

Ropes for Shibari with heady smells

For those looking for the heady smells that are sometimes associated with rope, Hemp and Jute are the best options. Indeed, hemp is usually the easiest to find in the US and Europe.

Another aspect that goes into the scent of rope, and the quality of rope, is conditioning the rope. There are a variety of ways to do this, but if you buy your own “raw” Hemp or Jute rope by the foot, yard, or meter, it can sometimes be less expensive. But the conditioning process is labor and time intensive.
 

Rope conditioning for Shibari: boil, trim, dry

If it’s new rope, cut it down to the desired lengths and finishing off the ends, whether that’s with a simple overhand knot or a smoother-looking “whipping” with twine. You then loosely coil the rope to be about the size of whatever pot you’ll be using to boil them, and secure with waste yarn or twine, again loosely. You shouldn’t tightly wind or knot your rope before boiling, as it will contract during the boiling process.

Boil your rope. Place it in a pot and cover with water and bring to a boil, like you’re making pasta. The rope will contort, hardening and twisting, and will pop out of the water. Keeping it covered will help steam penetrate any rope that’s not submerged.

Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for a couple of hours. You should then turn off the heat and leave the rope there until it’s comfortable to handle - usually about 12 hours. After this, move it to the washing machine and put it on the delicate cycle.


A picture of a woman tied up on a bed as part of Shibari
Tie me up, tie me down: the art of Shibari.


Drying rope in preparation for Shibari

There are a few methods for drying the rope, but both involve stretching. You can throw the rope in your dryer on a medium setting, but this will result in a lot of hemp fluff in your dryer and it’ll get pretty tangled.

After taking it out of the dryer, you should remove the yarn or twine holding it together. You’ll have to stretch it - if there’s a smooth bar suspended near your ceiling that can take your weight, you can loop the rope over this and tug to get back some of the length back.

The other rope conditioning for Shibari drying method is hanging it up. This should generally be done under tension, to help the rope stretch and to remove some unwanted twists. This method takes about a day. Some detail-oriented riggers will, after drying their rope by the preferred method, use a flame and singe off any fuzzies and rougher bits that are left after the washing process.


The last step in conditioning your new Shibari rope

The last step of rope conditioning for Shibari is oiling your rope. There is a lot of contention over the right oils to use for rope conditioning. Some say coconut oil because it’s antibacterial and antifungal. Some say coconut and other nut and vegetable oils aren’t ideal because they’ll go rancid over time, and boiled vegetable oils go stiff.

Others recommend Jojoba extract oil because it does not go rancid or stiff. Many like pure mink oil for their rope, but this is both incredibly expensive and requires actual mink to make it.


Put your new Shibari rope to use!

Saturate a rough woven cloth (like linen) with your oil, then rub over your length of rope. Repeat in the other direction, then go over with your hands. If you’re using mink, do this a total of two times - for jojoba, three times total. Before your last run, let the rope sit and dry for a couple hours or a day before going over it one last time. And then the real fun begins!


Caitlin is a writer, sex educator, consultant, and product reviewer who focuses primarily on issues of sex toy and accessory safety, pleasure, sexuality, gender, and more. 


Conditioning your rope is more fun in pairs. Get tied up in a new craft before testing your masterpiece on a new partner. Meet them on Fetish.com for free.

 

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Images by Ater Crudus, Quinn Dombrowski and Pantelis Roussakis via Flickr with CC BY 2.0 license


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done! cheers

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Take the stupid Google, Facebook, Twitter toolbar off of here. On a mobile screen (iPhone) it's in the middle of stuff I am trying to read. Everyone's phones have a button for sharing as it is. Enjoyed reading for a bit, but that toolbar ruined it. Sorry.

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