DIYdiy projectskate pruitt

diy project: sailor’s knot doorstop & paperweight

by Grace Bonney

i guess it’s time to come clean and admit that i am not what you would call an outdoors person; sailing, camping, hiking, exploring…i can’t say i have much practice or expertise in any of those areas. but it’s never too late to learn new things, and i must say that after spending a good chunk of the day learning various sailor’s knots, i feel pretty psyched about my new abilities and very motivated to learn more.

if you haven’t tried it, i can tell you that trying to learn knots is the cheapest entertainment there is. you can chuck the video games and crossword puzzles out the window, because knots are just as frustratingly time consuming and way more satisfying to complete. this particular project should be EXTRA satisfying because i’ve seen these doorstops on the market for forty or fifty dollars(!), but if you can channel your zen mind and complete this knot (called the monkey’s fist), then this ultra chic decor item can be yours for only eight dollars! i’ve included the tutorials out there that helped me find the way, and let me say that it took several tries and various teachers for me to master this. have fun! kate

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


1. 12 feet of 5/8″ thick sisal rope (available at hardware stores for 60 cents per foot)
2. scissors (sharp, heavy duty ones are best)
3. old tennis ball (or a zip lock bag will also work. also have tape handy if you use a zip lock bag)
4. rice, sand, or small pebbles (about 1 cup worth)
5. scrap rope or shoe-lace (this is optional – it helps with knot practice)


rope: $8
other materials: free, on hand (or $5)


1-2 hours- depending on how long it takes to learn knot :)


1. take your practice rope and try tying the knot a few times. here are the online tutorials i found helpful:

youtube tutorial #1 : skip ahead to 1:52 to see the knot being tied. this is one of the clearer videos, but i needed more than this to learn.

youtube video #2 : this one moves a bit too fast and lacks good lighting, but i found this one especially helpful for showing how to tighten the knot once it’s made.

animated video : this is super helpful. watch ten times.

– if none of these are helping you, feel free to search for more: “how to tie a monkey’s fist knot” should do the trick. you can also email or comment here and i will try to give tips if i can!

2. once you’ve mastered the knot in practice form, it’s time to do it with your big rope. leave about 12″ of rope dangling off your left hand and use the rest to create the loops with your right hand. stop once you have the knot assembled. DO NOT TIGHTEN YET.

3. for the doorstop, take a tennis ball and cut a 2″ long slit in it with a knife or your scissors. pinch the slit open and fill with sand, rice, or small pebbles. this will be your weight. if you used sand, you might want to place a piece of tape over the slit, but otherwise the tennis ball will hold itself shut. if you use a zip lock bag, you might want to double bag it to ensure it doesn’t open, and tape the bag into a rough ball shape.

4. pull open the knot on the side to shove the tennis ball (or bag) inside.

5. tighten the knot around the ball (or bag) by pulling on the rope and tighten each loop one after the other. you will probably have to do one or two rounds of tightening, pulling one loop taut at a time, then pulling the next loop, then the next, etc. you should end with one end about 12″ long, and another end about 14″ – 16″ long.

6. to create the doorstop loop, cut the short (12″) end down so there’s just enough rope left to tuck the end under the nearest set of three loops. use your scissors to jam the loose end underneath the loops, and tighten around it. for the 14″ end, create a loose “u” shape and tuck the loose end into the closest seam between the loops. use your scissors to jam the loose end underneath the loops. you can put a dab of hot glue on it prior to jamming it in, but if you get it under at least two loops, you should have no trouble with it falling out.

7. for the paperweight, just cut both ends jut long enough to tuck the ends underneath the closest set of three loops. use your scissors to jam the loose end underneath. you may have to loosen the knot a bit to stuff it underneath, then re-tighten.

8. if you want, you can now paint your knot pieces in fun colors! simply use primer spray paint first, spraying the entire piece with an even coat of white primer. then follow with a spray paint of your choice. let the whole piece dry in a well ventilated area.


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  • yes!

    just last week i was looking up knots online for some extra rope i had from a clothes line for decorating

  • oh WOW!! i’ve seen these everywhere and love the doorstop version. I wanted one but didn’t want to pay for it thinking if only I knew how to tie that knot…THANKS!! off to the hardware store…

  • Ok – this is genius. I just watched all three videos and after work today going to Home Depot to pick up the rope – I’ve gotta try this. So fab!! Hoping to add to my new console table area this weekend during my redo. Great post!

  • I love this DIY with all of my heart. Easy, functional, cheap and quite a looker. Love it. If my hardware store doesn’t have this rope they’re gonna get an earful, ’cause I am poised to make about 100 of these as gifts right NOW!

  • LOVE this. Could not bring myself to pay $50 online for a knot, but really felt like it would help my landlocked house feel like the seashore… off to the hardware store!

  • Great How-To! I use the manila rope from home depot for various craft projects, and wanted to add one extra quick tip I find really handy: If you want to paint your knot (like the blue one), you can get the “fuzzies” off beforehand really easily by just passing the knot quickly over a gas stove burner a few times– the fuzzy bits burn right off without damaging any of the rest of it! Use common sense, of course, and open a window and make sure nothing combustible is nearby! I just did this about 10 minutes ago for the rope i’m using on a replica harpoon!

  • Thanks for the great tutorial. We recently made a few of these in yarn for bridal bouquets- they are such a sweet and fresh accent!

  • FinderMaker-
    thanks for the tip on the fuzzies! great idea. I was going to snip them off, but your method sounds more efficient.

    Tricia Rose – you can definitely use a stone. any semi-roundish or round weighted object (about the size of your fist or a little bigger) will work.

  • Thanks for the instructions and video links. I have never been into the other kitschy kinds of door stops (doormice, chickens, etc.) but I AM into sailing. All I need to do in convince the Shih-Tzu that it is not a toy!

  • A great alternative to painting the rope afterwords is using coloured/patterned rope to start with (I’m thinking climbing ropes?), though you will have to vary the size of the weight accordingly :)

  • Kat –

    oh DWR…such beauty at such stupid prices. i feel your pain. i noticed that the DWR has four loops instead of three -you could very simply add a fourth loop in each step in the tutorials above to make yours look like theirs. id love to see pics of people’s finished knots!!

  • I love the blue one, such a great idea. I stitched a triangular door stop with striped french fabric a few years ago, I think its time to give it a rest and make a new one :)

  • This made me smile. My boyfriend recently took a rigging class and became obsessed with knots, he actually learned this one (he called it a ‘Monkey’s Fist) on a weekend (smaller, though) and it ended up being the kitten’s favorite toy.

  • this has been on my wishlist for quite some time, i’m so excited to make my own now! thanks for the inspiring idea!

  • Thanks! This has been on my wishlist for a long time too. If I can get the hang of it I’d like to make some smaller ones to tie on gift packages. Keep those great ideas coming Kate. Yours are the best!

  • Knots, how do I love thee, let me knot the ways. Sorry, couldn’t resist…..

    I grew up sailing in the SF Bay Area and I adore tying knots. If anyone is interested in furthering their knot knowledge, The Ashley Book of Knots (about $50.00 on Amazon) is a fantastic reference book. I have made several knotting samplers as pictured with the blue monkey’s fist picture as gifts.

    I have an antique monkeys fist knot from the late 1800’s that has a ballast stone as the weight. It’s one of my favorite objects.

    Thanks for the cool DIY, I just love your website!

  • Awesome tutorial! I have been eyeing these for a while but couldn’t spare $40+ for rope. I went to Lowes [Home Depot only have the 5/8″ in polyester] and spent $6 on rope. I followed the animation in the last link and made this while cooking mac & cheese. Seriously this took me the amount of time to boil water & cook pasta. AMAZING!! Thank you! [oh and I might pick up the 3/8″ and make a 4 loop one like the $98 [!!!!!] DWR one. ]

  • Okay, SO. I tried several times to make one of these last night (with my hiking boot shoelace, oops!) and didn’t have any luck. This morning I tried again, and–DA DA! Perfect shoelace monkey’s fist.

    Can’t wait to go get some yummy rope and make more of these! This is my favorite DIY yet.


  • Awesome! $7.50 for the rope. Old tennis ball (free). I had lots of people ask me what I was doing with the rope at the hardware store. I used manila rope instead of sisal because it was a little darker. The first video was great! It couldn’t have taken me longer than about 20 minutes to make.

  • great tutorial!
    I make a similar item for dogs to play with. Leave the tennis ball solid and un-stuffed (floats too! my girl loves retrieving it through the waves). Instead leaving a simple loop it’s better to finish it with a longer handle and add a few other marlinespike skills to your repertoire: a round hitch, whipping, and seizing (perhaps a nice decorative turk’s head or two as well; and some splicing can be usefull).
    Essentially, you are making a traditional (and still very usefull) heaving line, which is the sailor’s means of getting a line from your boat either to shore or to another boat. The monkey’s fist at the end is what provides the weight to make your throw carry over distance. The heaving line, which can be quickly tied on the spot (once you get used to it, tying a monkey’s fist takes a matter of seconds, not minutes) or is on-hand as a kept piece of gear, is tied to your boat’s painter (deck line) and thrown to waiting hands.
    Hervey Garrett Smith wrote a few lovely and well illustrated books on marlinespike work, the heaving line included.
    For a spherical knot doorstop that would actually be worth more than dwr’s $98, try The Complete Book of Decorative Knots by Geoffrey Budworth. Spherical knots can get dramatically more complex and more beautiful than a monkey’s fist (which is actually rather square-ish)… given time and inclination ; ).

  • Thank you so much! That was so easy and so cheap. I only spent $7 which means I saved $33 based on the rope knot doorstops I can find online. Thanks again.

  • I’ve been practicing & haven’t had a hard time making the knot, but large parts of the tennis ball are showing from inside even after I tighten it… any ideas?

  • I made this for my husband’s birthday last night. It took almost 2 hours, including practice, but it was totally worth it! It feels so good to hold. I love it! (Best kind of husband present = one that I love!)

  • Please can we get capitalisation at the start of sentences! Makes it very difficult to read without proper punctuation.

  • Are you able to relay the approx. diameter of the finished product using the 12ft of rope w/ tennis ball?