Dyeing and Conditioning the Perfect Hemp Bondage Rope

It isn't hard to produce really top-of-the-line hemp rope for your personal use at home. It is pretty time-consuming and a little messy, but it adds a great personal touch to your scenes, plus you can customize the length and color to meet your needs.

I've found the best source for unprocessed hemp rope is Maui Kink. You can buy it by the spool or the foot. Be warned: you will lose length as you process rope, so don't assume that ordering 30 feet of rope will get you 30 feet of final product!

The first step is to run the rope through an open flame to burn off all the prickly fibers. This is the messiest step, and also the most dangerous. It is also the most critical to the softness of your rope. Be very thorough removing these unpleasant fibers with flame and fingers or tweezers, as necessary. Be careful not to set the rope on fire, and take all necessary precautions with your workspace. I was lucky enough to have a gas stove. If you don't have a gas stove, I recommend using a grill or something outside. Burnt hemp fibers will go everywhere, so working outside might be better anyway.

The next step in the process is to thoroughly clean the rope and relax the fibers. I did this by placing the rope in the washing machine by itself and washing it several times with a mild detergent. Always wash rope by itself; it can tear holes in fabric as it whips around in the spin cycle and cause a lot of damage to clothing. It can be handy with very long pieces of rope to bundle it loosely and tie it off with some scrap to keep it from becoming too tangled in the wash. If your rope does become tangled, just wait until it is dry to untangle it.

Next, you will dye the rope. Start by soaking it in a pot of simmering water with some regular table salt for 5-10 minutes. Even if you are not dyeing your rope, you should complete this step without the dye because boiling in salty water seems to have a good effect on it. Use a fiber-reactive dye according to the instructions on the package. The same company that sells unfinished rope also sells dyes. After this, you will wash out the excess dye and salt. If you don't use a washing machine dyeing process, just make sure  to agitate the rope in the dyebath. Then, run the rope through the washing machine alone several times to remove excess dye. Wash with mild detergent until the water runs clear, then wash with plain water.

Hang the rope to dry. You could dry it on low, but this will be very loud, take a very long time, and shrink the rope somewhat. On the other hand, it does make the rope softer. Also, air-drying shrinks the rope, too, if you don't stretch it around something to keep it taut as it dries.

Next, you will want to measure and cut your rope to size. Use a yardstick to measure and mark each side of each prospective cut with a tiny zip tie, pulled tight. This means you'll lose an inch or so with every cut. Just remember to pull the rope between your hands as you measure, and tape your yardstick to the table.

You will want to whip the ends of your rope. Here's a handy tutorial on sailmaker's whipping. This is the best way to finish off your rope. I use a large, blunt upholstery needle. Finally, trim the ends near the zip ties and discard, or save as sample swatches for future dye experiments.

Finally, you will want to oil your rope. This is like conditioning your hair after washing it. Hemp rope has natural oils, but we have stripped them off with all that detergent. Many bondage ropes are not vegan, as they use animal fats to condition the rope. I prefer to use hempseed or jojoba oil. Just put a bit in your hands or on a cloth or brown paper bag, and run the rope through it several times. Go from one end to the other, then switch. This step is also critical to your rope's texture (though, of course, years of use will eventually make it soft and shiny).