Whenever I have gone on an outing with youth that lasted more than a few hours, we have had periods of waiting. Often, we filled these ‘down times’ with stories, songs, and skits. I also found that these periods were a great chance to share new skills. Always wanting to be prepared for an opportunity, I started creating bags that would allow me to share new skills in an entertaining and constructive way. Some of these are just fun, others build on skills that your youth group might already teach. Most importantly, they give youth the opportunity to see that learning can be fun and share a sense of accomplishment.
I have several bags grouped into different categories, and I usually grab one to take along on a trip that allows me to teach, entertain, and connect with the youth. I rotate the bags from time to time based on my own interests but also how the youth responded the last time I brought a bag along. Two other bags that I take are Fire Starting, which includes materials for a number of different fire starting techniques, and Carving, which has wood blanks, knives, and sharpening equipment to teach that many more useful things than a sharp stick can be made with a pocket knife. Other bags that you could possibly share might be magic, games, sewing, leather craft, basketry, painting, drawing, and pottery. The list is only limited by your own interests and imagination.
Today I wanted to focus and share one of these bags: The Knot Bag.
Warning: Learning fancy knots and making projects can be addictive. Signs that you may have a problem include: 1) no longer looking at the TV at night but listening to programs as if they were radio plays, 2) your friends start calling you a knot head, and you like it, 3) you start to lurk in knotting related web sites looking for new challenges. There is no known cure.
| This is my knot bag. I liberated the bag from my wife, who received it at a work conference. (It’s okay, she has done the same with some bags that I was given at conferences.)
It works very well for a quick grab of materials for knot projects.
Three pockets allow for a little organization of your materials and tools.
|I use the smaller top pocket just for the thinnest cotton twine and some whipping cord as well. I run a small piece of twine outside of the bag and then zip it closed. This allows me to pull some twine out, cut it off and use it without needing to open and search through the bag for what I want.|
|The front pouch is reserved for various supplies and some tools that do not fit into my knot tool kit.|
|The main compartment holds the knot materials like paracord, satin rattail, and other types of cord. I keep my smaller tools together in a little kit bag inside this pouch as well.|
| I bring along various cords so that there is a good size and color available depending on the project. Most of the time we use paracord for projects (it is very popular right now), but other projects call for different materials. Sunglasses keeper cords, for example, work better with a thinner cord. Cotton twine is old school, so if you want to share how sailors would have made knot projects, this is the cord to use.
I pick up my cords at various sources. I usually look for sales and then get a supply to last for a while. One of the best places I have found for paracord and other rope types is R&W Rope in New Bedford, MA. They do a great job getting the rope to you, and if you sign up for their mailing list you will hear about some good rope specials from time to time. I have also had good luck with cord shipped directly from Amazon, but be careful with vendors that ship directly, I have had both good and bad experiences.
If you are interested in going the traditional route, I can recommend Marty Combs. He has cotton cord for sale that is high quality (meets his standards) and had in the past offered discounts to scout groups. Might also help other youth groups out as well; you will need to contact him for details.
| A collection of tools is useful too. Some I have made, some are re-purposed for knot use, and some are designed specifically for tying knots. In the picture from upper left clockwise are:
| I also have a collection of knot supplies that can be utilized for the projects.
|I also keep in the bag some of the things that I have tied in the past to share as examples for what may be possible.|
| I like to bring along some resources for project ideas and instructions on how to make some of the knots needed. Here are some of my favorites, mostly because they focus on finished projects rather than just the knots themselves.
| While not useful when you are in the field, these sites can also offer you some insight into possible rope projects:
I hope you begin to start making your own ‘Go To’ project bags that you can use to share and teach new things to the youth you lead.
As always, we welcome your feedback on this post.