Rope Making in Sri Lanka

Rope making has a long and storied history in Sri Lanka. Known formerly as the British colony of Ceylon, Sri Lankans have been making rope from coconut husks for centuries. The ropes were used in Her Majesty’s navy, as well as hundreds of other uses.

I had the opportunity to visit with a family business that still makes coconut ropes the old fashioned way. I thought I’d share this fascinating peek into a rural business with you. I have two videos to go along with it.

It all starts with the coconut, from which all manner of products are made, including shampoos, cooking oils, liquor, soap… the list goes on. Once the fruit and meat are removed, what is left is the husk.

Now the women (yes, it is primarily a women’s occupation), take these husk sections and put it through a machine that combs the fibers and orients them in the same direction. Here is what that process looks like.

Once the husk sections are completed, the worker has a huge pile of fibers from which to make the rope. In this next video, you can see how they use simple machines to spin the fibers into continuous rope. They then combine individual ropes to make double, quadruple and even thicker ropes. It’s truly a time-intensive process, which is one of the reasons that coconut rope is valued by many to this day.

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