Teach Outside
Resources and inspiration for current and aspiring outdoor educators and those interested in a natural learning environment.

Ohlone Cordage (String/Rope)


Ohlone Cordage

Cordage is another name for string or rope.


Separating the inner fibers for making the cordage.


Natural twigs with soft inner fibers from plants such as dogbane (Apocynum sp.) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).



A dry stalk is cracked open and the exterior parts are slowly cracked away downward, leaving the inner fibers used to make the cordage.

Cordage is used for anything you would use rope or string for.


Our fearless leader, Dino Labiste, enters the marsh to collect dry stinging nettle stalks.


  The fibers are now ready to make cordage. As you can see, Dino's glasses strap and bracelet are made from cordage.

It is probably easiest to learn this technique in a hands-on manner. Basically, the inner fibers are divided into two strands, which are then each rolled in the same direction. Those two strands are then rolled together in the opposite direction to stay together.

Cordage can be lengthened by splicing more fiber end-over-end.  



This was taught to me by Dino Labiste, a Naturalist with the East Bay Regional Parks District in a class entitled, "Ohlone Tools and Games for Your Classroom." While it appears this class is no longer being taught, a resource page can be found on the East Bay Regional Parks website.

A YouTube video on making cordage with stinging nettles in England helpfully demonstrates the methods to use.

Lesson plan adapted by Heather Taylor, teachoutside@gmail.com. You are welcome to share all materials with credit to her.