More or Mr. Hipps' work may be seen at Knotheads World Wide's site and he posts frequently on the Knottyer's forum, where there is
also a picture repository.
Skip is completely self-taught (with the aid of a few books, of course) and has been knotting for at least thirty years. I consider his
permission to display his works as a gift and it is my deep pleasure to share them with you. Knotted picture frames are a time-
consuming and exacting art and Skip has surpassed the term "mastery" in the examples below. I hope to be able to bring you more
of his astounding work as time goes on.
Here's a review of his work:
" With passion in knots, artisan ties his craft...
by Keya Keita - The Garden Island,
Posted: Thursday, Jul 12, 2007 - 10:30:25 pm HST
For most of us, knots usually don’t extend beyond shoe-laces and hair-braiding. For craftsman Skip Hipps, fancy knotwork is both his
passion and his art form. Having moved to Kaua‘i just over a year ago from Arizona, Hipps feels honored that his decorative knotwork
for frames, mirrors, canes and free-standing sculpture is available for sale at Ship Store Galleries in Coconut Marketplace. As one of
the earliest forms of human weaving, Hipps claims that he is one of half-a-dozen “people anywhere in the world still doing this
specific type of fancy knotwork.”
“My mother taught me to tie my shoes, and my grandmother taught me how to do a standard braid when I was in third grade,” said
Hipps of his first touch with what became a lifelong fascination. “In fourth grade I was wandering through a used book store and found
a copy of ‘The Encyclopedia of Fancy Knotwork’ — I bought it for two dollars.”
Later Hipps discovered the ‘bible’ for knotwork —“Ashley’s Book of Knots.” Hipps said, “Between the two I learned everything I
needed,” and by the time Hipps enlisted in the Navy “there was no knot they taught that I didn’t already know.”
While being stationed at Barking Sands on Kaua‘i in 1980-81, Hipps fell in love “with the people, the food, the whole place.” A
serendipitous turn of events brought Hipps back to the Garden Island after a 115 degree day in Arizona. “I thought, what the heck am
I doing here, I need to go back to Kaua‘i. I put the For Sale sign in the yard on Saturday, sold the house on Monday and came out with
two cases filled with rope to knot,” laughed Hipps.
Describing the amount of time and detailed work that goes into just one of his elaborate knotted frames or canes, Hipps’
perfectionism becomes evident. “If there is even a tiny mistake, one that no one else could ever find, I look at the piece and it just
glares at me. I will only deliver my very best,” he said.
Holding up a small five-pointed star, “If I need five of these, I might make 15 before I get the five that match perfectly,” said Hipps.
Demonstrating the knotting of a star: “See, it’s in the tightening of the knot that finally determines if it’s right,” he said.
His hands nimbly flip strands of white into a flower-like pattern and with a few tugs, a perfect star emerges.
“It takes hours to do this type of work,” said Hipps when asked why this art form is so rare, “no machine can do it. In today’s world
people want 50 or 100 of the exact same thing. People have lost patience for this type of detailed work.”
Hipps explains that his knotwork has been a constant in his life since buying that first book. Through his service years, he was often
commissioned to make admirals’ and captains’ gifts. He savors the very start of a project when the “main sennit comes into form and
everything just feels right,” and “the last knot, when I can stand back and just look at the whole thing, without a mistake.”
Having invented several of the joint or linking knots, Hipps main knotwork can be found in “Ashley’s Book of Knots.” Standard, yet far
from simple, knots include: Russian, flat, square and herringbone sennits. These may consist of over 40 strands, all which require
“constant attention,” said Hipps. “I may only be working with one, but I’ve got my eye on all of them.”
The most difficult stage in the process for Hipps is the application of the finishing resin, that makes the work both permanent and
Hipps most recent work now hanging in Ship Store Galleries, of which he is most proud. “I just love this piece,” Hipps said of the
custom black and teal frame he designed under gallery owner Fred von Wiegen’s behest. A 20-inch circular sennit without end
frames a $15,000 painting by marine life artist Robert Lyn Nelson, entitled “Beloved Residents of Kaua‘i.” Hipps expressed his
gratitude to the gallery: “They’ve put my work in such good company, it’s really nice to have it recognized in this way.”
For more information contact Ship Store Galleries at 822-7758 or visit their Coconut Marketplace location in Kapa‘a. Or visit Skip
Hipps’ Web site: www.frayedknotarts.com/hipps.html.
"Over the years, I've often tied knots for no particular purpose other than to see if I could, or to have something to do. After I was
satisfied that I could do it, they found their way into my scrap box. That's the case here. This decanter started out as just three large
multi strand turks heads I tied while stationed at Barking Sands. They stayed there, folded flat, with no purpose, and not finished for
more than 26 years. About a month ago, I happened upon them while I was looking for some cord I had cut into 2 foot lengths, (I'll get
to that in a minute). Anyway, this little light came on, and I started playing.
"The bottom half of the decanter is made from a 20 bight x 20 lead turks head, using 20 strands, and three passes. All ends were
lead to the bottom, and used to tie three, 20 bight x 3 lead, three pass turks heads that form the base.
"The upper half is a 14 bight x 14 lead turks head, using 14 strands and three passes, again with the ends all at the bottom of the
knot. I then used those to tie two 14 bight x 3 lead, three pass turks heads. You can see one on the outside, and the other one is
inside. These two turks heads are what hold the two pieces together. They lock into the inwardly turned lip of the lower TH. I then
shaped the upper TH into what you see here.
"The stopper is made from a 10 strand, 10 bight x 10 lead TH, with the ends at the top. Half of them were used to make the 10 bight x
3 lead, three pass turkshead just below the 7 point star and 3 strand manrope knots that used the other 10 ends. . It too was
shaped, and I was of to the races. Three coats of water based poly were used to stiffen and protect it.
"The complete decanter is just a little over 5 inches across at the base, and stands almost 13 inches tall.
"Remember those 2 foot pieces? They were used to make the little wine glasses you see here. I was inspired by a piece I saw at
the Maritime Museum in San Francisco way back in 1972. They stand between 3 ½ to 4 inches high, and are about 1 ½ across.
"Of all the things I've tied since 1963, little glasses like these shown here have brought me the greatest pleasure. Working on and off,
it took me almost 10 years to figure out how to do them right, to where you can see where nothing starts, or stops. If you know
knotting, you can figure it out, and if you don't, you need to!!"
"This frame is the only large piece I've ever duplicated! The original, tied in 1992, was stolen before I could deliver it to a Doctor in
Aiken, South Carolina. This one tied the same year, now rests at the bottom of the Atlantic, off Charleston, SC. The Doctor managed
to sink his boat in 1995.
|Click on ANY picture to
see a larger version:
Small pictures here are
to allow dial-up
customers easy access
"This knot board was made for Wellington Puritan Mills, Madison
Ga., in 1994. I made it in response to a request for “Dealer Give-A-
Ways.” They turned down my proposal of $50.00 each for 200 of
them. I finally gave it to a Boy Scout troop in 1995. The knots are
labeled, and the outside edge of the ¾ inch oak plywood was
covered with two very large single strand grommets. "
"This very plain frame was made for a retiring Master Chief Boson
Mate in 1973, while I was aboard the USS Kiska, AE 35. It
measures about 18 X 24 inches. The reason he wanted it "plain"
was so he could mount his ribbons on the front, and didn't want
anything to take away from them. The inside surface is covered
with a 20 strand Russian sennit of which you can see just the
edge. Next is an 8 strand variegated (?) sennit with an almost
perfect triangle shaped cross section. I think this sennit is original
as I've never been able to find it shown in any book on knots. I
needed something to transition from the inside to the face. The
Russian sennit was actually too wide, and I didn't want to lay up
another one, so I made lemonade. The large sennit on the face is
a 12 strand, doubled, English sennit. The outside is another
English senit, also doubled, and wrapped around the edge.
Between the two is a 4 strand round sennit. Around the rear edge,
and almost hidden, is a 4 strand, doubled, round sennit, worked
into a 16 strand Herringbone shroud knot. The corners were
covered using a strip of 4 strand, doubled, English sennit that was
"back spliced" and the ends hidden on the underside of the knot. I
used No 2 cove nylon from Wellington Puritan Mills, and the frame
was delivered in the raw, with no finish of any kind. I was told that
he later finished it with Navy issue spar varnish."
"This piece, tied in 1980, isn't a picture frame but in fact, the front of a photo
album I made for my first ex-wife, almost 5 years after we were divorced. It
measured about 18 inches square,and , starting on the inside, is comprised
of a 12 strand French sennit, a 4 strand ,single, round sennit, an 8 strand
square sennit, another 4 strand round sennit, then a 28 strand Russian
sennit. The outside edge is made using a 4 strand, doubled, round senit,
and a six strand, doubled English sennit. On the left and right sides, are
prolong knot mats, and on the top and bottom, you can see two small narrow
turks heads I used to cover the ends of the round sennit. The center piece is
a 6 point star, made with three strands, and three passes. The inside
edges, and corners are covered with three strand, doubled, english sennits,
worked into six strand, doubled, senits at the corners. The end of the six
strand sennit was then covered with 4 bight x 3 lead, flattened turksheads.
At the very center is a rather nice piece of walrus ivory scrimshaw I won in a
poker game at The Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kekaha,
Kauai, Hi., the same year. (Did you know that 4 deuces will beat just about
anything?) As requested, it was delivered in the raw, and has never had any
type of finish applied. Today, I understand it rests in a glass case, and has
never been used as an album."
An ASTOUNDING 40-line sennit in nylon line that is just spectacular. While it
seems like a plain weave, you may believe me when I say that it's regularity and
the number of lines involved make this piece truly awe-inspiring. It is as
evenly woven as anything I have ever seen and would make any knottyer
genuflect in awe. An absolute masterpiece. Editor.
"I had tied a 40 strand wrought mat sennit over a period of about a month and a
half, working about an hour a night. I couldn't tie much longer than that as my
fingers would start to cramp. I've tied a few different sennits much larger than 40
strands, but nothing that required the tension on the strands as this one.
"Now I guess you would like to know why I didn't use it when I tied it? Welllllll,
believe it or not, it came out just about 6 inches too short for the frame I was
working on. I had to change the design, and ended up using something else. I
was so (censored) off that I just rolled it up, and put in the scrap bag. That’s
where it has been ever since, always reminding me to calculate, measure, and
then add some more! It hasn't happened since."
Skip has begun to make picture frames again with a commission from "Ship's Store Galleries" in Kapa'a. This one will be for a 20"
round picture by Robert Lyn Nelson, who does beautifully evocative work, and will have more sennits on it than you can shake a stick
Now, to get him to take pictures, that's another story.....
Here's a few pics to whet your appetite: the main cover sennit, a 21 strand doubled (2 over 2 under) herringbone... and he's
backsplicing the monster so that he has a continuous and seamless sennit all around the frame. Bloody Hell, I can't even do the
sennit itself and this bugger's BACKSLPLICING IT? There Ain't No Justice!
"This frame made in 1974, and was nothing more than
a test piece, just to see what the basic design looked
like. It measured 9 x 12 inches. The final frame, based
on what you see here, measured 4 feet x 8 feet, with the
knot work being almost 8 inches wide, all the way
around. When completed, it had over three hundred
knots displayed on the front and sides! The final piece
was delivered for the Masters Cabin on the yacht of a
well known celebrity, in San Diego, Calif. Today, that
piece, and the yacht it's attached to, lives in France. I
don't have a picture of the final product, and I'm not
going to go to France to take one!
"The test piece shown here is comprised of a 16
strand Russian sennit on the inside edge, a 24 strand,
and 12 strand Russian sennit on the front, set off with a
4 strand, doubled round sennit, and a 4 strand, single,
round sennit. The outside edge is covered with another
16 strand Russian sennit,, and a 4 strand round sennit
with the ends covered with a single strand, 4 bight x 5
lead turkshead, with 3 passes. The piece was tied
using No 2 Cove nylon cord, and finished with clear oil
based varnish. It was finally given to a one of the nicest
ladies I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, in 2006.
The calligraphy was never a part of this piece, and was
placed here when the picture was taken just because I
thought it looked nice. I had used it to propose to my
No matter how good I am at tying knots, I don't seem to
be able to stay hitched."
"The dark colored cane is the first one I ever made, and also my first attempt at cross pointing. It was made for my Grandfather in the spring of
1984. I used nylon seine twine from ACE Hardware, and finished it with Navy Issued spar varnish, "cum shawed" before I got out of the navy.
"I first laid up the cross pointing using 8 (I think) single strands, and then filled in the rest using a needle, one strands at a time. (GOOD GOD!
THAT must have taken for-bloody-EVER!) The ends of the pointing are covered with single strand, 8 bight, 7 lead, three pass turks heads,. To
make the piece at the end of the crook, I first made a single strand 6 bight x 7 lead, three pass Turks head. I then took 5 strands, tied a Matthew
Walker in the middle of them, and proceeded to cut out strands in the TH, and replace them with the five strands from the MWK. The tassel (the 5
lines used to tie the MWK wasn't varnished so they could move freely. (Click picture to see details)
"The light colored cane was made for my first ex-wife in 1985. I used No. 2 Cove nylon cord from Wellington Puritan Mills, Madison Ga.
"The cross pointing was laid up first, using all 80 strands, at one time. I'd learned that using a needle took to long! After the cross pointing was
completed, and tightened, I then used half of them to tie each of the 40 strand Mathew Walker knots top and bottom, as well as the 25 point
stars. The narrow, single line, three pass, Turks heads were used to cover bitter ends coming out of the Mathew Walker knots. The reason there
are two at the top, and one at the bottom, is I thought it made the cane look a bit more balanced, and only one was really needed to cover the
ends coming out of the Mathew Walker knot. The star took care of the rest.
"The cane was finished with three coats of water based polyurethane."
The frame was an odd size, and to tell the truth, I don't remember its exact
measurements, but it was somewhere around 19 x 24 inches. I made it to fit
a painting he had of his boat. The inside edge was covered with a 20 strand
Russian sennit, edge matched to the 40 strand Russian sennit on the front.
Next to the Russian sennit on the front are four 8 strand variegated sennits
put down right side up, and up side down. The outside edge was covered
with 8 strand, doubled, English sennit, and a 4 strand round sennit, worked
into a shroud knot at the top. The corners were covered using prolong knot
mats with 3 passes, and set off with 6 five point star knots each. The
matching mats on the left and right front were finished with 4 strand Mathew
Walker knots, topped with our strand manrope knots, doubled. Top front
center is a single strand royal carrick bend, doubled. The interwoven royal
carrick bends, using two strands, at the bottom front was designed to have a
small brass plaque, with the boats name engraved, held in place on the left,
right, and bottom, by the edge of the knot work. I tied this piece with
Wellington Puritan's, No. 2 Cove nylon cord, and finished it with the last of
the Navy Issue spar varnish I had. "
If anyone knows the location of this frame, I will gladly give a reward for its