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
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
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
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
"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 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 second ex-wife.
No matter how good I am at tying knots, I don't seem to be able to stay hitched."
"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.
"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 senits put down right side up, and up side down.
You can see what both the front and back of this sennit looks
like here. 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 return.
"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 strand 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,
"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."
|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
"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 sennitanother 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 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
"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 at.
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!