Tagua Bead and Sailor’s Flemish Knot Necklace

When I got up this morning, I thought of the sailor’s old adage: “Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning, red skies at night, sailors’ delight.”
Well, it wasn’t too delightful this morning outside, but I started thinking about nautical knots and some tagua beads I received recently.
Tagua is known as “vegetable ivory”, since once the seeds are hulled and shelled, the center nut looks like and can be carved just like ivory. The tagua nut tree can be found native to South America.

Tagua Nut Tree
Tagua nuts uncarved

This material has been promoted since the tree doesn’t have to be taken out to get the tagua, and a lot of times, the tagua isn’t collected until the nuts have fallen to the ground and the local animals have already eaten the outer hull, saving time for the humans!
Here’s the carved tagua beads I just received- they still have some of the character of the original husk, almost making them look like little paintings on the beads:

Carved tagua beads

These beads have a pretty good sized hole drilled into them, I can use thick cord or several thinner cords together. For this project, I used 3 lengths of waxed cotton thinner cord- this will be more challenging to make the knots, but it’s great practice. I would advise 3 lengths of cord at a yard a piece, just to make sure. Waxed cotton cord will hold the shape of your knot much better than hemp, because hemp kind of becomes fluffy after a while.
My idea is to have one bead in the front and center of the choker, with a Flemish Stopper Knot on either side, but not tightly placed up against the bead, so the knots show. The Flemish Knot is used often in boating, and is good to know if you spend any time on the water, since it’s a good, strong knot to end off a line.
First, I’ll know a Flemish (or Figure 8 Knot) with one cord:
Take the bitter end and make a loop, with the bitter end length passing on top of the main cord:

Next, take that same bitter end and place it over the main cord to make a figure 8. My thumb is sort of covering this, but the bitter end cord is on top of the main cord:

Next, I’ll pass the bitter end over the right side loop and under, kind of like a pretzel:

Next, carefully tighten the knot down:

Mmmmm……pretzel…..

So we’re going to do the same thing, just with three cords, instead of one. Do the first knot towards the center of your lengths of cords. Knot enthusiasts are hard nosed about keeping multiple cords flat when knotting, so it depends on how artful you want to be.
Make sure you thread the tagua bead on before making the second knot on the other side:

Left a little slack for the bead

I’m not going to do anything fussy to the cords, I’m just leaving the cords loose as a group of three on each side. To finish this off, I always like to use a small length of matching cord and making a short square knot sinnet with the ends of the cords from the necklace going in opposite directions as you make the sinnet over the cords. This makes an adjustable “drawstring”, so you can slip this necklace over your head and tighten the necklace down to where you want. For more instructions on this type of closure, see my Maori Hook necklace project. So here’s the finished project:

Finished tagua and Flemish knot necklace

This is an easy, simple way to learn a useful stopper knot that has been used for many, many years.
Hmmm…..would be useful for a leash loop knot too, right?

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