AFRAYEDKNOT: A Small Local Business Making A Big Difference

A West Mainland man has come up with a creative use for rope that is washed ashore on Orkney beaches. More familiar to most people as a taxi driver, Mark Cook makes all sorts of useful objects from what most folk consider to be marine litter.  The Orkney News spent a morning with Mark when he talked me through the process of creating a mat from 15m of old fishing rope scavenged from the shore at the Bay of Skaill.

Mark who had dreamed of moving to Orkney with his wife and family finally got his wish granted when he set up home here 3 years ago.  With years of experience in social work and photography Mark is enjoying using his crafting skills and has set up a small business:  AFrayedKnot.


Mark Cook at the Bay of Skaill Orkney 

The rope Mark uses is all that discarded rumble of fishing material most of us walk past on a beach stroll. Outside his home coils and lines of varieties of rope can be seen awaiting reworking. Now that people know he will reuse the rope many are also donating to him either rope that no longer has a useful purpose for them or some they have also found whilst beachcombing. This includes rope  Ghost Fishing UK removed from the wrecks in Scapa Flow which can be such a hazard to divers.

This is part of the Circular Economy where ‘waste’ is recycled or reused. In this case Mark is creating and designing products that take marine litter and he produces an item that is not only useful but aesthetically pleasing.

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Mark Cook with The Orkney News mat attempt 

The mat I made whilst visiting his workshop took me a lot longer than it takes Mark to produce. My mat turned out at 45cm x 25cm (17 inches x 10 inches) from a 15m length of rope. With his skill and dexterity each mat of the size I made will take him about an hour.  Coasters, pot rests, mats, plant holders, and decorative items for home and garden, in fact a huge variety of items can be made.  Locally there are shops that are stocking his products like The Odin Stone,Kirkwall and The Waterfront, Stromness. Look out for the label ‘AFrayedKnot ‘.


Mark is a bush craft survival expert and his knowledge of knots is a skill he has built up since he was a child when his sister brought home scoobie strings. These are short pieces of plastic that you can weave into wrist bands and which became a craze again a few years back. In the 80s when macramé became popular he found there was a demand for hanging plant pot holders and he started making those.


ocean plait using 30m of rope

Coming to Orkney and seeing the rolls and mounds of rope on the shoreline sparked in Mark the idea that he could take this rope and make it into something useful and decorative.  In December he attended Veg Fest Scotland in the SECC in Glasgow where his products were extremely well received.  He has also delivered demonstrations of his craft at the Ness of Brodgar excavations in the summer illustrating how Neolithic people in Orkney would have used plant fibres like nettles to make string. He is available to deliver workshops at his home or to groups and organisations who would be interested.

In just 8 months Mark Cook has taken 2 miles of discarded rope and crafted it into products that can be reused. Quite a contribution to keeping Orkney and her beaches clean.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

You can contact Mark Cook and view more of what he makes including some fabulous videos through his Facebook page Afrayedknot

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6 replies »

  1. Mike and I take home a lot of fishing flotsam that we find on the beaches- I like the shapes and colours, but I could never think of what to do with the big bits of rope – also they’re often too big for me and Mike to carry! This is a brilliant idea, Mark – making useful, attractive things out of otherwise messy and even dangerous materials.
    I’ve come across the idea of using old tyres as planters, but they usually don’t look good – adding the woven pieces makes a world of difference.

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