Two local women get creative with recycled lobster rope

Ingrid Thurston weaves rope through the pieces of PVC pipe that sit on dowels for the rope to be wrapped around to make rugs.

TREMONT — Cookie Baldwin tried a couple of different natural elements to create a small fence on her property, but nothing worked quite as well as the repurposed rope she got from local fishermen. 

“I made a bunch of rugs first for Christmas presents,” she said, when talking about how she was inspired to try making a fence from the synthetic material.  

Employing close to 2,000 feet of used rope and investing more than 40 hours, Baldwin put wiring mesh used for concrete as her base to weave the synthetic pieces through and cinched the ends with hog ties. Made up of lines of teal, white, orange and black, her creation stands about 7 feet tall and is a bit more than 20 feet long. To join the two longer pieces, she made one more thin, long piece for the center, attaching local shells to authenticate the presentation. 

“You had to make sure you had enough rope,” said Baldwin. “If you’re collecting used rope, you might not get enough of what you want.” 

For the fence she made, there was enough rope, but Baldwin didn’t anticipate how much it would weigh once together.  

“I had it leaning against a truck and they’re very heavy,” she said about the two different sections she made. When it was time to mount them onto the garden stakes she secured in the ground, Baldwin needed a few people to help hold it and make sure the fence went in straight. That was last fall. It seems to have weathered the winter much better than her other attempts, and Baldwin said it will likely stay. “I’ve saved all the small pieces. I may come up with something else to make. I like repurposing stuff.” 

The fence sits on a side of her property where Ingrid Thurston lives. Thurston has been crafting rugs out of rope once used for hauling lobster traps and selling them at a store in downtown Southwest Harbor.  

“I only made a few and they did go quite fast when I brought them in,” said Thurston. “It does take a lot of rope… I am looking for more if anyone has any.” 

When the two women got the idea to make rugs from repurposed rope, they watched YouTube videos to figure out their process. Baldwin’s husband made a frame around which to wrap the rope to make rugs. It is made up of a slab of wood with a line of holes for several wooden dowels, each with an equivalent length piece of PVC pipe around them. Once the rope is weaved in and around the PVC posts, the rug is mostly made and can be removed with the PVC pieces intact. More rope is then put through the thin pipes, which in essence creates the frame of the rug. Once the rope is run through the pipes, they can be removed and returned to the wooden dowels for making the next rug.  

To make the fence, Baldwin asked a bunch of fishermen for their used rope but only two offered what they had. Much of the time fishermen dispose of what they are no longer using in the dumpsters at the town wharf or dock.  

“I tried to dumpster dive for some once,” said Baldwin. “It wasn’t that nice and a lot of stuff had already been thrown on top.” 

It isn’t the easiest stuff to work with as the synthetic material can split and sometimes cut through skin. Cutting the rope requires a tool that melts the rope, and the smell can be pretty noxious after lots of severing, which is why both ladies tend to do the work outside.  

“You can do all kinds of different stuff,” said Baldwin. “You’ve got to be really careful because that rope’s synthetic.” 

“I wear gloves at times when I cut the rope,” said Thurston. 

They continue to collect whatever rope that can be found for future projects.  

“You have to have a place to store it,” said Baldwin. “It’s a lot of rope.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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