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18 January 2007 @ 02:03 am
Tie 'em up!  
I'm not sure if it's just a Hokkien or Taiwanese tradition, but my family have always tied the lids of our Yixing teapots to the body using red string. Other than just being quite pretty, it also serves the practical purpose of preventing the lid from being accidentally dropped when separated from the body. The person in our family to do the tying had always been the my grandmother and over the years we have all benefited from her handy-work. Sadly, we never asked or directly observed how it was done, and thus when she passed away a few weeks ago we thought the knowledge was lost for good.

Partially out of need and also as a memorial to her, this evening I decided to reverse engineer some of her knots and see how it is done. It took a bit of effort, but after an hour or so of picking and prodding I was finally able to figure it out.

Seeing how much everybody here adores their Yixing teapots, I felt that maybe someone else would like to learn how to do it. Who knows, may be in the future it will save a few teapot lids from certain doom ;)

Despite its complex looks, the knot is quite simple.
Step 1: Loop your chosen thread between the handle and the lid nub as seen. You can use any colour thread but bright red is the classic way to do it. I'm using red nylon thread that is about 1mm thick.

Step 2: Loop around again until you get four strings in the center with two loose ends at each side.

At this point you might also want to adjust how much slack there are in the strings. If there is too little slack, the lid will be a lot more difficult to open, and in the worse case, you may not be able to close the lid at all.

Step 3: Begin by taking the loose end on the left. Lay it over the top of the middle threads and then under the right loose end as shown. Initially I found it easier to do this when I flipped the teapot over, but later on when I got better at it, it made less of a difference.

Step 4: Take the right loose end and wrap it under the middle threads. Then pull the end through the loop formed by the left loose end. Tighten. This is basically just a square knot. Once you get this first knot in, you may wish to recheck the amount of slack and readjust if necessary

Step 5: Now do the opposite. Take the right loose end, lay it over the top of the middle threads but under the left loose end. Then take the left loose end, wrap it under the middle threads and pull it through the loop formed by the right loose end.

Step 6: Repeat steps 3-5. This picture basically shows steps 3 and 4 repeated.

After several goes, the pattern begins to emerge.

You can stop at any time, but in this case since I ran out of un-frayed string, I had to end it. If possible, I probably would have repeated steps 3-5 an additional 2 times here.

Step 7: Snip off the loose ends and leave about half a centimetre of a stub. Note that there are many ways to end the knot, some more artistic or fancy, but I did it the simplest way.


Step 8: Now comes the scary part. You want to melt the frayed ends and harden the ends of the knot so that it will not fall apart. Don't burn the rest of the knot.

This is how it should look like if done properly. The black "button" of melted nylon will keep the knot tight and prevent the end from fraying. Now repeat for the other frayed end.

zhilaohu50 on January 18th, 2007 03:52 am (UTC)
I felt that maybe someone else would like to learn how to do it.
Fantastic! Thank you for sharing a part of your Grandmother with all of us. A wonderful way to honor her, and remember her while enjoying something she apparently loved also - tea. My sympathy for your loss.

sjschensjschen on January 18th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)
Re: I felt that maybe someone else would like to learn how to do it.
Glad you like it :) Yeah, she enjoyed her tea and I think this knot tying technique is a nice way by which to remember her.
kibi_kibi on January 18th, 2007 05:33 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this with us, I think above Jon more or less summed up what I was going to say - a great memorial.
sjschensjschen on January 18th, 2007 06:13 am (UTC)
Glad you like it :)
Dustinxcasperx on January 18th, 2007 05:33 am (UTC)
I don't know if I'll actually do this, but what a cool post.
sjschensjschen on January 18th, 2007 06:07 am (UTC)
Do do it! It so easy!

Besides if you decide that you don't like the look (or the functionality), reversion is only a pair of scissors awy.
(Deleted comment)
sjschensjschen on January 18th, 2007 06:17 am (UTC)
I thought it would take me several days to figure out how to do this, but it's surprisingly easy. In fact once you start the first few knots, it pretty much goes into auto-pilot.

And yes, definitely cherish those around you.
cloudsteacloudstea on January 18th, 2007 06:24 am (UTC)
This tying technique can have seveal purposes

Sorry to hear about your grandma. Certainly, knowing the tying technique is a nice way to remember her.

I did do so some years ago when a tea vendor taught me how to do that. However, not having done so for years, I completely forget how to do that. Thanks for your clear instructions and your efforts with the detail pictures. You have done a great job, thanks.

According to my past experience in relation to these ties, I have a little piece of advice which is to make the length of the tie a little bit longer. The purpose is that more room should be given to the lid so that the lid will not accidentally “bombard” the body. The unexpected force (created when you forget the lid is being tied, this was my experience) can cause seriously damage to your lid. In your last picture, it seems to me that the length is just fit.

Apart from tying up the lid with the handle, in fact, you can apply the same tying method on the handle so as to:

(1) decorate your teapot with different string colors;
(2) make a thin handle becoming thicker for easy grasping;
(3) slow down the conduction of heat so that the handle will not be so hot to grasp when you are brewing for a long infusion; and most importantly, I use this method to,
(4) distinguish between 2 identical Zisha Yixing teapots which are of the same color but for different kinds of tea such as one for oolong and another for Puerh. I always did that in the old days when I still remembered how to tie them.

I will take some pictures of my teapots to show you later.

Cloud (Hong Kong)
18 January 2007
phyll_sheng on January 18th, 2007 06:27 am (UTC)
Cool, I've always wanted to know how to do it! The pot seller in China showed it to me, but she was too fast and I'm a dysxelic. Thanks.

I'm sorry for your loss.
sjschensjschen on January 19th, 2007 01:16 am (UTC)
Oh come on, you're not dyslexic, it's just the effect of the pot she sold you ;)
longstem on January 18th, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful way to pay tribute to your grandmother. Thank you for sharing this interesting technique and giving me a glimpse of your family's culture!
sjschensjschen on January 19th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
:) I guess this is not just limited to my family or even Hokkien culture, since at lease people in HK also do it.
cloudsteacloudstea on January 18th, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC)
My Ties on my teapots
I refer to my previous post under this thread.

Here are the photos I just took.

按下圖片取得640x480解像度 Click to view 640x480

按下圖片取得640x480解像度 Click to view 640x480
sjschensjschen on January 19th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
Re: My Ties on my teapots
Nice! Yeah I gotcha on the lid "bombardment" thing I need to increase the length just a bit, but I think the lid actually hits hard when the knot is longer, so I guess the short answer to this is that it can't be too long or too short.
ex_czi on November 28th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
Re: My Ties on my teapots
Hmm... I really tried to apply the described technique to wrap my pots handle only as
seen in Clouds picture but it didn't worked.

Any hints or detailed description ??

Thanks in advance.
davelcorp on January 18th, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the beautiful post. I'll try this today.

Can you tell me about the pot in the pictures? Was it your grandmother's?
sjschensjschen on January 19th, 2007 01:37 am (UTC)
The teapot was actually a cheapo one that my mom bought when she was in Taiwan. Then she went to HK and bought a much better yixing and so she unloaded it on me.

But since I've used it so much, it actually performs admirably for the light oolongs that I drink sometimes.
sspeakfreely on January 18th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
What an excellent post! Thank you for sharing that with everybody here.
walt_park on January 18th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Very Cool.

I tried a leash once, and it came out badly.
Now that you've shown us how it works, I'll try again.

ronin9494 on January 18th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
Haha. Now you've got my wife going. She loves to do things like this. And now she want to do it to all my teapots... Well. Might try it out on one first. But it looks very nice. Just afraid I'll hit the pot with the lid. A bit clumsy sometimes.

Sorry to hear about your grandmother. Keeping the tradition alive is a very nice way to remember her.
sjschensjschen on January 19th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)
Definitely make the knot a bit longer so the lid does not smash itself against the body. That, or make it very very short.

Sounds like your wife might be into the whole "chinese knots" thing :)
renegadetearenegadetea on January 27th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
Where can I find nylon thread?
Great post. Thank you for sharing.

I just went to a craft store to buy the thread, but they only had cotton, polyestor or rayon. Where would I find nylon thread? Would those others work?
sjschensjschen on January 28th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)
Re: Where can I find nylon thread?
Polyester will probably works just fine since it will melt to a button. Using cotton or rayon is no big deal though it will require you to stuff the cut-ends back into the knot to prevent fraying.

My guess is silk or cotton strings were the "original" materials.
tenuki_igo on February 4th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
ABOK #2496
Great post and wonderful story!

For those interested this is ABOK #2496, and can be better finished either by splicing the ends back into the warp or by 'capturing' them by bending them back inside the knot along the warp.
Running around New York.: windyfuturebird on March 21st, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much I needed to know how to do this!
5trovi45trovi4 on February 21st, 2015 02:00 pm (UTC)
God bless you , author , for such beautifull walk-through.
Isaac NathanIsaac Nathan on July 4th, 2019 07:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
I always wondered about this. Your words - even after all these years are not only informative but make me feel a warmth and respect for your grandmother.
Thank you.