A tale of twine

A spool of twine is a gardener’s secret. The twisted fibers are one of the most versatile items on my potting bench, but I take it for granted. I simple reach, pull and cut without much thought.

The unassuming ball of twine on my shelf is made of jute, the most common and affordable type of twine. Jute is made from the outer skin of plants in the Corchorus genus. The plant skins are twisted into fibers, and the fibers are twisted together to form twine. How many fibers used determines the ply, as in 3-ply or 5-ply thickness.

Jute twine is used for cloth, bags, rope, crafts, and of course, gardening. I originally bought twine to tie plants to stakes in the garden. Over the years, I find myself reaching for it more and more. I like the natural look and have used it to replace ribbons on packages or bundle together gift items. It has come in handy to wrap around flower stems when creating a small gift bouquet. If you want to dress up a glass vase or jar, just add twine.

Twine comes in spools, balls, and even tin cans with holes in the lid. Do you plan to be out in the garden? Look for a ball of twine that will fit in your pocket to allow hands free-gardening. The trick is to keep it tangle-free and easy to access.

Sisal twine or roping is made with fibers from sisal (Agaves sisalana), a flowering plant native to Mexico, and is even used for carpets and paper. Have you seen those cat-scratching posts? They are likely made with sisal twine.

Sisal is sometimes known as baler twine, used for hay bales. It has a little stretch and give, which can come in handy with the bales. Another plus if you are going coastal, sisal is sea water-resistant. As with all-natural products, when untreated, it will eventually break down, but this could take years.

Hemp twine is made from the fibers of cannabis plants. It is strong and can support heavier items than jute or sisal. The hemp fibers can be used for twine, rope, clothing and other textiles. Hemp twine or cord is available in different weights. You could make jewelry or rope from hemp fibers depending on the weight.

Other natural twines can be cotton or wool. Our go-to colors might be natural or green, but you have more choices in colors with these fibers. What a fun way to add color to houseplants or the garden. Keep in mind if untreated, the cotton will soak in water and become heavy when wet. This will also cause it to deteriorate more quickly.

Want to be highbrow with your twine choices? You can order from the award-winning British company Twool. They have a range of products, including twine made from the rare breed Whiteface Dartmoor sheep. The company ensures that all steps of the twine-producing process happen in the United Kingdom. I must admit this is cool. I love that something as humble as twine can have a message of sustainability and responsibility.

I have bought twine for myself, given it as part of a garden warming gift (similar to a house warming, but you know-for a new garden), and I have received twine in a gift basket. For me, no toolbox, utility closet, garden bench, or potting shed is complete without at least one spool of twine. Buy it from the local hardware store, feed store, or order it from the United Kingdom; just make sure you have a spool of twine handy.