The unlikely artisan tying Cordova in knots

April Beedle has turned knots into art and art into business

April Beedle works on knot handicrafts in her home workshop. (Oct. 1, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
April Beedle works on knot handicrafts in her home workshop. (Oct. 1, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

April Beedle has a basement full of monkey’s fists, cat’s paws and Turk’s heads. But Beedle isn’t a homicidal maniac — she’s the proprietor of Knot Crazy, a knot handicraft business.

In a fishing town, Beedle’s status as the resident knot expert is no small distinction. Her fascination with knotting began in late 2011, after she received a necklace decorated with a complicated knot in the shape of a ship’s wheel.

“I had some creativeness in me that had not been used for a long time, and I think it was just dying to get out,” Beedle said. “I said about three years ago that I was going to quit doing new things, because I was always bouncing from one thing to the other. But I’ve given up on that now. I’m always going to be doing new things, apparently.”

Beedle taught herself knot-tying by studying Clifford W. Ashley’s classic knot encyclopedia and by watching YouTube demonstration videos. On evenings in, Beedle settles down in her home workshop and starts knotting, with Bob Dylan and Credence Clearwater playing in an undertone. For her, it’s a way to unwind.

Beedle has turned leftover rope and twine into necklaces, keychains, zipper-pulls, wall ornaments, pet tags, luggage tags, trivets and doorstops. The monkey’s fist, a round knot built around a spherical core, has been particularly versatile for Beedle. A monkey’s fist built around a marble can become a keychain, while an outsized monkey’s fist built around a large Copper River stone serves as a doorstop that won’t scuff the floor. A monkey’s fist with a ping pong ball at the center becomes a float that will save a fishing permit card if it’s dropped in the water.

Another Knot Crazy specialty is twine-embellished Japanese fishing floats. These hand-blown glass balls often wash up after bobbing around the Pacific for a half-century, sometimes containing a little water that’s seeped through microscopic imperfections in the glass. Beedle also ornaments seagull’s eggs, which she painstakingly hollows out herself.

In 2012, Beedle was commissioned to decorate the six steel bollards outside of the newly constructed Cordova Center. With typical ambition, Beedle chose an intricate knot she’d never tried before: the Turk’s head. A Turk’s head knot is built by interlooping one or more pieces of string or rope around a cylindrical center. Despite the knot’s imposing complexity, Beedle’s Turk’s heads remain intact outside the Cordova Center to this day.

“It’s a maddening knot to tie,” Beedle said. “It’s like, who would want to do that? But I do.”

Beedle, who also works at the Cordova Post Office, estimates she makes about $20 per hour on her knot work, an excellent rate for a handicraft maker. Crafting store The Net Loft buys up Beedle’s inventory almost as quickly as she can produce it, she says. In fact, Beedle is currently whittling down a four-year backlog of orders.

“I’m not losing any enthusiasm after eight years — it only seems to be getting worse,” laughs Beedle. “I don’t see any end in sight.”