With so many varieties to select from, choosing which kind of rope to purchase can be overwhelming, especially for people new to rope restraint. Each kind of rope is unique, with its own set of characteristics: fiber-type, pliability, softness, weight, strength, durability, appearance, etc. So, rope selection becomes a very personal thing. It all depends on what you like and what you want to do with it. This is probably why you often hear the phrase, “You can never have too much rope.” I understand the sentiment – it does seem that there’s a rope for every purpose. But most of us can’t afford to have every imaginable kind of rope in our kits, and we wouldn’t want to have to haul it all around if we could. So, it’s best to narrow things down and choose a set or two (or three or four) of ropes that suits your needs the best.

A hank of Tossa Light Rope Since each kind of rope is a mix of different characteristics, each rope you consider is a compromise of sorts. For instance, when it comes to twisted construction, the ropes with a looser lay are lighter, more pliable, and tend to hold knots better, but they usually aren’t as durable, and they’re far more prone to high-stranding (having a strand fall out of place in the the twist with use) than more tightly wound ropes. Another example: most synthetics are less expensive, stronger, and easier to clean than natural fiber ropes; but they usually don’t hold knots as well, have a slower “burn speed” (how fast you can draw them over skin without causing rope burn), and lack a natural and organic feel and look. So each rigger, depending on the kind of tying that appeals to them, looks for different things in different ropes and accepts a different compromise. Fusion rope artists tend to be drawn to larger diameter, braided synthetics that look good in decorative knots. Traditionalists and shibari aficionados tend to like natural fiber, twisted ropes.

 For the way I tie – Japanese-influenced rope bondage that strives for fluidity and connection with my rope partner – the most important qualities I look for in a rope are: pliability so it conforms smoothly to the body, light-weight so it flies through the hands easily, a looser lay with a soft hand so it holds simple knots easily, and a natural look and sleekness for the aesthetics that appeal to me in photographs. That set of qualities and compromises usually leads me to jute rope. Good Jute “polishes” with use – the surface gets smoother over time as it sheds loose fibers instead of getting more and more fuzzy like most other natural fiber ropes such as hemp. Jute rope that’s been used for many bondage sessions is quite smooth and gets a wonderful silken feel to it with age. Jute is also noticeably lighter than hemp and most of the other natural fibers used to make ropes suitable for consensual bondage.

 Jute fibers come in two varieties, tossa, the variety most often used to manufacture jute rope in the East, and the so-called “white” jute variety that many jute ropes are made from in the West (the rope isn’t white, the plant it’s made from is just called white jute). The tossa fiber usually makes a slightly stronger rope. My choices for affordable jute rope has usually come down to a harder lay regular tossa jute rope carried by Jade Rope and a looser lay white jute asanawa which we also carry. It’s a tough choice between the two: the looser lay and light-weight of the asanawa makes it fun to tie with right off the bat, but the tighter lay of the tossa line makes it very durable and gives it a substantial feeling in the hand and for the person being tied. I’ve owned both in the past. I used my ancient set of asanawa so much over the years that it is finally starting to actually fall apart – I only use it for tying in muddy conditons on the ground now. And my old tossa set that is so nicely broken in, is also getting a little long in the tooth for extreme work; plus it was always a bit heavier and tightly laid than the classic Japanese style bondage ropes I’m fond of.

 So for the last few months I’d been vacillating about which rope to replace my aging jute ropes with: a new set of the regular tossa or the asanawa? And then in the fall Jade Rope got in their new “Tossa-Lite” jute rope at the U.S. outlet. As soon as I ran it through my hands I had high hopes that it might just be the perfect compromise I’d been looking for. After cutting off a small sample and handling it a bit I knew this was the rope for me. So, the first full set of rope I cut off the spool went straight into my own rope bag.

 Though it’s not as helfty as the regular tossa, because it’s still made from tossa fibers, the Tossa-Lite is a bit stronger than the asanawa carried by Jade Rope. The Tossa-Lite is a 3-strand twisted rope, so it looks very traditional; but it’s not wound as tight as the regular tossa, giving it much better flexibility right off the spool. However, because it has the same “double-twisted” internal construction of the regular tossa, it should resist high-stranding much better than the loose laid asanawa line.

 Compared to the regular tossa at Jade Rope, the Tossa-Lite is noticably lighter in weight; and without conditioning, it’s softer and holds knots much easier than its tighter laid cousin. It’s appearance is different, too. Unlike the regular tossa which has a consistent golden hue, the Tossa-Lite is a deeper and browner shade, and it’s flecked with even darker fibers in places. So it has a more rustic and home-spun appearance, giving it kind of a wabi-sabi natural imperfection that appeals to my aesthetic. The Tossa-Lite is listed as 6mm in diameter, but it’s actually slightly under-sized, measuring around 5.7 or 5.8mm by my calipers, which suits my preference for thinner lines that don’t bulk up at frictions and knots quite so much during a tie.

 The regular Tossa is relatively stout stuff, that’s one of it’s strong points, but I’ve found that it really needs to be wet conditioned or well-used before it breaks in well enough to really be a joy to use. In contrast, the Tossa-Lite is soft enough that you could actually use it quite nicely right off the spool in a pinch – it starts out only a little scratchy and that disappears fairly quickly. Despite how good it was right off the spool I decided to give my set a quick conditioning to make it even better, running it through the dishwasher, hang-drying it under tension to bring it back to its original diameter, and then burnishing it over a propane flame before giving it a light oiling.

 My set softened up nicely with use in a very short amount of time. It’s a joy to run it through my hands; and it holds simple knots and frictions beautifully. I don’t know how well it will polish, yet. I haven’t had it quite long enough. When they’re new, jute ropes tend to shed any loose fibers into the air and onto clothing while they’re being used. It looks like this Tossa-Lite will smooth down without having to suffer a terrible amount of shedding while it’s brand new. Mine is starting to polish a bit, but it’s still a little fuzzy; however, its appearance to my eye is already better than the fuzziness of used or even new hemp. Plus, the Tossa-Lite has slowed in it’s shedding much faster than the asanawa does when it’s new. My Tossa-Lite already looks great in photographs (I’ve been using it in almost all of my shoots since I got it).

Bondage with Tossa-Lite

 I’ll confess that I don’t much care for the name “Tossa Lite.” That sounds more like a low-cal beer than a fine bondage rope to me; but I sure do enjoy the way it handles and ties. I am really loving this stuff. And from the responses I’ve gotten, so are the people who’ve been bound in it at my hands.

 I have to say, this reasonably priced rope hasn’t been much of a compromise for me at all. If you’re into shibari or kinbaku, or any kind of tying that strives for a connection with a light and lively rope, I can highly recommend the Tossa-Lite. It’s my new favorite rope.