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Handy-Knots-art - 4/1/17


"Handy Knots for Re-enactors" by Master William de Wyke.


NOTE: See also these files: rope-msg, On-the-Road-art, ships-msg, p-backpacks-msg, med-ships-art, portabl-holes-msg, Sheetwalls-art, tent-setup-msg.





This article was added to this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium, with the permission of the author.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Handy Knots for Re-enactors
by Master William de Wyke


This handout covers a selection of useful knots for re-enactors and people camping in medieval style tents, many of which are also extremely useful in day-to-day life. This does not by any means attempt to be a complete knot-tying guide, but provides a grounding in the terminology of knots and the techniques for a handful of the most useful knots as well as information for students to practice the knots given and learn more useful knots from other sources.




Knot tying is a relatively easy skill, but one that takes some practice. People reading this are advised to get some string, shoelaces, or whatever, and a pen or two and practice tying these knots until they are second nature. You don't need to know many, but it really does help to know a few good ones, and having some bits of string to fiddle with can be a good way to pass time in bus stops, waiting rooms, etc.


The illustrations in this handout have been drawn to show the structure of the knots rather than the tightened and dressed state so they do not necessarily represent the appearance of the finished knot.


This handout is in no way a substitute for proper instruction from qualified professionals in applications such as climbing and sail rigging where life and limb are at stake.


The Language of Knots


There is a certain amount of terminology specific to knot-tying. Familiarity with the terminology is essential to being able to under- stand knot-tying instructions so things like "Anchor the standing end then form an elbow in the working part with three twists and pass a bight through to form a loop and pass the bitter through that loop and pull taught" are meaningful, even if you have to think about them a bit.


The term "line" in these definitions is used to refer generically to the material being tied, irrespective of its material and construction.


Parts of knots


There are specific terms for the parts of knots, which are important to understand when reading instructions. Make particular note of the difference between a loop and a bight.


Standing end The end of a line not involved in the knot tying.


Standing part The line between the knot and the standing end.


Bight A slack U-shaped kink between the ends of a line.


Loop A loop formed in a line where the parts of the line cross each other.


Elbow Like a loop, but with an extra crossing of the parts of the line.


Working end/bitter end The end of a line that is manipulated to form a knot. The term "bitter end" comes from nautical usage for the end of a line attached to "bitts" or mooring posts.


Short end The shorter of the two ends of line left after tying a knot. Usually this will have been the working end.


Figure 1: Knot Parts: Standing End (1); Bight (2); Loop (3);

Elbow (4) and; Working or Bitter End (5)


Turn A half wrap of a line around a part of the line or other object so the line forms a U-shape around it.


Round Turn One and a half wraps around a part of the line or other object so the line finishes with both ends pointing in the same direction.


Figure 2: Turn and Round Turn


Dress Dressing a knot is the process of arranging all the strands and parts of the knot as it is tightened to make sure it forms neatly and correctly. When parts of the knot cross each other the knot is weakened so knots should be dressed to remove unnecessary crossovers etc. Some knots, if you just pull them tight, will tighten into a bad configuration if they aren't dressed as you go.


Failure Modes of Knots


The type of line a knot is tied in can dramatically change the way it behaves. Many knots, which are stable and useful in natural cordage will slip badly in modern synthetic lines. If you are using slippery synthetic line such as Dyneema or Spectra you probably need a different set of knots than are presented here.


Falling apart When a knot comes undone into a straight bit of line with no loops or residual bits of knot, the knot is said to have fallen apart. Knots which fall apart under load can be dangerous, but knots such as slipped knots which fall apart only when needed are very useful.


Capsizing Some knots will roll up into a different configuration when they are put under tension, or if the wrong part is pulled. This process is called capsizing and it can lead to knots failing if they capsize into an unstable configuration.


Jamming When a knot becomes difficult or impossible to untie it is said to have jammed. The bowstring knot shown below is deliberately designed to jam but it is usually an undesirable feature of a knot because jammed knots usually have to be cut open.


Slipping Some knots will allow the line to slip through the topology of the knot under certain circumstances. This can use up any spare working end that was left, and if the working end slips through the knot then the knot may come undone. Some knots only work well in natural cordage and will slip in modern synthetic rope.


Not to be confused with a slipped knot, which is a knot tied with a bight so it can be undone by pulling on a specific end.



Types of Knots


Generally a knot is "a method for fastening or securing linear material such as rope by tying or interweaving". Here I also use the term to describe a knot tied with only one end of a line, as opposed to a bend, which uses two. Many knots that are technically bends or hitches are named as "<somethingorother> knot".


Common sub-classes of knots are:


Bend A knot used to join two lines together or join two ends of the same line. Probably the most commonly used class of knot.


Hitch A knot used to attach the end of a line to something, either another (usually thicker) line, or a fixed object such as a bollard or pole - hence the term "hitching post".


Stopper Knot A bulky knot used to stop a line slipping through a hole.


Slipped Knot A knot tied so that it can be released by pulling on an end of the line. The most common use of slip knots is tying shoelaces. Many knots can be tied as slipped knots by performing the final step with a bight in the working part rather than with the working end.


Knot Strength


All knots, however they are tied, affect the strength of the rope they are tied in. A knotted rope under strain will almost always break at the knot and two ropes joined with a bend will invariably fail at the bend.


The effects of knots on rope strength are complicated and highly dependent on the type and condition of the rope and the exact man- ner in which the knot is tied. For most purposes encountered in reenactment contexts this won't be a problem, but when using ropes to lash down loads on a vehicle or as guy ropes on large tents you should take this into account and over-engineer the ropes you are using.



Overhand Knot and Variants


The overhand knot is the simplest knot, usually no instruction is required, even for young children. It is very simple but not very useful for most purposes, being too small to be an effective stopper and very difficult to undo after having been loaded.


If you make a loop and thread the working end through the loop, you get an overhand knot. If you make two loops next to each other and thread the working end through them both, you get a double overhand knot, which is a quick and easy (though jam-prone) stopper knot, which has uses reinforcing other knots and making snares.


If you make a loop and instead of passing the working end through it you make a second bight of the working end and pass that partway through the loop so the working end is still sticking out, you get a slip knot which can be released by pulling on the working end. This is the first stage of a bowstring knot.


To tie a loop overhand knot, make a bight in the end of a line so the working end is in front of the standing part then pass make a bight of the standing part, pass it over the working end and through the first bight then pull tight. This is the first step of an Ashley stop- per knot. A method of tying the loop overhand knot with the work- ing end is shown in the diagrams for the Ashely knot.


The difference between a slip knot and a loop overhand knot is that the loop of a slip knot tightens when you pull the working end and the loop of a loop overhand knot tightens when you pull the standing end.


Figure 3: Overhand Knot Variants


Double Overhand Knot


The double overhand knot tied on its own in the end of a line is of minimal use, but it can be tied around things, and in this configuration it is an excellent way to reinforce other knots like the bowline.


Forming a bight and then using the working end to tie a double overhand knot around the bight makes a simple snare; and two lines laid parallel can be securely joined by tying a double overhand knot in each end around the other line, making a double fisherman's bend.


Figure 4: Double Overhand Knot


Reef Knot


The reef knot is also called the square knot. It is a good knot for tying up packages or bundles. It's name comes from the nautical use of reefing sails where it was used thanks to its ability to be capsized with one hand into a configuration which will collapse under the weight of the sail (which is why you should never use it as a bend to join two lines).


Figure 5: Reef / Square Knot. The mnemonic I was taught for

this knot is “right over left and under; left over right and under ”.


To tie the reef knot begin with a half knot, wrapping the ends of the lines around each other, then tie the working ends back together in a mirror of the first knot. The knot should be symmetrical over both horizontal and vertical axes. If it isn't you've got a granny knot, which you don't want.


Figure 6: Granny Knot/double knot. If you tie a reef knot wrong you get a granny knot. Just don’t. It is insecure, difficult to untie once loaded, and there are better knots that are just as easy to tie.


If you tie the second half of a reef knot with bights you get a common bow.


Loop Knots

Slip Knot and Loop Overhand Knot Tied in the Bight


Not all knots need to be tied by manipulating the working end. Some knots can be tied much more quickly by using loops or bends and manipulating those.


The slip knot and loop overhand knots can be tied very quickly by making a bight, folding it down over itself to form two loops and then passing one loop behind and through the other. You can also twist the loops into the line directly once you have the knack.


If you pass the loop of the working end through the loop of the standing end, you get a slip knot, and if you pass the loop of the standing end through the loop of the working end, you get a loop overhand knot which is the first step of the Ashely knot.




The bowline is used to form a loop in the end of a line for attaching it to another object. When the working part of the line forming the loop is passed around, or through, an object the bowline is a secure method for attaching a line e.g, for mooring a boat or attaching lines to the eyelets of a tarpaulin.


Figure 7: Slip (3) and Loop Overhand (4) knots tied using loops (2) made by folding a bight (1). You can also twist the loops directly into the line.


The bowline can slip under high load and has a tendency to collapse when un-or intermittently loaded. Using two initial loops on top of each other at the first step, instead of one, results in a stronger and more stable knot but to fully secure it tie the short end around the neighboring part of the loop with a double overhand knot, or use an Alpine Loop instead.


Figure 8: Bowline in Four Steps. "Lay the bight to make a hole.

Then under the back and around the pole

Over the top and thru the eye.

Cinch it tight and let it lie"



Alpine Butterfly Loop In Middle of Line


The alpine butterfly loop tied in the bight forms a stable and strong loop in the middle of a line. This is a useful knot for the trucker's hitch, and a pair of alpine loops can be used to make the versatackle, which serves a similar function to the trucker's hitch but is self locking.


The alpine loop can be used to bypass a worn or frayed part of a rope by incorporating the worn part well into the loop. It is a much safer knot for this purpose than the sheepshank which is dangerously unstable and should never be used to suspend people or equipment.


The alpine loop can appear complex at first, but with practice it is an easy knot to tie.


Figure 9: Alpine Butterfly Loop. To begin, form a bight (1), then twist the bight twice to make an elbow(2, 3). Fold the top loop of the elbow down over the front of the knot(4), then pass it up through the centre of the knot(5,6). Dress and tighten. To release pull the parts of the knot where they cross the standing parts.


Alpine Butterfly End Loop


This knot has the same structure as the alpine butterfly loop tied in the bend, and with practice you can simply tie the bend version close to the end of a rope to make an end loop knot, but this is an alternative method which produces a better laid knot for an end loop.


The instructions given assume the standing end and overhand knot are at the top, and the working end is at the bottom with the loop coming out of the right hand side of the knot.


Timber Hitch / Bowyer's Knot


The timber hitch forms a self-tightening and extremely stable loop in the end of a line that is still easy to undo when required.


In archery, where it is known as the bowyer's knot, it is used to attach the permanently attached end of a bowstring to a bow.


The advantage of this knot is that it is secure and will not slip under load, but also relatively easy to undo so the length of the bow- string can be adjusted as necessary as the string stretches.

To begin the knot form a loop then pass the working end around the standing part and inside the loop. From there wrap the working end around the loop part three times, starting nearest the working end and moving towards the standing part. In laid up cordage make your turns so they go with the lay of the cord. When you put the string on the bow make sure the loose end is trapped under the loop in the finished knot, as shown in the diagram, then pull tight. Test the knot carefully to make sure it holds as you string the bow.


The knot needs to be re-tied when it is removed from the bow so for the end of a string that is removed from the nock to unstring the bow you need a bowstring knot or a spliced in loop.


Figure 10: Alpine Butterfly Loop tied in the end of a line. Start with a slip knot,

left quite loose and with a reasonable amount of working end.
Pass the working end over the knot and behind the loop so
it lies over the existing strand behind the loop, then pass it under itself and

through the centre of the knot, parallel to the standing part. Dress and tighten.


Tied around a log or spar you can make a turn around the log and then wrap the working end around the turn. The timber hitch is self-tightening around the object it is tied to, which makes it a good way to start off bundling long thin things together. A timber hitch followed up with a couple of well spaced half hitches around a log allows it to be hauled by the line.


Figure 11: Timber Hitch / Bowyer’s Knot


Bowstring Knot


This knot forms a permanent and very secure loop at the end of a bowstring that can be removed from the nock to unstring the bow without needing to be re-tied the way the bowyer's knot does.


Its security comes at the expense of being extremely difficult, if not impossible, to undo once it has been placed under load. Care needs to be taken to dress the knot neatly to ensure all the strands are parallel. For additional security a stopper knot can be tied in the remaining short end.


Figure 12: Bowstring Knot. Tie a slip knot with quite a lot of spare working end then pass the excess working end back through the initial loop along- side the bight. Dress the knot carefully and pull the standing end to tighten.


Bend Knots


Sheet Bend


The sheet bend is a simple method for joining two lines. It can be used in lines of equal size, or lines of different sizes. If it is used with lines of different sizes, the larger line must be the bight and the working part must be the smaller line. It can also be used to join a line to the corner of a tarp through an eyelet, where you treat the eyelet like the bend, or to join two pieces of fabric together.


To tie, make a bight in one line then pass the working end of the second line up through the bight so that it crosses the shorter leg of the bight, then make a turn under the bight and tuck the working end back over both legs of the bight under the standing part of the second line. Tighten by pulling both legs of the bight and the standing part of the second line.


Tied with a single turn of the working part around the bight it is reasonably secure provided it is placed under constant load that is not too great. It can either slip or jam under some circumstances though. The sheet bend can be made more secure by making two turns of the working part around the bight, but if the application is important, use an alpine butterfly bend instead.


Figure 13: Sheet Bend. It is critical that the working ends finish up on the same side of the knot when it is finished. If they end up on opposite sides of the knot it is much less secure and liable to slip.


Alpine Butterfly Bend


The alpine butterfly bend is a strong, secure knot that is highly resistant to either slipping or jamming. It is structurally identical to the alpine butterfly loop. It takes a little practice to tie but it is an excellent knot for strength and reliability that remains relatively easy to untie even after it has been heavily loaded.


To tie, make a loop near the end of the first line in the form of a letter 'b' with the working part on top of the standing part. Pass the second line through this loop and make a loop in the second line which is a mirror-image of the loop in the first line, so it looks like a letter 'd' with the working part on top of the standing part. It doesn't matter which way the loops go through each other so long as they are mirror images.


It can be helpful to think of this stage of the knot as a lowercase letter 'b' and a lowercase letter 'd' with their loops passing through each other.


It is absolutely critical that that the working ends point in the same direction. If they point in different directions so you have a 'b' and 'q' shape, you will tie an unsafe and unstable knot. Likewise, the working ends of both lines must cross the standing parts the same way, either both above or both below. It doesn't matter which, but they must be the same. If one is above and the other below you will get an unreliable and weak knot that will fail.


Push the loops together so they look like a single loop instead of a sideways '8' then pass the working ends over the standing parts of the loop and through the middle. Dress and tighten.


Figure 14: Alpine Butterfly Bend. Take care that the loops are mirror images of each other and that the finished knot has both working ends pointing in the same direction. Step 3 is the interlocked 'b' and 'd' shape to look for, with the working ends lying over the standing parts on both halves of the knot.



Knots for Points and Shoes Half Bow


The half-bow knot is a reef knot with one of the working ends tied as a bight.


Figure 15: Half Bow


This knot is good for tying points. It gives the single loop appearance seen in medieval pictures of tied points and it is reasonably secure, easy to tie and, being a slip knot, very easy to undo. It also works well on period shoes.


For later period men's clothing the real trick is learning to tie it behind your back so you can do up the centre-back point of your hose by yourself. On shoes and clothing you can often omit the initial overhand knot.


Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot


This is a great knot for arming points. It is a modern knot, invented by Ian Fieggen. A variant of a bow, it is slightly tricky to tie at first but extremely secure and much easier to undo than a double bow. I also use it for my shoelaces.


Figure 16: Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot. Wrapping the bights around each other,

rather than wrapping one twice around the other ensures the knot is symmetrical

and there isn't too much twist in one half.




Hitches secure the end of a line to another object, such as a hitching post, but a hitch is a general term for a knot tied around another object. In the case of the miller's knot they can also be used to secure bags, and Blake's hitch is an excellent knot for tent ropes. Hitches are essential to know if you want to tie a line to a fixed point. Make note of the timber hitch above as well. It's in the loop knots section so it's next to the bowstring knot, but it is quite a good hitch especially for loads that are parallel to the post.


Half Hitch


The half hitch has essentially the same structure as an overhand knot. It is not terribly useful on it's own but is an essential component of other knots and as a means for securing the working end of a knot to prevent it slipping.


Figure 17: Half Hitch


Round Turn and Two Half Hitches


Along with the clove hitch, one of the two most fundamental useful hitches. A feature which separates it from the other hitches shown here is that it can be tied while the line is under strain. This makes it an excellent basic mooring hitch, or a hitch with which to tie down a flapping tarp etc. It is self-tightening around the post it is attached to.


To tie it wrap a round turn around the post then tie the working end of the line to the standing part using two half hitches. These should be tied so that they form a clove hitch, i.e. the second half hitch should wrap around the standing part the opposite way to the first one.


Figure 18: Round Turn and Two Half Hitches


You can make as many turns around the post as required to take the strain. It is the turns, which take the strain on the line, not the half hitches. The half hitches just secure the knot.


Clove Hitch


The clove hitch is used to attach the end of a line to an object perpendicular to the line. It can also be used as a binding knot for closing the top of bags or holding bundles of things together. Structurally, the clove hitch is two half hitches next to each other.


It is an easy and extremely fundamental knot, but not very secure and prone to jamming and/or slipping if loaded. That said it is a good knot to know because it is still useful and it is the simplest case of a family of hitches, two of which the miller's knot and sailor's hitch are shown below. It should never be used in circumstances where the line can be allowed to roll around the object it is tied to as this will cause the knot to slip and come undone.


Figure 19: Clove Hitch


To tie, the clove hitch lay the line on top of the bar, pass the working end behind the bar to the right of the standing part then over the front of the bar, crossing the standing part. Pass the working end be- hind the bar to the left of the standing part, bring it to the front and tuck it under the crossing part of the knot, parallel to the standing part. Pull both ends to tighten.


You can tie the clove hitch 'in the bight' without access to an end of the line. Make a loop by twisting the line towards you in your right hand and allowing a loop to form. Make a second identical bight to the right of the first one then pass the right-hand loop behind the left one and drop them both over an object then tighten.


Miller's Knot


Figure 20: Miller's Knot.


There are several slightly different knots known as a "millers knot", as well as many variations of knots used for binding. Wikipedia has a good page on binding knots. This variant supposedly has better binding characteristics than other clove-hitch related binding knots. The name comes from the knot being used to tie closed sacks of grain. This is a binding knot for closing a bag or gathering a bundle of items. It can also be used as a hose clamp in a pinch. It is a more secure closure, but harder to untie than the sailor's hitch after it has been pulled tight.


Figure 21: Slipped Miller's Knot.


The first steps of tying the knot are identical to the clove hitch, but at the last step, instead of passing the working end under the crossing part you go over the crossing part and tuck the working end under the part you first passed over the beam. If you tie the final part with a bight you make it into a slipped version, which is much easier to undo.


Sailor's Hitch


Figure 22: Sailor's Hitch.


A more secure method than the clove hitch for attaching a line another object. As well as anchoring the end of a line used as a tie-down, this is a handy knot for things like attaching a rope to a tarpaulin too; put a small pebble in the tarp to make a button and tie the line around the base of the button with this knot. The load should be applied to the standing end not the working end.


Start as for a clove hitch but instead of tucking the working end under the knot, pass it around the standing part, behind the bar and then tuck it downwards under the crossing part of the knot. This can be made into a slip knot the same way as the miller's knot above.


Gripping Sailor's Hitch


This knot is nearly identical to the sailor's hitch, but starts with three turns around the object, rather than just one. When the knot is properly dressed and tightened, those wrapping turns give the knot exceptional resistance to sliding, even on very smooth or even tapered objects. Tied around the base of a tent's centre pole this knot can be used to lift and move the pole even when the tent is up, or to provide a means to lift the pole to slip a tarp underneath.


Figure 23: Gripping Sailor's Hitch


Blake's Hitch


This is a hitch designed to tie one line to another line, rather than to tie a line to a rigid object. It is an excellent knot for tensioning tent ropes because when there is tension on the knot it will lock onto the line it is tied to, but when tension is taken off the knot it can be slid up and down the line by hand.


In the instructions below, line 1 is the line you are attaching to (grey in the diagram) and line 2 is the line forming the knot (white in the diagram).


Figure 24: Blake's Hitch. To tie, wrap the working part of line 2 four times clockwise up line 1, then pass the working end down, in front of the standing part of line 2, behind line 1, and up the inside of the first two coils and out the side of the knot. For additional security, tie a stopper knot in the remaining bit of the working end.


Stopper Knots


Stopper knots make a lump on the end of a line to stop it pulling through an eyelet or hole. They can also be applied to the remaining working end of some knots for additional security.

The simplest useful stopper knot is the double overhand knot, which is tied by looping the working end through the bight twice. It is reliable but can be very difficult to undo after it has been loaded. The double overhand is also used to reinforce other knots where the working end might be at risk of pulling through, but as stoppers for tent ropes or ropes through eyelets or loops there are better knots.




Figure 25: Figure-eight Knot


The figure-eight knot forms a larger and less jam-prone stopper than the double overhand, but it can also shake loose. The Ashley knot below is more secure but the figure-eight is very simple to tie with only a little practice. The figures show the structure of the knot. To dress the knot, hold the body of the knot and pull the standing end to tighten it down. The figure-eight structure appears in many other knots which the interested reader may wish to acquaint them- selves with.

Tied in the bight a figure-eight knot makes a simple but somewhat jam-prone loop which can be tied at the middle or end of a line.


Ashley Knot / Oysterman's Knot


Named for Clifford Ashley, this stopper is my personal favorite stopper knot. It forms a better stopper than the figure-eight and double-overhand stopper knots and can be easily undone even after loading. I use it to terminate the guy ropes on the inside of my big period tent.



Figure 26: Ashley Knot / Oysterman's Knot


There are two things to get right, the initial formation of the loop overhand knot and the direction the working end is passed through the loop.


The knot begins as a loop overhand knot (which acts like a noose) but the working end is passed in front of the standing part and through the back of the loop, then the standing end is pulled to cinch the loop down over the working end and form the knot. The knot needs to be dressed before it is fully tightened.


The finished knot has a beautiful three-dimensional trefoil structure that is beyond my current ability to draw. The check to make sure you have tied it correctly is to look at the underside where the standing part emerges. If you have a symmetrical trefoil around the standing part, you've got it right; if not you probably took the working end through the wrong side of the loop.


Other Knots


Trucker's Hitch


The Trucker's hitch is a knot that provides a mechanical advantage when pulling on the working end so as to tighten a rope where one end is attached to a fixed point and the loop of this knot is passed around another object (usually a cargo hook or part of a roof rack or trailer).


It is often used for tensioning a rope over a load – hence the name – but it works very well as a means of tensioning large tent guy ropes.


In combination with a slipped sailor's hitch to anchor the standing end of the rope this is an excellent way of tying loads on to roof racks or trailers.


There are a lot of different ways of tying this knot, including ones where the initial eye is permanently tied, and ones that use only a single twist in the hitch to form the initial eye. The alpine butterfly loop is a good way of forming the eye as an alternative to the method shown here.


I avoid permanent loops because they can result in premature wear at the eye of the rope, and the single-twist hitch because a single turn can cause the initial eye to either slip out or lock up, whereas three turns shown here result in knot that is secure and stable but still easy to undo.


Care needs to be taken when tightening guy ropes with this knot. It is very easy to put too much tension on guy ropes, even on very large tents.


Figure 27: Trucker's Hitch. Dress the knot at step 3 to make sure you have a tidy knot forming the loop in the line before passing the working end around a fixed point (black circle) through the loop and pulling the standing end to tighten. Secure with a half hitch of the working end around one or both legs of the loop that passes around the fixed point.


To avoid wearing a single point on your rope, untie and retie this every time so the loop ends up in a slightly different place and spreads the wear.


Form the initial eye by twisting a bight three times then passing a bight through the loop which forms and drawing it out into a large loop. Dress this part of the knot first and then pass the working end around a fixed point and back through the loop. Pull to tighten and lock in place with a half hitch around one or both legs of the loop up against the body of the knot.


An alternative to the trucker's hitch, called the versatackle, uses more rope but is self-locking. Instead of passing the working end around the fixed point and threading it through the first eye, a mid-line loop is tied in the part passed around the fixed point, leaving a lot of working end which is then looped repeatedly through the two loops and pulled to tighten.


Crow's Foot Knot


The knot I use to tie the main guy to the "toe rope" of the crow's feet on my tent is essentially a simple overhand knot, but tied this way is allows the tension on the crows-foot to be made even by pulling on the loop that passes over the toes and under the main guy as you pull the knot tight. It also allows the crow's foot to be adjusted by sliding the knot from side to side of the toe rope.



Figure 28: Crow's Foot Knot



Example Applications


Securing a load: anchor one end with a slipped sailor's hitch, pass the rope over the load and apply tension with a trucker's hitch finished with a half hitch or two.


Guy ropes: for big ropes use a trucker's hitch passed around the tent peg and finished with a slipped half hitch. For smaller ropes pass the rope around the tent peg and tie it back on to itself with a rolling hitch or Blake's hitch.


Stringing a bow: use an bowstring knot at the end you will slip off the bow to un-string, and a bowyer's knot at the end which remains attached to the bow.


Tying up a bag: use a slipped miller's knot.


Attaching lines to a tarpaulin: (without eyelets) put a small round stone in the corner of the tarp to form a button and tie a sailor's hitch underneath it.


Attaching lines to a tarpaulin: (with eyelets) tie bowline loops through the eyelets or, if your rope is big enough, pass it through the eyelet and secure with an Ashley stopper knot.


Arming points: use Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot


Shoes: use a half bow, with or without the initial overhand knot.


Dress points: use a half bow, with or without the initial overhand knot.


Squareish bundles: for roughly square bundles wrap the rope completely around, cross the ends and wrap again at 90 degrees to the original wrap, then tie the ends with a reef knot.


Bundles of long objects: Bind initially with a timber hitch or sailor's hitch, tighten well and proceed down the bundle laying half-hitches along the way at appropriate intervals. Finish with a clove hitch hard up against the last half hitch.


Resources and Further Information Books


The Ashley Book of Knots (often abbreviated ABOK). Written by Clifford W. Ashley. Written in 1944, it covers literally thousands of knots. It is not a cheap book, but is a must-have for anyone seriously interested in knot-tying as an art. In many other knotting resources, knots are referred to by their numbers in this publication as well as by their names. I don't have it, but I wish I did.


The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots & Ropework is a nice book with hundreds of step-by-step photographs. My copy was $9 out of a bargain bin at a bookshop, where it can still be found today.. It is a substantially cheaper option than ABOK, but is occasionally difficult to follow. I found it well complimented by animatedknots.com.


Electronic Resources


There is a wealth of knot-related information on the Internet, though as with anything the quality is often mixed. Two very good resources I have found are Animated Knots by Grog, and Wikipedia's entries on knots. Knots being the sort of well defined technical field that Wikipedia is suited to, the quality of the articles is generally high and contain many useful illustrations.


The Animated Knots website has, as it's name suggests, animations of the stages of tying a large variety of knots as well as rope splicing instructions and is by far the best resource on the Internet for people interested in learning knots and rope work. There are also mobile apps available with the same content, which I find extremely useful.


• Grog's Animated Knots (start here): http://www.animatedknots.com
• Wikipedia's main Knot page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knot

• Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot: http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/secureknot.htm

• Roper's Knot site: http://www.realknots.com/knots/index.htm

• Notable Knot Index: http://notableknotindex.webs.com/



Thanks to everyone who proof read this and gave feedback on my diagrams. Philippe, Waldo, Ibn Jelal, Sebastian, Seth, Rona and Pip. It's a much better document because of your help.


Copyright and About This Handout


All text and graphics in this handout are copyright © 2009-2015 Alasdair Muckart. Unless otherwise indicated, all content has been created by me.


This document is released under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) License, details of which are available at:



Copies of this document may be freely copied and shared under the following conditions:

Attribute the work to "Alasdair Muckart" if it is used outside of the context of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and to "William de Wyke", if it is used in the context of the Society for Creative Anachronism.




• Budworth, Geoffrey, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots & Rope- work, Hermes House, London, 2004

•     Wikipedia's knot page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knot, accessed Dec 2015.

•     Grog's Animated Knots, http://www.animatedknots.com, accessed Dec 2015

•     Ian's Shoelace Site, http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/, accessed Dec 2015

•     Ylvis: "Trucker's Hitch" https://youtu.be/TUHgGK-tImY (note: not actually instructional).


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org