Posted by: briellethefirst | September 3, 2010

The Square Knot

I realized quite a while back that most of us aren’t boy scouts and DON’T know how to tie basic knots. This can be bad, especially when you’re moving and the rope holding your stuff to the top of your car comes loose, scattering your stuff across and along the freeway, causing a 30-car pileup. Your insurance company will NOT be amused. What? you didn’t have renter’s insurance!? Why not? Oh, right, you might just want to check if your renters/homeowner’s/auto insurance covers your belongings in the case of an accident while in transit and if so, what circumstances might make them NOT cover it…like piling things haphazardly on top of a car and tying bad knots.

So, in the interest of the furthering the use of traditional skills that can make even the most modern life better, I present *drum roll* The Square Knot!

Also known as the Reef Knot, it’s probably the most common and useful knot used away from the waterfront. You may have used it in a macrame project in art class, and you use a variation of it when you tie your shoes. Do your shoes come untied all the time? Then you’re doing it wrong. The bow is a variation of the square knot, but we’ll get to that next. First, the basic square knot.

Here’s what you need to remember to do it right: Right over left, left over right. As easy as that. The first half of the knot is also called the overhand knot.  Here’s what it looks like:

Tying a Basic Square knot

First, right over left...

Tying a Basic Square knot …then wrap under…
Tying a Basic Square knot

...then left over right...

Tying a Basic Square knot …then wrap under…
The Square Knot

...then pull snug.

You’ll notice that the knot lays flat, looks like two strings looped around each other and the strings come out of the loops on the same side together.the nice thing about this knot is that it stays secure but can be easily undone when you want to, especially if the like is sturdy and rather stiff. just push the ends toward the knot to loosen the loops. On yarn like this, though, it isn’t as easy to loosen that way. You can often undo it easily by pulling sharply on just one end, which re-aligns the knot into a new configuration.

Loosening a square knot.

loosened square knot, AKA the Lark's Head.

The line that’s still looped can now move more-or-less freely along the now-straight line. This is not possible with a granny knot. It is important to note that this is why the square knot is NOT a good thing to use to tie two lines together.  For that you’ll want to use a sheet bend…you know, the one where the bunny goes around the tree and into the hole, but more on that later.

Then there is the Granny Knot. This is NOT a secure knot and will NOT hold. It goes: Right over right, right over right. Like this:

The Granny Knot

First Right over left...

The Granny Knot

...then wrap under...

The Granny Knot

...then right over left again...

The Granny Knot

...then wrap under...

The Granny Knot

...then pull snug.

You’ll notice that the ends do not enter and exit from the same sides of the loops and the knot does not lay flat, hence the alternate name: the tumbling knot. It will not hold reliably and is not as easy to untie (paradoxically) when you want it to let go.

The Granny Knot

Pull sharply on one line and...

If you try to make this knot release like the square knot you’ll notice the other line ends up on both sides of the first, kind of in a figure-8 that can bite and hold the first line and not be easy to untie.

There are a couple of variations on the square knot. One is basically just an easy way to release it built-in while tying the knot. You start the same, right over left, left over right, but instead of pulling the end all the way through you leave an end out and wrap a loop through.

Quick-release square knot

Quick-release square knot, or 1/2 a bow.

This will hold well because it’s a square knot, but to make it release easily just pull the loose loop-end and it releases with no problems.

To tie a bow that lays flat, doesn’t come undone on it’s own and doesn’t knot unexpectedly, use the same formula as when you tie a square knot, but use loops.

The Square Bow

The bow.

I’ve left this loose so you can see the path the lines take. As you can see it lays flat and the lines are organized and don’t tangle.

Hope this clears up some mysteries for those of you who couldn’t figure out why your knots didn’t work sometimes and did work other times. It should help you around the house and garden. Watch for more knots later.


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