How to Tie Knots in Rope

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8 Best Knots: Square Knots to Bowline

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Spend any time in Scouts, camping outdoors, or boating? From square knots to bowlines, learn how to tie knots in a rope, including illustrations of the most useful knots.

These knots will often come in handy outdoors. Better to know a knot just in case you need it!

Tying Knots: Words to Know

Before you get started learning this handy skill, you should know some of the basic knot vocabulary.

  • The bight is any part of a rope between the ends or the curved section of a rope in a knot.
  • A bight becomes a loop when two parts of a rope cross.
  • The place at which two parts of a rope meet in a loop is the crossing point.
  • The place at which two or more loops bend is the elbow.
  • The working end of a rope is the end being used to make a knot.
  • The standing end (or standing part) of a rope is the end not involved in making a knot.

8 Useful Knots to Know

The knot illustrations below may seem a bit intimidating at first, but once you know the vocabulary and practice a few times, we’re sure you’ll be able to get it! Note: Illustrations by Lars Poyansky.

1. Square Knot

A square knot is a quick and simple way to join two ropes together. However, it’s for light use, not heavy use, such as tying scarves, package parcels, and so forth. The rope will not hold under heavy strain.

Watch the video to see how to tie the Square Knot:

2. A Half Hitch

A hitch is used to tie a rope around an object (such as a tree) and back to itself. It’s for a quick temporary use, not long-term.

3. Two Half Hitches

This knot is also used to secure an object to trees, loops, or poles. Once tied, the knot formed by two half-hitches can move along the rope, allowing the loop to become larger or smaller. However, this hitch also isn’t for heavy loads.

Watch this video to see how to tie Two Half Hitches:

4. Taut-Line Hitch

Somewhat similar to two half hitches, the taut-line hitch is also an adjustable loop-knot hitch that can be tied around bars or poles. However, the loop formed using a taut-line hitch will not slip if put under tension. A common use might be setting up a hammock or securing a load to a car to easily adjust the binding’s tightness.

Watch this video to see how to tie a Taut-Line Hitch:

5. Sheet Bend

Like a square knot, a sheet bend joins two ropes. However, in this case, the knot can be used for heavy loads and won’t slip under heavy tension. In addition, it’s reliable when joining two ropes of different thickness, size, or material. A sheet bend could be used to attach two lines together to make a longer line or for securing a critical load in a vehicle. There’s also a Double Sheet Bend which takes an extra coil around the standing loop for better security (especially with plastic rope)

Watch this video to see how to tie the Sheet Bend Knot:


6. Bowline

When you need a non-slip loop at the end of a line, you go with a classic bowline. This fixed knot won’t slip, regardless of the load applied. It is also easy to untie. Bowlines are secure and used when you need to pull or rescue someone, or tie a line around yourself and a tree or other object.

Watch this video to see how to tie the common Bowline:

7. Clove Hitch

Easy to tie and untie, the Clove Hitch is a good binding knot when you’re in a rush. They’re great for a temporary hold, e.g., attach a rope to a post or a linen to a mooring buoy. When you tighten this knot, you must pull both ends lengthwise or it won’t be secure.

Watch this video to see how to tie a Clove Hitch:

8. Timber Hitch

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, the Timber Hitch is a simple knot for hauling a log or bunches of branches as well as hauling away large objects. It’s easy to tie and remove but will come apart if tension is not maintained in the rope. Make three loops minimum to ensure a more secure hold.

Watch this video to see how to tie a Timber Hitch:

About The Author

Tim Clark

Tim Clark (1950-2021) began work as an editor and writer at Yankee Publishing in 1980. During his 41 years here, he was a prolific contributor to both Yankee Magazine and the Old Farmer's Almanac. Read More from Tim Clark

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