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 Home > Shoelace Knots and More: A Guide to Tying Knots
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~ Shoelace Knots and More: A Guide to Tying Knots ~

Our entire civilization could not have progressed without the use of knots; knots hold humanity together. Without knots we would never have been able to explore the planet, to construct buildings or even set broken bones! Knots have allowed humanity to become what it is today.

There are many types of knots out there, each one capable of performing specific tasks. Just like the saying, “use the right tool for the right job,” so too should one use the right knot for the right job. In many activities the use of the proper knot can mean the difference between success and failure, between fun and disaster. That's why it's important to know where and when each knot should be used. With this knowledge you'll be able to come to the rescue time and time again.

Tying knots is an important aspect of numerous different actives. Boating, for example, would be impossible without the use of knots. Knots to tie the sail down, knots to tie to boat to the dock, knots to tie to an anchor. It's important to be able to tie a knot quickly and correctly: in the middle of a storm being able to tie the right knot can mean the difference between life and death. This applies to rock climbing too. In rock climbing the knots tied are lifelines, holding up a climber tens (sometimes hundreds) of feet off the ground. If these knots are tied incorrectly and the climber falls the result can be fatal.

Knots aren't always, however, a matter of life and death, though they can certainly make life a lot easier and more comfortable. Without the proper knots a fisherman will find himself without dinner. If a scout doesn't know how to tie his or her tarp up correctly they'll find themselves wet and cold in the middle of the night. And if you don't tie a proper knot with your shoelaces you may find yourself flat on your face!

This article will show how to tie numerous different knots for different circumstances. In each section the most important knots in the activity will be mentioned. While certain activities require specific knots, there are many types of knots that can be used in all sorts of situations, and many key knots can overlap into different activities. This article will focus on knots used in boating, rock climbing, fishing, scouting, search and rescue, and everyday situations, and will include helpful links with detailed instructions to teach you how to tie knots like a pro in no time.


There are tons of situations where a knowledge of knots can be handy just around the house. You may use these knots everyday without even knowing their names! The four in hand and half windsor knots are use to tie a tie. The standard shoelace knot and the reef knot keep your shoes on your feet. And the ribbon bow is the perfect accessory to any gift. Below are examples showing how to make these knots.

  • Necktie Four in Hand: Step by step walkthrough on how to tie a necktie four in hand knot, includes video.
  • Necktie Half Windsor: Detailed instructions, with pictures, on how to tie a necktie half windsor knot.
  • Reef Knot: Information on how to tie a shoe using a reef knot, includes video.
  • Ribbon Bow: Instructions on how to tie a perfect ribbon bow.

Next to a pair of sturdy sea legs a knowledge of knots is the most important things a sailor can have. A bowline knot is very handy for tying to a mooring or for joining two ropes, though it often comes undone if there is no weight pulling down. A sheet bend is perfect for tying two ropes of different size together. A cleat hitch is used to attach a boat to a dock, and a chain splice is used to join a rope to a metal chain. Below are helpful links describing how to tie each of these knots.

  • Bowline Knot: How to tie a bowline, with animated example.
  • Chain Splice: Instructions and animation on how to chain splice a rope.


Without the use of knots there would be no sport of rock climbing; without knots a climber's first fall would also be their last. The most commonly used climbing knot is a figure 8 follow through, which is used to attach the climber to the rope. A munter hitch can be used in an emergency as a belay device (to hold the other end of the climbing rope). A girth hitch is great for attaching two runners together and a clove hitch is perfect for attaching an anchor to a tree. And if you find yourself in need to climb up a rope instead of the rock, then a prusik knot is your best friend. Below are links with detailed instructions on how to tie these knots.

  • Munter Hitch: Instructions on how to tie a munter hitch-- includes pictures.
  • Girth Hitch: Information on the girth hitch with multiple links showing how to tie different types of girth hitches.
  • Clove Hitch: Step by step instructions on how to tie a clove hitch-- includes pictures.
  • Prusik Knot: Instructions and information on how to tie a prusik knot.


Without fishing knots there would be no way to attach a hook to a line, and thus no fishing at all. There are many different types of fishing specific knots that can come in handy. The albright knot and the nail knot are used to attach two lines of different diameter. The arbor knot is used to attach the line to the reel, and drooper loop provides a spot in the middle of a line to attach another fly. And the palomar knot is key for attaching a hook to a line. Below are examples with with pictures and videos showing how to tie these knots.

  • Albright Knot: Detailed instructions on how to tie an albright knot.
  • Nail Knot: Instructions and picture showing how to tie a nail knot.
  • Arbor Knot: Step by step instructions on how to tie an arbor knot.
  • Palomar Knot: Detailed instructions and pictures on how to tie a palomar knot.


Knots are a scout's best friend; besides earning merit badges, knots help scouts (and all campers) succeed in the wild. These knots are often useful regardless of where you may be. A square knot is useful for tying two ropes of similar size together. A sailor's whipping is used to prevent a rope from unravelling. An eye splice is used to create a permanent loop at the end of a rope, while a butterfly knot is used to tie a loop in the middle of a rope. And the timber hitch, which tightens as more stress is applied, is perfect for attaching a rope to a pole or a bundle of logs. Below are links describing how to tie each knot.

  • Square Knot: Video, pictures and instructions on how to tie a square knot.
  • Eye Splice: Animation showing how to tie an eye splice.
  • Timber Hitch: Step by step pictures and instructions explaining how to tie a timber hitch.

When performing an emergency rescue for someone injured in a cave or on a cliff it's important to be able to tie safe knots quickly and accurately. The double fisherman's knot is used to both back up a figure 8 as well as to join two ropes together. The water knot allows two ends of a rope or a tapped runner to be joined together without slipping under pressure. A hasty harness can be made, to lift a person when a commercial harness is not available, by using a length of rope or tape. A tensionless hitch is used to attach to an anchor point, while a trucker's hitch is used to create a lockable pulley system. Below are links with pictures and videos showing how to tie these knots.

  • Water Knot: Instructions and pictures showing how to tie a water knot.
  • Hasty Harness: Helpful video showing how to tie a hasty harness.
  • Trucker's Hitch: Pictures and animation showing how to tie a trucker's hitch.

Additional Resources

There are as many possible knots as there are ways to twist a rope, though, of course, some are more useful then others. Below are some resources to help you in your knot tying education. Included is a link on dozens of different knots for different actives, as well as a list detailing the proper situations for different types of knots. There is a link on different types of decorative knots which, while not providing much practical use, are fun to tie and look neat. And finally a list of different types of rope materials as well as information on how to properly take care of rope.

  • List of Knots: A long list of different types of knots and their uses.
  • When to Use: Information on when to use different knots.
  • Decorative Knots: Information on how to tie different decorative knots, with links to other fancy knots.
  • Types of Rope: Detailed information on the differences between different types of rope material.


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