Knot a problem


If, like me, you rarely throw anything away, there is a good chance that you have a room, an attic, a shed and/or a garage which is deep in clutter that may come in handy. Hopefully you are not someone who has been beguiled by the minimalist mantra and decluttered your home.

When you urgently need a domestic solution the decluttered home is no help at all. Under such circumstances you have to go out shopping to replace your washing line component, or you might even need to get-a-man-in.

Last Sunday I happened to know that somewhere in the garage there was an old wooden child’s swing (the swing seat being wooden, not the child, my offspring are nothing like the woodentops). I also happened to know that the old swing still had two pieces of rope attached and that the rope pieces were at least a couple of metres in length.

In a matter of minutes I had located the old swing. With my rapid executive decision making powers I decided that life would be too short to untie the knots which bound the rope to swing. Like my great Macedonian namesake I sliced through the Gordian problem with my trusty Swiss army blade,

I now had a fine piece of blue polypropelene rope which was slightly less than two metres in length and which had been sheltered from the dilapidating UV effects of sunlight for a decade. It was thick enough to tie up a wherry.

I climbed the stepladder and wrapped the rope around the tree.

It is surprising how much rope it takes to wrap around a mature tree and fasten with a substantial double fisherman’s knot… I did not have that much rope.

I tried a single fisherman’s knot. The rope was too tightly bound to the knotty tree trunk to allow the final half hitch to be completed. So I resorted to the boy scout’s favourite. A hearty reef knot did the trick. It is not the best knot to use to fasten a loop which is prone to wind-related vibration and fluctuating tension, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I clipped the carabiner to my new blue component and twanged the line to test the tension. Perfect.

Whistling happily I stuffed the old swing with its single remaining rope back in the garage. You never know when these things will come in handy.

9 Responses to “Knot a problem”

  1. 1 Fiona

    I don’t want to rain on your parade but I have a horrible premonition that the knot will not hold and the next washing put up in a stiff breeze will quickly descend to the vegetable patch.
    Good luck and I hope I am not a harbinger (?) of doom

  2. I’m confused. Are you attaching the two ends of the rope together having wrapped them around the tree? If so a reef knot is a perfectly acceptable type of knot to join two similar sized ropes.

    • 3 Camilla

      Ooh, I think you are n error there. A reef knot is very prone to slippage and capsizing; the International Guild of Knot Tyers warns that it should never be used to bend two ropes together – see

      On a boat its main use is for tying down reefed sails, hence the name. However on a modern yacht with a slab-reefed main the work is done almost entirely by the reefing lines which are completely separate (and never tied in a reef knot) – any reef knots are tied merely to tidy the lumps of unwanted sail out of the way, and in fact I would be personally more inclied to use a pretty bow, which is easier to undo when wet.

      IMHO the best use for a reef knot is tying a dressing gown cord.

  3. 5 Becky Stafford

    Uh oh…I’m sensing somebody may not be feeling so clever now!

    Let’s hope it holds Alex!!

  4. Oh.

    Actually I think a blowtorch may help here. A reef knot in polypropylene plus considerable heat applied may make a very secure solution. I’ll let you know.

    I’m glad that there is a guild of international knot tyers. How did we ever manage before Wikipedia.

  5. 7 Becky Stafford

    Life without Wiki, oh the horrors! let’s hope we never have to live in a such of world!

  6. I suspect that Camilla, being an experienced sailor, knew the full answer anyway and has simply provided the wiki link for the benefit of those of us who haven’t sailed a boat in, well, let’s just say it’s more than half a lifetime!

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