reef knot

Reef or square knot

reef knot

How to tie a reef knot.

Celtic knots are called 'knots' and so you might think they are connected to real knots. However, Celtic knots seem to prefer regular under-and-over patterns, while this is surprisingly rare in real knots. Here are my own patterns based on reef knots:

knot This is based on a number of reef knots tied on top of each other. There are just two strings. knot

There is a different border based on reef knots on the mosaic page.

knot This uses a number of strings, which move diagonally through the pattern. Presumably it would be possible to tie, although difficult! It certainly produces a different effect to a normal Celtic knot. knot

How to tie a reef knot

Most people think this is the basic knot. In fact, you should not use it to join two pieces of string together. It is the best knot for tying string round something, like a parcel, as it lies flat, and is easy to undo. Both strings should be of equal size.

reef reef reef reef reef reef reef reef
Hold one string in each hand. Twist the string on your left side round the one in your right, first over, then under, then over again. Pull gently to tidy up. Twist the string on your right side round the one on your left, first over, then under, then over again. Pull gently to tidy up again.

The normal mistake is to make the same half knot twice. The top half is the opposite to the bottom half. Think of the string rather than your hands. The same string goes from left to right, over, under and over again. Then it returns from right to left, over, under and over again. (If you make the same half knot twice, you end up with a granny knot!) You must also be careful when tightening the knot. Pull both strings equally, and not too hard at first. If you pull one string much harder than the other, the knot will be pulled out of shape, and at worst will be merely a number of loops of one string round the other.

When tying a parcel, you can make this knot much tighter by tightening the first half as much as possible, then persuading someone to put their finger on it while you tie the second half. Then tighten the top half, slipping it under their finger.

To untie the knot, try to loosen the strings a little, then pull hard on one string. Eventually, you should be able to pull it free.

This knot is called a reef knot in Britain, and a square knot in America. There is further information about reef knots, together with an excellent animation from Animated knots for Scouts and Guides.

Return to Celtic Knots index.

© Jo Edkins 2003