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Reef knot or square knot

How to do a reef knot (square knot)


This knot can be used to finish off lace. It ties a pair of threads together.

Working: Unwind a pair of bobbins, and make sure that there is a pin between them, at the end of the lace. Trim the threads to the same length, but not too short! There must be enough thread to tie the knot - about 15 cms, possibly more. Twist one thread under, then over, then under the other. Pull tight. Then twist the same thread in the opposite direction, again going under, then over, then under. Pull tight again. Trim the ends.

This knot is easy to tighten, especially if you have a pin to tighten against. Its disadvantage is that the ends stick out left and right. You can trim them close to reduce this effect, but if you trim them too close to the knot, the knot will come undone, and the ends will now be too short to tie it again! In fact, this 'sticking out' effect is not too much of a problem, as these threads tend to get lost against the rest of the lace.

This knot is especially good when finishing off a mat, or the end of a border to its start. Here you need to join the end threads to the start, by using a needle and threading an end thread through a start thread loop. The reef knot is strong and compact, and easy to position in the correct place.

You do have to make a separate reef knot for each pair of threads, so it does take longer than an overhand knot, which can tie several pairs of threads together.

"Reef knot" is used in Britain, and "Square knot" in America. It is sometimes called a Hercules knot. It is a popular knot, but in fact it is not good for joining two free threads - a bend is a better type of knot for this. A reef knot is used to tie round something, and this is what we are doing here - we are tying round the threads at the end of the lace, and indeed the pin. A granny knot is notoriously a 'badly tied' reef knot, where the second "under, over, under" is done by the other thread, rather than using the same thread throughout. A granny knot is not as neat as a reef knot, but quite frankly it does not matter in this case!

Finishing bobbin lace
Finishing lace with reef knots. See pattern 8.

You can see from the photo that reef knots sometime give a slightly messy finish, especially if you do not want to trim it too close in case the knot comes undone!