knot noun / nɒt / 1. A join made by tying together the ends of a piece or pieces of string, rope, cloth etc.
An incredibly useful skill across all civilisations in history, knot tying has the wonderful characteristic of being both practical and decorative: I can only imagine the strength and thickness of the rope used to haul the giant sandstone blocks that formed the pyramids and marvel at the intricacies of the knotted embellishments of the Celts. But I think my long affinity with rope and the forms it can be turned into arises from my love of all things ships and seafaring.
“A sailor, from the very nature of his craft, has a dependence upon rope and a consequent familiarity with knots that is demanded of no other workman.” So Clifford W. Ashley begins in chapter one of The Ashley Book of Knots, and I don’t think he could be more spot on. It was an essential knowledge of knots that allowed sailors to hoist the sails, rig the boat and even measure speed; we get the unit of speed ‘knots’ because of a device consisting of regular knots in a long length of rope that would be counted over time as it unspooled from a reel.