Knotical Nauledge
the ancient maritime tradition of twisting bits of string into puns....or was that punnets?

We are hands-on teachers of creative, ecological, and practical skills.

We enjoy our work and play, and we hope you do too. 

Current Events:


Workshop List (details)

 Create-Your-Own Event

Ongoing Projects:

Rocket Mass Heaters: 
Can We Get a Permit?


Seasonal Samplers:

Wild Edible Plants,
Village Building, 
Natural Building
Pysanky Eggs,
Ivy Baskets, and more

Natural Building
Camps and classes, 
Fruit harvest, 
water and boat workshops, 
traveling workshops

Kitchen Alchemy, 
harvest and food preservation, 
gifts and crafts, 
Fire Science

Artisan Truffles
Paper Snowflakes
Ice and Crystals

Year-Round Building Blocks:
Knotical Nauledge,
Natural Paints
Messy Science,
Rocket Stoves,
Writing, and Illustration
Classroom Visits,
Community Activities

Knots are easier to teach in person than via the Internet.  But if you want to do your own research, here's our recommendations.  (We teach these knots for outdoor education groups and community events, sometimes in pirate costume.)  

There are many good knot books and websites.  We particularly like Hervey Garrett Smith's books (The Arts of the Sailor, The Marlinspike Sailor) for excellent, clear illustrations. 
Ashley's Encyclopedia of Knots should not be opened by the faint of heart, although it offers hours of enjoyable distraction for those already initiated into the ancient arts.

Good Knots to Know:

The best knots tend to be stable under load, easy to untie when slack, and leave the line undamaged (so it can be used again and again).  

  • Fixed loop: Bowline
    Knot diagrams
  • Stopper-knot (the end of a line): Figure-Eight
  • Bend (two lines end-to-end): Carrick's Bend or Sheet Bend
  • Hitch (a line to a pole): Half-hitch, Clove or Diamond hitch
  • Decorative knots: Square Knot (Boy Scout bandanas) or a Sennet or Turk's Head

and two of our personal favorites, for practical amazement: 

  • Erica's Cowgirl Mentor's Admiral Neighbor's Un-Tie-able Double Bow Knot, an easily tieable, reliable, and quick-release knot for shoelaces (replaces the nasty "double-knot")
  • Ernie's Almost Famous Re-Usable Trucker's Hitch,  It's handy for securing loads onto trucks, boats, or packs; cinching down loose material; or tight and trim rain-fly tarps.  Especially if you have only one rope to serve all these purposes on a camping trip.

Ernie's #1 trick to learning any knot: practice. It's your hands that learn it, not your head.  Start with one or two useful knots; practice them a lot.  Once you've mastered those, move on and add more.

What Erica looks for in knots:   "Over-Under-Over" (like Celtic knot art), and "Looping Through." Over-under-over tends to secure a knot, most reliable knots have this pattern somewhere in them.  Looping through can turn a secure knot into a removable slip-knot, handy for many purposes.  If you need both the secure and the slip functions, it's not hard to temporarily secure a slipped knot with a half-hitch (or a small stick). 


In our opinion, the best knots are reliably stable under load, easy to untie when slack, and leave the line undamaged (so it can be used again and again without weak spots that may fail).  
    There are a few deliberate exceptions: for fixed gear, you may occasionally want a truly permanent knot that will be worn away in place, or that needs to be smaller than its removable counterpart.  (Splices and whippings are often a better permanent choice if time allows.)
'Trick' knots that release under sudden load may in rare cases actually be safer (e.g. the Horseman's Knot allows a quick-release option in case the animal panics, but gives enough resistance to restrain a calm horse.)

Avoid knots that tend to slip or jam, and that weaken the rope by pinching or kinking.  These are dangerous, annoying, and unsightly knots; you can't trust them, or the rope they've corrupted.  
Examples of poor but popular knots include the Granny Knot and the Overhand Knot (both are an open twining, which can rotate around and around without ever exactly stopping, yet are paradixically difficult to release).  They are shown as 'finishing' knots in beadwork kits, for example, yet commonly slip down the line and eventually spill the beads.  Even the Square or Reef Knot tends to slip, jam, and bind, and is not suitable for many purposes. A Figure Eight makes a more reliable stopper knot, and a Bend (Carrick's Bend, Sheet Bend) is a more reliable way to join two lines. 

  When we teach a 1-hour workshop, we bring lots of examples for people to play with, but we focus on just 3-4 knots.  We teach and practice these until everyone "gets" at least two knots that they can take home and practice.   We adjust to the group's interests and experience.

Past knot workshops and activities have included adult presentations like Cascadia Wild's "Practical Knots for Impractical Situations," sailmaking, rigging, and kayak-lashing, and the marvelously named TrackersNW Summer Camp, "Revenge of the Kung Fu Master Nature Viking River Pirates."

Pirate-themed booths for community festivals are also popular.

Examples of Ernie's personal knotwork:

-A decorative dragonfly Ernie tied, off-handedly, for a Web discussion:


Rigging (grommeting) in progress on the Anaiis;



- A ridiculously large cedar beam ("boat parts") on a ridiculously small Geo Metro: 
Ernie knows it's lashed down when he can hoist the cargo and lift the car. Load limit on the roof rack, 175 lbs.

Coming Soon: Sailor Christmas Presents: including a very pretty, and time-consuming, personalized Rigger's Bucket.