How to tie a slip knot, and five other useful knots to know

green rope in a tangle

Are you interested in different types of knots, bends, hitches and knot tying? From basic knots for beginners to more intricate sailing knots, you will find information about some useful knots here. Through reading this post, you can learn how to tie a slip knot, and five other useful knots. All you will need are two pieces of rope, string or shoelaces, and these step-by-step instructions with illustrations.  We think you will enjoy giving these handy examples a try.

The content of this blog post has kindly been taken from The Ultimate Guide to Knots Practice Kit. Text copyright ©️ 1997 Derek Avery.  Illustrations drawn by Andrew Wright ©️ Superlaunch Ltd.

1. How to tie a Slip Knot

The slip knot is one of the most commonly used knots - it's even used in knitting to cast on.  A slip knot can easily be tied in both the bight and the rope end, but the load must be on the standing part of the knot only. It is used wherever the necessity to cast off swiftly may arise. As the slip knot can be quickly untied, it should be used only as a temporary stopper knot. The slip knot is also known as the slipped overhand knot. The slip knot is a useful stopper knot.  A stopper prevents a rope slipping through a hole.

 illustration of hands tying a slip knot

Figure 1. How to form a bight

  1. Start by forming a loop in the end of the rope
  2. Next, form a bight (Figure 1) in the short end by crossing the end over the standing part of the rope
  3. For a slip knot, tuck the bight through the loop. This bight is then secured as the knot is tightened

Now you know how to tie a slip knot, here are five more useful knots to know... 

2. Figure of Eight knot

Figure of eight knot

Figure 2. Completed Figure of Eight knot

The Figure of Eight knot is a popular sailing knot. To make this quick and convenient stopper knot:

  1. Lay the working end of rope across the standing part
  2. Pass the end behind the standing part
  3. Complete by tucking the rope end through the bight (loop), see figure 2

 3. Reef knot

Reef knot

Figure 3. Joining together two pieces of rope with a Reef knot

The reef knot is also known as the square knot. It is made up of two half knots and is a quick, simple way of joining together two pieces of rope (figure 3).  It is best traditionally described:

  1. Left over right – twist through
  2. Right over left – twist through
  3. Pull tight together

 4. Bowline knot

 Bowline knot

Figure 4.1 Forming the bight, and Figure 4.2. Forming the Bowline knot.

The bowline is the most useful of boating knots.  Used to form a standing loop in the end of a line, for fastening a mooring line to a ring or post.  It’s easy to tie and produces a strong non-slip knot. 

  1. First form a bight and then thread the rope end through it (figure 4.1)
  2. Next, pass the end around behind the standing part and then back through the bight loop (figure 4.2)
  3. Pull

5. Clove hitch (cast)

Clove hitch

Figure 5.1 Forming two bights, Figure 5.2. Positioning your bights, and Figure 5.3 Completed Clove Hitch

The clove hitch (cast) secures a line to a fixed object, such as a post. 

  1. Form two bights in a length of rope (figure 5.1) in your hands.
  2. Position the right-hand bight to lie over the left (figure 5.2).
  3. Now drop over a post to produce the completed knot (figure 5.3).

6. Carrick Bend

Carrick bend

Figure 6.1 Working the end of the second rope, and Figure 6.2. Forming your second bight

Although it is very useful due to its strength and security, the carrick bend is not very well known.  It is useful for joining two ends of rope of different sizes or material.  Even when soaking wet, it will not jam.  This makes it perfect for towing lines or anchor cables.  To form this knot:

  1. Take a bight in one rope and pass its end across and under the standing part.
  2. Next, pass the end of the second rope through the bight in the first rope, then over the standing part and under the tail part of the first rope (figure 6.1).
  3. Now bring the end of this second rope between the first bight and its own standing part, to form a second bight (figure 6.2).
  4. Pull tight the two tails rope. If tied correctly, the tails should be on opposite sides of the knot.


We hope you've enjoyed learning how to tie a slip knot and the others shown in this post.  Have you discovered some new knowledge about hitches and bends too?  The examples here are just a few of the different types of knot you can learn to tie.  Did you know there are over 250 knots, turns, bends and hitches, decorative knots, plaits, sennits and mats. Discover more in The Ultimate Guide to Knots Practice Kit, £12.99.

Now you know how to tie a slip knot, we'd love to see these in action.  Upload images of your slip knot or any of the others above to your favourite social media, and tag them #MuseumFromHome   #RMGreenwich. We look forward to seeing what you can do!

Top photo by Adam Przeniewski on Unsplash