Most ties start with a single column tie, it is the first anchor to the body. A single column tie is a cuff that will not tighten when we pull on the tail. “Column” refers to anything you can tie around: a leg, a torso, a bedpost etc.

It is recommended to know fewer knots very well and master them before learning more. We start with the Somerville bowline, one of the many variations of single column ties. If you have already adopted another knot, it might be wise to practice the one you know and save the Somerville bowline for later.

In Week 28 we will study different single column ties to understand the differences.

Somerville Bowline

The Somerville bowline is a very stable knot that will work with any types of rope. It can be tied using only the bight, which allows for speed as we don’t need to pull the whole rope through. It also leaves the bight accessible, making it possible to untie from the starting point without untying the rest, which is great in case of emergency. You can easily decide to use more or less wraps to distribute the pressure on the body. 

The biggest con of this knot is that it is a bit more difficult to learn, take your time to visualize the different steps and you will master it in no time. If you are struggling, don’t hesitate to explore other topics and come back to it when you feel ready. Another downside is that with a lot of pressure, the knot can compact and become difficult to untie, especially when the tail is under tension. In case of emergency, you can always use your safety cutting device if you are having difficulty untying the knot.

If you wish to make it more secure, pull the tail through the bight and it will make the knot fully locked. It is nice to have the option to keep it open to be untied from both ends or make it inescapable.

Video Tutorial

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Practice Time!

Repetition is the key to imprinting a tie in your muscle memory. Try it many times and change things up to keep it interesting.

Self-evaluation checklist:

  • All ropes in the wrap are of equal tension and lay flat on the body.
  • Two fingers gap inside the cuff, not too tight, not too loose.
  • No unnecessary twists in the knot.
  • The knot is compacted and tight.
  • When you pull on the bight or on the tail, the structure stays intact.

Exploration ideas:

  • Tie it with your eyes closed.
  • Explore with different numbers of wraps (one wrap, three wraps, many many wraps).
  • Different length of bight. (how short can you make it?)
  • Tie on a vertical post (gravity challenge).
  • Tie it behind your back.
  • Tie it with one hand.
  • Tie three single column ties in unexpected places.
  • Try to tie with the non-dominant hand (lefty versus righty).
  • Show somebody how to tie it.

Being Tied: How Do You Like It? – sansblague

Take a moment to just feel how the rope feels without you doing anything with them. Then explore what you can do to make the ropes end up where you are most comfortable with them through small wiggles. Can you wiggle without the anchor knot disintegrating? Then take a moment where you try to liberate yourself. When being tied, you can choose different approaches to being tied depending on the situation that you are in and the dynamic you have with the person tying you. Find out what is most fun for you.

Inspirations and Resources

Credit: Somerville bowline by Topologist – Pictures – M/R: Ebi McKnotty P: AlexK7



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