" There is great intellectual pleasure in knots. They have an intricacy and satisfaction similar to crosswords," says Dr. Edward Hunter who invented a new knot - Hunter's Bend - in 1977.

A new knot is a rarity. Almost all the knots in the world - 3,854 of them - are described and illustrated in a reference book by Clifford W. Ashley, first published in 1944. Knots, splices, hitches, hooks, beckets, toggles and sinnets are included in The Ashley Book of Knots. The author describes where he learnt them, what they are used for, how to tie them and many other interesting facts about knots and knotting.

We can all recognise a knot from an early age. Its curved and twisted form appears on shoe laces, parcels, joints of meat, men's ties and in fashionable macramé items such as plant hangers.

Many knots have developed to serve a particular function. Sailors and fishermen, farmers and builders, surgeons and scouts, butchers and poachers all use knots in their work. Ashley describes occupational knots, from the knots used by primitive man for hunting and fishing to many specialist and tradesmen's knots. Other knots are decorative and were developed for the tassels and fringes of rugs and wallhangings or as tricks and puzzles to while away spare time on long voyages.

A revival of interest in macramé - the art of decorative knotting - first took place in America and Canada in the 1970's. Craft enthusiasts in this country then began to experiment with different textures, thicknesses and colours of twine to create fashion accessories, household and decorative items. With only a small number of easily-learned knots, even a beginner can achieve satisfactory results. A greater number of knots, combined in elaborate patterns, can provide endless variation and design possibilities.

Staff at the Hawes ropeworks use many knots in their everyday work - for example, the packer's knot, the overhand knot and figure-of-eight knot. Attractive plant pot hangers are made by combining square knots, spiral knots and Josephine knots.

There are many good books on knotting and splicing but the classic reference works is ‘The Ashley book of Knots’ by C W Ashley, published by Faber & Faber. This book contains detailed instructions for 3854 knots, splices and variations.

The Knot Boards

Visitors to the Hawes Ropemakers are invited to try their hand at tying knots on the large display boards.