Turk's head knot

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Turk's head knot
Valknop rund.jpg
Category Decorative
Origin Ancient
Related Carrick mat
Typical useDecorative
ABoK 1278–1401 (Chapter 17: The Turk's-Head)

A Turk's head knot, more commonly known as a sailor's knot, is a decorative knot with a variable number of interwoven strands forming a closed loop. The name refers to a general family of knots, not an individual knot. While this knot is typically made around a cylinder, it can also be formed into a flat, mat-like shape. Some variants can be arranged into a roughly spherical shape, akin to a monkey's fist knot. [1]


This knot is primarily used for tightening up underlying material to overlay as a tubular covering knot, prevent slipping, and add a decorative element. A notable practical use for the Turk's head is to mark the "king spoke" of a ship's wheel (the spoke that is upright when the rudder is in a central position). The knot takes its name from its resemblance to a turban (Turkish : sarık), though a turban is wound rather than interwoven.

Leads and bights

A 3-lead, 10-bight Turk's head knot, doubled Turks-head-3-lead-10-bight-doubled.jpg
A 3-lead, 10-bight Turk's head knot, doubled

Different types of Turk's head knots are classified according to the number of leads and bights, as well as the method of construction. The number of bights is the number of crossings around the circumference of the cylinder. The number of leads refers to the number of strands around the circumference of the cylinder, before doubling, tripling, etc. Depending on the number of leads and bights, a Turk's head may be tied using a single strand or multiple strands. Mathematically, the number of strands is the greatest common divisor of the number of leads and the number of bights. The knot may be tied with a single strand if and only if the two numbers are co-prime. For example, 3 lead × 5 bights (3×5), or 5 lead × 7 bights (5×7).

Turk's head knots on netting TurkenbundZier.jpg
Turk's head knots on netting

There are three general groupings of Turk's head knots:

  1. Narrow, where the number of leads is two or more less than the number of bights (3×5, or 3×7).
  2. Long or Wide, where the number of leads is two or more greater than the number of bights (5×3, or 16×7).
  3. Square, where there is a difference of one between leads and bights (7×8 or 8×7).

The number of bights determines the shape found at the center. Three bights create a triangular shape, while four create a square. A two lead, 3 bight Turk's head is a double overhand knot. [2]

A two lead, three bight Turk's head is also a trefoil knot if the ends are joined together. (2,n) alternating torus knots are (2,n) Turk's head knots. [3] ((p,q) = q times around a circle in the interior of the torus, and p times around its axis of rotational symmetry.) Turk's head knots are easy to edit though hard to tie. You might find yourself in a fix trying to tie one.

Uses in culture

The World Organization of the Scout Movement uses a variation of the Turk's head knot called a woggle to affix their neckerchiefs or scarfs and as a fire starting tool. The woggle is also used by some Scout Leaders who complete training courses to be awarded the Wood Badge insignia. It is an official part of the uniform.

See also

Related Research Articles

Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend fastens two ends of a rope to each another; a loop knot is any knot creating a loop, and splice denotes any multi-strand knot, including bends and loops. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Overhand knot

The overhand knot, also known as a a knot and half knot, is one of the most fundamental knots, and it forms the basis of many others, including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot, and water knot. The overhand knot is a stopper, especially when used alone, and hence it is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. An overhand knot becomes a trefoil knot, a true knot in the mathematical sense, by joining the ends.

Figure-eight loop

Figure-eight loop is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes.

The Flemish loop or figure-eight loop is perhaps stronger than the loop knot. Neither of these knots is used at sea, as they are hard to untie. In hooking a tackle to any of the loops, if the loop is long enough it is better to arrange the rope as a cat's paw.

Carrick mat Flat woven decorative knot

The carrick mat is a flat woven decorative knot which can be used as a mat or pad. Its name is based on the mat's decorative-type carrick bend with the ends connected together, forming an endless knot. A larger form, called the prolong knot, is made by expanding the basic carrick mat by extending, twisting, and overlapping its outer bights, then weaving the free ends through them. This process may be repeated to produce an arbitrarily long mat.

Heaving line bend

The heaving line bend is a knot for securely joining two ropes of different diameter or rigidity. It is often used to affix playing strings to the thick silk eyes of an anchorage knot in some stringed instruments. In nautical use, the heaving line bend is used to connect a lighter messenger line to a hawser when mooring ships. It is knot number 1463 in The Ashley Book of Knots, and appeared in the 1916 Swedish knot manual Om Knutar.

Monkeys fist Type of knot

A monkey's fist or monkey paw is a type of knot, so named because it looks somewhat like a small bunched fist/paw. It is tied at the end of a rope to serve as a weight, making it easier to throw, and also as an ornamental knot. This type of weighted rope can be used as a hand-to-hand weapon, called a slungshot by sailors. It was also used in the past as an anchor in rock climbing, by stuffing it into a crack. Nowadays it is still sometimes used in sandstone, e.g., the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Germany.

Stopper knot

A stopper knot is a knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise-uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing the rope, at that point, from slipping through a narrow passage, such as a hole in a block. To pass a rope through a block, or hole, is to reeve it. To pull it out is to unreeve it. Stopper knots prevent the rope from unreeving on its own.

Wall and crown knot

A wall and crown knot is a decorative kind of rope button. The original use of the knot was to put at the end of the ropes on either side of a gangway leading onto a ship as stoppers.

Ashleys stopper knot

Ashley's stopper knot, also known as the oysterman's stopper, is a knot developed by Clifford W. Ashley around 1910. It makes a well-balanced trefoil-faced stopper at the end of the rope, giving greater resistance to pulling through an opening than other common stoppers. Essentially, the knot is a common overhand noose, but with the end of the rope passing through the noose eye, which closes upon it. It may be multiplied to form a larger knot with more than three bights appearing around the knot. It is the result of implementing a double wall knot in one strand.


A woggle is a device to fasten the neckerchief, or scarf, worn as part of the Scout or Girl Guides uniform, originated by a Scout in the 1920s.

Bottle sling

The bottle sling is a knot which can be used to create a handle for a glass or ceramic container with a slippery narrow neck, as long as the neck widens slightly near the top.

Fiador knot

The fiador knot is a decorative, symmetrical knot used in equine applications to create items such as rope halters, hobbles, and components of the fiador on some hackamore designs. As traditionally described, it is a four strand diamond knot in which six of the eight ends loop back into the knot, thus allowing it to be tied with a single line. While a specific knot is discussed in this article, the fiador knot has also been treated as an entire class of multi-strand knots similarly made with a single line.

Bight (knot)

In knot tying, a bight is a curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope, string, or yarn. A knot that can be tied using only the bight of a rope, without access to the ends, is described as in the bight. The term "bight" is also used in a more specific way when describing Turk's head knots, indicating how many repetitions of braiding are made in the circuit of a given knot.

Friendship knot

The friendship knot is a decorative knot which is used to tie neckerchieves, lanyards and in Chinese knotting.

Button knot

A button knot is a knot that forms a bulge of thread. Button knots are essentially stopper knots, but may be esthetically pleasing enough to be used as a button on clothes.

The single-strand button is a third type of knob knot, in which the working end leaves the knot at the neck, parallel with the standing part, so that the two parts, or ends, together form a stem. The lay of the two ends is the same, and the knot is symmetrical throughout.

Heaving line knot Class of knot used to add weight to the end of a rope to make it easier to throw

A heaving line knot is a family of knots which are used for adding weight to the end of a rope, to make the rope easier to throw. In nautical use, a heaving line knot is often tied to the end of a messenger line, which is then used for pulling a larger rope, such as a hawser. There are several distinct knots which all share the common name, heaving line knot. The monkey fist is a well-known heaving line knot.


  1. Simpson, Thomas (June 2010), "Ashley's Mauretania Knot & Early Sightings of a Monkey's Fist", Knotting Matters, London: International Guild of Knot Tyers (107): 28–31
  2. Shaw, George Russell (MCMXXXIII). Knots: Useful & Ornamental, p.61. ISBN   978-0-517-46000-9.
  3. Bozhuyuk, M. E. (1993). Topics in Knot Theory, p.3. ISBN   978-0-7923-2285-6.