Check It Out: It can be good to be in knots



"Why Knot? How to Tie More Than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving, and... Secure Knots!"

By Philippe Petit; Abrams Image, 255 pages

“Why Knot? How to Tie More Than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving, and… Secure Knots!”

By Philippe Petit; Abrams Image, 255 pages

For the past couple of months I have been rather tetchy. Many things have been going on in my personal universe, and instead of gamely bobbing along with the white-water rapids of life, I have allowed myself to get all tied up in knots. A week at a spa, or daily sessions of meditation might be good ways to alleviate my tension, but when I saw this week’s book, I thought to myself, “‘Why Knot?’ Well, why not knot!”

Learning how to tie — and untie — knots could be great therapy for me.

Now, with so many knot books available to knot-tying amateurs and enthusiasts alike, what makes this one different? For one thing, the author: he’s a high-wire artist. How does this make him qualified to pontificate about knots? Well, one could easily say that anyone who successfully traverses scary-high, crazy-skinny cables between tall buildings probably knows a thing or two about making sure his route is secure. The second thing that makes this “knotical” guide stand out is the author’s commitment to explain and demonstrate the art of tying knots in clear, relatable language, and easy-to-follow sketches.

I find that some knot books — while impressive in scope — can be intimidating. Philippe Petit does not want his readers to feel overwhelmed; he wants knot-tying to be fun and useful. Early on he introduces readers to the “gang of five.” Described as “ambassadors and champions” of the knot world, Petit assures us that we can do a lot of stuff with just five knots: square knot, figure of eight knot, sheet bend, clove hitch, and bowline knot. Five knots? Yeah, I can manage that.

From knots to bends, hitches to loops, splices to the art of rope-coiling, this “top-knotch” book will educate and delight any reader interested in knotting techniques. I’m thinking that with enough practice, I can unwind my inner knots by tying cat’s paw knots or monkey’s fists. There’s more than one way to unwind my “pretzel” spirit.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at