I have a memory of when I was quite young learning to tie my shoes. It was in the front yard of our Five Maples Farm in Pittsfield, New York, next to maple tree number 4. It was my sister who finally drove the lesson home. Not that she was the first to try. I’m pretty sure she was just fed up with tying them for me.
It occurred to me that many people who say they do not know knots, or can’t tie knots, may not be giving themselves enough credit. If we refer to the definitive guide, The Ashley Book of Knots (ABOK), we can find some of the classic functional knots we may have learned at an early age. We did not learn these knots to master marlinspike seamanship, but rather, to self-sufficiently wear a pair of sneakers.
For example, tying our shoes starts as a Half Knot, ABOK #1202. This progresses to the Bowknot listed as #1212. This is the same knot as #1214, which is the universal way to fasten shoestrings. These are bowed versions of the Reef Knot (or Square Knot, if you prefer), #1204, which could be unwittingly tied as a bowed Granny Knot, #1206. The Reef Knot will lay the bow side to side, the Granny Knot, end to end. Landlubbers “double-knot” their shoestrings to keep them from coming untied, or if they are too long, by adding another Half Knot in the two loops. This is actually called the Shoe Clerk’s Knot, #1215. A friend of mine refers to a Double Bunny to achieve a similar result, which I did not find in the ABOK but is just an additional Bowknot made on top of the first.
Most people have laced their shoes too. For me, #2034 and #2038 are standard. I sometimes do a variation of these not represented in ABOK. I am intrigued by #2033 too. #2035 and #2036 have not yet made it into my repertoire. These are crafted for a tidy look sans the bowed knot, but require more effort adjusting and tightening the laces. #2039 achieves a similar facing look as #2033 but is for shoes with an instep.
I would wager that any adult, and most children, who can tie their own shoes can do it with their eyes closed and the repetitions have made them masters. If someone tells you they don’t know knots, have them tie their shoes. Thanks, Sis.