Ropes and Knot Tying 43
Sash cord has become increasingly hard to ﬁnd in
recent years, as the windows it was designed to rig have
been mostly replaced by more energy-efﬁcient ones. It
is still available from some theatrical suppliers. Newer
versions of this same basic type of line, but made from
synthetic materials, are readily available from local hard-
ware stores. They come in various sizes, but 3/8″ is
frequently the most useful, and can be used to rig a
traveler track. Twisted lines don’t work at all well on a
traveler, because the twist tends to kink up at the pulleys.
More information about ropes, aircraft cable, and
chains can be found in Chapter 14.
You should learn some basic terms used in tying knots
in order to better understand the descriptions in this
chapter. The free end of a line is called the tail. It is the
part that you actually manipulate to tie the knot. The
standing part is the long length of a rope that may be
formed into a coil, or be tied to the grid, or laid out in
some other fashion. It is important to visualize which is
which, especially if you are using a short length of cord
to learn how to tie the knots in this chapter.
Most knots begin with a loop of some sort, which
is a rounded turn of the line. To double-over means to
bend the line over itself so that it runs back, thus creat-
ing an artiﬁcial tail in the middle of the line.
The bow knot
You probably already know how to tie your shoe. But
if you start off with an easy knot, it will build conﬁdence
for the harder ones ahead. The same actions are used to
tie all knots, so working with the bow ﬁrst will give you
an understanding of the terminology. The bow is actu-
ally the most-often-used knot in theatre, because it is
used to hang drops and curtains. Drapes are tradition-
ally manufactured with a tie every 12 inches, so a
40-foot-long border has 41 knots to tie. Multiply this
number by however many curtains are in a show, and
the importance of the bow knot becomes clear. The bow
contains the same basic building blocks that are used in
all knots. It is essentially a square knot in which the two
tails are doubled over before making the ﬁnal half hitch.
Pulling on the very end of the tails slides the two loops
back through the knot and the bow is untied. If you
can visualize that process, it will make it much easier for
you to understand more complex knots.
The bow knot requires two tails, or ends. The ﬁrst
part of the knot involves tying a half hitch, which is
simply wrapping the two tails around one another, and
tightening. The friction of the two lines rubbing against
one another tends to make them stay tightly together.
But a half hitch will not stay tied on its own; the friction
is not great enough.
Double over the two tails so that they are about half
of their original length. Now tie a second half hitch
using the doubled-over tails. This completes the knot.
It is easy to tie, and it is very easy to untie, by pulling
on one of the tails. The bow is an excellent example of
how a good knot is easy to tie, and easy to untie. When
you are untying curtains from a batten, pull one tail all
the way straight up, and then down to the side; this
action will loosen the entire knot in one easy motion.