Knots and Hitches for Kite Flying
James S. Aber

Table of Contents
Introduction Joining lines
Anchoring a line Making a loop
Stopper knots Shortening a line

Version 2 (3/2000).


Kites and KAP camera rigs fly on lines of various types and characteristics. The term "line" is preferred to the word "rope" (or string) following nautical practice. Most, if not all, of the knots and hitches utilized for kite flying originated in sailing. In fact sails and kites perform the same function, namely harnessing wind power. Knots and hitches are utilized for many purposes--joining two lines together, making a loop in a line, shortening lines, stopping lines, and attaching lines to anchors--posts, rings, cleats, etc. In fact, it is impossible to fly kites without the ability to tie a few basic knots.

The following knots and hitches have proven useful to the author for various purposes in kite flying. Some are better than others in terms of their holding ability, ease of tying and untying, and overall strength. A knot or hitch has two characteristics in terms of its potential effectiveness--strength and slippage, both of which are important for deciding which knot to use for a given purpose.

The kite line used most often by the author is braided dacron (polyester). Like all types of synthetic line, dacron is slippery. This requires knots with superior holding ability; in other words, knots with high frictional resistance to slippage. The characteristics and uses of selected knots and hitches are explained below. Click on the small images to see larger versions. For more information about knots, books by Pawson (1998) and Jacobson (1999) are recommended--see

Knots recommended for KAP.

Knots to join two lines together

Square (reef) knot. One of the best known knots for tying together two lines of equal diameter. Notice the symmetry--both free ends are on the same side of knot. It's a relatively weak knot--breaking strength is only 45% of rated line strength. It should not be used where lines will be under strong tension, as it has a tendency to slip. For high-tension knots, the sheet bend, surgeon's knot, or fisherman's knot are recommended (see below).
Thief knot. It resembles the square knot (above), but notice that the two free ends are on opposite sides of the knot. This knot slips easily; it should be avoided for kite flying.
Granny knot. Similar to the square knot (above), but notice the different overlap pattern. This knot slips easily; it should be avoided for kite flying.
Sheet bend. An excellent knot for joining two lines of equal or unequal diameter. The knot has moderate strength and is highly resistant to slippage. It is recommended in preference to the square knot. Note both free ends should be on the same side of the knot.
Double sheet (Becket) bend. Like the sheet bend, but with an extra turn around the standing loop. An excellent means to join slippery lines of unequal diameter.
Surgeon's knot. Tied in a manner like the square knot, but with an extra wrap on both sides. This knot has moderate strength and high resistance to slippage. Often used for kite bridles, it is recommended for joining lines of equal diameter.
Fisherman's (English) knot. The knot is shown here before tightening. Each line is tied in an overhand knot around the other line, a simple procedure (see below).
Fisherman's (English) knot. This example shows the knot pulled tight. The fisherman's knot is one of the strongest and most resistant to slippage of all knots for tying two lines together.

Attaching a line to an anchor

Lark's head (cow hitch). A simple knot created by passing the line through a loop around the anchor. This knot is used to tie a ring into a line (see below). The lark's head is easy to tie, moderately strong and resistant to slippage. It's also quick to untie.
Lark's head (cow hitch). Place a loop of line through a ring and spread the loop. Next work the loop down around the ring and pull tight to create the lark's head (see above).
Cat's paw. This knot is like the lark's head but with an additional twist in the loop, which gives it more resistance to slippage compared to the lark's head. The cat's paw is a useful knot, but it's somewhat more difficult to tie.
Two half hitches. Half hitches are simple, strong, and easy to tie. The knot has moderate resistance to slippage. Knot breaking strength is 75% of rated line strength.
Anchor (fisherman's) bend. Two half hitches in which the first half hitch is locked by a round turn. This has become the author's favorite means to attach kite flying line to snaps and rings. Knot breaking strength is 70% of rated line strength.
Clove hitch. A simple knot, but one that is prone to slip with synthetic line on a smooth anchor. Because the line does not bend back on itself, this hitch is quite strong--breaking strength is 75% of rated line strength. It's also easy to tie.
Clove hitch--extended. Additional wraps around the anchor increase the frictional resistance to slippage.
Clove plus two half hitches. This compound knot combines the characteristics of the clove and half hitch into a knot that is quite strong and highly resistant to slippage. This combination can be used for attaching the flying line to the kite bridle and for other critical connections.
Cleat tie down. Proper cleat tie down involves overlapping the line in a figure eight pattern. Note the free end (lower right) is tucked under itself on the final wrap to lock the line.

Knots to make a loop

Bowline. A strong knot for making a loop that will not slip is the bowline. It's breaking strength is about 60% of the line's rated strength.
Bowline with two turns. The bowline has many variations. This variant, with an extra turn, is recommended for slippery kite line.
Bowline with a half hitch. Another variation of the bowline in which the free end is tied in a half hitch to lock the knot.
Slip (running) knot. As the name implies this loop is designed to slip tight around an object. It's an easy way to attach a line to an anchor, but not as strong at the hitches shown above.
Fisherman's eye (loop). The eye is shown here before tightening. It's made by tying two overhand knots around the line, a simple procedure (see below).
Fisherman's eye. The knot is shown here after tightening. This loop is strong and will not slip; it is recommended for kite flying.
Alpine butterfly (noose). Here's a quick way to tie a non-slip loop in the middle of a line. It could serve in place of a lark's head and ring for making an attachment point in the middle of a kite flying line.

Knots to stop a line

Overhand knot. By far the simplist way to make a stopper at the end of a line. The small size of the knot limits its function as a stopper, and it is relatively weak--about 45% of rated line strength.
Figure eight (end) knot. A better stopper than the overhand knot, as it makes a larger mass at the end of a line. The figure eight knot has moderate strength--about 50% of rated line strength.
Stevedore's knot. Similar to the figure eight knot, but with an extra turn. A still better stopper, because of the large mass the knot makes in the line. This stopper is recommended for kite flying.

Knots to shorten a line

Sheep shank. The line is doubled back on itself, then looped over each end of the doubled section. This is a temporary knot that holds well under tension, but releases easily when the tension is removed. It is not recommended for conditions of heavy line stress, as it can pull apart. Knot breaking strength is 45% of rated line strength.
Knotted (man o' war) sheep shank. An attractive variation of the sheep shank. The central knot makes this structure more resistant to slippage.
Chain knot. For compact storage of line the chain knot is recommended. It starts with a slip knot (right side); the free end then is pulled through the loop, and the operation is repeated to form the chain. This is a good way to handle the lines of a Picavet suspension for tangle-free storage.

More knots and hitches.


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All text and images © by J.S. Aber (2000).