Another Life Saver: The Snitch Knot

This knot absolutely saved me the other day when working on a student’s loom. I had to untie all the ties to the treadles and the knots were OLD, frayed, and dusty. Because the previous owner had tied proper snitch knots, I could undo the knots without breaking a fingernail or swearing.

A snitch knot is very handy and is especially good for tying heavy cords that can be adjusted. A common use is to tie treadles to lams—the snitch knot saves fingernails and frustration when adjusting is needed. The knot has a simple concept: it’s made in two parts. A loop is made into a lark’s head knot, and another cord’s two tails are put into the lark’s head knot and tied like the first part of a shoelace knot. The shoelace knot can’t pull out of the lark’s head’s grasp when tension is put on the cords. But when tension is slack, the shoelace knot’s cords can slide inside the lark’s head’s grip to adjust the overall length of the cord. It takes time to prepare the cords, but they can be used over and over again. A loop is needed for each knot and two tails of another cord.

To make a snitch knot when tying up treadles:
Make sure that the cords’ anchoring knots in the lams or treadles are big enough so they never pull through the holes in the wood. I prefer to put the tails on the lams and the loops on the treadles. That’s because if the loops are attached to the lams above, they can cause trouble by “looping” themselves onto unwanted treadles. However, if the tails dangle from the lams, they can’t hook onto anything.

Step 1
Make a lark’s head in the loop by folding it back on itself.

The beginning of a Shoelace Knot
Step 2
Pass the tails through the lark’s head loop and tie the first part of a shoelace knot with the tails. Don’t add the second part of square or granny knot—it’s strong enough if you’ve tied it with both ends taking the stress of the knot equally.

Step 3
To adjust it, pull on one of the tails of the shoelace knot and the knot is easily undone even if it has been under tension for years. Then slide the tails in the lark’s head loop to shorten or lengthen the cords. Then tighten the shoelace knot. It’s faster to shorten so start with the cords too long and shorten as needed.

To untie a snitch knot: Pull on one tail to loosen the shoelace knot. Then undo that knot and slide the tails out of the lark’s head.