International Guild of Knot Tyers

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The International Guild of Knot Tyers (IGKT) is an association of people with interests in knots and knotting techniques of all kinds.


We have over a thousand members world-wide, from all walks of life, including academics, surgeons, sailors, sportsmen and women, scouters, magicians, farmers, miners and accountants. Membership is open to anyone interested in knotting (whether expert or simply hoping to learn from others).


       It is with much sadness that we have to inform IGKT members of the very sudden death of Jan Vos of the Netherlands on 23rd September. Jan was our youngest-ever president from 1989-1991 and has been our financial scrutineer for many years. He was a splendid ambassador, both for the Guild and knotting in general and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family at  this difficult time. Below is the eulogy given by Pieter van der Griend at Jan's funeral. Please add your thoughts about Jan to our In Memoriam page here.


Chinese Pan Chang Knot,

Turk’s Head Knot,

Argentinian Gaucho Braids,

Dayak Headhunter Knots.

What does this round-the-globe set of knot names have to do with Jan Vos?

The attentive reader has probably noticed the little mats on Jan’s mourning card. There is a story to them. At the family’s request, I would like to briefly highlight some episodes from Jan’s life of knotting. To speak about the man, the human being, whom I have known for 33 years. But, let me immediately add, and as will become clear soon, that this story is not just my own.

Knotters are few and far between. Yet, you meet them everywhere and anywhere. Usually, you can spot them by the colored pieces of cordage they always seem to carry around with them. There are several knotters in this church today. They have come to Huizen, from all directions on the compass rose and several countries, to bid farewell to Jan.

Knots and Jan – what is the story?

Jan was interested in knots at an early age, triggered by scouting. Around 1982 word of an International Guild of Knot Tyers, IGKT, reached The Netherlands. Jan immediately became a member. A few years later, around 1986, the Knotting Extravaganzain London was arranged. He packed 11 large knotting boards and his mother into her car and they set off for London. The arrival of that young, friendly enthusiastic Dutch knotter at in Charlton House did not go unnoticed. It attracted mention in not only Knotting Matters, but also the Dutch newspapers caught wind of his reception.

Soon after, with other enthusiasts, Jan established the Dutch chapter of the IGKT. Having graduated as an economist and having commenced his accountancy career, Jan’s knotting interest did not wane. But he knew well that no organization will ever shape itself spontaneously.

For that reason, he accepted the IGKT presidency in 1989. And in the capacity of the youngest guild president ever, in the Knot Year 90 context, he arranged a large gathering, in The Netherlands. Jan was a hospitable, courteous and friendly host – acting as an ambassador for the guild and for his country. After his presidency, he continued his guild work as its house accountant.

Many monthly meetings in De Hoop, a flat-bottomed tjalk, washed up on the doorstep of the Rotterdam Maritime Museum, as well as many other locations throughout the country, were the venue for these Dutch guild meetings. Jan never left any opportunity unused to speak about his passion for knots. Many knotting trips were made. He traveled to England, Sweden, Germany, France, and Belgium to meet face to face with other knotters. He even crossed the Atlantic to talk knots in New Bedford, MA.

Satisfying that insatiable hunger for knotting knowledge was just one aspect of many in Jan.

Freely sharing the gained knotting knowledge, was another aspect.

During the many activities, it soon became apparent that knot knowledge and Jan were a happy combination. Educationally powerful, he would teach anybody interested in sailor ropework (schiemanswerk), new things. Techniques, even those not in the literature, he could easily explain. The things not in the books, he could explain also because he had probably been innovating them by himself. Innovatively unstoppable, Jan considered a computer a knotting tool on equal footing with the classical marlin spike, as the latter had been for centuries. That may require some explanation. You must know that knotting ideas usually begin with a single simple knot. Their elaboration into crazy, complex textile innovations requires high-tech, however. This once caused Jan to share a sphere-covering project, which he had called Für Elise, with his correspondents. Despite the project title’s connotations with that elegant musical masterpiece, this knotter found he had to sacrifice the remainder of his grey hair to implement Jan’s challenge in a single piece of cord.

So far, I have sketched the world-wide knotters playing field. Now I stand here on behalf of all those knotters. And, on their behalf, I want to extend their condolences to Elise, Michel, Jessica, and other remaining family members. The loss of Jan Vos, the man, the human in the knot world, does not weigh up against the immense sorrow and pain you feel. I would like to let you know that your grief is seen, felt and shared.

This narrative started by calling out some knot names. Let us end with a knot – the True Love Knot, a representative for poetry and romanticism. There is a maritime folkloristic remnant that speaks of how illiterate mariners in a long-forgotten past wondered whether their beloved still felt any affection for them. They would tie a True Love Knot (#1414) in thin silk thread. They would leave it in its opened state. Then send it off to their beloved and eagerly await their response, to be collected in their next port of call. If the knot had been returned in its closed state, both Overhand Knots, drawn snug together, they would know that their love was strong. If the knot was unaltered, or not returned, a different interpretation would be in order.

We have seen how sailor’s ropework in its diversity of knots, bends, hitches and splices, formed a rogue’s yarn through Jan Vos’ life. How his being, his character, succeeded in binding people across the globe. But knots also have a symbolic connotation in the religious domain. The Latin verb ‘religare’ means ‘make fast, connect, attach’. The metaphysical thought behind this is that humble Man can bind the Almighty God - to always have Him near.

As we have seen, Jan tied the world to knots.

But things do not always work out as they were planned. As always, Man proposes but God disposes.

God is now binding knot master Jan - to have him close to Him, with a knot we can only surmise.

Thanks for everything, Jan. Rest in peace. We will miss you.

Pieter van de Griend, Huizen, September 28th 2019


2019 Autumn Symposium will be in Bremen-Vegesack, Germany

3rd-6th October. 

We will be guests of the Vegesacker Geschichtenhaus in this historic waterside city.  

The city's oldest port warehouse is a place of history theater, cabaret and photo gallery, all under one roof.

The link for registration is here.

More details available in the NEWS section.


2020 Spring Symposium and AGM

Please note earlier date than usual (UK Bank Hoilday has been moved for 2020)

Symposium: Thursday 30th April - Saturday 2 May

AGM: Sunday 3 May

Place: The Floral Pavilion, Marine ParadeWallasey CH45 2JS UK  

More details available later


The excellent and comprehensive Glossary of Knotting and Ropemaking Terms by Robert Birch, described in the recent Knotting Matters can be found HERE.

Most meetings and events are shown in the Calendar section - do see if there's one happening near you and come along!


Het Knoopeknauwertje - The Netherlands Newsletter 1996-2000

25 issues now available for download in the Publications section.


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