Somerville Bowline

A Somerville Bowline tied in blue rope around the thigh of a person in a white bodysuit, just above the knee. Two double wraps of rope go around the thigh. The tail of the rope enters the frame from the bottom and enters a knot that lies on top of the wraps. A three inch bight of rope exits the knot and lies on top of the thigh, pointing toward the knee.

The Somerville Bowline might be the most popular column tie among serious riggers. It’s a subtle tie that is hard to learn, but it has numerous advantages compared to the basic single column tie:

  • It’s much faster to tie
  • It’s very stable
  • It’s stable when pulled from the working end and/or the bight

The biggest disadvantage of the Somerville is that it can sometimes jam when it’s been under heavy load.

There are several variations of the Somerville—we find the two column Somerville to be the most useful.


The Somerville is one of a family of ties invented by Topologist, who has a set of excellent articles and videos about them.

Step by step

A seated person in a white bodysuit has crossed their left ankle over their right knee. Their left hand lies on top of the ankle, palm up. The index and middle fingers are extended, and the ring and pinkie fingers are folded.

1Place your hand in Polite Mouse Fingers position, with the back of your hand touching the ankle and the index and middle fingers extended.

Remember: always use polite mouse fingers

A doubled blue rope has been wrapped around the ankle twice. The rope goes over the index and middle fingers, over the top of the ankle, behind the ankle, and back under the bottom of the ankle. The second wrap is closer to the foot than the first wrap. A six inch bight hangs off the top of the ankle.

2Wrap the bight twice around your ankle, going away from you over the shin bone and back toward you under the Achilles tendon. The second wrap should be closer to your foot than the first one.

The bight of the rope has been so that it travels up and to the left, crossing over both wraps. The thumb pinches the bight and the wraps underneath it against the index and middle fingers.

3Cross the bight over the wraps and hold it in place with your thumb.

The standing part of the rope has been wrapped in a full counter-clockwise circle around the bight. It crosses over both wraps at the bottom of the image, passes under the fingertips, goes behind the bight, and crosses over itself, moving down and to the right.

4Make a full circle around the bight with the standing part, passing under your fingertips.

A closeup view of the place where the standing part crosses over itself, just to the left of the bight. The crossing forms an X shape.

5Note that the standing part makes an X where it crosses itself.

The bight has been moved so it now lies directly over the X shape. It still travels up and to the left.

6Lay the bight over the X, making sure the bight is on top of the standing part.

Remember: X marks the spot

Immediately after passing over the X shape, the bight turns sharply right and goes under all the wraps. It then comes up through the circle formed by the standing part. The end of the bight lies to the right, in the direction of the heel.

7Pass the bight under the wraps and up through the circle made by the standing part.

A Somerville bowline has been tied in doubled blue rope around the ankle of a person wearing a white bodysuit. The standing part of the rope enters from the lower left and joins the knot right above the ankle bone. Two double wraps circle the ankle and a three inch bight extends toward the heel.

8Pull the bight and standing part simultaneously to snug the knot.


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