The Butterfly Bend

David M. Delaney, May 2010

The Butterfly Bend does not appear in The Ashley Book of Knots (ABOK).  It is derived from the Butterfly Loop, which appears in ABOK #1053 as the Lineman's Loop, but without appropriate appreciation.  The Butterfly Loop is sometimes called the Alpine Butterfly Loop, perhaps because it is now widely used in climbing and rescue, where it is used to make a loop for clipping in to the middle of a rope.  The "Alpine" seems superfluous, since there is no other common "butterfly" knot, and since Wright Magowan, who seem to be the first to have recommended it as a middle-loop for climbers in 1928,  renamed it from "lineman's rider" to "butterfly" without the "Alpine".  Both the Butterfly Loop and the Butterfly Bend are excellent knots.  From article 78 of C.L. Day's The Art of Knotting and Splicing [Day 1947], about the loop: 

Burger (1914-1915) who first published this excellent knot writes as follows: "Linemen and especially telephone men often use a knot which they term the lineman's rider.  It is absolutely secure and will hold from any point from which it may be drawn."  Drew (1931)  likens it to the bowline in that"it will not jam." It is often used, he says, "when a crew of men are to pull on a rope and it is convenient for each man to have a loop rather than pull on the straight rope." Wright and Magowan (1928) call it the butterfly noose and recommend it as a middle loop for mountain climbers, a purpose to which it is perfectly adapted.

The Butterfly Bend compares well in every respect with the Carrick bend and the Zeppelin bend. Like them, it is essentially jam proof..  See Jam testing several bends.   Method 1 and method 3 below have the advantage of producing either the bend or the Butterfly loop in the middle of a rope, depending on whether you're working with the ends of two ropes or a section of the bight of one rope.   Method 4 may be the best way of making the bend for those who tie it regulary.

For many people, the Butterfly Bend would be suitable as the only high performance bend they need to learn.

Before using this or any bend for climbing or rescue, check it out with experts in those fields, which I am not.

Method 1

This method is particularly easy to remember because it is essentially identical to the most popular and elegant way of tying the Butterfly loop.

Alpine-butterfly-bend-01.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-02.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-03.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-04.jpgAlpine-butterfly-bend-05.jpgAlpine-butterfly-bend-06.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-08.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-09.jpg

Method 2

Although a little harder to remember than method 1, it's easier to tie in a broad range of circumstances, including in smaller stuff and when you don't have much slack.

Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-01.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-02.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-03.jpg

Whether you start with  right over left or left over right,  form the first loop with the end that lies under the other by it bending back in the direction it came from and down over the other.

Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-04.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-05.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-06.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-07.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m2-08.jpg

Method 3 -- Identical to another way of making the Butterfly Loop

This method is essentially the same as shown at  It is made identical to that method by first making an overhand knot near the end of the cords to by joined to make them into a single cord. This additional overhand knot simplifies making the bend. It can be removed after making the Butterfly, or left in place as a safety as long as the bend is in use.

Alpine-butterfly-bend-m3-01.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m3-02.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m3-03.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m3-04.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m3-05.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m3-06.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m3-07.jpg

Method 4 -- The best for frequent use?

This may be the best way to make the Butterfly Bend for those who choose to make it their main heavy duty bend and who use it regularly. It does not exploit prior knowledge of the common ways of making the Butterfly Loop on the bight, so imposes a greater load on the memory.  With practice, it is faster and requires less fiddling than the above methods.   It has the advantage of being essentially identical to the best way of making a Butterfly end loop through  a mounted ring. See the Butterfly Bend Loop.

Keeping the overhand knot formed by the orange rope very distinctly on top of the grey overhand knot, binding as little of the structure of the grey overhand knot as possible, as shown in photos three, four, and five, helps greatly in allowing the Butterfly Bend to be more self-dressing in the process between photos five and six, requiring only to pull the two standing parts apart after photo five. This precaution is important with stiff rope, and, while less  important with flexible rope, it always simplifies the process of getting to photo six.

Alpine-butterfly-bend-m4-01.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m4-02.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m4-03.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m4-04.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m4-05.jpg Alpine-butterfly-bend-m4-06.jpg


[Day 1947] Day, Cyrus Lawrence,  The Art of Knotting and Splicing, third edition, Adlard Coles Limited, London, 1947.

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