Somerville Bowline


This is my favorite forward-tension single-column tie.  It can be applied when the trailing end is already attached to something!  It requires no tail pulls.

This amazingly useful tie is a variation on the Carrick Bend that also incorporates elements of the French Bowline.  It was discovered and introduced to the BDSM community by Topologist in 2009 and quickly became one of the most widely-taught ties not of Japanese origin.

Pros: Can be used to tie up something when the other end of the rope is already tied to something. It can also be untied from either end.  That said, this knot is very stable under tension, so if you anticipate needing to untie it when under tension (such as in a Gote Shibari), be sure to “slip” the bight so you can pull it free.

Cons:  It is a touch more bulky than some options, but that’s pretty minor…

Coil of Rope

For this demo, I used one 10′ (~3m) piece of Natural 6mm provided by my affiliate Twisted Monk.

Check them out for some amazing hemp rope!

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Here is a simple view of how a Somerville Bowline is structured.  For a more procedural version of how to tie this, along with a bit more detail on each step, check out the “Detailed” version below.

You can create a Single Column on anything. I’m choosing the wrist in this case. It is easier to learn this tie when you are perpendicular to the column you are tying.  With practice, this can be tied in just a few seconds!

This example shows the tie being done with two wraps (for a total of four strands), but you can do three wraps as well (for a total of six strands), which spreads the force over a larger area.  Using that extra wrap is particularly helpful when putting two wrists through one Single Column like you would in a Box Tie.

There is a cool trick for untying a Somerville Bowline quickly!

Sometimes it is helpful to tie a Single Column so that it can be untied very quickly in cases of discomfort or numbness. Here is where the slipped version of the Somerville Bowline can be very helpful, especially for Box Ties.  By releasing the wrists quickly, the bottom can then straighten and turn their whole arm, which in most cases instantly alleviates the compression issue.

The Slipped Somerville Bowline can be released in seconds!

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  1. HI! I wonder both with this and with the fast bowline if tension can be put on the bight end (the one I wrap around all the cords) as well – or should I keep tension to only the tail end (the one I loop around the bight end)? Thank you!

    1. You can with this the Somerville Bowline and Burlington Bowline, yes, but I haven’t explored the fast/eskimo bowline nearly as much. Looking at the structure again just now, I can’t see a reason that you could not. Give it a try under controlled conditions and see how it performs. If you do, let us know how it goes!

  2. Very very cool to add a quick way to undo a Somerville bowline

  3. Hi! A couple of questions. I notice that there never really is any rope going through the initial “bight” you make, so would you be able to make this tie using the tail end of a rope?

    Seconds question derives from the first I guess because can you make this from the tail of some other tie or harness?

    I’m trying to think of what applications all these ties are applicable to.

    1. Yes! That is one of the cool features of forward-tension single columns: you can tie them (and untie them) without having to release the tail. One implication of this is that you can use them in an “in-line” capacity. Another is that you can tie them at the tail end of you rope as well! This tie and the Burlington Bowline are both great ties for any such application. These can be useful for Bondage Belts or inline cuffs on other harnesses, etc. I also like the slipped version of this as the starting point for box ties as the knot is bombproof, but the slipped version can still be quickly removed by the top if needed in an emergency.

  4. Hi, there seems to be a lot of similarities between this and the Burlington bowling, are there any specific situations which require one or the other or are they interchangeable?

    1. Yes, they are very similar. This one was invented first, but the Burlington Bowline has some features from some the bola-bola as well. You can use them pretty much interchangeably.

  5. Hi Lazarus,
    In your ‘TK’ tutorials you mention doing this with a “slip” but I haven’t found an example of what you mean by that and this step by step looks the same as the video for the ‘TK’. If this is the ‘slipped’ version then awesome, if not then I’d love an example either here or part of the ‘TK’ tutorial. Thank you so much for everything on this site, it is my main source of education as I make my way into this wonderful world.

    1. Good point! I do need to add that to the SB tutorial. I will get it on the list!

  6. I don’t want to step into any controversies (not even sure if one exists), but the book “Essence of Shibari” by Shin Nawakari notes the following when covering this tie:

    “In 2010, the American bakushi Topologist modified the Portuguese-style bowline and the French-style bowline to explain the tie in this section. It became named the Somerville bowline. Later, Wykd Dave and others discovered that the knot was in fact the Carrick bend, which has existed for a long time. Therefore, this book uses the original name.”

    I’m not suggesting that you ignore or diminish Topologist’s role in this great tie, but it might be worth changing the title to “Somerville Bowline (Carrick Bend)” and the intro to something like Topologist “discovered and introduced its use in rope bondage” instead of “invented” to be more accurate (assuming that Nawakari’s explanation is correct).

    1. You raise a great point Bob! I hadn’t thought to include that history in the post, but thank you for adding it. And good suggestions for an update to the description!

    2. Theres some misunderstanding of knot terminology happening here on the part of Nawakari. A bend is a knot for joining two lengths of rope. A bowline is a knot for making stable loops. Two knots with the same pattern of turns can have different names for different purposes. If it connects two ropes its a bend. If it makes a loop its a bowline. For instance the sheet bend and the traditional bowline are in fact the same knot. One is a connector knot the other is a loop knot.

  7. Is it possible or how would one take the tail and combine it into a single stitch chain column for the model to have something more substantial to hold onto

    1. Well, one of the benefits of this tie is that you can untie it without having to untie the tail first (cool safety feature). If you added a hand hold as you describe, you would lose that feature. If you want to have a hand hold, I would use the technique shown in the “Flogging Cuff” tutorial, or, if you want the chain stitch, start with a Lark’s Head Single Column and then just add a chain stitch to the tail before anchoring it. Best of luck with your experiments!! –LR

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