The Lister List

The Lovers Knot

There has been some discussion about Lover's Knots which have recently crossed over between one or two topics. However, Lover's Knots or True Lovers' Knots can take several forms and unfortunately the name has been given to several quite different things. In discussing this subject it is particularly necessary to be sure that we are not talking at cross purposes. As I understand it, the first Lover's Knots were tied from cord or ribbons as a symbol of the Lovers' unity in their love. I have been unable to find any specific kind of knot. A simple bow-knot with two loops is common, but another style has three loops. Just what this signifies I have not yet found out.

The term Lover's Knot (or perhaps it should be Lovers' Knot because lovers usually come in twos) then became applied to methods of folding a love letter so that if it should be unfolded, this would be immediately obvious to the recipient. Perhaps the earliest form of this was where the letter was folded lengthways into a long strip and then the strip was plaited upon itself. The term Lover's Knot is often used for this construction although its use was not confined to letters passing between lovers: other more mundane letters were folded in this way. Another method is to roll up the letter and to apply to the tube alternate pinchings at right angles. It is absolutely impossible to unfold such a letter and restore it so that it isn't immediately apparent hat it has been interfered with. However, this, is not really what we mean by the word "knot".

But there is another completely different fold (or, rather, group of folds) that has been given the name Lover's Knot. This is the fold that when finished looks something like a bow tie. My typical form of this comes from Robert Harbin's "Paper Magic", p.42, where it is folded via a double-blintz in which the four quarters are then squeezed together to make them vertical. A full description is beyond my verbal capacity! Robert Harbin also gives a bow tie folded from a bank note which is folded somewhat differently, but which is really of the same sort of construction. Other examples of this fold are in Sam Randlett's "Art of Origami on p. 141 and in Robert Harbin's "Origami, Step-by-Step". Since this book hs recently been reprinted by Dover Books, it is probably the most accessible reference. Sam Randlett also mentions the Lover's Knot Fold in his "Best of Origami" (1964), where he applies the generic term "Lover's Knot Move" to the flattening technique that produces the Lover's Knot.

I have searched elsewhere for the classic Lover's Knot, but much to my surprise I have so far been unable to find it in more recent books. I find this surprising. I have not yet searched for the Bow-tie in books of paperfolding, but feel sure that there must be several examples among the many books on this topic. A somewhat different version appeared in a copy of Boy's Own Paper in 1894. Instructions were headed "How to Fold a Chinese Love letter" by Burnett Fallow. Gershon Legnan himself devised a variant which he called an "Improved Lotus". It appeared in the American magic magazine, "Phoenix" in 1951.

I have also collected another variant from John M. Andreas, the early American student of the history of paperfolding. Although it is generally known as a Lover's Knot, Gershon Legman always insisted that this fold was a Lotus and he likened the pleasing (and perhaps sensuous) opening up of the fold to the female vulva. He insisted that it did not come from Japan but was of Indian or south-east Asian origin. No doubt he had in mind the Kama Sutra. And that brings us back to Lovers! I have by no means exhausted the subject of the Lover's Knot.

For instanace, considerable interest has been shown in the Lover's Knot referred to in Mosther Bridget's Dream Book, a cheap book of divination that was popular among servant girls in the 19th Century. But it dosn't seem that that Lover's Knot mentioned in it referred to a knot made by paper folding. As always, I should welcome contibutions to the discussion.

David Lister Grimsby, England.

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