One of the many questions asked as I wander around in my habit is, "What do the three knots signify, on my cord?" I often start by saying the first was tied for me to remember something...but I forgot what it was...then I was asked to remembered something else...but I forgot that too..and then I was asked to remember something else and so I ended up with three knots...but cant for the life of me remember what they were for! This often either gets a laugh or a look of extreme puzzlement!
So what is the real reason for the knots?
The knots are there to remind us of the three vows we take as professed Franciscans. The older Orders (and my first Order) had, Poverty, Chastity and Obedience as their three vows and that is why we still today have three knots on the cord around our waist.
Note: The Companions of Jesus have three vows/precepts, taken from the book of Micah: Justice, Love, and Humility. ('This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this: that you act justly, that you love tenderly, that you walk humbly, with your God.' Micah 6:8)