knot knot

Making Celtic Knots (dots method)

This is a method of drawing Celtic knots that I found in a book of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon painting. It called the knots 'interlace', and said "Interlace is not a motif that can be learned by simply looking at a model. One must know the 'trick', and from unfinished interlace borders we can tell how it was usually made up." This suggests that there was only one method, but looking at examples of Celtic knots, I suspect that several methods was used. This method would only work for close-weave knots in a simple border.
dot Start by drawing dots in a diamond lattice pattern like this. You would normally draw this in black, but I'm making the dots red to contrast with the later lines.
dot The dots should be diamond-shaped themselves. When you start drawing lines, draw them alongside the dotes rather than through the centre, otherwise this technique doesn't work.
The patterns below are from the Durham Gospel.

Simple plait with four strands

knot Draw the top left diamond. Draw the top left and bottom right sides only. Keep inside the dots. This is the first strand.
knot Draw a curved line at the top. This represents the strand bending round to go downwards.
knot Draw the lower diamond the same, still keeping inside the dots. This will make the long line look wonky. This is the second strand.
knot Draw the middle diamond. This time you draw the bottom left and top right sides. Keep within the dots! This is the third strand.
knot Draw the top diamond and the top curve, as before. This continues the second strand.
knot Draw a bottom curve and bottom diamond, to start the fourth curve.
knot The middle diamond continues the first strand.
knot The top diamond and the top curve diamond continues the fourth strand.
knot Continue to complete the knot. I have changed the red dots to black so you can see the finished effect. There is a suggestion of a black background as well, to heighten the effect.

Twists with four strands

knot This design starts the same as the last one.
knot Continue the top curved line twice as far as last time. It's better to rub out the surplus dot altogether.
knot Continue with the next two diamonds, the same as last time.
knot Make a second shorter curve, below the top one.
knot Make a long curve at the bottom, remembering to remove the surplus dot.
knot Make a short curve above the bottom curve.
knot Draw the second middle diamond.
knot Draw the second middle diamond.
knot Draw the two outer curves...
knot ... then the middle two diamonds.
knot Here is the final result.

Entangled loops

knot Draw a line straight down in the centre. This is the start of a new loop.
knot Draw in a normal under and over from bottom left heading up and right, and curve it round.
knot Make a short curve, bending round the top of the loop.
knot Draw in another under and over next to the previous one, but this time bend it round with a long curve. removing the middle dot.
knot Make a long curve at the bottom in the same way.
knot Draw a line straight down in the centre. This is the end of the old loop.
knot Repeat.
knot The final pattern.
I don't think this can have been a design tool for Celtic knots, since it's quite easy to get lost (which is why I've broken it down into small steps). But if you designed a rough draft using a looser design technique (see below), then this method could be useful for transferring your pattern to the final copy. It would also be useful for bending patterns round curves, to fit inside letters, for example. It can be hard to predict the angles of the lines, but you could mark a pleasing regular pattern of staggered dots, then fit the pattern round it.

Other methods of drawing Celtic knots

Felt-tip pen method
Double strands
Copying Celtic knots
Celtic knots on computer

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© Jo Edkins 2003