Lace with Celtic Knots and Greek Keys

I am also interested in Celtic knots and Greek Keys so I thought I'd experiment with trying to make them in lace. Here are the results. I will admit that the effects are better if you look at them with eyes half-closed. These are not conventional Torchon lace patterns (or indeed any other style), so I suggest that if you're a beginner, you don't start here!

Celtic KnotsCeltic Knot crossessGreek Keys
Plait
Motif
Complex Plait
Small knot
Four way plaits
Celtic knots with trails
Weaving pattern
on different page
Small Celtic cross
Big Celtic cross
Another big Celtic cross
Greek key pattern
Triangular Greek key pattern
Another Greek key pattern
A better Greek key pattern

Celtic knot plait pattern

Plait

The strands of the knot are cloth stitch with Torchon ground and twisted footside. I chose a simple background to set off the knot, and also so I didn't have to concentrate on too many things at once. The knot is a type of zigzag. However, I wanted a rounded effect at the edges rather than a point. I also found while experimenting that the knot looked more convincing if the width of the 'zigs' was the same as the 'zags'. The answer is to have an extra pinhole on the outer edge at the bend. This means that you must choose the correct pair to be the workers at the top of each strand. This pattern tries to make the width as wide as possible - 5/6 pairs across the full width (rather than 4/5). So, work the top stitch of a strand, and put the top pin in. Then chose the inner pair as the workers (the pair furthest from the edge). See working a strip for a longer explanation of strip widths. If you get the wrong pair as workers, then you will find that the lace risks being worked at a slant after the bend, and you will run out of pinholes before the bottom. If this looks like happening (and you don't want to undo everything and chose the OTHER pair as workers!) then ignore one of the pinholes at the outer edge of the bend.

You will also need to work both upwards and downward chevrons.

This pattern looks better if you work it on a small scale so the cloth-stitch is closely worked. You can extend the pattern if you want a longer knot.

22 pairs

Celtic knot photo

Celtic knot motif photo

Motif

This is a simpler motif, using the same stitches, but with a half stitch diamond in the middle. Again, watch out for the extra pinhole at the edge, so choose the right workers.

22 pairs again.

Celtic knot motif pattern

Celtic knot complex plait pattern

Complex Plait

This is a more complicated Celtic knot. There is two strands made of half stitch which goes through each knot. Then there are two other strands looped round it. Both these are cloth stitch. Of course, you could make the whole thing in cloth stitch or half stitch, or swap the half stitch and cloth stitch round.

One thing about all these designs is that you cannot work one piece of cloth stitch (or half stitch) at a time. You keep finding that there is one pair of threads that needs to leave the pattern, and cross with another pair, that has to return to it. So you work part of one piece, leave that, do part of another piece, then return to the first. Make sure you know where you are. And don't get your half stitch and whole stitch muddled up!

22 pairs

Celtic knot photo

Thin Celtic knot photo

Small knot

This is a Celtic knot with a very thin strand, made of cloth stitch. I wasn't even convinced that this would work, but it does, just! However, I left out all flat edges, and worked only on the slope. The thinner strand means that this is a slightly more complicated knot than a plait. I have also kept one extra pair in the cloth stitch at the bend, rather than a pair leaving and rejoining. This makes the bends denser, which is a good thing, I think.

22 pairs.

Thin Celtic knot pattern

Four way plait

Four way plaits

This is a different way of doing a Celtic knot. Rather than keeping it within footsides as an insertion, I've made the edges into fans (rather flat but they are there). However, the fans are continued on both sides to produce one of the strands. This means that you can have four wide strands while the lace only takes 16 pairs of bobbins. Like all these knots, it's best viewed through half closed eyes. It is easy to work, but you find that you continually have to stop one strand while you work another, as the Torchon ground stitch between them requires both strands at the same level.

16 pairs.

Four way plait
Four way plait

Here the strands are the same width, but overlap each other by two rather than one pinhole. This makes the Celtic knot effect more noticeable. There is also some Torchon ground stiches between the bends at the edges. All this means that you need more bobbins. This pattern is the basis of the Celtic cross at the bottom of the page.

The edge of this lace is not a footside. To make the whole pattern stiffer, and to increase the contrast between the cloth stitch and the Torchon ground, I twisted the pairs of bobbins in the ground an extra time between each stitch.

22 pairs.

Four way plait
Four way double plait

This is a four way plait using double strands. It doesn't overlap at all, since the double strands show which way the strands are running.

Thiis does use a different way of working a strip. It changes the worker pair each row, which gives a squarer look to the corners of the strip and looks more balanced.. Click here for an explanation.

22 pairs.

Four way double plait

Celtic knot with trails pattern

Celtic knots with trails

This is another way to do Celtic knots. The previous methods have relied on Torchon solid areas. These pattern uses trails instead. Four pairs of bobbins are used for each strand of the Celtic knot. One pair is the worker pair (and so needs a lot more thread wound on). The strands cross, of course. Originally I planned to combine the threads with the crossing trail on one side, while losing them at the other, but this didn't work. So instead the bobbins of one strand work across all of the bobbins of the other strand. The legs are plaited with a pin at begin and end of each leg, to persuade it to go in the right place. I worked the two pairs of one leg across the other four pairs (of the other strand), then brought the worker pair back to do two rows between the legs, then work the other two pairs of the other leg across.

Sometimes a pin was used in more than one way, so there was a certain amount of looping of threads round pins already in place! Most of the work is just cloth stitch, of course, but it wasn't too boring to work.

16 pairs.

Celtic knot with trails photo
Celtic knot with trails photo

This is another attempt. Here the bobbins of one trail are worked across the bobbins of the other trail. They are joined with simple twisted pairs rather than legs.

16 pairs.

Celtic knot with trails pattern

Weaving pattern

Weaving pattern

This is a simpler pattern since I ignored the wrap round at the edges altogether. This makes it easier to design, but ends up being a weaving pattern rather than a true Celtic knot. It uses half stitch diamonds, and two strands in each weave.

When you start a diamond, after the first stitch, you have a choice as to which pair you use as the worker. This controls which direction you go in. With half stitch, you don't, of course, have a worker pair as such, but you still need to decide on the direction of the row. With rectangles, it is a good idea to decide on a direction at the start, and always use that, as it makes the rectangles all the same size. This isn't as easy as saying left or right in each case, as the rectangles slope different ways. rather you must always start the second row heading towards the longer side (which means that the rectangles will be fatter) or towards the shorter side. In this case, I mostly tried to make the rectangles fatter. There is one, near the bottom, where I got it wrong!

There are also parts of rectangles near the edge. With the pinholes drawn, there are less pinholes round the outside of these part-rectangles than the inner edges. So for these, always work towards the inner edge for the second row, or you will run out of pinholes! If you prefer, you can put an extra pinhole at the very edge of the lace instead.

18 pairs.

Weaving pattern photo

Greek Key pattern

Greek Key pattern

I have another website about Greek keys. This is an attempt to make one in lace. One problem is that Greek key patterns are very horizontal and vertical, while Torchon lace prefers diagonals, so I've made these Greek keys on a slant.

The background is Torchon ground with a twisted footside. The diagonals could be thin cloth stitch diagonals or half stitch, but I have used what I call crossover diagonals. These work quite well, except where they change direction, but that always causes trouble with these thin diagonals! At a change of direction, where two diagonals meet, you have a choice of which two pairs of bobbins are used for the crossover stitch. It doesn't matter which you choose (althopugh I have marked a choice on the pattern), but there must be a crossover at the corner rather than leaving it out. Unfortunately, this makes the working slightly asymmetric, but you can see the Greek key if you squint at it!

22 pairs of bobbins.

Greek Key pattern

Greek Key pattern

Triangular Greek Key pattern

We think of Greek keys as square, but I've found some triangular Greek keys on an ancient Celtic cross in Wales. These are more suitable for Torchon lace.

The shape is made of cloth stitch zigzags, with vertical edges and chevrons. The diagonal stripes son't cause problems, but the straight bars do, even though the pattern makes them twice as wide as the diagonals. As pairs of threads have to enter and leave the bars regularly, the width of the bars vary dramatically, and sometimes there is only one pair of passives, which isn't really enough. Also it can be a problem knowing at the chevrons to know how many pairs of bobbins on each side. I'm afraid that I think that this pattern is not a success!

17 pairs of bobbins.

Greek Key pattern

Greek Key pattern

Another Greek Key pattern

After working the previous pattern, I tried to work out a better solution. The problem that that in the horizontal bars (vertical when you're working them), the number of passives varies from 3 pairs (acceptable) to 1 pair (definitely not!)

So in this pattern, I tried to keep 3 pairs of passives in these bars. So every starting pin has 2 pairs rather than the normal one. The pink lines in the pattern are plaited legs. The green lines are just a twisted pair.

To help with these extra pairs of bobbins, I have smoothed off the points of the triangles from the previous pattern, so you get the same passives more-or-less running through the whole lace, with the occasional pair leaving the bar to join up with the bar next door, then immediately returning.

20 pairs of bobbins.

Greek Key pattern

Greek Key pattern

Another Greek Key pattern

Eventually I've worked out how to do Greek keys! The background is Torchon ground. The twisted footside on both sides has a gimp instead of the normal passives.

The Greek key is formed by gimps. The problem is that the line of the Greek key goes up as well as down. So there have to be lots of short gimps. You hang a pair of gimps from the pin on the pattern. Another gimp is already coming down on one side (which makes 3 gimps in the middle of the pattern plus two gimps in each footside). Two of these gimps overlap (dark blue part) where they finish. Then a new pair gets started again a bit further down.

Since it is important to highlight the gimps, I made them a pair of threads rather than a single thicker thread. The gimps are a different colour to the background or they might not show up. A single thicker thread for each gimp might work, though.

9 pairs of bobbins + up to 5 gimps.

Greek Key pattern

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© Jo Edkins 2008