A Celtic Knot Primer

I am working on a set of templates for simple Celtic knot bands, boxes, and crosses.

I would like to show you some of the workings.

Knot Ends

I use a Celtic knot font to produce my designs because it’s faster than drawing them by hand. There are six basic styles of knots, each with its own characteristics and personality.

Knot Styles
Knot Styles

Knot Fillers

There are five fillers that go between the knot ends.

Knot Fillers
Knot Fillers

I’d like to show you what happens when you put the two together.  You may want to print these knots and color them.

Filler 1

Adding one Filler 1 section gives you:

One Filler 1 section
One Filler 1 section

Adding two Filler 1 sections gives you:

Two Filler 1 sections
Two Filler 1 sections

Adding three Filler 1 sections gives you:

Three Filler 1 sections
Three Filler 1 sections

What changes did you notice on the first and fifth knots?

Tomorrow, Filler 2 . . .

Bear Boston Commons Quilt

The Bear Flag displays seven colors: Black, Gray, White, and four shades of Brown.

Bear Flag
Bear Flag

I propose a Boston Commons quilt using this color palette. Let’s expand it a bit, though.

Expanded Bear flag palette
Expanded Bear flag palette

Two Blacks, three Grays, two Whites, and eight Browns should do it.

I joined my baby sister for a weekend quilting workshop some time back. We made a pair of Boston Commons quilts. I want to repeat the process, with improvements.

First, I cut the fabric into 3.5 inch strips and arranged them in order.

3.5-inch strips, arranged in order
3.5-inch strips, arranged in order

Next, I stitched the strips into a blanket.

Strip-pieced blanket
Strip-pieced blanket

When we made this quilt before, we used fat quarters cut into strips. The strips were stitched into a blanket, end to end. There was a fair bit of waste at the end of the blankets because the bottom edge was uneven. This time around, I left the strips unstitched for a couple inches at the bottom, and added new strips to the ends before stitching the strips together, creating one continuous blanket.

Uneven ends
Uneven ends
Continuous blanket
Continuous blanket

I picked up the second innovation somewhere on the Internet when I was first studying this pattern and different construction methods. I alternated the direction I pressed the seam allowances (in toward one strip, out on the next).

Seam allowances pressed in alternating directions
Seam allowances pressed in alternating directions

The blanket is cut into 3.5-inch strips. The strips will be offset before stitching. The alternating seam allowances allow for nesting them together neatly to stitch.

3.5-inch strips
3.5-inch strips
Work-in-progress
Work-in-progress

The Celtic knot Saga . . .

Celtic knots fascinate me because they are impossible objects and the ultimate optical illusion. They are impossible because they portray a cord or rope tied in a knot without beginning or end. Sometimes a Celtic knot is viewed as a path or walkway. That makes them the ultimate optical illusion because there is no “over” or “under” on a flat sheet of paper!

Yes, Celtic knots fascinate me.

I wanted a way to make various Celtic knots in various sizes.

Various Celtic knots in various sizes
Various Celtic knots in various sizes

These Celtic knots are different from each other, and they are different sizes. Yet, they are formed from the same shapes: two shapes for the corners (one has a tail), one shape for the side curves, and one shape for the internal bars. I merely needed to make the specific shapes in a specific size for any given knot. It was all a matter of scale.

A Matter of Scale
A Matter of Scale

I enlarged knots to size; transferred their individual shapes to fabric; then, arranged the shapes onto my background. I left a bit of space between the shapes to represent the black lines seen in the original drawing. I called this my “Stencil” phase, because that’s what the knots looked like, as though they had been stenciled in place. For visual interest, I chose different colors for each path in a knot. Making each path a separate color helped the viewer better see the outlines of the paths and the relationships between them. I made Celtic knot bands, crosses, and circles.

Three-color Square
Three-color Square
Two-color Rectangle
Two-color Rectangle
Three-color Rectangle
Three-color Rectangle
Blue Three-color Cross
Blue Three-color Cross
Purple Cross
Purple Cross
Green Three-color Cross
Green Three-color Cross
Three-color Circular Celtic Knot
Three-color Circular Celtic Knot
Two-color Circular Celtic Knot
Two-color Circular Celtic Knot

I solved the problem of size, but I had a problem with alignment. Sometimes, the ends of the knot shapes didn’t exactly align with each other.

I had a little talk with myself.

“So, what seems to be the problem here?” I ask.
“The ends of the knot shapes don’t exactly align with each other.” (I point.)
“Why knot?” (I snicker.)
“I’m missing the little piece that joins the two shapes together.” (I point.)
“Where is it?”
“It’s hidden under where the other path crosses over this path.” (I point.)
“Um, er, aren’t you missing the obvious?”
“Just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there?” (I point.)
“No, I made you say ‘underwear.’ (I snicker again.) “When’s lunch?”

(I stopped talking with myself at this point because I was obviously distracted.)

So, I decided to include the “missing” piece between all the shapes, all the way around the path. What I ended up with was a closed loop. I had to admit that tracing and cutting one closed loop was much faster and easier than tracing and cutting numerous shapes for that same loop. If I made each path of the knot a closed loop, I could weave them together like the impossible drawing I started with.

Sunday funnies 1-11-15 knot
Sunday funnies 1-11-15 knot
Loops A, B, C, and D
Loops A, B, C, and D

Unfortunately, you can’t weave a closed loop. (Try to recreate a Celtic knot with a rubber band without cutting it open.)

I decided to cheat. I chose a spot where one path went “under” another, and cut open the loop. Then, I had no trouble weaving the loops together from the bottom up, hiding the cut ends when necessary. It took very little time to create a very impressive Celtic knot.

That’s how Woven Celtic knots began . . .

(Your book starts here.)

Woven Celtic Knot

First, I enlarge my chosen knot to use as a template.

Then, I trace each of the paths of the knot on fusible web, fuse to fabric, and cut out as separate loops.

Purple path
Purple path
Blue path
Blue path
Green path
Green path
Yellow path
Yellow path
Orange path
Orange path
Red path
Red path

Next, I use the printed knot as placement guide. I weave the knot from the bottom up, so I locate where the paths go “under” another path near the top of the knot and cut open the loop. I layer the bottom row of loops according to the guide, and pin through all layers (fabric and paper).

Bottom row layered in position and pinned to paper guide
Bottom row layered in position and pinned to paper guide

Then I weave the paths over and under each other, row by row. I pin the two layers of fabric together at each intersection, but not to the paper beneath.

Weaving . . .
Weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving . . .
. . . weaving.
. . . weaving.

Whew!!

The entire knot can be lifted and treated as a single unit at this point. I unpin the bottom row from the paper guide (keeping the layers of fabric together). There is no problem sliding the knot off the paper guide and into position on the background fabric.

Woven Celtic knot transferred to background
Woven Celtic knot transferred to background

I move the piece to my ironing table. I carefully remove all the pins. After a final check of “overs” and “unders” for each path, I fuse the knot in position. From here, I can zig-zag the raw edges, and embellish at will (possibly an embroidered design down the center of each path).

Trip for Two to Boston

Last weekend, I was my baby sister’s “quilting buddy” for a workshop called Trip for Two to Boston. Betty has been bitten by the quilting bug after many years of exposure to me. (Don’t call me contagious.) I was thrilled that she asked me to join her, and we imagined the reactions to a brother/sister quilting team.

The pattern is basically a Trip Around the World (square), or Boston Commons (rectangle). One person cuts and presses, the other person sews. Betty wanted to sew because she recently got a new sewing machine and wanted time to get a feel for it and put it to use; I agreed to cut and press.

Fifteen fabrics were cut into strips, arranged, and sewn together as panels:

Strip-pieced panel
Strip-pieced panel

The buddies work together for two different-looking quilts from the same strip-pieced panel. Here’s Betty with her Trip Around the World (the quilt in the background is “LOLLOO,” a piece I made for her years ago):

Betty holding her Trip Around the World
Betty holding her Trip Around the World

Here’s my Boston Commons:

Boston Commons
Boston Commons

My next step is pin-basting before quilting. I see a lot of Stitch In The Ditch (SITD) in my future.