Knotwork Tutorial-Basic Interlace Construction
The most basic rule of interlacing is: "First under then over then
Some early documented construction techniques (see [BainG])
involved drawing lines, then creating ribbon-like bands around
these lines, and then erasing the interlaced areas.
Later construction techniques (see [van Stone], [Sherb], and [BainI])
involve generating a grid of cells using points laid out like "dice
5", and only drawing the lines needed, with little or no erasing
required. From evidence on the manuscripts themselves (see [Hull] for
details) this appears similar to the actual techniques used by the orignal
Insular Celtic scribes.
These cells are repeated and grouped to give a "grid" (in
this case of 3 cells by 2 cells) of dots, circles, or
diamonds. That is, the dots, small circles or diamond
shapes are drawn to provide guidelines for the knotwork bands.
The following table provides pros and cons for using
the different pattern layout variations:
Quick and authentic, little or no erasing required
Harder to keep constant band with
Easier to keep constant band width, and easier to hand
Some erasing may be required in corners and along
Most accurate and consistent band width
Hard to hand draw (but easy on the computer), and will
always require some erasing
Bands are drawn at 45° to the original grid, between but
not touching the dots. If bubbles (small circles) or
diamonds are used, then the edges touch the edges of the circles/diamonds.
The bands "bounce" or "turn" off the edges and corners
of the grid (referred to as the "walls" in this tutorial).
Please see the example below:
Basic Interlace Example
1. Build grid (example uses 3 cells by 4 cells and uses
diamond shapes to mark the centers of the grid
2. Draw 2 parallel lines starting at the edges of the
circles, diamonds (or just off the dots), not the centers.
Think of bands of ribbon placed between pegs.
3. Now draw the perpendicular bands on either
4. ...and bands running "under" the middle of the original
5. ...then continue with all bands until you run into a
"wall" or corner.
6. For now, just "square off" the corners and wall turns
(we'll get into curving these later).
7. Finally, fill in the background with black to cover the
dot/circle/diamond layout markers.
Please attempt this interlace on your own. Download one of the
the sample grids, and work with it as
is, or print and use behind plain paper as calligraphy guides are
Curved Interlace Example
Most examples from actual documents use curved lines, not the
angular corners we've done so far. Doing curves requires
thinking ahead in the corners and walls. To get a smooth
curve into the corner and against walls, you need to start back
from the edge of the line that will hit the wall. Then
smoothly curve the lines into the corners and walls. Try to
keep the band a constant width, even though you may overrun the
circles (or diamonds) in the centers of the cells. You'll see
many examples of curved knotwork designs in the remainder of these
1. Start with the initial example, at step 5.
2. Smoothly curve the lines into the corners and walls,
overlapping cell boundaries as needed. The new curves are
shown in red.
3. Clean up any stray marks "inside" the lace, and fill in
the background with black as before.
An annimation of the curved interlace example
can be seen by selecting the image on the left.
Simple borders ("plaits")
A row of cells can be used to form a border. The simplest version
is one cell wide. The example below shows the grid, a section of the
plait, and the same section filled in:
As the colors show, it uses two bands to form the border, which
repeats every two cells.
A border "1 and 1/2" cells wide uses three bands, as shown by the
colored example below:
This type of border is uses as a basis for a number of Celtic
knots, as will be seen in some of the examples. It repeats every
A 2-cell wide border (often used in Celtic work) is initially
four separate bands, repeating every four cells:
Please note that all these plaits are constructed in the same
way as the simple interlacing example, except they have no "corners",