Friday, April 26, 2013

Celtic Geometry

This piece is a celebration of my Irish heritage.
Although my original inspiration was the “Book of Kells”, I don't have the skill to duplicate the Celtic monks’ precision and geometric accuracy… and I don't have several years to work on this challenge.  It felt wrong to make a sloppy, amateur version of one of the real pages in “Kells”.  So I decided to go with a simpler design that included elements of Celtic illustrations from the Middle Ages: nearly perfect symmetry, bold color, interwoven shapes and lines, elongated or stylized animals, flat perspective.

The image of the four intertwined dogs is from an old coloring book (“Celtic Designs Stained Glass Coloring Book” by Courtney Davis). I traced one dog’s head and body as a cutting pattern. I cut 2 one way and then 2 as mirror images. Then I wove together the four dogs, with legs intertwined and necks overlapping here and there. It was fun to follow one animal across the page, figuring out how these shapes interact – one leg over this then under that one, a neck over a body, around here and through that one…  is that a tail or an ear?


Once the 4 dogs and knotted ear/tail details were done, I really liked the design.  But I realized I couldn't stop there. I had to add some “secret messages” in the quilting.  I filled the black background with free-motion stitching, depicting some traditional Celtic symbols and animals and a few of my own invention.

Although this piece is a big departure from my usual style, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making it. In the back of my mind, I’m working on another Celtic design only much larger.


Materials: hand dyed cotton and batik fabrics, rayon thread
Techniques: raw edge applique, machine sewn, free motion machine quilting


  1. This is a stunning Celtic quilt! Thank you for sharing the source of your inspiration and your process.

  2. Kate, this is such an amazing piece. I did not get nearly the full effect until I saw it on my large monitor. So intricate and balanced. I love the dogs.....and I found a dragonfly, too. I don't know whether I prefer it in color or black and white. Either way is just exceptional!

  3. For someone "without the patience" to work a "proper" Celtic design, I'd say you got it down in one go! Wonderful piece!

    P.S. I didn't see you in Santa Fe...but there were so many of us. Sorry I didn't get to meet you in person. Maybe another year...