Creating Key Borders

Now we come to probably the most common use of key patterns - narrow borders. These are to be found in just about every Celtic manuscript in existence, and most likely in the hundreds that have been destroyed or lost. Even the most primitive of the manuscripts - such as the Book of Deer - which contain little of the decoration we think of as Celtic, still have key pattern borders.

These make the greatest use of the Celtic edging, as they consist of little other than top and bottom edges put together.

Celtic Key Patterns

If you are using the sections at the end of this book (see page 91), it is a simple matter of just copying the sections on the top row, then adding those from the bottom row.

Draw Celtic Key Patterns

If, however, you want to create them from scratch, there are other ways to do it. For all of them you need to start with a grid to draw in. The grid needed to draw the above pattern is 50 by 10, although of course you would generally be starting with a predetermined grid of a certain size, and working out a pattern to fill it, rather than the other way round as we are doing here.

Now we need to divide this grid up into equal, repeated sections. First we take away the corners, the size of which we know. We know this because the corner sections are always square, we know that the height of the border is 10 units, so each corner must be a 5 by 5 square.


This leaves us with 40 units to divide up equally. We could choose 4, 5, 8, 16 or 20, each could produce a wealth of varieties, but in this case, once again, we will divide it up into repeats of 8 units.

Next we take off 1 unit all around each edge for the horizontal and vertical edges of the triangles.








From here we can go either of 2 ways. We can either start with the edges and work in or we can start at the centre of each section and work outwards to the edges. The most common method is to start at the centre so, just to be perverse, as usual, I will start by showing the method that starts at the edges.

When we start drawing the pattern it is simplest to start off with the corners again. With a 5 by 5 section, there are 4 possible variations for the 'triangle' corners: with horizontal and vertical sides 2 or 4 units long. 1- and 3-unit long sides do not work as they clash with the '1 unit away' rule. The central diagonal line coming from the triangle would, at some point, be V2 a unit or l!/2 units away from the adjoining triangles.



■ ■


r \

1V2 units

In this case we will use the 2-unit long version, and from this we can work out the 'branch' corners at the same time.

The next step is to take the small triangle and half of the large corner triangle and copy them in the same position, i.e. against the right-hand edges and the left-hand edges along the bottom and top of each section, like so:

What you should notice here is that the gap between the small and large triangles that we have just drawn is 2 horizontal units. As we have seen previously, the horizontal gap between any 2 diagonal lines must be 2 units in order to keep the lines 1 diagonal unit apart. Into this gap we have to fit the diagonal 'branch' line that connects the key pattern to the border. We must, therefore, lop something off. We could take out the small triangle, but in this case we will take 1 corner off the larger triangle. This leaves us with a gap of 4 units, and into the middle of this we can put the 'branch'.

If you look at the top left and bottom right corners there is an obvious line, 1 unit long, needed to fill the gap. This can be added to all the 'branch' lines.

Looking at the opposite corners, there are 2 lines which point to the corner of the block on the opposite side. If you connect these up, and do it for all the other repeats as well, the S-curve shape becomes more visible. In this case, because both are edges, they are closer to Zs than Ss, but you get the idea.

This leaves us with a nice square to fill in with lines that spiral inwards, always staying 1 unit apart. These lines could start at any of 3 sets of points: the other free corner of the edge block, by making a T-junction at the end of the 'branch', or by using one of each. However if we use both the T-junctions we get the following pattern, which breaks the ' 1 unit apart' rule with the gaps between the ends, which is 2 diagonal units, not 1.

And by starting with the free corners of the edge blocks we get the following, which does not work for exactly the same reasons:

Finally, if we try one of each, we find we get this pattern, which works perfectly.

The pattern that we have just created could have been altered in several ways at different points in its construction, and can be further varied from here, as the next chapters will show. To a large extent, however, as the last step has shown us, the pattern is defined mainly by the space it has to fill and the '1 step away' rule.

Celtics Migration Map
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