01 August 2014

Book of Kells - Celtic Square Knot

Celtic knots have always intrigued me. Ever since I made the open Celitc knot square, I have been mulling around with the idea of making a solid knot using something like cabling found in Knitting. With a little experimenting, I found a technique of using relief stitches (front-post dc, tc, and dtc) worked over rows of sc to create a similar look. In fact, I think it works better than knitted cables in capturing the essence of the Celtic knot.

For my inspiration, I went directly to source: the Book of Kells online from Trinity College Dublin. I found many gorgeous examples of intricately woven knots among the pages of the illuminated manuscript, and settled on this corner motif for my first Book of Kells pattern.

The square is made with Vanna's Choice yarn and a 5 mm (H) hook. It measures 8 inches x 10 inches (which happens to be the perfect size for an iPad cozy).

To begin, I traced the knot pattern (Fig. 1) in Inkscape to work out the details of the knot. I modified the corner square section to be a complete, closed, one-stranded loop rather than two that continue to the top and right motifs. From there, it was relatively easy to translate into crochet stitches.

This pattern consists of relief double, treble, and double-treble crochet stitches. These are made just like normal dc, tc, and dtc stitches, but are looped around the designated stitch in a row below rather than through the top of the stitch directly below. In most cases, the relief stitch is made 2 rows down and several stitches to the right or the left of the starting position.

Unfortunately, this is a very difficult pattern to give written directions for. I am providing this pattern as a chart only, but I will explain how to do some of the trickier steps.

The pattern alternates rows of grey and blue single crochet (represented by a X). Each blue row is stitched on the "right side" (RS) of the project. Each grey row is stitched on the "wrong side" (WS) of the project. The relief stitches are made in the blue rows on the RS. Always stitch a sc for any X in the pattern, even if there is a relief stitch on top of it. Relief stitches are always made from in order right to left side of the diagram row.

When looking at the diagram, the top of each stitch looks like a T. There is never a blue X beneath a T because this is the beginning of a relief stitch rather than a single crochet place holder.
The number of hash marks through the stitch indicate the number of yarn overs (YOs) to make before looping around a stitch.
The open circle indicates where to loop around a stitch in a row below to create the relief stitch.

I tend to work with the project upside down when making these relief stitches.

In this pattern, there are 3 types of relief stitches:
Vertical post stitches are always treble crochets. YO twice, then insert the hook around the stitch 2 rows below (the next blue row) and pull up a loop. Then complete the stitch like a normal tc.
Diagonal cross stitches are always double treble crochets. YO 3 times, then insert the hook around the stitch 2 rows below and 3 stitches to the left or to the right depending on the direction of the cross, pull up a loop, and complete the stitch like a normal dtc.
Horizontal relief stitches are made like a double crochet but always in combination with a Vertical Post or Diagonal Cross relief stitch. After pulling a loop through the stitch at the bottom of the Vertical/Diagonal stitch, YO and insert the hook around the stitch 2 stitches to the right. This can be repeated for 1-5 stitches depending on which row of the pattern. Each open circle in the diagram represents a stitch that the horizontal relief stitch is fixed to with a loop. The last loop is almost always formed around another relief stitch to the right. After pulling a loop around the last stitch in the sequence, then YO and pull a loop through 2 loops at a time until there is only 1 loop left on the hook.

Let me explain a couple stitches in more detail with a diagram:

Here is a diagonal cross of dtc. (Fig. 2)
The first two rows of this example are all sc across.
In the 3rd row, YO 3 times, count over 4 sts from the right and 2 rows down, insert the hook through that stitch and pull up a loop. Finish the dtc.
Repeat this to make the second dtc through the st to the left of the one made (the 5th st from the right, 2 rows down). Skip 2 sts in the grey row (notice that there are no blue Xs behind the 2 dtc) and sc in the 3rd st.
Now, YO 3 times, insert the hook through the st that is 3 sts to the right of the first relief-dtc made and pull up a loop. Finish the dtc like normal and repeat the st for the next dtc just to the left of the one just made.

The sc in between the two pairs of relief-dtc is essential to anchor the relief sts and form the cross. This pattern is followed by another grey row of sc on the WS. Do not skip and sc into the top of the relief sts as those also give structure to the finished piece.

Here is a long horizontal relief stitch. (Fig. 3)
The first two rows here are also sc across.
In the third row, after 9 sc, YO twice, insert the hook through the st 2 rows below and pull up a loop, (YO, insert the hook through the st 2 to the right and pull up a loop) 4 times. You should have 12 loops on your hook.
Now, proceed like any other post stitch, pulling a loop through every 2 loops on the hook back to the start.
Then, proceed with the second right angle horizontal relief stitch. YO twice, insert the hook through the st 2 rows below and pull up a loop, (YO, insert the hook through the st 2 to the right and pull up a loop) 5 times. Each st that you pull a loop up onto the hook to the right of the initial stitch should be a skipped stitch from the first horizontal relief stitch you just made. You should have 14 loops on your hook.
Finish the stitch like you did the previous relief stitch.

In this case, you have just made 2 horizontal relief stitches around the same row of sc. Looping around the sc in the long horizontal stretch anchors the relief st to that row. In most cases, the last stitch that you pulled a loop through will be around a vertical post or a dtc relief cross.

** These long horizontal sts are always made from the left to the right. In a few cases, if you tried to make them from the right to the left, you would not have sts to loop around.

In some rows, the second set of relief-dtc in a cross are made under the previous relief-dtc (for instance, the second row of relief crosses).
In this case, you YO 3 times, insert your hook underneath the first set of relief-dtc and around the tc-post below. Pull the post up enough to pull a loop around the stitch, like a front post stitch. Then proceed with the dtc like normal (Fig. 4).

In the case of the second dtc cross in that row, the second set of relief-dtc are linked to a set of horizontal relief stitches.
Here, pull a free, working loop of yarn underneath the previous relief-dtc to use to stitch the horizontal relief stitches (Fig. 5).

This pattern begins with Chain 40.
Then proceed with the diagram at the Start arrow. The first 4 rows are sc across. At the end of each row, chain 1 to turn.

The first relief stitches begin on Row 5:

Click on the image to download a high resolution stitch diagram with some written direction.

Update March 2017: Many people have had difficulties in Row 13, the center where the knot turns a sharp corner and a horizontal row is created at the top of a relief stitch. Pay attention to where the bar is at the top of the stitch to indicate which stitches are connected together.

First, stitch the sc that are "hidden" behind the relief stitches.
These are the stitches that you will anchor the horizontal row onto in the next step. Do not stitch the diagonal dtc relief stitches (going down to the right) as they are connected to the horizontal row.

Next, stitch the horizontal row on top of those sc, anchored to them, and continue with the diagonal relief stitch anchored two rows below. Finish with the vertical fptc before completing the stitch.
For the opposing right angle corner of the same row, start with the two vertical fptc as their own stitches. Then stitch sc across and finally the horizontal row (anchored around the sc and fptc just stitched) finishing with the diagonal relief stitches down to the left in one connected stitch.

To the right is the finished square before adding the border.

After the last row, chain 1 and work along the side adding a border of sc around with (sc, hdc, sc) in each corner.

I hope you enjoyed this free crochet pattern!

Fig. 1:   Vector art tracing of the knot.

Fig. 2:   Relief Double Crochet. Top: YO, insert the hook through the st 2 rows below. Bottom: Pull a loop through and complete the dc like normal.





Fig. 3:   Horizontal Relief Stitches. A: (YO, insert the hook through a sc and pull up a loop) repeat for every other st. B: Finish the st by pulling a loop through every 2 loop on the hook back to the beginning. C: The 2nd horizontal relief is made in the same row of sc. D: Completed double row of horizontal relief sts.

Fig. 4:   Relief-dtc made underneath the previous relief-dtc pair in a cross. Top: YO 3 times, insert the hook around the relief st below. Bottom: Pull the relief st up through the previous relief-dtc pair to work the rest of the st.

Fig. 5:   Pull a loop of working yarn underneath the previous relief-dtc pair to work a horizontal relief row with a cross.


  1. It's beautiful. You are talented!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful pattern. You are very very talented. Thank you again.

  3. your patterns are amazing!! I've been looking for some Celtic patterns for a while now. When I found this pattern on ravelry, I thought 'this is the one!!' I really want to thank you for sharing this amazingly, beautiful and wonderful pattern. I look forward for more amazing patterns by you. Thanks again!!!

  4. I was searching for this since a very long time, thank you very much!!

  5. When do you work in the horizontal relief stitches? For example, the first time, do you work them in somewhere while you are crocheting the third row, or when you're doing the vertical/diagonal stitches from the fifth?

    1. I figured it out! This is a great pattern, thanks!

  6. This is absolutely fantastic! I love the pattern! I also adore Celtic motifs and appreciate the effort of explaining this kind of work! Thank you very, very much! :)

  7. If you would ever make a video tutorial, I would be forever grateful. :)

  8. I was hesitant to try this because I am a novice in crochet but It looked so beautiful I couldn't resist trying. I put so much effort into this and I was happy to find it was going so well but try as many times as I did I just could not figure out how to do the crazy relief stitches on rows 23 and 25. I am so bummed out.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Take a look at this step from a photo tutorial that I am slowly putting together for one of the smaller celtic cable patterns: https://www.flickr.com/photos/suviscrochet/15257448438/
      The trick to making the horizontal row on top of the working row is to first stitch the single crochet behind the row, then go back over it, anchoring on every other sc just worked, to make the horizontal relief. Let me know if this helps!

    2. Thank you for the flickr page! Goodness, I sorta figured it out on the earlier rows for the top of the knots in the middle, but it looks weird. The photo tutorial helped me figure out what I did wrong! This pattern is by far my favorite so far. And I've done a lot of patterns lol. It's so much fun to work on!

  9. thank you so much for sharing this pattern. it is so beautiful! well done :) I would love to try it :)


  10. Wow! Just Wow! totally amazing! Can't wait to try this! Thank you for the chart!

  11. Hi am loving doing this celtic square thanks a mill, but have got to row 13, stitches 15-19 and have tried everything but cant do the relief horizontal on the working row. Please could you tell me how to do this i.e.
    which stitches first and in which direction...thanks in advance.

    1. Hello,

      You stitch the sc behind the horizontal relief row first, then the lower (shorter) relief row, holding the last loop on your hook and the post stitch down together. Second, you stitch the upper (and longer) relief row and the 2nd post stitch down together.

      > Take a look at this step from a photo tutorial that I am slowly putting together for one of the smaller celtic cable patterns: https://www.flickr.com/photos/suviscrochet/15257448438/

      > The trick to making the horizontal row on top of the working row is to first stitch the single crochet behind the row, then go back over it, anchoring on every other sc just worked, to make the horizontal relief. Let me know if this helps!

  12. thanks a million...am getting there I think...it's quite challenging but great fun.

  13. Que bonito, tratare hacerlo. Gracias.

  14. Is there a video?
    Beautiful work, thank you for sharing it with us.

  15. Wow! Amazing how it looks and that you figured it out so very well. Hats off to you.

  16. I am amazed. I showed your pattern to my knitting/crocheting group this morning -- and they are amazed. We all love it. I think we're going to work through it together -- row by row -- and learn how to do it together. Thank you so much for sharing and creating a new adventure for us!

  17. Im so trying this tomorrow. What talent you have! So this would be like level expert, right?

  18. Hi,
    I love thi pattern but I can't seem to get the hang of it! especially the horizontal stichtes. I do consider myself an expierenced crocheter but I cant seem to figure it out (much to my frustration) I am a lefty though so maybe that's creating problems? I thought just mirroring the diagram would help but still I mess up....

  19. hi I have tryed your miniature knot and all is good until I get to the top row and doing the horisontal relieff. it dont look pretty.. so I am doing something wrong. I had a look at your explenation from https://www.flickr.com/photos/suviscrochet/15257448438/ and still a bit confusing. I try again and again, I am from norway and some of the terms I have to guess. But will try and try again. If you have more info I would be so happy. Your work is so beautiful. I want to crochet a headband for my friend who loves all celtic and viking inspired patterns. and you have nailed it so.

  20. Replies
    1. Hello Lin,

      Sorry to take so long to get back to you. Did you remember to make the blue sc behind the horizontal relief rows? You need those to anchor to. The horizontal relief row may look a little funky until you make both of them and you stitch the return row on top to hold it in place.

      If you are still having trouble, you can find me on Facebook (Suvi’s Crochet) and PM me a picture of your work so I can better explain why it isn’t working.

    2. I think I know what I did wrong, I tryed to ancor it around the stich instead of through 2 stitches sideways. like when you make horisontal below, I tryed to do the same there, but you actually work the same row you are at.... I will send pics on facebook

  21. I am with Lin Knutsen... I am doing the large cable border. I am on row 7 and I am at the bottom right corner at the end of that pattern it says you have a vertical DT crochet relief stitch. I looked at the photos and instructions on the link provided above but I'm not getting the same result as the photo. I am not sure if it's boggling my mind because the example has a horizontal stitch and the one I'm working is vertical or what the problem is but it's just not working for me. Any pointers? I'm so excited to do this pattern and I'm gonna figure it out if it kills me... It may just kill me!! :)

    1. ^^^ I meant diagonal not horizontal ^^^

    2. Let me see if I can help. This pattern is very difficult to explain in words.

      In Row 5, you should have created 2 relief tc for sts 3 and 4, anchoring them two rows down. Then, in Row 7, sts 3 and 4 are 2 relief diagonal dtc anchoring around the sc in sts 6 and 7 of Row 5. Then sc 1, followed by 2 relief diagonal front post dtc (sts 6 and 7) that are made behind the previous 2 diagonal dtr and anchored by pulling a loop around the 2 relief tc made in sts 3 and 4 of Row 5.

      Notice how in Figure 4 the 2 relief diagonal dtc (sts 6 and 7) are made behind the 2 diagonal relief dtc in sts 3 and 4? You may been to pull a working loop of yarn underneith those dtc (sts 3 and 4) to have enough slack to anchor sts 6 and 7 around the vertical relief tc below in Row 5.

  22. Thank you for your hard work putting together this chart and instructions. The design in fabulous! I have just finished my square and am looking forward to blocking it tomorrow to finish it off and bring out the pattern even more!

  23. This is a fantastic pattern! I was wondering how you made the image of the pattern?

    1. Thank you! To make my diagrams, I use Inkscape, a freeware clone of Adobe Illustrator. I have a template of the stitches (grouped vector line art, http://i.imgur.com/KqBXMOx.png) that I duplicate, move, and align to make each diagram. The program has a little bit of a learning curve but once you understand the basics, it becomes easy to make diagrams of any stitch pattern!

  24. Is there anyway you could make a video of you doing this pattern? I find the description of the different stitches to be confusing and am generally lost when it comes to the pattern, thank you.

    1. Sorry, but I don't have the capabilities of making a video. You may want to try the smallest cable design (http://suviscrochet.blogspot.com/2014/08/book-of-kells-small-cables.html) before tackling this square.

  25. Hi Suva,

    Thank you so much for this gorgeous cable pattern. As many before me I am struggling with the top row of horizontal stitches. I have looked at you flicker photos but it didn't fall into place for me which is unusual. Any more advice? TIA

    1. Sorry I wrote Suvi but my pesky auto correct changed it without me noticing!

    2. With your top horizontal row, did you first make the blue single crochet behind the row? You need to stitch those first, then pull a loop around every other one to anchor the relief row. If you are on Facebook, send me a PM with a picture and I can give more specific help.

    3. Brilliant thank you. I'll look for you on fb 😊

  26. Would be a great help if you could do a video tutorial, as I'm sure many would find it extremely helpful.
    I would love to use this on a broader on my new Afghan, which will be Celtic inspired.

  27. Hi Suvi,

    How do I do a left over right cross over? Do I sc all the way to the second set of dtcs before going back the way?

  28. This is gorgeous and one of the few crochet patterns that still managed to intrigue me. Thank you so much for the idea and taking the time and trouble to make such a complex tutorial.

  29. I have no idea what "relief stitches" are and because of that none of it makes any sense...sigh...

    1. So do you do all the single crochet stitches first and then do the stitches for the knot pattern on top of them?

  30. Good Day Ms. Suvi:
    Do you have these patterns in a book form? If yes, where can I find it.
    It is cumbersome for me to search for all these patterns at different location. Please advise. Lindawongdejesus@yahoo.com