The Henna Page Journal
Untying Persian Knotwork
Catherine Cartwright Jones
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Front cover

Interlocking, ornate, large henna work dazzles the eye when done with precision and accuracy. Traditionally, such complex patterns were used in Persia to enchant and entrap the Evil Eye and thus protect the wearer from attack. Knots were believed to be capable of restraining evil, and knotted plants were metaphors for the will of God. Lovers made hennaed knots to bind them to each other when they had to separate. Knot work and large detailed henna patterns may seem intimidating, even impossibly difficult. If you have a watercolor pencil, and organize the pattern before you begin, you can henna patterns far more complex, and with greater precision, than you can any other way.

These patterns are based on Persian henna patterns from the 15th century from Samarkand and Tabriz.

I used Aquarellable pencils, watercolor pencils, to sketch on the skin.
Stabilo CarbOthello and Derwent Aquarellable pencils work well! Just dip the tip into water and draw on skin.

Sketch rough position
and outlines of the
knots with aquarellable
Sketch in the “over-
under” on the knots.
Sketch in the rest of the design. Start hennaing in the lines, following the pencil lines.
Continue down the knotwork area. Begin working into the rest of the major pattern elements.
When the major pattern pieces are done, start the fill work. Continue the fill work up the leg.


Lightly seal, and steam frequently with a hand held garment steamer through the evening. I sealed this with a light coat of NewSkin Spray.

This is that leg 48 hours later!

I used Jamila henna, 2001 summer crop. I mixed the henna with bottled lemon juice and let that rest at 80F for 12 hours. I mixed that with Tea Tree essential oil, guaranteed 40% terpineol content, and cardamom essential oil. I applied the henna with a carrot bag, with only a cut tip. Jillian, my model, steamed her leg repeatedly after hennaing and left the henna in place overnight. She removed clinging bits of New Skin with fingernail polish remover.

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