What is a Quatrefoil?

What is a quatrefoil? Well, in its most simple explanation, a quatrefoil (pronounced “KAT-er-foil) is a shape made up of four intersecting circles that create lobes, like a four-leaf clover. Here’s my scribble of one:

quatrefoil 1

Sometimes the circles overlap a lot or just a little; sometimes there are spikes sticking out of the corners; and sometimes they are a bit elongated. It’s an ancient shape used in art, architecture, and religious symbolism. In ancient America, the four circles represented the four directions–North, South, East, and West. In Christianity, the four circles represented Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and/or a stylized crucifix. And its presence in Islamic  architecture and tilework has been celebrated through the centuries.

When I saw that Lisa Kan’s Quatrefoil Earrings kit is available in the Interweave store today, I thought that a little experimentation with this ancient shape might get me closer to designing a new piece of beadwork. So I took my four-circle scribble, copied it a few times, and did a little more scribbling. Here’s what I came up with:

1) How about just playing with color, adding another layer of pattern, or just coloring the intersections, to create a repeatable pattern for a peyote- or brick-stitched band?

quatrefoil 2 quatrefoil 2a

2) Maybe a bead-embroidered piece with bugle beads and pearls?

quatrefoil 3

3) Here’s something more lacy…maybe I could bead over rings and place a big, fat, crystal rivoli in the center and bicones in the corners? These would make great components to link together for a bracelet!

quatrefoil 4

Actually, designing this way is a great way to get started before you even get out your needle and thread. Scribbles and sketches help you problem-solve and save you loads of time before you get too into something. I’d highly recommend it!

If the idea of quatrefoils are intriguing you as much as they are me today, and you’re looking for something a little more immediate to make, I’d definitely dive into Lisa’s Quatrefoil earrings kit. It’s got all you need to make this amazing pair of earrings and Lisa’s instructions are always top-notch.

Happy beading!



Jean Cox, Beading Editorial Director


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