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Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher


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How to draw HELTER

Zentangle pattern: Helter. Image © Linda Farmer and ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may use this image for your personal non-commercial reference only. The unauthorized pinning, reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.Greetings! So delighted to have your company again …

Both of our tangles so far this week work very well for seasonal projects and today’s Helter tangle is so versatile as you’ll see in a moment.

Helter is from Norwegian CZT Debbie Raaen and it’s her fourth on the site.

While the story behind it is so poignant, the tangle itself is celebratory. Debbie explains Helter’s background and gives us some guidelines for tangling it:

I was preparing a tile for for sharing with a group of CZT’s, the sessions of which were run by Caroline McNamara. She was kindly giving me a hand using Zoom to communicate. This was late in the evening and little did we know whilst sitting drawing this then unnamed tangle that the very next day she would be tragically killed in a car accident. A huge shock and a terrible loss for not only her friends and family but the entire Zentangle community.

I kept afterwards thinking of this tangle as Her Last Tangle. I have a tangle on this site called Skelter which comes from the Helter skelter (a slide) I used to ride as a child. I suddenly realized that Helter had the letters H, L and T in it, which for me now, will always stand for Her Last Tangle. Also in Norwegian the word helter means «Heroes». Heroes can come in many shapes and sizes and I thought this name depicted what Caroline meant to many who knew her. An everyday person willing to always go the extra mile to support people when needed. I would like then to dedicate this tangle to her memory, as I think of her every time I draw it.

Helter is a leaflike pattern. It is simply a line with other sharply angled lines coming off it on both sides. As with Bales, a similar shape, it can be used in many ways.

The shape can be altered depending on whether the base line is drawn straight or as a «C» curve or «S» curve.

I suggest drawing the lines from the outside in toward the base line as it’s a sure way to get the shape you wish, but of course others may find it better to draw from the baseline outwards.

I find it perfect for use on Christmas tiles as it reminds me of the pine needles I see
outside my window every day here in Norway and of course from Christmas trees. Hope you like it.

I’ve used one of Debbie’s great illustrations for the example of Helter.

Debbie illustrates the step-by-step instructions for drawing Helter below, “I’ve used it here as a ribbon or border tangle, a fill (they fit perfectly together), and arranged in a circular pattern. Note a couple of alternate ways at the bottom of the stepout for an «airy» or «spikey» look.

How to draw the Zentangle pattern Helter, tangle and deconstruction by Debbie Raaen. Image copyright the artist and used with permission, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Image copyright the artist and used with permission, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. These images are for your personal offline reference only. Please feel free to refer to the images to recreate this tangle in your personal Zentangles and ZIAs. However the artist and reserve all rights to the images and they must not be publicly pinned, altered, reproduced or republished. (Small side note: if you look at the legalese in Pinterest, you are legally responsible for obtaining permission to post every photo that gets ‘Pinned’. Giving credit or sharing the source link doesn’t count.) Thank you for respecting these rights. “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” ~ Albus Dumbledore

As you enjoy any of the tangles on the site, please leave a comment of thanks and encouragement to show the artists you appreciate them for sharing their creativity to inspire yours. Your thanks helps motivate them to continue to share! And please share a link to your favorite tangles on social media. Thanks!

Check out the tag debbier for more of Debbie’s tangles on


How to submit your pattern to TanglePatterns

Everyone is invited to submit patterns, you do NOT need to be a CZT. In order for patterns to be considered for they must be submitted to me by email. In other words you have to let me know about them.

For a submission to qualify as a tangle it must be a genuine pattern (“a repeated decorative design”) and not “a thing to draw”.

From The Book of Zentangle:

Keep it Non-representational. Zentangle artwork is intended to be non-representational. Zentangle’s elemental strokes are also non-representational.

We don’t teach complex elements such as hearts, stars or flowers. Tangles are also non-representational.

Remember that tangles never start with pencil planning.

"A tangle has no pre-planning with pencil guidelines, grids or dots, no erased lines."

If you need a refresher on what makes a tangle, read the A PATTERN IS NOT ALWAYS A TANGLE page on the ZENTANGLES menu bar at the top of any page.

For details on how to submit your pattern for consideration visit the SUBMIT YOUR PATTERN page on the top menu bar of any page on the site. On that menu you will find these two pages:

    1. How to submit your pattern deconstruction to TanglePatterns, and
    2. Why hasn't my pattern been published?

The first page includes instructions on how to prepare and send your JPGs. (Please save me time and do not send PDFs). It also includes a link to this PDF submission form.

When your examples include additional tangles from the site, please list them in your email. (This saves me time and my memory some wear and tear.)

If your pattern is posted on your blog, attach your steps and tile JPGs to your email and be sure your email includes the direct URL so I can link to it.

And remember, to quote Zentangle's co-founders Rick and Maria: tangles should be "magical, simple and easy to create", non-objective patterns of repetitive strokes that are easy to teach and offer a high degree of success to tanglers of all ages.

"Keep the tangles as little like 'drawing something' as possible."


Related Links

  1. Looking for tangles by Artist or Type? For details visit the ABOUT > HOW TO FIND TANGLES BY ARTIST OR TYPE page on the top menu bar of any page on the site.
  2. What is a Zentangle? — if you are new to the Zentangle Method, start here for the fundamentals.
  3. Zentangle terminology — a glossary of terms used in this art form.
  4. How to use the site — an excellent free video tutorial showing how to use the site as well as pointing out lots of useful features you might have missed.
  5. Linda's List of Zentangle-Original Patterns — here is the complete list of original tangles (aka "official tangles") created and introduced by founders Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, including those not published online. If you are new to the Zentangle Method I highly recommend learning a few of the published Zentangle classics first.
  6. "A Zentangle has no up or down and is not a picture of something, so you have no worries about whether you can draw a hand, or a duck. You always succeed in creating a Zentangle." Thus patterns that are drawings of a recognizable naturalistic or actual object, figure, or scene, are not tangles. A pattern is not always a tangle — here's what makes a tangle. TIP: tangles never start with pencil planning.
  7. How to submit your pattern deconstruction to TanglePatterns
  8. For lots of great FREE tutorials on TanglePatterns, click on the TUTORIALS link in the pink alphabetic menu bar below the tangle images at the top of any page.
  9. Strings! Have we got STRINGS! Click on the STRINGS link in the pink alphabetic menu bar below the tangle images at the top of any page for 250 different (free) Zentangle-starters. More than enough for any lifetime!
  10. Never miss a tangle! FREE eMAIL NEWSLETTER - visit the SUBSCRIBE page on the top menu bar of any page on the site and sign up to get notices delivered free to your inbox.


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19 comments to How to draw HELTER

  • Ria Matheussen

    uncomplicated but nice and versatile tangle!!! Lovely tiles,Thank you Debbie.

  • Eve

    Debbie, Her Last Tangle is lovely. I’m glad you have this beautiful design to pair with your memory of Caroline and I thank you for sharing it with us. I will be playing with HELTER today!

  • Deanna J. Rankin

    What a lovely tribute to remember a tragic accident! I think it is beautiful and I loved drawing it. Thanks !!!!

  • LLS

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend! My husband was killed in a car accident 21 years ago. I still remember the shock. I find it interesting that a word can have such different meanings in different languages. In the USA, Helter Skelter reminds me of a movie about a mass murderer. It is nice to know that Skelter is a slide in Norwegian and that Helter means Hero. . . Her Last Tangle is a beautifully organic tangle that does remind me of pine needles. It does go great on the Christmas card! Thank you for sharing!

    • Debbie Raaen

      So, so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband, even if it is many years a go. The bad and good memories never leave us do they. ?
      Actually I’m English but have lived in Norway for 40 years, so the Helter Skelter slide was from when I was a child in England. Helter Skelter is also a song by The Beatles. Thanks for commenting.

  • Debbie Raaen

    Thanks Linda for seeing fit to publish Helter. You are much appreciated with all you do.

  • Ohoooo Debbie … what a perfect tribute to Caroline. Though I didn’t know her well, I had the pleasure of sharing a lovely dinner out with her and several other CZTs at a TangleU a few years ago. I still remember her cheerful attitude and easy smile. I had so hoped to see her again at another TU.

    Your oh-so-pretty and versatile tangle is a wonderful remembrance of Caroline. I will very much enjoy drawing it often, especially this time of year. ? <3

    • Debbie Raaen

      Sorry Jan, I only just saw your comment. It’s so tragic that more people won’t be able to get to meet Caroline at future events. Thanks for your lovely comment. ??

  • Jody Genovese

    Debbie, Another beautiful pattern that you demonstrate to perfection on your card and in your tiles. So happy to see it here.

  • Jessica Dykes

    What a lovely tangle, and such a lovely tribute to your friend’s memory. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Missy H

    This is beautiful. I can’t wait to try this one.

  • Deborah Davis

    I like the fluffy look of this one. And, so many possibilities. Thank you.

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