Hyperbolic Shrubbery

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef was definitely one of the inspirations for this project. I’ve long been fascinated by hyperbolic crochet: I had the opportunity to add a small piece to the UK Reef way back in 2008, and I created and ran the Hyperbolic Crochet Community Project at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki in 2017.

The charm of hyperbolic crochet is that you can create organic forms using a very simple set of instructions. If you can create corals, why not leafy things as well? Here’s my result of trying to make a bit of shrubbery:

Hyperbolic Shrub

For this, I made a fairly long chain and then used single crochet (US term)/double crochet (UK term) working back and forth. The ruffling is created by increasing regularly at a fairly high rate, I increased every second stitch here, so two stitches in one row become three in the next. In the last couple of rows, I added some multicolour thread to the fairly light green base yarn for some visual interest. Doesn’t look like much, but makes exactly the right impression when installed:

Hyperbolic Shrubbery - Installed

To achieve this effect, I laid the base chain down in tight curves, forcing the ruffle to turn into itself and creating an impassable piece of shrubbery. I’m currently fixing all the bits and pieces to the platform using glass-head pins, in order to be able to move them around and rearrange them easily.

A hint on size: We’re going for trees with a maximum height of 20cm, assuming that would be about 20 metres in reality. So the distance between the base chain and the last row should be at most about 5 cm (2 inches), which would make a substantial stand of bushes around 5 metres tall.

Samples showing the some of the different crafts possible.

The Model

Needlework takes time, usually about twice as much as I estimate. For that reason, it’s important to start with a reasonably small bite out of the ecosystem described in the books so we can have something lush and good-looking. The colony tree is huge, and has lots of interlocking platforms around its stem.

I started working on a single platform as proof of concept. The sample platform is made out of a 50×70 cm piece of 2.5 cm corrugated cardboard – very stable but light, and the right size for still being reasonably easy to handle and ship. The sample trees top out at about 25 cm of height, which is pretty much the maximum that’s possible to have on a platform that size and not look totally unrealistic.

Sample Platform

The platform is currently living on top of my embroidery stand. I’m envisioning some kind of backdrop showing a bit of the bark of the colony tree itself, possibly including the entrance hole, and a way to safely attach platforms to this. If you have experience with this kind of model and ideas on how to achieve something like this, I’d love to hear from you!

I did take pictures when building the platform and will do a tutorial on this in a later post.

Colours

This project is a great opportunity to use up all those half-balls and sad lonely leftovers from previous projects. To start with, I pulled everything I thought I’d be able to use from my own stash and sorted it into different colour groups. Here’s my picks, to help you guide your own choices:

Greens

This will be the dominant colour. Lots of leaves, grass, lianas, young greens on the fields. I’m basically thinking “Tropical Rain Forest” – plants of all sizes and shapes everywhere!

Colours - Greens

Looks like I’m a bit short on saturated greens, but those are a start.

Neutrals

Tree trunks, walkways, dirt, roots, stones can be created with different shades of brown and grey.

Colours - Neutrals

Blues

There are quite a few mentions of water in the description of the colony tree – water falls, ponds, irrigation channels.

Colours - Blues

Accents

And to round it all out, here’s all the other colours of the rainbow – as accent colours, for flowers, fruit and everything else.

Colours - Accents

For example, I’m quite fond of the cone of technicolour thread on the upper left of that picture. Adding it to some green gives a nice sparkle to leaves!

The Books of the Raksura

Our project is inspired by Martha WellsBooks of the Raksura-Series, which was nominated for a Best Series Hugo in 2018. I’m pretty sure I was among the people who nominated the series. I highly recommend starting with the first volume in the series, The Cloud Roads, although the descriptions that sparked the idea for this project come from the second volume, The Serpent Sea.

The forest of mountain-trees where the Raksura colonies make their homes makes its first appearance in the first chapter of The Serpent Sea. Travelling in a flying ship, the Valendera, the exiled members of the Indigo Cloud Court approach their ancient homeland:

Not far below the ship he could see platforms covered with greenery standing out from the trees and completely encircling the trunks, connecting the trees to each other in a web, many more than large enough for the Valendera to set down on. They looked like tethered chunks of sky-island, covered with grass and flowers, dripping with vines, most supporting glades of smaller trees. But as the ship drifted closer to one, he saw the platforms were thick branches that had grown together and intertwined in broad swathes, catching windblown dirt and seeds until they built up into solid ground.

The platforms of the suspended forest grew wider and more extensive. Many of them overlapped, or were connected by broad branches, with ponds or streams. Waterfalls fell from holes in some of the mountain-sized trees. … It was like a whole multi-layered second forest hanging between the tree canopy and the ground, somwhere far below.

From the lower part of the trunk, greenery platforms extended out, multiple levels of them, some more than five hundred paces across. A waterfall fell out of a knothole nearly big enough to sail the Valendera through, plunged down to collect in a pool on one of the platforms, then fell to the next, and the next, until it disappeared into the shadows below.

Martha Wells, The Serpent Sea, Chapter One