Stuffing the Tree

In the original recipe, the trees are just stuffed with toy stuffing. I wanted something a bit more sturdy and flexible, so it’s easy to adjust the branches later. So, here’s a walk-through on how to stuff your tree using chenille sticks (and other stuffing of your choice).

You’ll need half as many chenille sticks as your tree has branches, and a crochet hook that’s long enough to go all the way through the branches and small enough to insert at the top of the branch without breaking anything. My normal standard crochet hook does nicely, but the new ones with the ergonomic handles are probably not a good idea for that particular use.

So, here’s what you do: Take a chenille stick and fold it in half if it isn’t already. At both ends of the stick, turn the last bit of wire around so there’s something for your crochet hook to grab. You may also want to turn the trunk of your tree to the left side to make things easier. Now insert the crochet hook from the end of one of the branches and guide it down until it comes out at the trunk. This will look something like this:

Stuffing the Tree - Insert the Crochet Hook

You can just see both ends of the grey crochet hook: The handle sticks out of one set of leaves, and the tip just peeks out of the trunk. The crochet hook now sits exactly where we want the chenille stick to end up. Next the tip of the crochet hook is inserted into the turned end of the chenille stick:

Stuffing the Tree - Pulling the Chenille Stick Through

Now you can gently pull the crochet hook back until it’s almost at the end of the branch. The chenille stick will now be where it belongs, and you can carefully pull out the crochet hook. Repeat for the other end of the chenille stick with another branch. When there’s an end of chenille stick in every branch, turn the trunk back over. Depending on the height of your tree, the chenille sticks might poke out at the bottom. In that case, just bend them over so they fit. Fill in any holes in the trunk around the chenille sticks with filling. And finally it’s time to close that hole in the bottom. I like to use crochet for that since knitting on DPNs with that few stitches is no fun.

And here’s the finished tree, with artistically bent branches:

Knitted Binary Tree

Binary Trees

One of the most prominent features of the platforms will be the trees. Most likely stunted in their growth because they can’t root deeply in the platforms, our trees need to be a maximum of about 20 cm in height. Botanica Mathematica is a textile community project creating plant forms from mathematical principles and one of the main inspirations for this project.

The first trees I’ve been making for my sample platform are based on the Binary Bonsai pattern recipe from Botanica Mathematica. The basic recipe can be easily adapted to both knitting and crochet. I made a sample for both.

Knitted Tree

I started this tree with 32 stitches, using a solid brown yarn together with some variegated sock yarn leftovers. This is the first tree I made, and I promptly forgot to take loads of in progress pictures, so here’s the finished tree:Knitted Binary Tree

It’s pretty much invisible to see in this picture, but the trunk is mostly stockinette with a few patches of purls randomly distributed. Here’s a pic with both the knitted and the crocheted tree before stuffing, where you can see the colours and the structure a bit better:

Binary Trees before Stuffing

Crocheted Tree

The crocheted tree is basically made from the same recipe, also using a brown and a variegated yarn and starting with 32 stitches in the round. This time I did remember to take a picture before adding the leaves:

Crocheted Binary Tree

I didn’t manage to crochet the smallest branches with just four stitches in the round (although I’m sure there are amigurimi specialists out there who can do it), so I worked those flat along the long side: chain as many stitches as you want the branch to be long, and then work back and forth in single crochet a couple of times, attaching to the existing branch when you get there. For the last row crochet each stitch into the starting chain as well as into the previous row to close the tube.

General guidelines for making the trunk and branches

  1. These are organic structures. Vary the number of rounds for each segment and don’t worry too much about having the right number of stitches at every point. Variation is good!
  2. Add structure by using variegated yarns and/or different stitch patterns. There’s a post about how to add interest to your trunk still waiting to be written.
  3. Do add leaves of some description, we’re not in the middle of winter. There are lots of possibilities here that will deserve their own category, also still to be written.
  4. Here are instructions on how to stuff your tree using stuffing and chenille sticks for structural integrity.
  5. While this isn’t earth, we’re still going for browns and neutrals as the primary colours for the trunk and branches. Adding a different colour or a variegated yarn gives some additional interest and a more exotic feel.

Cabled Roots

The whole Platform, including the sides, will have to be covered in something or other. With the idea that cables can look a bit like roots meandering and crossing over each other, I made this test piece:

Cabled Roots

The cables are two stitches wide, with a variable number of purls between them. I tried to have them meander a bit and cross over each other randomly. Here you can see it installed around the edge of the platform:

Cabled Roots - Installed

I think this kind of edge covering would be very effective with a copse of trees and some bushes right next to it. Having some additional stuff hang over the roots is also fun:

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I think the motto for this project needs to be “The More, the Better!”

Fields and Gardens in Canvas Work

I find Canvas Work a fun way to stitch regular or semi-regular areas like fields. This pattern from my enlarged German version of the Encylopedia of Needlework looks just like a field with young greens to me:

Canvas Work Field

Needless to say, I picked up some canvas wool and went to town:

Young Greens

What I’d probably do next time is to use different threads taken together instead of the tapestry wool I used for the green rows. The green rows are worked in fish-bone stitch, and the dark brown soil is tent stitch. Both are described in the above-linked Encyclopedia of Needlework.

For my next patch of garden, I did use different threads taken together. The squares are worked in Waffle Stitch, you can find a stitch diagram under the link.

For the first row I used two strands of Crewel Wool in light and dark green, and some variegated cotton embroidery floss in yellow-oranges.

Waffle Stitch - Row 1

After that one, I decided that taking only two strands of thread would give me plenty of coverage. So the second row uses just a variegated green cotton embroidery thread and a light pink crewel wool.

Waffle Stitch - Row 2

The third row is a bit more subdued, using a green wool and a variegated green perle cotton:

Waffle Stitch - Row 3

I finished things up with diagonal stitches over two threads in the same brown wool I used for the first piece:

Waffle Stitch - Finished

If you want to play with stitching pretty things that look like fields and gardens, I found a collection of lots of different stitches for canvas work. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Tatted vines

A few weeks ago I came across a blog post describing how to make a tatted houseplant. Basically what she does is to make strings of tatted rings connected by chains, and then arranging them in a little flower pot to look like a plant. Go look, it’s lovely!

My mind immediately went to how those same strings of leaves could serve as lianas, vines, and leaves for hanging plants for our model. So of course, I started to play with the idea:

Tatted Vines

I basically filled my shuttle with pearl cotton (no. 8 for the left four vines, no. 5 for the rightmost one) and tried out different variations of the basic pattern. Depending on how many leaves you put in the same place and how long the chain between leaves is, you get fairly different results, all working from the same recipe. The two vines at the left have picots added to the leaves, giving another possibility for variations.

For the vine in the middle I tried adding beads to depict flowers or berries. To achieve this, you need to add the beads to your thread before filling your shuttle:

Tatting with beads

Start working your leaves, leaving the beads pushed towards the ball of thread. When working the chain with the thread coming from the ball, slide a bead up to your work at the place where you want one, and then work the next double knot, leaving a picot with the bead behind. This only works with beads on the chain, though.

I’m sure there are lots of other variations possible! I love to play around and see what you can do with a pattern, and a simple one like this is a great starting point. And since we’re imitating nature, you can’t even miscount! It doesn’t matter if your leaves and chains vary in size or if not every picot looks the same – nature’s messy like that! This would be a perfect practice project for a beginning tatter. The writer of the original post is needle tatting, I work with a shuttle, and the simple pattern works perfectly for both techniques.

Here’s the vines hanging over the edge of the platform:

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