Steampunk Gears for CoNZealand

Nobody knows what will happen between now and the end of July, when CoNZealand is scheduled to happen. That doesn’t stop me from making some steampunk gears for yarnbombing CoNZealand, though.

Here’s what I made:

Steampunk Gears, arranged

These are three different gears, and I’m planning to make a few more. They could be sewn together to make a garland, for example. If you want to play along, I prepared the instructions as a PDF download. I’d love to see what you come up with using those instructions!


Yarnbomb CoNZealand!

CoNZealand, which is this year’s Worldcon taking place from July 29 to August 2 in Wellington, New Zealand, just announced a community art project I’m very excited about. Unfortunately I won’t be able to be there, but I’ll make sure to request pictures for documentation purposes!

CoNZealand members are invited to help yarnbomb the routes between the different venues of the convention. Pieces can reflect the overall theme of the convention “steampunk spaceship to the stars” or a personal fandom. Find out all the details on the CoNZealand website. There’s also a Facebook group you can join.

I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with for this project! I might even contribute something from afar – there’s that idea of steampunky gears in Irish crochet lace that I didn’t have time to implement for Dublin 2019, after all.

Covering the Backdrop

In the last installment of this, the backdrop still looked pretty cardboard-coloured. I’ve since been working on covering that up with a bit of fabric and at the same time visually extending the model so we get a bit more of a feeling for this being a slice of a really huge tree.

I transferred the design of the background onto a big piece of cotton fabric and started painting:

Painting the Tree

The inspiration for this was the same picture I used previously, but now on a much bigger scale:

Inspiration for the Ribbed Tree

The white areas are where the supports for the platforms will stick out and still need to be cut out and hemmed.

Here’s the whole width of the thing painted:

Painted backdrop

You can see the entrance hole in the middle, and a smaller hole for a waterfall to come out of at the right. The paints are textile paints, and I used a simple textile marker from an IKEA set for adding some details in black.

I’ve since extended the painting upwards on the other half of the fabric which is hanging down from the table at the top of this picture. This will be attached to the wall above the model, visually extending it upwards. Still need to think about the best way to do attachment points at the top.

Onwards to ironing the whole thing to set the colours and then some sewing!

A lacy hyperbolic bush

I’ve got a collection of books reprinting fairly traditional crochet lace patterns, intended mostly for crocheting around handkerchiefs. Wouldn’t those make great edgings for hyperbolic shrubbery as well? Showing off all the different things we can do with our crafts is part of the point of this project, after all.

Here’s the finished piece, together with the pattern it came from:

Hyperbolic lace bush and instructions

And here’s a close up of the crochet edging:

Hyperbolic Lace Edging - Closeup

The edge itself is mostly straight, so I did fairly strong increases in the brown setup rows. The last brown row is the first row of the pattern, but I only made two chain stitches instead of the original five between stitches, so there is effectively some increasing in the second pattern row compared to that.

Here’s the finished piece installed at an edge of the platform:

Hyperbolic Bush - Installed

The brown is fairly floppy, being worked in treble crochet stitches instead of the double crochet of the other versions, and being crochet thread instead of thicker wool as well, but I do like the lighter appearance this has.

A Childrens’ Loom

One of the ideas I had from the very beginning of this project was to enable as many people as possible to participate. Not everybody can knit or crochet, and while we’ll be happy to show people at the con, I wanted to have a few crafts available that are more easily accessible for people of all ages, so everyone can help.

I remembered that my old childrens’ weaving loom was still living at my parents’ place, so I asked them to send it along and started to play. Here’s the loom with the piece in progress:

Childrens' Weaving Loom

What you can create on this kind of loom are simple weft-faced fabrics, but that turns out to be just fine for relatively quickly covering some ground on our model. This is another brillant project for using up all those small leftovers. Remember the big box of them I got? Most of the threads in this came out of there – some are so short that I only was able to do a couple of rows with them, but in that case that’s a feature, not a bug!

For patterning, you can create gentle slopes by not weaving over the whole width of the fabric, which you can see well in the grey part in the middle, where I inserted the wide black/grey tape in the middle of two slopes.

I also decided to use two warp threads in each hole in the loom. This comes in handy if you want to add some knotted flowers – you can see them in pink/green at the bottom and in blue/green at the top. The stitch I used is called a rya knot (tutorial), and I just added a single one here and there between rows of normal weaving using a green and a coloured piece of thread together. To make them, you will have to cut the thread a bit longer to start with, but they can easily be trimmed later. I really like the abstract effect of flowers or high grasses.

Here’s the full piece immediately after taking it off the loom:

Weaving off the Loom

I made sure to have all the ends on one side, and I just knotted them together to secure them and didn’t cut them off. They’ll be fine hanging over the side of a platform, and can always be trimmed later if needed.

I then pulled the short ends of the warp at the button up and knotted the warp ends at the top, leading to this:

Weaving - finished!

I loved the playfulness of this project, and will definitely bring the little loom to Dublin for people to play with!

Feather and Fan

What I’m really doing at the moment is procrastinating on building the backdrop of our model. This is really important if we want to show something even slightly impressive in Dublin, but also intimidating. I sort of have a plan, but can’t bring myself to start quite yet. For added complexity, the backdrop will need to be shipped from Germany to Dublin, so it will need to be packed flat like IKEA furniture if I don’t want to break the bank on shipping costs.

I’m procrastinating by watching youtube videos and doing some mindless knitting in order to have some more stuff to cover the platform(s) with. Which is why I have something to show to you today.

Wanting something a bit more organic than straight lines, I picked the classic feather and fan pattern for my next piece. I found this tutorial and off I went. A friend donated a whole big bag of her leftover bits and pieces of yarn to the project:

Odds and Ends

This is normally the kind of stuff that gets more and more and is never used up, but this project is actually perfect to make a dent into something like this! I grabbed the first grey ball and started knitting, changing colours whenever I ran out of yarn:

Feather and Fan

That green line towards the right is actually two different leftover greens, each being just long enough to knit a single row. On the black/white/grey-speckled area you can see some ends sticking out. This was a leftover which had a few different tones just knotted together – also something quite hard to use up, but no problem here. A bit of messiness is just what’s needed. Here’s the finished piece as part of the edge-covering of the platform:

Feather and Fan - Installed

Looking great, and for being just a couple of days of youtube-watching, covering quite a bit of real estate. I’m sure there’s other simple patterns as well that would be useful for this kind of effect.


Edge and Ground Cover Using Short Rows

I continue to realize that while trees and bushes and lianas are loads of fun to make, what we’ll probably need the most of will be various types of ground cover. These can be simple and mindless, but also a good way to try out different techniques. Today’s swatch uses something that can be found on the internet under the term “Swing Knitting”. I haven’t been able to find a good tutorial, though. Using a variegated grey/black sock yarn, I made this:

Swing Knitting - Flat

Basically, what you’re doing is working short rows in your piece, meaning you turn around in the middle of a row somewhere. Here’s a good tutorial how to do that: German Short Row video tutorial. To keep your piece roughly rectangular and not bunching up in places where you don’t want that, you will need to knit the now “missing” stitches of your row at some point, but that point doesn’t need to be right now, in fact, in can be several rows later. The rows in the picture look like they’re not all parallel, and that isn’t an illusion, they aren’t. Direction of knitting is from the bottom up. If you look at the area above the yellow and orange pins in the middle, you see two knit triangles with a diagonal purled line in between. The right triangle was worked first, making ever shorter rows. Then I purled a few rows to create the diagonal line. Then I worked the second knit triangle, and as a bonus, I worked the longest row first, so this triangle appears to be knit diagonally. It is important to put a marker where you’re turning your short rows, so you know to which place you need to knit when creating the complementary short row from the other side later. When you do that, you can remove that marker.

Here’s the piece installed on the edge of the platform:

Swing Knitting - Installed

I think it gives a nice organic effect. Next time, I might mix things up even more by using different yarns for the different areas – for example grey and green to show that some of that rock is covered by moss or grass.


A Ribbed Tree

I’ve been taking pictures of interesting tree trunks in order to come up with more ideas on how to make the trunks of my trees. I really liked this one, with its deep ridges:

Inspiration for the Ribbed Tree

This reminded me of the deep open ridges of brioche stitch, which can easily be worked in the round. So I started with my usual 32 stitches for a binary tree, and worked the first two sections (with 32 and 16 stitches) in brioche stitch. For the third section (8 stitches), I switched to a simple 1×1 rib, and the last section is i-cord, as usual. This is what I ended up with:

Ribbed Tree - Trunk

It’s a fairly fat trunk, since brioche stitch tends to spread quite a bit, but I like the effect. For the leaves, I wanted to try to create something along the lines of a weeping willow. I grabbed three different green threads, cut longish sections, and knotted six strands at a time into the tips of the branches, with three sets per tip. To do this, double up your bunch of threads, insert a big enough crochet hook into the branch, pull the doubled up loop through, and then the ends of the bunch throug the loop. Tighten up the knot – easy and fast! This is what the result looks like:

Ribbed Tree with Added Leaves

After stuffing and with the help of gravity, here’s our weeping willow:

Weeping Willow - Finished

More Vines and Lianas

I’ve been playing with my crochet hooks again… trying to come up with different ways to create hanging vines and lianas that can fall over the edge of the platform. It’s fun, and a bit addictive. Basically, I took a sturdy yarn and worked a couple of rows of single crochet to serve as a foundation, and now I’m starting a vine from every stitch in the row. The foundation is the light brown piece in the pictures below. It has a tendency to curl, but it will be easy to pin down straight when I’m finished.

Here’s the first variation:

Liana with leaves

I took a dark brown and a variegated green sock yarn together and made a chain using a 3mm hook. Periodically, I made a pair of leaves only using the green and a 2mm hook. The leaves are the same ones as in my last post, just worked with thicker yarn. They do curl up a bit, which isn’t a problem since in the end this will all just be a thick tangle of vines and leaves. You can also see that I just looped back to the foundation at the end rather then cutting my thread and starting new. Even if that’s not like nature would do it, it does give me two lianas for the price of one, and the thread ends up where I need it next, for the second variation:

Hanging vine with loops

This is the simplest vine I made – I dropped the brown yarn and only used the green. As before, I started chaining, and added simple leaves by making more chain stitches and connecting them into a loop with a slip stitch – basically an oversized picot. I eventually looped back towards the top again, this time periodically attaching my chain with a few slip stitches to the downward leg and working a few smaller loops to make things more dense. This is a pretty simple way to get some satisfying results!

And because I just couldn’t resist, here’s a binary tree liana:

Binary Liana

In fact, this is a perfectly balanced complete binary tree directly from the textbook. Again I used the brown and green together for the stem. I started with four chain stitches for each section, and the tree is four sections deep. So there’s 16 chain stitches to start, then I worked two leaves – again following the recipe in this post – worked four slip stitches up the previous chain, another four chain stitches down to the next set of leaves, then 8 slip stitches up to the next division, 8 chain stitches down and so on, until I had a complete tree. This was done completely regularly, but of course you could play with making the branches different lengths, or leaving some branches out, to get a more natural result.

There’s quite a few more foundation stitches left, let’s see what happens next! I think just playing with using different yarns and the same ideas could give enough variety to keep my entertained for a while!

Climbing Vine

A few weeks ago, on one of the first nice spring days, I went for a walk, camera in hand, in search of interesting structures in tree barks. Basically, I wanted to find more ideas on how to make interesting trees. The first one I came across wasn’t about the tree at all, though:

Tree with Climbing Vine

It was the single vine growing straight up the tree that captured my eye. That might be a possible use for my tatted vines, or maybe I could find another way to make something like this?

Crochet is fairly fast to do and has the possibility to easily create free forms. There’s lots of ideas of what you can do with just a crochet hook in areas like Irish crochet lace or in thread crochet in general. So, here’s my simplified version of that vine:

Crochet Vine

The stem are simply chain stitches, and the leaves are worked in pairs as follows: chain 8, with the last chain stitch being for turning. In the remaining 7 stitches work as follows on your way back to the stem: slip stitch, single crochet, half double, double, half double, single, slip stitch. Do the same again for the other leaf. To keep the leaves closely together, I worked a slip stitch into the last chain of the previous piece of stem before continuing by making the next piece of stem.

Towards the top of the vine I made the stem pieces shorter and the leaves smaller. This works by just working 6 or even 4 chain stitches and dropping out the middle part of the leaf: For 6 chain stitches the sequence goes slip stitch, single crochet, half double, single, slip stitch, and for 4 chain stitches it is slip stitch, single crochet, slip stitch. Come to think of it, odd numbers of chain stitches would also work, you’d just end up with two identical stitches next to each other in the middle, which nobody will see at the end.

(All crochet terms are US, because the UK terms confuse me. Here’s a comparison if you need to translate into UK terms.)

I then used some embroidery thread to stitch the vine to my tree:

Crochet Vine on Tree

I think it’s a good way to add some more interest to your tree!