Swatches – My Secret Weapon

While looking for something completely different, I came across a decidedly squishy plastic bag. I was delighted by what I found inside:

Swatches - brown

Swatches - green

A whole pile of swatches for long-ago projects that had long fulfilled their original purpose. A wonderful heathered brown and a light green would be perfect for covering more of my platform!

I want the whole platform to be covered in something or other before adding the bushes and trees, so I started by deconstructing the current setup so I could rebuild it from the ground up. I could do that easily because I’m using pins to attach things to the platform, which works well through the fabric into the cardboard and allows me to move stuff around easily. Here’s what I ended up with:

Swatches - deconstructed platform

Looks like quite a lot, doesn’t it? When I started covering the platform, I found out that even with my newfound treasure it’s far from enough to even cover a single platform:

Swatches - back of platform

I mostly used the swatches for the backside of the platform, hoping for more interesting things for the front. Putting everything flat I have till now back on, the platform still isn’t completely full:

Swatches - platform from the front

In fact, there’s still lots of work ahead. It’s also becoming clear that knitting and crochet will have to be the main crafts employed – the embroidery pieces add interest, but they’re way too time-consuming to be effective for the bigger areas.

While there’s still more ground to cover, those swatches helped me to make quite a bit of progress. Do you have swatches from old projects lying around in the right colours? If yes, please bring them to Dublin so we can cover some ground with them and concentrate on making the interesting parts!

On the other hand, if you want to make ground coverings from scratch, please consider making your pieces not quadratic or rectangular. I think the current setup does need more bits and pieces with flowing outlines, so the result doesn’t look too artificial. While those platforms definitely have been at least partly formed by Raksuran influence, they do have a natural feel in my mind – think small-time agriculture as opposed to factory farming.


Lavender Field

While looking for more canvaswork stitches to turn into fields and gardens, I came across a post describing how to make “Victorian Fun-Fur“. Only instead of giant corduroy ridges, I immediately saw fields with carefully cultivated rows of produce.

Here’s my take:

Lavender Field

I used some leftover green and purple crewel wool taken together, varying the green with each thread, but keeping the purple. The result is quite muddy and dark, but has enough variation to feel natural, which was my aim.

Here’s a picture taken before I cut the threads open (sorry, the colour is awful in this one, much better in the image above):

Lavender Field before cutting

It really is magic when you cut those threads open and the whole piece transforms into something fluffy and three-dimensional! Fun to do and great visual interest for our model!


3D-Crochet at the Edge of the Platform

With this project, I’m always on the lookout for things that add a bit of dimension to otherwise flat knitted or crocheted items. We’ll need rather a lot of fabric covering the ground as well as the edges of the platforms, and I’d love to see lots of variety there, showing an abundance of life.

The piece I want to show to you today actually has an Irish connection: The idea is taken straight from the dimensional rose pattern often found in Irish Crochet Lace:Irish Crochet RoseThis image is taken from Thérèse de Dillmont’s “Irish Crochet Lace“. You can find scans of this book on the Weaving Digital Archives, which in spite of its name has lots of goodies for all kinds of needlecraft.

The basic idea used for the dimensional leaves on this rose is to work a round of chain stitches, which get covered in the following round with shells made from different stitches. The next round of chain stitches is then worked not on top of the shells, but into the previous round of chain stitches, making the next round of shells appear behind the previous one. And this is exactly the principle my sample uses:

3D-Crochet Sample, finished

In this view, the sample was worked from top to bottom. you can see a base row of chain stitches covered by a row of single crochet. Into this I worked the first row of chain stitches anchored with a single crochet every 5 stitches. On the way back, I worked a shell of seven stitches into every loop. One obvious difference to the rose pattern is that I worked the following row of chain stitches not over the same stitches, but I moved the pattern half a repeat over, so the shells are staggered from row to row. This took some fiddling at the beginning and end of row, but does make for a nice ground cover.

Hmm, I might need to come up with a step-by-step photo tutorial for this one? Please let me know if you want one.

The yarn choice this time was taking two different variegated threads together: a nice solid crochet cotton for stability, and a somewhat flaky green/violet wool for visual interest:

3D Crochet: Yarns

I’d love to have more of this kind of dimensional stuff, no matter in which craft! Please let me know if you have any ideas.

Making lots of pompoms at the same time

So, I showed you my Fibonacci tree, with its pompom leaves:

Fibonacci Tree - Finished

Winding pompoms can get quite labour-intensive if you need more than one, at least if you make them around cardboard circles (like I learnt to as a kid) or those modern plastic contraptions that work the same. Then I visited a friend’s workshop, who’s among other things a professional pompom-maker (yes, that’s actually a thing). And there I saw a much more efficient way to make lots of pompoms, and when I started this project, I knew I had to play around with a home-made version of this.

I even remembered to take pictures this time, so here’s how you do it:

First, you need two dowels or similar that are quite a bit apart to wind your threads around. For that purpose I had acquired a pair of cheap clamps a while ago. Installing them upside down on my couch table gives me this:

Pompoms - Winding the Thread

I grabbed a nice collection of different yarns to give some life to my leaves:

Pompoms - Yarns Used

I didn’t use them all in the same proportion – I made a couple of rounds with the sparkly green only between each round with all the yarns taken together. After I thought I had enough yarn wound, I started to bind the yarn bundle in regular distances, in this case every 5 centimetres. This will yield a pompom of about 5 centimetres in diameter. Leave the ends of the binding thread hanging, you’ll use them to attach the finished pompom to the tree.

Now comes the fun part: cut in the middle between each binding thread, and you’ll get this:

Pompoms - cut apart

Almost done! A bit of rolling between my hands gave this result:

Pompoms - Finished

Looking like a pretty good set of leaves. For a proper pompom, some more rounds of winding would have been better, but for our purpose, I like the slightly open look. Since the tree took only five pompoms, I have lots of leftovers, for another tree of the same species or some bushes, which would also look well made from pompoms piled over each other.

A Little Pond

There’s a surprising amount of water on those platforms: waterfalls coming from high up in the tree, little lakes, irrigation channels for the fields. So, we’ll need water. I tried a bit of free-form crochet to come up with this little pond:

The Pond

Again I used two yarns taken together, a solid turquoise cotton/poly blend and a blue variegated sock yarn:

Yarns used for Pond

I basically crocheted a spiral in the round, making wavy lines by changing stitches from single crochet to half-double to double and back, filling in the holes from previous rounds while trying not to get too regular. The pond measures about 10*13 centimetres. Here it is on the platform, surrounded by the beginnings of some tall grasses:

Samples showing the some of the different crafts possible.


The Fibonacci Tree

In addition to the Binary trees, the folks from the Botanica Mathematica project also posted a Fibonacci tree recipe. This gives us a different type of tree to play with, and one that arguably looks more natural as well.

Here’s my attempt, before stuffing and adding leaves, including the yarns used:Fibonacci Tree - unstuffed, with yarns

Again, I used a solid brown held together with a variegated sock yarn. To give the bark a bit of structure, I used a very simple pattern: one knit, one purl all the way round, and then exactly opposite the next round. Again, I used the recipe as a rough guideline rather than following the exact numbers of rounds indicated. I started with 21 stitches and worked my way up. In order to avoid an ugly seam somewhere, all my branches have an uneven number of stitches, so the pattern comes out right automatically when doing one knit, one purl in the round.

Here’s a peek at the finished tree:

Fibonacci Tree - Finished

If you like my pom-pom leaves, I’ll write about how to make lots of pom-poms in one go next time. It’s way more fun than making one at a time!

Crochet Leaves

So, you made your trees. Now we need leaves, since it’s not the middle of winter. I find crochet a good way to create leafy things, and I’ll show you two different kinds of crochet leaves today.

For the first tree, I did something very simple:

Knitted Binary Tree

I grabbed a light green yarn, taken together with a strand of my favourite technicolour shiny thread, and started working chain stitch loops around the ends of my branches. start with a single crochet stitch somewhere at the top, and work in rounds around the end of the branch until leafy enough. You could vary the number of chain stitches for each loop, but I didn’t in this case. It’s ten chain stitches for every loop.

Other possible variations on this:

  • Make your loops much longer, so you have hanging leaves
  • Work leaves much further down the branches
  • Include something fluffy in your yarn choice

Overall, this is simple, easy and reasonably fast, especially if you use a fairly big yarn, as I did here.

The second type of leaf is directly derived from Michelle’s Bookworm Recipe (Ravelry link). I used a light green variegated crochet thread, the stuff you’d use to make pretty doilies and similar. Much, much thinner than the yarn for the first tree. Basically, every leaf is made like the body of one of the bookworms from the pattern. Work a single crochet stitch into the branch, chain 10, and work your way back the chain working two double crochet stitches into every chain stitch. Repeat until bored. The result is pretty, but not noticeably more impressive than the simple chain stitches on the other tree.

Bookworm Leaves

I like the result, but I’ll probably go back to something a little bit faster for the next tree. The lesson I’m taking from that one is that it’s not always necessary to go for the complex and detailed solution, if something simpler and faster works just as well.

Hyperbolic bushes – multicolour version

Those hyperbolic bushes seem to be addictive, I couldn’t help making another one! This time I tried to get a more naturalistic look by using different colours. Here’s the result:

Multicolour Shrub

And here are the yarns I used:

Multicolour Shrub - Yarns

From left to right I started the base and the first rows with the brown yarn as the branches. After a few rows, I doubled up the brown with the lovely multicolour green to depict older leaves growing on the lower branches. I then left out the brown and added the light green instead to show the fresh growth of young leaves.

For the last row, I stopped using the hyperbolic recipe and made a little fringe from the light green yarn only, working a single crochet in each stitch of the previous row with seven chain stitches between each single crochet. I think it works to make things look a bit less rigid:

Multicolour Shrub - Installed

I think variegated yarns, especially ones that mostly stay in one colour and don’t jump all over the colour wheel, are a great choice for making things look more organic. On the other hand, the way those hyperbolic bushes are worked “from the ground up”, it’s easy enough to switch and mix colours every few rows.

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.