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

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.

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!

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:


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