Monthly Archives: May 2014

How to crochet leaves

Meanwhile here at the brewery, it’s raining.

So that means no fancy brewery-housey yarn-bombing big-reveal photos quite yet, because dreary grey drizzly rainy background just wouldn’t do them justice.

But that’s no bad thing, because being congenitally over-ambitious, I’ve had further ideas for embellishment since my last post. Who knows where this’ll end? Somewhere ridiculous, that’s where. Somewhere that’ll result in me being drummed out of the parish by a committee of more aesthetically-cautious villagers.

I’ve decided that what our tower needs, other than the knitted/crocheted railings, the various avian adornments, and other ephemera, is a crocheted floral hanging basket. So that’s what I’m making. There are flowers, but they’re not entirely my own design so I can’t ta-da my own tutorial here. But the leaves… Have you any idea how easy it is to crochet leaves? I’ll show you. The following is a mere template, because you can adapt the pattern by modifying the stitches according to whether you want your leaves to be long and thin, short and fat, tapering or round-ish.

So as an example, here’s a design for a leaf that’s roughly roundish but a bit squatter at the bottom and more tapered at the top.

Here’s a picture, and here’s the chart. I’ve added a red line to show the order in which you stitch. The advantage of this design is that you start from the base of the leaf and end up there too, so you can then proceed to work up the stem and add other leaves too. Am I making sense?

leaves b

So, can you see? You chain your way up the stem and the centre of the leaf, then work stitches of various widths down one side, then slip-stitch back up to the tip of the leaf, then work more stitches down the other side, before slip-stitching back down to the bottom of the stem. It’s up to you how many of your leafy stitches are singles, doubles, trebles, double trebles, and so on.

So, find your hook and find some green yarn, and let’s go.

First, of course, a slip knot. But you guessed that already:-

It's a slip-knot. Not difficult.

It’s a slip-knot. Not difficult.

Now you need to chain-stitch the length of your stem PLUS the length of your leaf. The leaf in my design above takes 12 stitches, so I’ll chain 12 + length of stem. Here’s the result:-

chained stem and spine of leaf

chained stem and spine of leaf

Now, I begin working back down the leaf from tip towards base on one side. See the diagram above. Here’s my progress as I finish the first side. So from tip to base I’ve worked (in American crochet parlance), sl st, sc, dc, tc, tc, dtc, dtc, tc, dc, sc, sl st. Easy, no? :-

one side finished

one side finished

Now having done that, I take a sip of gin and then work back up the spine with slip stitches. I slip stitch only into one loop, not into two loops of a stitch, because that creates a nice neat structure with a really well-defined spine to the leaf. So, as I said, I slip-stitch back to the leaf’s tip:-

slip-stitching back to the leaf tip

slip-stitching back to the leaf tip

Now I work the same stitches down the other side, from tip to base of the leaf, omitting the first slip stitch.

back down the other side

back down the other side

And nearly there:-

almost done

almost done

And then, the leaf is finished:-

finished leaf

finished leaf

See how just using the outer loops of the centre stitches results in a nice open structure that emphasises the leaf’s central stem?

Then, you slip-stitch back down to the base of the stem. Or you can add more leaves – a whole stem of leaves as you’ll see when I show you my hanging basket. Here are a couple more leaves:-

more leafy bits

more leafy bits

Now, fool that I am, I’ve crocheted great long strings of leaves, and frankly they look like the leaves over-spilling my real hanging baskets, ie limp and under-watered-looking. But there are solutions to that, and I’ll show you those in my next post…………..

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Almost yarn-bombing…

Happy and ever-so-slightly bonkers days are near. Here’s a sneak preview of materials for the housey yarn-bombing. (There are knitted pigeons, too.) The stripes are to be sewn around the railings of the tower balcony.

yarn-bombing materials

yarn-bombing materials

The big sew-up/reveal will be in a few days’ time, but I’m away from home at the moment, visiting the put-upon parents in their home on the English-Welsh border. They’re moving soon, and I’ll miss the walk up the track by their house to see this:-

the track behind my parents' house

the track behind my parents’ house

…As admired by my mum:-

Mum and tree

Mum and tree

The tree is a maybe-400-year-old oak, its trunk gnarled and thick.

I’ll miss it.

 

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Knitted planets. Crocheted birds. That sort of thing…

Well, the globe is finished. I’m not sure what to do with it now, though: the toddler twinnage don’t seem ready to consider our speck-like position on a beautiful green-blue planet, so its educational potential remains unfulfilled. Instead, one half of the twinnage tentatively asked whether the globe might be employed in a game of football. I frowned, and directed them towards the perfectly serviceable leather ball in the garden. They slouched off to kick some gravel at the fence as an expression of dissatisfaction with my parenting*. Again. Oh well. Here’s the globe:-

the world

the world

The pattern is here: follow links for English-language version. If you look at the charts, I recommend the more accurate modified one. Instead of the recommended yarn and tiny needles, I upscaled to DK, and the result is about 10cm across.

Now, on to weightier matters: the yarn-bombing of our brewery home. The components are almost ready, and I’m happy to report that probably-disapproving-neighbours have sold up and moved out ( 🙂 ), to be replaced by lovely-and-friendly-neighbours. I’ve been busy knitting and crocheting bits with which to cover the railings, and preparing trimmings such as these:-

crocheted birds

crocheted birds

Pattern here, although I didn’t entirely follow the instructions.

I’m so excited about revealing the finished result. Not long now…..

 

* I am exaggerating a bit. The toddler twinnage are surprisingly kind-natured and well-behaved, despite my parenting. I have absolutely no idea how this has happened, and certainly won’t be authoring any parenting manuals.

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Spring stitchery

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes – unless you’re very unlucky – life is good.

The last few days have been particularly good here at TheTwistedYarn, (which no doubt means that everything will go catastrophically wrong tomorrow). The Toddler Twinnage have played adorably, the stoic spouse has spent happy evenings preparing to lay model railway track in the back garden of our brewery home (don’t ask), and I have had some peaceful knitting moments in the spring sunshine. The other day, on a whim, I decided to knit the entire world. (Pattern on Rav, here.) Progress is good, and I’ll show you the finished object soon. It’ll look better once I’ve stuffed it. It’s been fun to think about each country as I knit it. Here’s where I’m up to, accompanied by a mug of green tea and one of the cookies I baked for our work away day. (Had to test the cookies before inflicting them on esteemed colleagues, obviously.)

Planetary stitchery. And green tea. And a home-baked cookie.

Planetary stitchery. And green tea. And a home-baked cookie.

That cookie was good. There’s a lot of chocolate in that blighter. Rich, 85% cocoa solids kinda chocolate. 🙂

So we had the worky away-day, and the cookies were demolished, and the day finished earlier than a normal working day so I had a rare and blissful entire hour alone before I had to collect the toddler twinnage. And so I found a beautiful old pub on the banks of the Thames in rural Oxfordshire, and spent the hour sitting happy and alone by the river with a pot of green tea and my knitting.

Knitting by the Thames

Knitting by the Thames

So I knitted, and I watched the occasional narrowboat chug by, and I watched the mayflies enjoy their single day of life, and the swallows swooping and plunging to catch them, and the thuggish coots busying themselves on the water, and the superior moorhens paddling disdainfully past, and a crotchety crow harrying a red kite in the sky above. And then a ridiculous man launched a sail-boat from the opposite bank, despite the fact that there was absolutely no wind, and after sort-of floating listlessly and vaguely downstream for 20 minutes he begged a passing motor-boat to tow him back upstream, at which point he fell over-board whilst trying to tether his boat, then, soaked-through, he hauled his boat onto a trailer and drove away.

The housey yarn-bombing has not been forgotten, by the way. Over-excited ‘ta-da’ post coming very soon…

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Designing Stranded Motifs… Is Actually Rather Easy

The only difficult things in knitting are the techniques you haven’t tried yet.

When I was a beginner, I looked at all that beautiful knitted colourwork out there – fairisle, especially – and I thought, ‘Well obviously, I could never do that‘. And so I couldn’t, right up to the moment when I picked up my needles and tried. Because let’s face it, less competent people than us have produced truly beautiful work.

And once I’d mastered stranded work (of which fairisle is an example), I got greedy, and wanted to design my own pieces. Using colourwork in knitting enables you to paint pictures with yarn – imagine the possibilities! Heaven! One of the results of my efforts was the header for this blog. 🙂 I became a stranded addict, and learned a thing or two along the way, a few principles that I want to share with you in this post. But most of all, I learned that it’s not difficult. I’m nowt special in the knitting world: I’ve frogged projects a-plenty, and I have a shameful criminal record with the Knitting Police (though I still maintain that it was a stitch-up). So if I can design and make lovely designs, then so can you. Here’s what you need to know:-

For this post, I’m assuming that you’ve mastered stranded/fairisle knitting, so I won’t be covering how to do that. If you haven’t, take some spare yarn and go and experiment. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. I’m also assuming that you can read knitting charts. This post is purely about how to design new work. You with me? You’re sure? Right, let’s do this. 🙂

So, to work. Traditional fairisle (and to be honest, any half-sensible stranded design) involves only two colours of yarn per row. You can change colours in different rows, you can use variegated yarn, but just don’t risk insanity or over-thick fabric by exceeding two strands per row. And remember you’ll be carrying the inactive yarn across the back of the work as a ‘float’. Overlong floats are not clever, especially in work that’ll take a lot of abuse, such as a garment of clothing. To avoid this problem, you can either ensure regular switching between colours (perhaps using just occasional dots of colour B if you’ve got a large area of colour A, as I did in portions of my blog header), or you can catch the inactive yarn behind the main yarn at regular intervals. Consider yourself warned. I wouldn’t leave a float of more than three stitches for clothing such as my skirt, or five stitches for something that’ll take less abuse, such as this cushion. But that’s just me: you wields da needles, you makes da rules.

The final thing to remember when designing is that knit stitches aren’t square. Do not, (she says with an ultra-stern face,) design your motif using standard square graph paper. Knit stitches are wider than they are high, so you’ll end up with a weird elongated design that’ll make you frown. For this reason, knitter’s graph paper is readily available online for free. (There are design programmes, too, but for my lack-of-money, nothing beats pencil-and-eraser for the design process.) Here’s an illustration. In the picture below, the inner square has been drawn on both normal (square) graph paper and knitter’s paper. I’ve knitted up both designs, and look! The knitted square on the left (normal square graph paper) is, well, not remotely square. It’s much wider than it is high. The Knitting Police would be unamused. But in the piece on the right (knitter’s graph paper), the square I’ve drawn becomes the square I’ve knitted. Success.

image

You see? Yes?

OK, onwards.

The above is a very simple design, but I want to encourage you to knit anything. Imagine the freedom! I recommend first sketching out the outline of the picture/design you want to create using knitter’s graph paper, then filling in the dots in appropriate colours. In the design below, you’ll see I do literally use dots in each square, because if I just coloured in the whole area for a particular yarn, it would be hard to count how many stitches to knit in each colour. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. (Heavy sigh.)

So, for this post, I decided to create a leafy design. I first sketched it out on knitter’s graph paper. I then translated it into dots. Looking at the design, I spotted some over-long floats so I added a few dots of green to break up long lines of the background colour. So, here’s the dotted design, ready to knit:-

template for leaf design

template for leaf design

Honestly, it was so much fun creating even this simple design. The freedom! The possibilities!

Then, the knitting. And I’ve included an image of the original sketch that became the dotted motif. OK, so I coloured it in: so sue me. Usually I’d just sketch an outline, then fill in the dots.

stranded leaf design

stranded leaf design

When designing, try to avoid long vertical lines, as you can sometimes end up with an unsightly gap between your two colours. Diagonals are always better. That said, I seem to have got away with it in the above examples: rules are there to be broken.

And of course, you can add text. Here’s another example of a design I sketched then knitted. I’ve doodled my own designs above and below the writing, but if you’re interested, there are books and websites available full of traditional fairisle/stranded motifs. Repetitive designs are generally a good way of ensuring you avoid over-long floats. Obviously, using text risks breaking the no-verticals rule, but I got round this when designing my blog header by using italic text.

designing text in stranded knitting

designing text in stranded knitting

And that pretty much covers the basics. As I’d advise for any technique, practise using spare yarn, and have fun. You won’t regret it.

Coming soon: how to steek (fearlessly and sober).

 

www.deramores.com/blog-awards: This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.

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