Tag Archives: decoration

Red and gold tree

red and gold tree

Red and gold metallic floss! It gleams! I have a love/hate relationship with metallic floss (in contrast to my just-hate relationship with satin floss). It’s so attractive, and such a pain to work with (crochet or embroidery… as long as you’re not comparing it to satin floss). The floss is made of a fiber core with a metal strip coiled around it; as you work with it the edges of that strip poke out and turn into snag factories. That’s trickier with embroidery than crochet, fortunately for us here, but it can cause difficulties. I have some advice for crocheting with this material, with the ornament instructions below.

This tree is my Tabletop Tree made in Red Heart Tweed “Camo” yarn, through and through. It is denser and smoother than the other tree.

Garland: This tree also has a chain garland, made using the better part of a skein of each color, but not a magic one this time. I found the strands of the two colors were too intermingled – at least at first – to make a magic chain. I used an E/4 hook (3.5mm) and chained with both colors together, instead. A double thickness was too much for even the roughness of metallic floss, and the slip knot and knot at the end did not want to stay put. I augmented them with overhand knots. If I had knotted each color separately, I would have solved both the problem of the slippery slip knot and the strands intermingling.

Decorating: To put the garland on the tree I wound it around in a spiral, trying to tuck the chain into the branches from time to time to mimic how garlands are placed on real trees. I used a yarn needle to hide the floss ends inside the tree. The ornaments were hung by stitching through the tree, as before, and placed at the tucks of the garland to help hold it in place. I stitched straight through and then down and out the foot of the tree.

General floss crochet instructions: The two decorations below were made with embroidery floss and a size 4 steel hook (2mm). For these my abbreviations and conventions are relevant, though the only one you haven’t seen before is likely “2sc” for single crochet increase. “Dec” means sc decrease. I highly recommend the double magic ring to begin, since it does not require any additional floss-end securing. I also recommend the trick of inserting your hook into the first stitch of the round before tightening the ring so it does not get tightened down along with the ring (shown in the video at the link), under both loops even if you won’t be using both loops. After the second round of stitching, make sure the piece is fully right-side-out, rolling the rim up with your thumbs and index fingers if needed. Metallic floss needs encouragement to change position, which is also an advantage.

red and gold ornaments

Ornament balls (red): One skein of floss will comfortably make 7 of these.
1. Form magic ring, ch 1, and sc 5.
2. 2sc, sc, 2sc, sc, sc (7). Make sure the work so far is fully right side out. I like to loosen the current loop so I can take the hook out and roll the rim up with both thumbs and index fingers.
3. Sc, dec, sc, dec, sc (5).
This should not need stuffing beyond perhaps wadding the initial floss tail (and maybe not even all of that) into the ball. Cut floss leaving a long tail. Stitch a drawstring through the opening: up under the front loop of the first stitch, down through the first loop of the second, alternating to end with up through the front loop of the last stitch. Put the floss through the ball and out the middle of the magic ring. Pull the drawstring tight and roll the ball between your fingers as needed to round out the shape.

Pine cones (gold): One skein will easily make 8.
1. Form magic ring, ch 1, and sc 6.
2-3. Sc around in BL only (6 sc; 2 rnds).
As above, the initial floss tail should suffice for stuffing. Cut floss leaving a long tail and stitch a drawstring through the back loops only of the last round; I like to go from inside the round to outside under each stitch’s back loop. Pull it closed but don’t tighten too much. Put the floss through the pinecone from the center of the last round through the center of the magic ring. Roll the pinecone between your fingers if necessary to make the rounds taller and narrower (increase the distance between magic ring and drawstring).

Additional tips: A stuffing tool will be very helpful, a small fork of sorts to push the floss into the item. I use a plastic yarn needle with the back of the eye snipped off and the two resulting prongs sanded smooth. I have seen a stuffing tool of two pointy toothpicks taped together, but a wider end on the tines would be more helpful – perhaps two flat toothpicks, with half of a third one in between for spacing if needed, using the wider ends for stuffing. I also had a much easier time stuffing after I tried twisting the end of the floss until it was all coiled around itself – it gave me more to push against and I didn’t have the problems with individual plies looping up, impossible to hold onto with the stuffing tool. I had no problems with the drawstring staying closed, even though I didn’t secure the tail (well, except for stitching it through the tightly-stuffed item and out the tight magic ring).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little post blitz! Here’s a final close-up glamour shot courtesy my husband:

red and gold tree close up

I’ve made the decorations above and in the previous post, as well as my tips for working with embroidery floss, available as a name-your-price PDF for easy printing.

Overview post Making the tree
Blue, silver, and white decorations Red and gold decorations

Blue, white, and silver tree

blue, white, and silver tree

I did not like the blue and silver options in metallic floss (though I fortunately picked up a white skein with my gold and red), so I got rayon/satin instead. As mentioned in the initial post, I now think that was a mistake. Many words not in keeping with the spirit of the season were said, and I may have even thrown the floss on the floor at one point in a fit of pique. I can neither confirm nor deny. The starting slip knot in particular does not want to hold well. I made different fixes for the two types of decorations, described below.

This tree is my Tabletop Tree made with a cone of Red Heart Super Saver “Hunter Green” yarn and branches of Herrschners Holiday “Dark Green.” The Herrschners yarn is finer and twistier than the Red Heart, which led to a shaggy, textured tree.

Magic chain garland: Chenille yarn in an appropriate color, metallic eyelash yarn for tinsel, or a simple chain make great garlands, but for a two-color garland I turned to my magic chain. To make one, hold two strands of yarn together, tie a slipknot, and place it on your hook. Now chain as usual, but grab only one strand for each chain and alternate which one it is. I did these with embroidery floss instead of yarn, though, and used a C/2 hook (2.75mm). To deal with the slippery knot, I held onto it with my fingers until I’d chained a few times, and then trusted to fate for it not to fall out (well, fate and the long tail I left) while I finished the chain. It didn’t, and after finishing I went back and tied the two colors in a square knot, with an overhand knot over top of it so the tails would be pointing the same direction. I pulled the end of one color through the last loop of the other at the end, tightened it a bit, and then tied overhand-square-overhand to secure. The garland used about 2/3 of a skein of each color, but more of blue and less of silver – I think this was due to shifting my grip upwards after the same color link most of the time, so the slippery floss that wanted to pull anyway was inclined to do so more on silver than blue.

This magic chain does not look much like a yarn magic chain, but it’s cheerful. The satin floss likes to keep its own shape and doesn’t have the benefit of friction to make it stay put. To put it on the tree, I used a yarn needle to hide the floss at one end inside the tree, wrapped the garland around in a spiral, and then hid the opposite end into the tree as well. And then I re-wrapped the garland, because it had slipped completely out of place during the end-hiding operation.

To add the ornaments, I stitched the beginning and ending yarn ends through the tree to hold the star in place – leave an extra long tail on both ends for ease of doing so.

blue, white, and silver ornaments

Stars: I made the stars with embroidery floss and a size 4 steel hook (2mm), or with worsted weight yarn or two lengths of floss and an E/4 hook (3.5mm). You can make them with 4, 5, or 6 points easily, although 5 looks the most like a star – 6 looks a bit like a flower, and 4 like a cross or plus sign.
Here’s the pattern. Note that when I slip stitch into a chain other than to make a ring, I insert my hook in the back bump of the chain.
Ch 4, sl st into ring.
*Ch 3, sl st in 2nd ch from hk, ch 1, sl st into ring* as many times as desired; each iteration of *…* makes a point.
FO, putting the end of the yarn through the center of the ring, front to back.
To make one longer point, replace the *…* with:
Ch 5, sl st in 2nd ch from hk; ch 1, sk 1 ch of ch-5, sl st in next ch of ch-5; ch 1, sl st into ring.

The satin floss did not work well at all. Here’s a sample:

satin floss stars

Slip knot tips: I did learn some things, and made enough stars to say that a skein should make 3 each of 3 kinds: 6-pointed, 5-pointed, and 4-pointed with one longer point. In both metallic and satin floss, two lengths held together don’t make for a sturdy slip knot. With metallic floss by itself, the slip knot holds well. With satin floss, it doesn’t, but if you add another wrap to the knot before tightening it holds perfectly. That is: a slip knot is essentially an overhand knot with the working end of the yarn looped up through it. You want to convert the overhand knot to a double overhand knot. In the lower drawing of my slip knot instructions, the tail going off to the left gets wrapped around the last strand it passes under.

In the stars made from two lengths of embroidery floss I knotted each separately and then worked with them together. Metallic plus satin worked fairly well (blue and white); satin by itself was just mushy and hard to finish off. The silver floss in the photo is some I had at home, which of course was on an unlabeled bobbin.

I’ve made the decorations above and in the next post, as well as my tips for working with embroidery floss, available as a name-your-price PDF for easy printing.

Overview post Making the tree
Blue, silver, and white decorations Red and gold decorations

Crocheting a pine tree

tabletop trees

A stylized pine tree is basically a cone, with something passing for branches around the outside. I wrote about cones earlier this week and more information can be found there, but the important recap is: To make a cone in single crochet, start with a 4 or 5 stitches in a magic ring (you can even go as low as 3, but be careful to work right-side-out as early as possible, because a tight turn with back-loop-only fabric can create big gaps in the stitching), and single crochet in a spiral. Work in back loops only and add the same number of stitches to each round (on average, at least). Try to shift them around so the increases aren’t all on top of each other.

The narrower tree below was made by starting with 4 stitches and increasing by 1 stitch per round usually, but by 2 stitches every fourth round or so, for a total of 14 rounds. The wider tree started with 5 stitches in a magic ring, and then 2 or 3 stitches were added each round, alternately. It has only 13 full rounds. Both trees, however, also have a partial round for straightness. Spiral crochet loses ground with each round, so by the time you get to 14 rounds you’re well behind where you began, and adding some stitches can be necessary to get the tree to stand up straight. Do that by eye; start with about a third of the stitches around, but be prepared to add or subtract stitches a few times. It doesn’t need to be perfect, though, partially because not all trees are totally straight and partially because back-loop-only fabric can be molded to shape enough to accommodate small imperfections.

tree comparison

Cone bases (also discussed earlier this week): Start with 7 sc in a magic ring and add 7 to each round: 2sc around, then *2sc, sc* around, then *2sc, sc 2* around, continuing or stopping short as needed to make a disk of the right diameter to fill the space in the bottom of the cone. If correct diameter and matching number of stitches are in conflict, favor correct diameter.

Stuffing: You don’t want to overstuff, because back-loop-only fabric can stretch out and expose the stuffing through holes. However, stuff enough to make sure the tree has body. This is more important the taller your tree is relative to its diameter. The tall, thin blue tree in the previous post was originally understuffed, and after I put the branches on, the tip of it didn’t want to stay upright. I had to wedge more stuffing in through the fabric, which was kind of laborious.

Attaching the base: Essentially, sc around, making each stitch through the back loop of a cone stitch and both loops of a base stitch. I have found that often the base has fewer stitches around than the cone opening, though, and so some cone stitches will either have to be skipped or crocheted to the same base stitch as the previous cone stitch was. I have found that skipping stitches can tuck the bottom of the cone inward a bit, whereas crocheting two cone stitches to the same base stitch preserves the slant of the sides.

Branches: Starting with a new length of yarn, place slip knot on hook. Insert hook into unused loop of cone stitch closest to magic ring (point of cone), so your hook points down the tree (insert from point toward base). Slip stitch to join yarn. Chain 4 and sc in same st as sl st. *Ch 4, sc in next lp* all the way around and around your tree. I like to replace the last sc with a sl st for smoothness. Nicely, if you accidentally skip a loop or double up, or are one chain short or long, it will just add to the natural look of the tree.

Designing your own: If you want to make a less straight-sided tree, keep in mind that whatever shaping you give the cone will be muted by the branches, so exaggerate it. The trees in the top photo are from my Tabletop Tree pattern; you would not guess they’d have the natural shape they do from the “unbranched” form. Those trees also illustrate something about design: the tree with the sparkly branches is made on a base of yarn that is thicker than the sparkly yarn, and the non-sparkly tree is the same yarn all the way through. The sparkly yarn was also very twisty, which I think contributed, but you can see how much smoother and more solid the non-sparkly tree is, whereas the sparkly one is rougher and shaggier.

If you’d like a different tree, here’s a hollow one made bottom-up with loop stitch, and here’s a stylized one made from three triangles stitched flat.

Overview post Making the tree
Blue, silver, and white decorations Red and gold decorations

Miniature decorated Christmas trees

trees together

Hello! Now that Thanksgiving is over I feel open to Christmas decorating. Almost a month ago I wanted to just sit and crochet without a particular goal in mind, and ended up with this little tree, in sport weight yarn:

first tree

To make it I stitched a cone of sorts using back loops only, stuffed it and added a base, and then went back with a new length of yarn and single crocheted in each unused loop, with 4 chains in between each time. It’s slow, but not difficult.

I started writing a post about making such trees and decorating them, but it was ludicrously large even before photos, so I broke it up. I have for you a four-post series, two posts each today and tomorrow.

1. This post!
2. Making your own trees like the ones above (stitching a cone, closing the bottom, and adding branches).
3. Decorating the blue, silver, and white tree in the top picture (magic chain garland and stars).
4. Decorating the red and gold tree in the top picture (chain garland, ornament balls, and pine cones).

The decorations we’ll discuss are all made with embroidery floss, which is a little more challenging to work with than yarn. Part of this is the size, and good lighting helps a lot with that. The other part is that floss doesn’t give at all – yarn will stretch a little as you stitch with it, which helps you get your hooks in and out. To deal with that, try two things: make sure your loops get all the way up to the largest diameter part of the hook (especially important with steel hooks, which start tapering a lot farther from the end) so they aren’t too small, and turn your hook’s mouth downward when you pull the hook out of a loop. The downward direction has a little more space in most stitches (where for a chain, “down” means toward the previous chain). I used “satin” floss (rayon) for one tree and metallic floss for the other, and notes on working with those kinds of floss in particular are included with the ornament instructions. I have to say, though, that my advice for working with satin floss is DON’T. It is like trying to crochet with well-greased twine.

earring tree

Of course miniature Christmas decorations are also available commercially. The tree above is decorated with earrings (the hook kind); insert them into the tree, as far out or in as you like. Crochet is well suited to making wreaths, as well, either on its own or around a plastic ring.

I can’t close without the piece I promised last time. This is fine yarn (Vanna’s Glamour “Sapphire”, weight class 2) worked with a D/3 hook (3.25mm). The branches took forever, but it’s so chic! I decided to go minimalist and simply use individual strands of metallic embroidery floss as long tinsel. I cut the strands to approximately the right length, erring on the side of “too long,” and wet them so they would lose the kinks from being wound on a cardboard bobbin (at least mostly). Then I separated the strands (almost forgetting my own advice to start by pulling off pairs, because separating a single strand from more than one other strand is difficult) and attached them to the branches, near the cone, with lark’s head knots.

tall blue tree

Green-eyed macrame owl

In honor of I Love Yarn Day I decided to try a yarn craft I’d never done before. So I chose macrame, which is not actually a yarn craft; it is more commonly done with cord or something else that doesn’t stretch. After looking around I found a pattern for a macrame owl by a crafter named Alice.

macrame owl finished

The pattern was wonderful and I highly recommend it. It uses only lark’s head knots, half hitches, and square knots, and the diagrams are clear enough I didn’t need any supplemental material, even though this was my first macrame project (odd, since my mother did a fair bit of macrame when I was young). I did use a different macrame resource to confirm I was interpreting the diagrams correctly, but I was.

The pattern calls for crochet thread, and I used sport weight yarn. I wasn’t sure what the length conversion would be, so I cut pieces at least two yards long. I didn’t need to; I had well over half the original length left over. However, it was convenient to have the extra weight – with the end of the yarn wound on bobbins to keep the strands from tangling together.

yarn bobbins for macrame

I used bamboo skewers for the top and bottom rods, and beads from my stash for the eyes. Instead of putting glue on the ends of the yarn to turn them into needles, I folded a length of thin wire in half to use as a threader. I stuck it through the bead, put the yarn through the folded end of the wire, and pulled it through.

Here’s a picture of when it first started looking like something. I added pins to keep the fold in step 6 in place until it was knotted up.

macrame owl partway done

I found the pattern via the Macrame Lovers blog. It updates sporadically (and hasn’t for over a year) but has a decent number of patterns both locally and linked around the web.

[I accidentally categorized this as crochet and then linked to it from elsewhere, so it will stay in crochet to keep those links valid.]

Face of a doll

Recently a Sew-Op colleague asked me to stitch faces on a pair of small soft dolls. Each doll will live in a cigar box with pre-cut fabric, thread, pins and needles in a pincushion, and other necessities for a young girl to sew her clothing. The girls are twins so the dolls are too. Let’s have a before and after shot.

unstitched dolls finished dolls together

I apologize for the photo quality; I was trying to get them returned the same morning I finished them.

The book they are on top of is The Fine Art of Making Faces on Cloth Dolls, by Colette Wolff. It was very helpful for feature placement, though it didn’t have much in the way of stitching mechanics.

I’m so-so on how these came out. Happy enough with them to not try to pull the stitches out and start over (although the fabric would not be so happy to accommodate that – I slightly snagged the first doll and gave her a permanent dimple; fortunately it was in a good spot), not happy enough that I feel like doing more. Here’s a close-up of each, first doll I stitched on the left.

doll 1 done doll 2 done

My advice to anyone doing a similar project amounts to: stitch the face before adding hair. It gives you the opportunity to hide thread ends at the back of the head, and makes it more clear where the features should go for a realistically proportioned face. That’s basically it. Otherwise I winged it based on drawings on the front of the Wolff book!