|Cutleaf sumac and fruit|
Not the white-berried poison sumac – this square celebrates the red-berried varieties of the edible sumac shrub, such as the highly ornamental cutleaf sumac, smooth sumac, and staghorn sumac. Staghorn is called that due to its fuzzy stems, coated with short down like new antlers. The berries of all of these take that fuzziness to an extreme, sporting almost 1-cm hairs of dark red, tart malic acid. (Yummy!) If you catch the fruit clusters in the fall before autumn rains wash off the flavor, you can blend them with cold water and strain for a welcome substitute for lemon juice.
This square is a great opportunity to break out that stash of fun-fur you bought a few years back and haven’t used. It’s a fairly easy pattern, as the leaves and fruit are appliqued onto a square background.
|Smooth sumac hedge in Minot, ND|
Tools Needed: H-hook, G-hook, yarn needle or sewing needle for assembling
- For the background, ~170 yards of a worsted-weight wool in yellow. This is Knit Picks Swish Superwash in color Sunshine.
- For the stem, scrap amounts of a short-length eyelash yarn in green; this is Hobby Lobby Bamboospun in Olive. A suede or chenille might also work nicely.
- For ripe berry clusters, small amounts of a longer-length eyelash yarn in red, or a red and yellow variegated. This is Yarn Bee Elf Eyelash in color Ginger, which is great because it shows the yellow and white highlights of an unripe berry cluster. You could also use Bamboospun in red for a fully-ripe cluster.
- For the leaves, about 50 yds of a worsted-weight wool in green. This is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Jalapeno; if you want the leaves to exactly match the stems, choose color Fern, but pick a different yellow for the background – Fern and Sunshine did not go too well together in my tests.
Gauge: 3 rows, 4 st in hdc with H hook = 2″
H hook: With background color, chain 44, hdc in third chain from hook and continue across (42 hdc total). * Ch 2, turn, hdc 42. Repeat from * till you have 36 rows. Pulled gently into shape, you should have a 12″ square.
Fat Leaf (make 4):
- With G hook, chain 20.
- Work in one side of the chain only. Starting in the second ch from the hook, 2 sc, hdc, 12 dc, hdc, 2 sc. In the last stitch in the chain, sc, ch 2, sc. Coming back up the other side, 2 sc, hdc, 12 dc, hdc, 2 sc. In end space, sc, ch 2, sc, join.
- Working in back loops only, 2 sl st, (ch 1, sl 1) x13, 4 sl, ch 2, 5 sl, (ch 1, sl 1) x 13, 3 sl. Cut end and fasten off. As you ch 1, don’t skip the stitch underneath – the chs form a tiny toothed edge as you sl across the leaf. Weave in ends to back of leaf; you don’t have to be tooo elegant about it as the backside will be hidden.
Thin Leaf (make 4):
- With G hook, chain 20.
- Work in one side of the chain only. Starting in the second ch from the hook, 3 sc, 12 hdc, 3 sc. In the end space, sc, ch 2, sc. Coming back up the other side, 3 sc, 12 hdc, 3 sc. In the end space, sc, ch 2, join.
- Working in back loops only, 2 sl st, (ch 1, sl 1) x 13, 4 sl, ch 2, 5 sl, (ch 1, sl 1) x 13, 3 sl. Cut end and fasten off. As before, don’t skip spaces underneath the ch 1’s – they’ll form teeth as you sl across. Weave in ends on the back.
Short Leaf (make 2):
- With G hook, chain 15.
- Work in one side of the chain only. Starting in the second ch from the hook, 4 sc, 2 hdc, dc, 2 hdc, 4 sc. In end space, sc, ch2, sc. Coming back up the other side, 4 sc, 2 hdc, dc, 2 hdc, 4 sc. In end space sc, ch 2, sc, join.
- Sl 1, (ch 1, sl 1) x 10, sl 2, ch 2, sl 3, (ch 1, sl 1) x 10, sl 2, cut end and fasten off. As before, when chaining don’t skip stitches. Weave in ends on the back.
With G hook, chain 47. Starting in 3rd ch from hook, 4 dc, 12 hdc, continue on in sc. Do the last four st in sl st. (Note – this is a bit thinner than the stem in my finished square.)
Lay out leaves on background as in below picture. From the top, place the two short leaves, then four thin leaves opposite each other, then four fat leaves opposite each other. They should be about 1 good stitch width apart in the middle; and the bottom three leaves should be parallel to each other.
Lay out the stem between the leaves, making sure you like the positioning. You want the leaves to touch the stem – sumac leaves attach directly to their central stem.
Using green sewing thread, baste down leaves with one or two big running stitches each; baste down the stem along its center. Leave some slack between the leaves to allow for future tweaks in position as you sew.
Sew leaves down securely, avoiding the basting thread. It works great to sew around the edges between the stitches of Row 2 and the unused front loops of Row 1 n (picture below) – as you pull the thread tight it will disappear between these two rows. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for tips for sewing with thread on a yarn background.)
|Sew along the dotted line…|
Sew down the stem. Sew the base of each leaf to the stem, with two stitches.
With G hook, chain 12. Starting in the second chain from the hook, sc back down it. Ch 20, sc back down it. Ch 24, sc back down it. Ch 16, sc back down it. Ch 12, sc back down it.
You’ll see each section has a furry side and a smoother side, where you can see the stitches. This smoother side will be the back. With the front facing you, fold the base over to the left so that the 16-st section lies over the rest, between the 20 and 24-st sections. By doing this we add some volume to the center of the fruit cluster, and narrow the base. This should bring the ends close enough together that you can tie them off and cut close to the knot.
Arrange this fruit cluster over the right side of your square, in the order 12, 20, 16, 24, 12. Each piece will likely have a curl to the end, which is perfect – turn this curl towards the center of the cluster. It’s just great if some background shows through between the curls, so you can see the structure from further away. Sew down the base, then the left 12-section; move right to the 20 section, and sew down the part longer than the 12-section; just tack down the tip of the 16-section, so it retains some poofiness and body; sew down the taller portion of the 24-section; then finish sewing down all of the 12-section on the right.
Below and slightly to the right of the fruit cluster, sc in one stitch of the main stem. Ch 1, rotate the work, sc. Ch 1, rotate the work back, and sc. Continue to ch 1 and sc until the stem can reach the base of the fruit cluster; eventually you won’t have to turn the whole square, just the stem you’re working on. Sew down, and attach to the base of the fruit cluster.
Tips for Sewing on a Yarn Background:
Use a doubled thread. When starting to sew, bring your needle up from underneath. Take your first stitch, but don’t pull the end of the thread all the way through – instead, slip the needle through it before pulling the thread taut. This forms a nice little larks-head knot around some yarn loops, so your knot can’t pull through.
When you’re ready to tie off, bring the yarn to the back. Cut one of the doubled threads about an inch below the needle. Keeping the other thread in the needle, bring the needle under the nearest yarn loop and pull tight. Now you can tie off the thread ends around something solid, so they don’t pull through.