My Material Life

Spool Knit Cacti

As a shopping companion to a young teen, I can’t help but notice that the cactus motif is everywhere right now. And succulents, of course, are as popular as ever. Well why not knit your own? They won’t poke you and you won’t ever need to water them or think about what kind of light they’re getting. A small stick loom, some yarn, a pot, decorative rocks, and some kind of internal support structure like armature wire are all you need.

You can see two approaches to this in the photo above. For the cactus in the wood pot (Hand Made Modern, $3.99 at Target) I went for a more realistic look. The cactus in the terra-cotta pot was knit with a cotton and hemp yarn that was part of the Martha Stewart Lion Brand line a few years ago. I meant for that one to look like a knit cactus. Or maybe I didn’t, but it still holds a certain charm. That boot sure is cute, isn’t it? That’s vintage. I stole it from my husband. It contains a real succulent called donkey’s or burro’s tail.

I tried to complete this project without buying any yarn, but when I decided to try for a realistic looking cactus, well, the Rowan felted tweed aran was so much better for the job than any yarn I already had that I just had to buy it. Sometimes the success of a project all comes down to using the right material. The stick loom is a quick and dirty one that I made with a small cardboard tube, eight narrow craft sticks and two rubber bands that I saved from some broccoli. Rubber bands work in a pinch, but gluing and/or taping your sticks in place always makes for more pleasant spool knitting. I knit two of the tubes with the six-pronged end of my Camden Rose knitter that you can see in this post. I finished the tubes by cutting a twelve-inch or so yarn tail and threading that through each of the loops remaining on my knitter. I slipped those loops off my knitter, pulled that yarn tail to close that end of the tube and threaded the tail right down through the inside of the piece. Actually for one of them I only took the tail down just over an inch before I used it to cinch that piece together at that point – part of my quest for realism

The rest was easy. I filled my pot with decorative rocks. You can find these at just about any garden center. The armature or sculpture wire will likely be harder to find. Click here for an online source. You can try hobby or art supply stores if you are lucky to have any in your area. Mine came from a hobby shop that has since closed. You could also try Michaels. Or use a chopstick or other item from around the house. Just stick your supports into your rocks and slip your knit pieces over them. I used the same technique for the cotton/hemp cactus, but because those knits were a little looser, I wrapped the wires in a some tape I’d made by cutting up an old green T-shirt.

You might be wondering about the pink flower on top of one knitted piece. I made that by knitting some pink wool on just two sticks of a loom. I made my loops by wrapping them in a figure eight pattern and that gave me a narrow cord with a single column of knit stitch on each of its four sides. I scrunched it and stitched it together and onto the top of the cactus at the same time.

Just be sure to keep these cacti away from pets and small children. You don’t want the pots to get knocked over with all those little rocks spilling out!

Want to give it a try? Take a look at the following posts for more on the how-to of knitting with stick looms that you can make yourself:

Attack of the Knitting Nancys

Toilet Paper Roll Knitting Idea #15: Padded Hanger Makeover

Toilet Paper Roll Knitting Idea #8: Summer Skinny Skarf

What inspired me this week …

A sad week to be sure. But before I heard about the Manchester bombing I spent some time cleaning out my email and looking at things I’d been saving for later. Take a look …

Cecilia Payne’s embroidery of supernova remnant Cas A (via Brain Pickings)

Knitting sweaters for elephants (via Knit Wit Magazine)

Well there was a third thing (two items don’t really make a list, do they), but now I can’t find it – a video from We Are Knitters about a young woman and her burgeoning knitting addiction. The thing is the clothes she wore in it were just fantastic. And it was a really cute video, but I don’t know where it went. If you should somehow manage to find it let me know, OK? But you know, they did knit a sweater for an airplane once. That may, in fact, be how I found them.

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