Tag Archives: crochet with jute

Crafting with jute twine: crocheting a hanging plant basket

Crafting in jute: a crochet hanging plant basket

I love crafting in natural materials and this Spring one of the fibres I have been working with quite often is jute. I’ve created several other crochet projects in jute yarn in the past, but my recent experiments have been focused on outdoor, functional items. For example, I chose jute yarn to bind together the willow rods I used for my willow garden screens that I’ve posted about previously. My latest jute crochet project has been to create hanging baskets to hopefully accommodate my Soapwort seedlings out of munching distance of the slugs and snails in my back yard!

What is it that I love about jute? The jute yarn I am using was really designed as garden twine. It is rough and tough but I love its texture and strength. For those of you who crochet or knit, I’d say in yarn weight, this jute yarn is chunky. I used a 4.50mm crochet hook for this project. Jute is quite stiff to work and doesn’t stretch, so it can be quite a physical work-out for the hands and fingers when crafting in jute yarn.

Jute yarn is made from plant fibres extracted from the White Jute plant. The golden colour and silky sheen of jute in its natural state has led to it being called the ‘Golden Fibre’. Jute is a crop of tropical lowlands with high humidity, so much of it is grown in India and Bangladesh, on the Ganges delta.

Jute is completely biodegradable and therefore, usefully, it is also recyclable and compostable. The process of growing jute is also very environmentally-friendly as it doesn’t require pesticides or fertilisers, making it a good choice for those of us seeking to be more planet-friendly in how we live and work.

For my hanging basket project I needed a yarn that would be strong enough to take the weight of its intended plant pot cargo and could take some months of outdoor use. With the additional advantages of producing a breathable fabric and having moderate moisture retaining properties, jute fitted my purpose.

In keeping with my overall plan to make use of more vertical space in my back yard, my intention was to hang my two Soapwort baskets on the fence. For this I needed a design that incorporated a flat back panel but with enough capacity in the basket to accommodate the recycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots I’d used for the Soapwort.

Here I'm demonstrating crocheting the jute basket. I'm using a 4.50mm crochet hook with this tough jute yarn. At the bottom of this image you can see one of the hanging loops that I incorporated into the back panel of the basket.
Here I’m demonstrating crocheting the jute basket. I’m using a 4.50mm crochet hook with this tough jute yarn. At the bottom of this image you can see one of the hanging loops that I incorporated into the back panel of the basket.

I constructed the back panel first, using an elongated oval technique that I find very useful in all kinds of crochet projects. I also included fixing loops at both the top and bottom of the back panel ready to fasten the basket to the fence.

Trying out the milk carton for size - my air-pruning plant pots are made from recycled milk cartons. You can see the rows of open mesh crochet on the basket to give added breathability and drainage.
Trying out the milk carton for size – my air-pruning plant pots are made from recycled milk cartons. You can see the rows of open mesh crochet on the basket to give added breathability and drainage.

The basket part of the plant hanger I found was best constructed in conjunction with an example of the size of pot it was going to hold. The basket is crocheted onto either side of the lower half of the back panel. To provide extra breathability and drainage, I added several rows of open mesh into the basket crochet. I made sure the basket was deep enough to contain the plant pot without any risk of it falling out – even in a strong wind!

The finished crochet jute hanging plant baskets hanging on the fence, complete with their air-pruning plant pots of Soapwort
The finished crochet jute hanging plant baskets hanging on the fence, complete with their air-pruning plant pots of Soapwort

When I’d completed both of my crochet jute plant hangers, it was time to fit the Soapwort plant pots into them and get them hung up on the fence. With their integrated hanging loops this was very easy. I used large-headed nails to hang up the plant baskets – one at the top, one at the bottom. They do seem pretty well fixed and I am hopeful this will prevent them from coming adrift in the wind.

Now all I need to do is persuade the Soapwort to actually grow! It seems like it needs a little persuasion … but I have an idea, so I’ll tell you more about that soon …

J Peggy Taylor

Crochet jute and willow garden screen - crochet close-up

The crochet jute and willow garden screen – completed!

The crochet jute and willow garden screen that I have been creating as a support for my Sweet Pea plants is now complete.

The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen - ready to fix in place
The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen – ready to fix in place

This second part of the willow screen I have made just like the first one, using two rows of crochet green jute yarn to bind the willow rods together.

I needed to make this part of the willow screen a bit shorter than the first one because this one is to go on the back of my yard gate. I wasn’t too sure how this part of the garden screen was going to work out when I came to fix the screen in situ. This part of the experiment was going to be interesting … discovering whether my plan would go exactly according to plan!

My wood-crafting son helped me out with the hand-hewn batten I wanted, to hold the willow screen for the gate in place. The batten is made from a short length of sycamore branch that we happened to have lying around. After sawing it to length, we removed the bark and my son deftly axed it into shape so that it could be easily screwed onto the back of the gate. I love the smooth, pale grain of sycamore. Next, I pre-drilled holes in the appropriate places after I’d checked precisely where the batten was going to fit onto the gate and I partly inserted the screws ready to attach it.

To fix this second piece of my willow garden screen in place, I first tacked the lower row of jute crochet to the top of the gate using small fencing staples. I then loosely attached the batten at each end whilst I reorganised some of the willow rods that I found had slipped out of place.

Attaching the willow screen to the gate with staples and a hand-hewn batten
The willow screen is held in place by fencing staples and the hand-hewn sycamore batten

When I was happy with the position of the basic frame, I then began weaving some thinner willow rods across the garden screen. I worked in a random fashion, just as I had done with the first part of the screen. I was aiming for the garden screen to still allow a lot of light through it so that the light would continue to reach the numerous other trees and plants in my yard. Even though the willow weavers are very thin, they do provide a reasonably sturdy structure on which my Sweet Pea plants can grow.

I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion
I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion

I made sure there was a slightly stouter rod at each end of the willow screen to provide stability. I had wondered about the overall stability of the willow screen in windy conditions, as I mentioned in a previous post on this project, but the first part of my garden screen has been in place for a couple of weeks now and has survived some moderate winds … so far so good!

The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen
The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen

Now it was time to attach the air-pruning plant pots with their cargoes of Sweet Pea plants onto the willow garden screen. I had experimented with one plant pot a couple of days ago on the first part of the willow screen and my design plan seems to be holding up well, so I set to work attaching the other five plant pots.

As I had anticipated, the handles of my upcycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots came in very useful at this stage. I tied the plant pots firmly in place, making sure they couldn’t slip out of position as this could potentially damage the growing plants.

For the three plant pots near my wall, I used the string loop I’d added to each plant pot for this purpose. I’d initially thought I might just stand the Sweet Pea plant pots on top of the plant buckets into which I’d inserted the willow rods of the garden screen, along behind my yard wall. But some tell-tale slug trails nearby suggested it may be a good idea to tie the pots a little higher – hopefully out of temptation’s way! The recent experience of slugs and Soapwort is still fresh in my mind!

I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall
I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall

To secure the Sweet Pea plant pots to the back of my gate, I decided to use my new firmly fixed sycamore batten. Again I made use of the handles of the recycled milk carton plant pots when attaching the string.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

When I had all of the Sweet Pea plant pots in place, my final task was to carefully arrange the growing plants, weaving the stems in and out of the willow screen where I am hoping they will continue to grow and flourish. Perhaps before too much longer I will be able to post about my first Sweet Pea flowers – I do hope so!

J Peggy Taylor

Firming in a Soapwort seedling

A tale of slugs and Soapwort

Growing Soapwort Saponaria officinalis is a new experience for me. I embarked on this project after I’d been crocheting in natural undyed wools during last year.

soapwort in flower by The Herb Gardener (see creative commons license below)
The Herb Gardener’s article on growing Soapwort was very useful

IMAGE: http://theherbgardener.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/growing-soapwort-saponaria-officinalis.html [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

After some research, I decided that growing some of this pure and natural soap source for myself would be a really good idea as it is ideal for gently hand washing any projects I made in natural wool. Soapwort is so gentle I have read it has even been used to clean the Bayeux Tapestry. At approaching 1000 years old now, obviously they don’t just pop that into the automatic washing machine!

I sowed my Soapwort seeds back in October last year as I’d read that germination would be helped by overwintering them outside. Many seeds are like that – it is called ‘cold stratification’ and helps to trigger the seed into growth. It must have just about been cold enough, despite our relatively mild winter, as one seedling germinated very early in the year. It grew on alone until early April when several more seedlings put in an appearance.

Soapwort seedlings
Happy, healthy Soapwort seedlings … and they continued to grow

There were about a dozen seedlings eventually, all looking very healthy and they were gradually growing larger. I was feeling pleased with myself at managing to grow another new plant from seed. Then, one morning in late April I went out into the yard to check them, “Aargh! Oh no!” Some were gone altogether. The remains of others were lying forlornly on the top of the compost. I knew instantly. “Slugs!!”

The four-and-a-half Soapwort seedlings the slugs kindly left for me!
The four-and-a-half Soapwort seedlings the slugs kindly left for me!

For some reason I had thought that slugs would not have had a taste for Soapwort since it contains saponins – that’s the substance that enables Soapwort to form a lather, just like soap. Evidently I was wrong! I looked around for any shifty-looking slithering culprits foaming at the mouth, but none were to be found!

“Could be worse!” I thought to myself. After all, I still had four and a half seedlings left! I took the precaution of taking the pot of remaining seedlings indoors. This was around the time I had become a convert to air-pruning plant pots, so there was only one thing to do. I set to work making two more air-pruning plant pots, for my remaining Soapwort seedlings. Soapwort can be grown from seed or by division of roots, so I decided to pot up two seedlings into each air-pruning plant pot.

Potting up a Soapwort seedling
Potting up a Soapwort seedling

If you’re interested in learning more about the concept of air-pruning plants to improve plant growth and finding out how I made my upcycled plant pots from recycled milk cartons (complete with their own snug fabric growbags), do take a look at the links to see some of my previous posts on this subject.

My remaining Soapwort seedlings - now potted up into their new air-pruning plant pots
My remaining Soapwort seedlings – now potted up into their new air-pruning plant pots

After potting up my remaining Soapwort seedlings into their new air-pruning plant pots I added them to my new plant shelf, alongside my Sweet Pea seedlings in their similar pots. Having discovered that slugs do indeed find Soapwort tasty, my next task was to devise a plan to try and put more distance between the slugs and the little Soapwort plants when I put them back outside in the yard.

My crochet plant hanger in jute yarn
My crochet plant hanger in jute yarn

My solution has been to crochet a plant hanger in the same green jute yarn I have been using to construct my crochet jute and willow garden screens. I will show you more on my crochet jute plant hanger soon.

J Peggy Taylor

My crochet jute and willow rod garden screen fixed in place with a hazel strengthening rod

Crochet jute and willow garden screen: project update

In recent weeks I have been creating a crochet jute and willow garden screen on which to train my rapidly developing Sweet Pea plants (in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots that I’ve been sharing with you lately). This garden screen project is part of a bigger plan I have to make more use of vertical space in my very small back yard.

In a previous post I was showing you the initial framework for the larger of the two pieces of garden screen I am in the process of constructing. This crochet jute and willow rod garden screen is very much an experiment-in-progress as I ponder and deliberate on how to approach the next stage.

This week I took the chance of a particularly warm and sunny afternoon to begin the task of setting up the completed first section of the willow garden screen. I think the sunshine was beginning to make me impatient to see how the next stage of this project would work out!

I inserted the butts of the willow rods into the plant buckets in my yard
I inserted the butts of the willow rods into the plant buckets in my yard

My initial plan had been to create a made-to-measure trough from small logs in which to ‘plant’ the base of this section of the garden screen. However, since I have not yet found time to construct the wooden trough, I decided to simply ‘plant’ the upright rods of the willow screen into the plant buckets I already have in situ in that area of my back yard. These buckets are currently taking good care of some willow cuttings that I took earlier in the year.

In its preliminary stage of construction my large section of willow screen was easily gathered up into a bundle … deliberately, so it was possible to manoeuvre it into my back yard! I’d taken care to measure the space I had available to fill and I am pleased to say the jute crochet allowed the willow rods to stretch out just enough to fill it exactly. I carefully pushed the butts of some of the thicker willow rods into place, deep into the plant buckets. And … Hey Presto! … my crochet jute and willow garden screen stood proudly in its new place!

My willow garden screen standing upright in place in my back yard
My willow garden screen standing upright in place in my back yard

I was pleased to notice that the height at which I’d trimmed off the willow rods made the screen just the height I was hoping to achieve in relation to my neighbour’s fence. It might have been fun to have the tallest fence in the neighbourhood, but perhaps not if I wanted it to remain stable as a plant support 😉

The next job was to begin weaving in the much thinner willow rods across the garden screen to create an open lattice-work around which the Sweet Peas could wind their tendrils. I worked the thin weavers through between the rods, very much in a random fashion, as I had planned. My intention was to still allow as much light as possible to reach my yard, especially for the benefit of my other plants.

My finished willow garden screen just matches the height of my neighbour's fence
My finished willow garden screen just matches the height of my neighbour’s fence

When I had finished weaving the thin weavers into the main framework of the willow screen I found the screen was already quite stable. However, I decided to add some strengthening rods at either end of the screen, as my son had suggested, to give even more stability in the windy weather we often experience here on our northern hillside. The hazel strengthening rod is simply tied onto the end of the crochet jute and willow construction with string and also held in place by a fencing staple in the top of the gatepost.

It was very pleasant working outdoors in the Spring sunshine and I must say I was very satisfied with my willow screen handiwork. Now I need to work on the other section of my willow garden screen and that will fit across the back of my yard gate … hopefully!

J Peggy Taylor