Nature in Knitting: Leaves

The Bower Cardigan by Vera Sanon is a versatile cardigan knitting pattern that incorporates a leaf lace design.

A note from Kathleen: The summer 2012 issue of Knitscene is coming soon and it's everything you'd expect from a summer issue: beautiful designs for warmer weather, fun and challenging techniques to learn, and lots of fun insights and articles.

Something I didn't expect was the interesting and inspirational article by Interweave Knits Project Editor Joni Coniglio, all about how to knit different kinds of leaf motifs. This feature really appeals to me because I'm always drawn to nature in knitting, and leaf patterns in particular. So, yay! Joni highlights seven different patterns, but I picked my favorite to share with you. Here you go:

Knitting a Leaf

From delicate fern leaves to the emblem of autumn—the maple leaf (and Canada!)—leaf motifs abound in knitting. They can be found in almost every conceivable type of knitted garment, from shawls and scarves to sweater, hats, and mittens.

Why are leaf motifs so popular? For one thing, they are beautiful and connect us with our natural surroundings. For another, they are easy to replicate in knitted fabric with just a few well-placed increases and decreases. The majority of leaf motifs are formed by working a center knit ridge flanked by yarnover increases to depict the center rib and the radiating vein structure of the leaf.

The overlapping leaves in this pattern make it
a perfect choice for a border treatment.


Chart Key


The various pattern backgrounds will affect the visual intensity of the individual motifs. A leave knit primarily in stockinette stitch against a reverse stockinette stitch background has a three-dimensional, embossed appearance, while an open lacy background tends to flatten out the motif and brings to mind leaves floating on water.

The motifs can be incorporated into the knitting in countless ways: as an allover decorative pattern, as a fancy edging or border with leaves joined end to end, or as isolated motifs.

—Joni Coniglio, Senior Project Editor, Knitscene magazine

Halesia Hat by Catherine Sheilds
Ginkgo Counterpanes Shawl by Paula B Levy

I love the overlapping leaves motif. I think it would be lovely in a scarf; just add four to six stitches of garter stitch to each edge so the reverse stockinette doesn't roll. Or you could work the chart several times and make a stunning cowl. Just do a gauge swatch to see how many stitches to cast on for the diameter you want, and how many repeats to do to make the cowl the height you want it to be.

Leaves in Stitches

Leaves really shine in knitted pieces. Just take a look at the cute Bower Cardigan by Vera Sanon (pictured above) and the fashionable Halesia Hat by Catherine Shields (at right). I find the hat especially pleasing (and I have the perfect green yarn for it!), and that knitted cardigan pattern is really versatile for warmer weather. I'd make it in white, add several inches to the length, and wear it over my sleeveless dresses, which all seem to have white in them.

For a really unique leaf pattern, check out the Ginkgo Counterpanes Shawl by Paula B. Levy (at right). Ginkgo leaves are so distinctive and this beautiful knitted shawl is a showcase for the gingko shape and beautiful hand-dyed yarn.

The Summer 2012 Knitscene includes a whole collection of designs incorporating leaf motifs, so get your copy now and start knitting nature!


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