The Handmade Life: Seven Ways to Knit a Leaf

From delicate fern leaves to the emblem of autumn—the maple leaf—leaf motifs abound in knitting. They can be found in almost every conceivable type of knitted garment, from shawls and scarves to sweaters, 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 various pattern backgrounds will affect the visual intensity of the individual motifs. A leaf 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. Here are seven lovely examples of leaf motifs for fall knitting.

knit a leaf

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

2. The gracefully sinuous quality of the main stem gives this pattern the effect of a climbing vine.
The pattern can be repeated horizontally or used as an isolated motif.

3. This allover openwork leaf pattern emphasizes the negative space between the leaf veins.


4. Here, leaves blend into the lacy background, giving the effect of leaves on the surface of sun-dappled water.

5. This twin-leaf panel results in a beautiful scallop at the lower edge. The panel can be repeated
or used singly for an understated yet decorative detail at the sides of a garment.

6. Single leaf motifs, separated by garter-stitch diamonds, make for an interesting border at the lower edge of a garment.

7. Vertical leaf motifs with a single garter-stitch edge can be used to attach an edging to an existing garment,
or stitches can be picked up along the straight edge and worked perpendicularly to the border.


Try knitting the examples shown here or other leaf motifs incorporated into designs like the Embossed Leaves Pullover or the Halesia hat.

Find More Leaf Motifs in Our Store


One Comment

  1. Barbara D at 10:11 am September 13, 2017

    Suzanne, that’s it. It’s beautiful. Thank you so much. (I think I timed out on my first chat.) Barb Dittl

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