Freeform crochet can be a hard concept to pin down. Although the strictest definition is “crochet worked without a pattern”, the interpretation of that concept takes many forms. On one side of the spectrum is a completely random type, where the crocheter just puts together whatever yarns and stitches suggest themselves in the moment. The work of Prudence Mapstone is a good example of this type of freeform crochet (visit her site for examples of her work: prudencemapstone.com). For some reason, this type of freeform always seems to feature a profusion of eyelash yarn and bullion stitches. It can be eye-catching, but its lack of obvious order or design can be off-putting to some.
On the more structured end of the spectrum is the scrumbling technique. Here the crocheter creates a bunch of crochet motifs, either randomly or with a certain theme in mind, and then sews them together into a finished shape. Some crochet stitches may be added to fill in space around the motifs, but the majority of the project is composed of the motifs.
The blanket pictured below (designed and executed by Carlyn Clark) is an outstanding example of freeform crochet that takes a middle road between the two extremes I have described. It is made up of both circular motifs and bands of random crochet stitches. The layout was loosely planned beforehand, the colors were selected to carefully harmonize, and a regular border was added to unify the color pallete and add some structure to the finished blanket. The result has broad appeal; it has enough design to appeal to traditional crocheters, and enough randomness to appeal to dyed-in-the-wool freeformers.
Freeform Crochet Blanket
On her blog, Carlyn has posted the journal she kept as she created this blanket. It is a useful record for anyone who would like to attempt a similar project. The basic steps are as follows:
1) Create a paper template for the project. The template helps guide the size and shape of the finished project. You aren’t bound by the template, though – if you want to deviate from it while you crochet, go right ahead.
2) Select your yarn. You can be as wild as you want, selecting any color, weight, or texture of yarn. However, in general, a somewhat unified color scheme will generally yield a better result. In this example, Carlyn used a green/purple/yellow color scheme. This is a variation on an accented analogic color scheme (for more info on color schemes, check out my post 5 formulas for a winning color scheme). As for novelty yarns – one or two can add visual interest, but too many textures can be a bit chaotic for the eye if not handled adeptly.
3) Sketch the basic design on your template. This can be as detailed or as minimal as you like. In this case, you could sketch the desired location of circle motifs and the approximate shape of the bands.
That’s about all the set-up you need for a freeform crochet project. Get crocheting, and give those stitch bibles a workout! Freeform crochet is a great way to experiment with the cool stitches that just never seem right for other projects.