weird spirals

The 100 Day Project continues, and the spirals are getting weird. Don’t get me wrong, that is a wonderful thing! But, make no mistake, I also like making nice, normal spirals. The ones that have a nice even shape, the ones that expand like a nautilus shell, the ones that have equal parts of multiple colors. These wonky ones are just a different kind of fun.

How many stitch patterns can I put into a spiral? How many colors can I put in without losing my mind? How many ways can I jump the track on the surface embellishment to create energy with these thin lines? I don’t know, but it’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys to look for the answers.

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two freeform denim totes

Today the freeform•ish guide for the Freeform Denim Tote is available on Ravelry, and it has inspired me to dig up photos for a tote I made a few years ago with Camryn, one of our nieces, when she was 10 years old. She had just learned to knit and she was interested in collaborating on a freeform project. We picked out purple yarns from my stash, then she knitted the squares, and I crocheted the spirals. Camryn is in college now, and I doubt that she still uses her denim freeform tote, but I know she enjoyed making it, and I certainly enjoyed having her come over and work on it together.

The photo quality on my phone from 9 years ago leaves something to be desired, but it’s nice to be able to share this nostalgic project.

Actually, my blue sample for the pattern was made a number of years ago, too. My intention was to make the bag using nothing but different sizes of circles. That’s mostly what I did, though there are a few other shapes that were needed to fill in. It was the perfect project to use for a guide that teaches freeform, though. There are only a few motifs to learn, an optional knitted square, and a couple of other elements to use for adding on the motifs and filling in gaps, making it a manageable first freeform project.

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jumping the track

An interesting thing happened during the slip stitch embellishment on this spiral. When I wasn’t paying attention, I jumped off the front-loop track I’d been working into and onto the outer edge of the spiral.

At first, I started to rip back and correct the error. But when I realized that my mistake actually offered an interesting opportunity, I went ahead and finished slip stitching around that outer edge on purpose. Jumping the track left the loops on the old track available for a second color.

This is such a good reminder to me that there really are no rules in freeform, and that blunders and miscalculations can give us a chance to figure out interesting solutions if we let them.

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spiral improv strategy

I found this stitch pattern in the Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches, compiled by James Walters and Sylvia Cosh, freeform crochet pioneers in the 70’s. The book was published by Lyric Books Limited in 1986. This particular crochet stitch collection isn’t the biggest or fanciest on my shelf, but it has lots of good information, and I return to it often for inspiration.

Today’s spiral (day 29 of The 100 Day Project) uses the Popcorn Waffle stitch pattern found on page 43 of the guide. It’s a 2 row pattern intended to be worked back and forth in rows, but the second row looked like it would be easy enough to work backwards (necessary because in a spiral, all rows need to go in the same direction around the spiral), and it was. I added extra stitches in the second row when necessary to keep the spiral laying flat. Also, I worked the popcorn row into the back loops only, so the last step was to embellish the exposed front loops with slip stitches to emphasize the spiral construction.

If you’re inspired to try adapting a flat worked stitch pattern for use in a spiral, my recommendation is to make sure you’re very comfortable with spiral construction using two colors. When you’re able to make them without consulting instructions, you’re in good shape to experiment. And if you’re in need of instructions, check the stitch collections and freeform books you may already have, plus there are plenty to be found online in a Google search.

Then, keep in mind that stitch patterns with a two row repeat can be adapted to use in a two color spiral if one of the “wrong side row,” usually the second row, can be worked backwards easily. In this pattern, the second row has a group of stitches worked into a chain 3 space. The chart calls for 1 hdc followed by 2 sc in the chain 3 space. Since I was working from right to left on the right side instead of left to right on the wrong side, I worked 2 sc followed by 1 hdc.

In addition, you’ll need to find the best place to add stitches to allow the pattern, which was originally designed to be worked in straight rows, to curve around the spiral and lay flat.

At some point in the next 71 days, I’ll be working some other stitch pattern into a spiral, and I’ll try to document the process here again.

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spiraling into new territory

The spirals are getting weirder, and I’m loving it. A few posts ago, I mentioned that spirals can do anything, and it looks like we’ve reached the point in the 100 days where that claim will be tested. Most of my 24 spirals are made with techniques I’ve used plenty of times before, but the two lacey ones in this photo use a technique that’s not new to me, but I haven’t used it in spirals til now.

What will go into the next batch of spirals? 🌀

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100 spirals, days 22 and 23

Spirals on spirals.

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100 spirals, day 21

Guess I picked a good 100 day project: it’s still fun, interesting, and satisfying. Fun because spirals are just, well, fun to make. Interesting because there are so many ways to add stitches and techniques to make each one different. Satisfying because seeing the spirals multiply and checking that box each day is a practice that builds on itself.

I’m noticing things along the way. The most striking thing so far is that I really prefer to do the spiral in the morning. On days when my schedule is different, I sometimes end up making the spiral after dinner, and it feels a little sloppy, like I’m catching up.

One other thing is that I’ve (temporarily?) stopped caring about what the spirals might become one day, I’m just enjoying making them. That seems like a good place to be.

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the 100 day project

So, I started a 100 day project last month. Over the past couple of years I’d seen people referring to them on Instagram, the first one being Hilary Hahn doing 100 days of violin practice. Somewhere along the way I followed the hashtag on Instagram, saw a post about it starting up this year on February 22, and here we are.

It came along at just the right time for me. Having an itch to start a stitch journal last month, I decided to do a freeform spiral every day for 100 days. No expectations about what may happen, just focusing on a spiral each day. I’ll post every now and then here about the project. If you’re on Instagram, you can follow my hashtag: #100freeformspirals. And if you’re doing 100 days of something, too, I’d love to follow your hashtag, please share in the comments.

Maybe next time around I’ll do 100 days of violin practice…

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blue freeform favorite

I developed my new Freeform Favorite freeform•ish guide to teach some basic freeform skills through a wearable design and to encourage and suggest ways for beginning freeformers to incorporate their own ideas into their projects. It has not been published yet (the tentative launch date is March 14, after teaching it at the Carolina Fiber Fest), but I’m excited to have already used it as a jumping off point for another shawl, this Spring-y blue version.

The original Freeform Favorite is 100% crocheted. But, I love knitting too, so this version substitutes knitted garter stitch for the crocheted linen stitch main section.**

The freeform section in the guide uses just a handful of components. I used those components in this new shawl, but I also added a few other ones as well. Another difference from the original wool sample is that this one is made with cotton and silk.

I’m really excited to be teaching this design, whether it’s through a class or through the freeform•ish guide itself. When I wear the things that I make with freeform, it is striking and saddening to me that people who comment on these pieces often say that they would love to try it, but they feel they can’t because they aren’t creative. I truly believe that everyone is creative. Some people seem to be naturally able to tap into their creativity, others just need to be shown how. It is a pleasure to make something that allows you to use your favorite yarns in your favorite colors using your favorite stitches and stitch patterns. It is also a pleasure to help people figure how to do it themselves.

**I have published free patterns for crocheted and knitted asymmetrical triangle wraps. The crochet version is used in the Freeform Favorite freeform•ish guide without the final edging. The knitted version in plain garter stitch is what I used in this blue shawl.

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crochet favorite

The boomerang shawl, or asymmetrical triangle shawl, is one of my favorite accessories to make and wear. In 2017 I published a free pattern for a very basic knitted asymmetrical triangle called Favorite, named for the fact that knitters can choose their favorite yarn to knit with. It works at any gauge, uses garter stitch, and the pattern offers variations using stripes and eyelets, allowing knitters to choose their own adventure. Over the years, I’ve made a number of variations of the Favorite, including versions that I made with a freeform crochet border.

I’ve just published a free patttern for a crochet version of this shawl shape called Crochet Favorite. Like the original knitted Favorite, it’s an easy 2 row pattern to memorize, it starts with only a few stitches, you can stop making it when it’s as big as you wish, and you can use your favorite yarn, no matter the gauge. There’s also no swatching. Just start the shawl, and when it’s big enough to evaluate, decide if the gauge works for the yarn and the shawl, then either keep knitting or start over.

My sample shawl is crocheted in Malabrigo Sock, a lightweight fingering weight yarn. It’s 60″ inches across the top edge, and it’s 15″ deep at its widest point. After blocking, the linen stitch fabric took on a fabulous drapey-ness that I really love. I have some ideas for variations to add to the Crochet Favorite pattern, so I’ll edit the pattern after playing around with some swatches.

Both the Favorite and the Crochet Favorite work as stand alone patterns, but they can also function as blank canvases for experimentation with striping, personalization with additional stitch patterns, and embellishment with freeform crochet. If you use them for a project, I hope you’ll share photos, I’d love to see what you make.


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