Carla’s Freeform Crochet Scarf Tutorial

I first was exposed to freeform crochet a few years ago when I took a class from mixed media artist Cindy Pestka while attending ArtFiberFest in Washington.   This tutorial reflects what I learned from Cindy combined with what I’ve learned over the last few years. Enjoy! – Carla

Freeform Crochet, according to Wikipedia, is defined as ” a seemingly random combination of crochet… and possibly other fibre arts to make a piece that is not constrained by patterns, colours, stitches or other limitations….”

The most common type of freeform crochet is the joining of small crochet pieces, called “scrumbles,” which is a term named by James Walter and Syliva Cosh.  Beautiful, stunning work are being created by numerous freeform crochet artists, just visit any artist associated with the International Freeform Crochet group on Yahoo.

While there are no rigid rules, or crochet patterns to follow, I do have some guidelines of how I approach freeform crochet work that I would be happy to share with you. Rather than create individual scrumbles or patchworks of crochet to later join together, I prefer to just start, then build upon my starting point, joining yarn while considering color, texture and value.  I also like to add some scrumble texture to the finished piece as well.

There is no consideration for traditional crochet methods here, you just find a hole, and crochet.  Really, it is that easy.  Crocheting for texture means you intentionally leave gaps, and  crochet multiple layers. There are no mistakes, only happy errors.

Freeform Scarf- a scarf is a great first project to attempt.  This is a beginner project, but you do have to know basic crochet stitches.

——————————————————————

Let’s Begin! First step is to gather your supplies. All you need is yarn, a small pair of scissors, and a variety of crochet hooks:

Choosing Your Yarn: Awhile back, I did write a post on the process for how I choose my freeform yarn. This part is key to a successful outcome. Make sure you pick a variety of colors, values, and especially texture.

Probably the only helpful hint I would add it to be sure you have enough yarns with texture and fibers within your selection, but do go easy on the eyelash yarn. Your local yarn store will carry a wise selection of yarns with nubs, thread bits and texture attached. Remember, too, that you can combine yarn strands to create a new yarn.

Carla hint! Visit your yarn store for quality yarn skeins.  There is a difference between inexpensive yarn found at large chain stores and what you find at a yarn shop.

Yarn Colors- Sometimes, I will search through my yarn stash for a focal point yarn that uses a nice selection of multi-colors- all in the same yarn for my inspiration. Then I will hunt for yarns that will match.

Usually, at this point, I have about 40 yarns to pick from, so I cull it down to about 20-25. In my yarn example above, you can see my focal yarn is the salmon red and green multi yarn in the middle of the picture.

Often, I will use color wheel theory to choose pleasing color combination. Sometimes, like in the red-green example above, I’ve used colors straight across the color wheel which are complementary. Other times, I’ll use colors that are monochromatic (values of the same color) or analogous (colors adjacent to each other).  If you have difficulty choosing color, then  visit this site.

Yarn Values- Value relates to the light and dark added to the colors. Here is an example from my stash showing value of a color- in this case, pink :

Yarn Texture- I happen to love texture in my art, no matter if I am quilting, painting, beading, or crocheting. For me, it successfully brings interest and life to the project, in this case, the scarf. Choose and buy yarn that has a variety of texture. Here are some examples from my yarn stash:

Once your yarn color palette is chosen and your yarn skeins selected, then pick a yarn to begin.  The only crochet skills you need are the chain stitch, single stitch, double stitch and triple stitch. (just pull up how-to video tutorials off of youtube if you need to learn these stitches)

Step 1- Start with a slipknot and row of chain stitches:

Step 2- Turn the corner and crochet a variety of crochet stitches (ss, ds, ts, etc) down the row.

Continue until you have a piece of yarn in an interesting shape.

Step 3- Time to change colors.  There are a variety of methods for adding another yarn in crochet, I simply hold the two yarns together, and knot them together.  Easy and it can add more interest and texture to the finished piece.

Step 4- Continue to crochet a variety of stitches.  Sometimes I will pull out my stitch book encyclopedia and add interesting stitches to the piece.  Other times, I will do this later when a spot needs more texture and interest.  As mentioned, there are NO RULES!  Just crochet a mixture of stitches until the piece “feels right to you.”

Step 5- continue to change your yarn colors and texture.  I put colors together that look compatible, however, there should be some contrast from the yarn next to it.  This is true even in a monochromatic color scheme.

Width and Length of your scarf  is personal preference.  If you don’t know what you like?  Just use a scarf in your closet or borrow one from a friend to use as a template.

Finishing your Scarf- I will cut loose yarn ends, add my fringe (if I want fringe), and look at the piece with a critical eye.  If I feel the piece needs more texture, interest or other spots of color, I will add to the scarf and layer my crochet on top or sew on a scrumble piece.

Congrats, you have completed your first scarf!

Last note from Carla- If you have any questions, just leave me a comment.   Read the comment section for extra information and answers to the questions.

As with any of my free tutorials,  if you create something, I would appreciate your sharing a picture.  If you create something and show it on your blog or website, I would appreciate a mention and a link to my tutorial, too.

Have fun!!  regards, Carla

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62 thoughts on “Carla’s Freeform Crochet Scarf Tutorial

  1. I already have a bag of yarns chosen for a Shoebox sweater a knitted project useing a varitey of yarns. I am not the worlds best knitter and have not begun. I might just opt your your scarf and am sure there will still be plenty left over for the sweather as well.

    I will be sure to share photos of this as I work on it on my blog with a link to yours.

    Thanks again for sharieng so much of your artistic secrets!

  2. Oh, thank you so much. I had been wondering at the difference between freeform and scrumbling. Got it now!! :)

    Hi Aimee, thanks for stopping by! “Scrumbling” is one form of doing freeform. I would say the majority of freeformers use the scrumbling method. To give a quilting analogy. scrumbling is similar to creating patchwork pieces, then sewing them together in a crazy quilt form.

    Scrumbling is also used as a synonym for Freeform Crochet, by the way.

    Regards, Carla

    PS: There are wonderful freeform crocheters in the International group. Their work is breathtaking, stunning and far surpasses my abilities- James Walters, Prudence Mapstone, Margaret Hubert, Jenny Dowde, Myra Wood, etc. Google any of their names for a visual feast!

  3. Thank you Carla… it sure looks like fun!

    What sizes of hooks are in your picture? I guess I need to buy some…

    And can you tell me which size to use for what?

    2L, you bring up a good point- I will post in the morning some examples of how using different sizes of crochet hooks may give you a slightly different texture or appearance. Thanks!

    Once I find my hooks, I’ll label the size hook on the image, too. But for purposes of this tutorial, I use a variety of sizes within the same piece- from size H to P or Q. A nice sizes to start with would be I, J and K

  4. Oh I am totally inspired! Now I just need to find a yarn store in BCN, WAIT! I think I know where there are TWO!

    Ho hohohoho

    And the you-tube for the tutorial! Why didn’t I think of that? I have all these beads waiting for me to buy a book…

    Thanks Carla, it looks like fun.

    O

    You can also add beads to your finished scarf, too. The weight makes it hang nicely and provides extra interest!

  5. Hi Carla ..

    Great tutorial .. and I might actually crochet for the first in since forever :)

    But I do have a question – looking at the yarn you’ve put out, they look to be different weights, but that could just be that some are like cashmere, nubby, silky, etc .. do you use different weights? What’s the most common weight you use? I have a mess of chunky, worsted, sport and maybe some baby weight from when I knitted like a fiend .. would be nice to use these ..

    Also .. average number of stitches in your base chain? I know that they will get longer as you add to your base .. just a ball park please :)
    Thanx again for the great tutorial and sorry for the barrage of questions ..

    Hi Grace! Yes, I definitely use diferent weights of yarn and specialty yarn. With the thinner yarns like cashmere, I will pair them with a thicker yarn for enhanced volume. My yarn, in any one piece, might contain rayon, wool, silk, ribbon, bamboo, and any other material. (If a yarn looks “cheap” I will usually not use, by the way) Some of my yarn has been re-used, meaning that I hunt for yarn I like at the thrift store. If I like a sweater yarn, then I will bring it home, clean it, then unravel it into balls.

    Experiment with combining different yarns, to get a new look. I’m also a firm believer of use what you have, so use those old leftover yarn- so long as they fit within your color scheme.

    Chain stitch, could be 10, 15, 20. Pick a number and go for it! Really, it is easy once you get pass the idea you are not working from any pattern. Good luck! Carla

    grace

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  9. You are the best! Thank you for this lovely and useful tutorial, I am about to finish my 2-nd scarf, bat yours are….I am speechless how wonderful! Hi from Germany!

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  11. Hello Carla,
    This is a really great tutorial. I’ve not attempted any freeform work yet but you’ve inspired me to give it a try! Your scarves are really beautiful.
    x

  12. Hi Carla,

    I’ve wanted to try free crocheting forever, but I didn’t have a clue about how to start! Thanks so much for your tutorial. I will give it a try and let you know what I did.
    Patricia

  13. Hi Carla,

    Thank you for your kindness in sharing your beautiful work & giving a tutorial to start free form crochet.

    Bless you,

    Linda

  14. I love your tute, thanks so much. I will be sharing this with my granddaughter who hasn’t yet embraced ‘traditional’ crochet, but has really taken to freeform.

  15. Hi! I´m amused with this tecnique and willing to start soon. My question: what do you do with spare yarn in each row? I mean when you change colors, where you put what is left? ( do you understand? my english is not so good) Thanks…Silvia from Argentina.( Silviartesana.blogspot.com)

    • Hi Silvia, When I do a particular scarf, sometimes I am working with 20 skeins of yarn. I will repeat a particular yarn within the scarf several times. The yarn that is left over will go back to my huge yarn stash and be used in another project.

      Does that answer your question?? It is also nice to re-purpose yarn from thrift store sweaters, and use them in projects combined with more expensive yarn. Of course, they get laundered once or twice to remove all traces of thrift store cooties.

      Good luck! Carla

      • If you are asking about the ends of the yarn tied together, I simply weave them in for added texture. Or you could make sure your knot is secure, then cut short for a different kind of texture.

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  18. hi there

    I adore your work and I sooooo want to try this!
    Please may I have your permission to post the top pic on my facebook account? if not, I fully understand :)

    It’s so lovely that you share tutorials – I cant wait to have a go your work is stunning – thank you !

    Kind Regards

    Shirley

  19. I am a bit confused by free form crochet! I have done many searches and there are lots of people using patterns – for instance flowers they they get from books and then they perhaps put them together ‘freely’ as part of their own design. What you describe is more what I thought it was – a free for all, anything goes (but artful of course). Yesterday I made up my own flower pattern – its unified, it starts from a crochet ring, I know how I did it and it can be almost exactly replicated. Today I made a free form flower – I didn’t know that I was going to it just happened. It was like painting with the yarn – I put the hook anywhere I wanted and crocheted up as well as across. The petals are not exactly the same, I could try and tell you what I did and you would end up with similar but not a copy. I love it as it resembles a flower but it is unique where my pattern is not. It was also fun. I am limited as I am very much a beginner crocheter – but as soon as I find something out, I use it. For instance the foundation row tecnique instead of a chain (which I have never used before) is how I crocheted up. I made a flower using a pattern and they used chains to both give height to a stitch and to bring it back down again – I used that technique in my flower pattern. I don’t know any other stitches yet but the basics but when I do they will be used too. As for incorpaerating different yarns and colours, well I haven’t even started, it seems a very exciting prospect. I think I want my free form to be truly free and that is what I am going to aim for!

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  24. Thanks for your great tutorial, I have been searching the ‘net looking for a simple explanation of how to start, THANK YOU, now I can get started just have to add some more nubbys etc to my vast yarn stash. Can’t wait to get started!!!

  25. A beautiful scarf! I am also a rank beginner “freeformer” – I have played with making a couple of wild handbags, using scrumbles joined together. Your style seems truly freeform – sort of like a bushwalk, where you can wander along any path! My idea of heaven! Thanks for inspiring me to take a different “path”!
    Sarah.

  26. Hi Carla,

    Thankyou for your taking the time to share how to do this.
    I only discovered freeform yesterday, when I bought Renate Kirkpatrick’s book.

    I came home and searched on the internet and found your page.
    I got out the yarn and hooks and gave it a go.

    I have posted my attempts at it on my blog (post can be found here http://teacupsandtiskets.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/freeform-crochet.html), and I have put in a link to your tutorial in the post.

    I havent finished the scarf/thing, not sure if I will, but i am enjoying the process.

    Thankyou

    cheers
    Fi

    • Thanks, Fi, for sharing your link. I love to see what other bloggers do with freeform crochet- especially done the “crochet anywhere” method. LOL! Thanks for linking to my post, too.

      Lately, I have been experimenting with combining crochet anywhere with a slight bit of structure crocheted here and there for added interest. I like the mix of structured and unstructured. I have been doing this with my freeform beading, too.

      Thanks for your comment, Fi! Cheers, Carla

      • Hi Carla,
        Thats funny, because as I was continuing with my scarfy thing, I was trying to imagine how I could crochet round structured blocks (I thought that round would be easier than square for some reason), then join them together with freeform.
        I wasnt sure exactly how I could get that to work, – crocheting the first block and freeforming on to that I could figure, but wasnt sure how well I could incorporate subsequent ones.

        Probably the best way would be to just start, and see where it goes.

        I think we are going to need 10 life times to get all our projects done, dont you think?

        cheers
        Fi

  27. Hi Fi,
    Yes, we both have too many projects and not enough time in the day… LOL!

    Not sure if this helps, but here are some thoughts- When combining unstructured freeform with structure, try this: first, create the freeform, then lay out your project and audition the structured bits. When it looks right, you can even pin in place until you crochet them together or even knot them together. Knots are texture, right? :-)

    Follow your instinct for what looks right. If it doesn’t feel right, I start anew. It also helps to understand why the piece is just not working. Sometimes, I will see students use too much eyelash yarn, which can over-power and cheapen the project. One solution? Pull out your scissors and give it a haircut, then introduce a cool textured yarn and crochet right over it. No rules, remember?

    Take care, Carla

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  29. Great tutorial, thanks.
    Well, there’s scumbling and there’s what you do. The latter is far more interesting and should have its own name. I’m going to call it “Carlabing”
    Good name eh!
    Regards from Tassie down under

  30. ohhhhh love it! I’ll be opening up an etsy shop and am going to do mostly one of a kind things. This is making my pinterest board

  31. Thanks for the definition of the two styles, freeform and scumbling. I can see now what to do.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas and starting points they were really helpful. i only learned to crochet last year but am completely addicted, freeform was the next step for me and you have helped so much with the freeing of brain from patterns…

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