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

Inchies Mailed!

I coordinated the Inchie Swap on a machine quilting site called MQ Resource.  It is all ready to go, but I was waiting on one person to send theirs before I could mail them.  They arrived yesterday, so this morning I will visit my post office and mail them out.

Of course, I couldn’t just send them back unadorned…  They needed to have a special inchie holder!!  I decided to use my Carla Bird Tutorial pattern to make lots of birdies (trust me, the number grew as I made them all!).

After making them, I left an opening and then stuffed all the birdies!!  It was kinda like stuffing a turkey, you know?  Then, just to have a little fun, I closed just a few of them by sewing up the gap.  Actually, I had intended to sew in snaps or velcro, but since I was making so many, I simplified it all.

Anyhow, I had fun doing this, but I am tired of birds right about now. LOL!

Happy Friday!  Carla

Quilt Photo Transfer Tutorial

Carla’s Quilt Photo Transfer Tutorial-

I received a message from blog visitor Beverly this morning, asking questions about my leaf quilt and the subtle photo transfer method that I do. I thought I would answer her here, in case anyone else is curious.

Here is a photo to refresh your memory, along with a close up of two of the photo transfers contained within the quilt:

This quilt contains quite a few photo transfers, but I have included them in a subtle manner. I want the viewer to first enjoy the overall quilt design and colors, then come closer and get drawn in by the photos. The photos are actually the focal point of this quilt, but done in a subtle way.

This quilt is the second in a series and I made it for my son. He attended a school back east, and the pictures relate to his school and the time he spent there- which are filled with warm, positive memories for him. The first quilt was auctioned off in 2004 to benefit this school (it earned $5025.00) and I’ve included a picture of this first quilt within the second quilt.

I picked these two photo transfers for a reason. One is a color photo and one is not, I’ve de-saturated the second photo using a photo imaging program (I use photoshop).

Before we start, I want to emphasize a point. Photo transfer quilts don’t have to be unattractive! It works much better to pick a quilt design, any design, and then find a way to work the photos into the quilt in a subtle way. Trust me on this!

Step 1: Pick a quilt design and fabrics/color palette. I love using batiks for their range of color, texture and the simple fact that I can print images onto the batiks and get a very clear image. This is due to the high thread count in the batik fabric.

In my sample quilt above, the pattern is a leaf variation of a positive/negative design. I found this leaf pattern in an old copy of a Quiltmaker magazine. (I would credit the designer, but they did not list one.)

If you have difficulty choosing your colors, here is a favorite color website to help you out.

Step 2: Gather your supplies for image Transfer onto Batik– Use your favorite image transfer method to transfer onto the batik. The simplest and most archival way is to hire my friends, the Pixeladies, to help you with the printing- especially if you don’t have the computer skills to do it yourself. If you want to do it exactly the way I did, then I used the Bubblejetset method combined with archival ink onto the batik.

Bubblejetset method has been around for awhile. I recommend that you read up on the various types of ink your own printer has to understand how it will act when washed and exposed to sunlight. If you do not feel confident, then hire someone who has archival ink to do your printing. If you feel confident, then let’s proceed.

Bubblejetset may be purchased from many sources. I recommend at a minimum that you buy the bottle of Bubblejetset, a small bottle of synthrapol, and the manufactured freezer paper shown here by CJ Jenkins on the Dharma Trading Co. website. I suggest you purchase the synthrapol instead of the BJS rinse.

Important!! Do not substitute regular freezer paper in place of the CJ Jenkins Freezer Paper sheets. Why? Because you just increased the likelihood that the fabric will jam in your printer. You do not want to learn this lesson the hard way.

Step 3: Print out the images onto your fabric following the directions on the bottle, also found here. I also recommend you iron the pre-treated fabric to the Jenkins freezer paper sheet, then carefully tape the leading edge (half the tape on the top of the fabric and half wrapped to the back of the freezer sheet.) that will go into your printer. This is the trick I use. Using it, I have NEVER jammed my computer printer.

Step 4: Wait 24 hours. I know, the directions say 30 minutes. Ignore them and trust me. LOL!

Step 5: Gently wash in cold water with a tsp. of Synthrapol in the bath. I do this in a plastic tub in my sink or sometimes I just use my laundry room sink. You will see some of the ink leave the fabric. This is normal and because I’m going to lose a bit of ink, once washed, I adjust the contrast on my program and will print my images a tad darker to compensate.

Step 6: I let dry, then press them flat. If i am in a hurry, I will press it dry, then cut it to piece it into the quilt.

That’s it! You now have your photo transfers to use in your quilt project, fiber art project or any other application. As with all of my tutorials, please send me a picture when you are done. I would LOVE to see your project.

Any questions? There are many ways to do photo transfers, this is just the way that I do it. I’ve been doing it about 10 years, and I’ve been doing my subtle quilt techniques about 6 years. Good luck! Carla