I like to do a little freeform knitting from time to time. A few years back, someone showed me a Prudence Mapstone book, and I was blown away. It was like knitting, except you didn’t follow a pattern, you used any old bit of yarn you pleased all together, and you played played played. My kind of handcraft.
I started to do a little. I couldn’t find much in the way of instruction on how to do freeform knitting – most of the instructions seemed to focus on crochet. Crochet is a medium that lends itself well to freeforming. You only have one live loop at a time (give or take), so you can change direction pretty easily. Crocheting makes squares, triangles, shells, loops – all shapes.
Knitting tends towards the rectilinear. That’s okay, there are ways to both work with that pattern and break it, but its natural tendency is to have the last row be much in the shape as the first row. It has to be a little more of a conscious choice to get going in new directions.
Here is my first freeform project, a blanket I’ve been working on for ages:
One technique for forcing a break of those straight lines is to use a magic ball. A magic ball is a ball of yarn made from many shorter pieces of yarn, varying lengths, colours, and sometimes weights, all tied together end to end. In this technique, you knit or crochet along until you reach the end of a piece, and when the new piece comes, you do something new.
So that was my project today. I took the kids, who have been so very patient while we all got sick and better in succession over the past week and a half, to a local play place, and I took my magic ball, a set of DPNs and crochet hooks in various sizes, and my Koala Caddie apron, pictured here:
I made this:
This magic ball thing, I like it. It takes some of the decision making away. My freeform projects tend to be of the variety that only come out when the kids are asleep, because I like to concentrate, pull out the stitch dictionaries, get Just the right piece in Just the right place, and such. They’re a little slow, as a result. But with the magic ball, and a lot of yarn chosen for for its texture, I can let myself do just a whole bunch of garter stitch. I switch it up with shaping, short rows, modular techniques, the odd bit of crochet thrown in – I just go with the flow. And as such, it makes for a perfectly pleasant, low-pressure take along project.
Lastly, if you’re dead curious about what I sound like or how I knit (how a knitter holds their yarn and needles is always of interest to me, I don’t know about you), here is the video that my daughter insisted on filming as I knit. Pay no attention to the mess behind me, I swear those piles of books are going to Value Village any day now, and please forgive me for my southwestern Ontario accent. In my mind, I sound a lot more sophisticated.