Freeform Crochet: Craft as Art

Throw Out the Patterns and Rules to Create Crochet Art

Bristol in Wool Knit and Crochet Art

Carolyn Eaton, Moment Open, Getty Images

Freeform crochet is all about tossing out any pattern and creating your own design. Your technique may not include orderly rows or repeated textures. It may result in a work of crochet art rather than a usable item, although it is possible to make completely functional items using the technique as well. The most straightforward crochet definition for this niche of the craft is patternless crochet. Despite the fact that it doesn't have patterns, there are some basic strategies that you can use as you first begin playing with the technique; these will bring structure to the creative process.

Freeform Crochet is Painting with Yarn

Other than being called "patternless", the most common phrase used as a crochet definition for freeform is "it is like painting with yarn". You are expressing your inner artist with the crochet hook instead of a paintbrush, using yarn instead of a canvas. That said, freeform crochet creations can be two-dimensional like a painting, but they can also be three-dimensional like a sculpture. Freeform crochet is a technique that allows the crocheter to explore all of the artistic possibilities of the craft in truly unexpected ways.

Traditional Crochet Compared with Freeform Crochet

Traditional crochet is typically orderly; you'd expect it to be worked in well-organized rounds or rows. You could expect to work from a pattern, and the end result would be a useful project. In other words, you end up with a hat, an afghan, or a scarf.

The freeform crocheter can toss any or all of those expectations out the window. Forget the pattern; you'll make it up as you go along. Forget the orderly rounds and rows; you are free to draw up a loop in any spot you choose, helter-skelter, and you are free to work in any direction rather than just right to left (or left to right if you are left-handed). Traditional crochet is paint-by-numbers while freeform crochet is starting with a blank canvas and only your own creativity. In traditional crochet, you have to carefully count your stitches to get the right shape; in freeform crochet you can put any stitches anywhere.

The end result of these efforts might, or might not, turn out to be a functional project, depending on the designer's vision. It is fantastic if a functional project is created in the process, but it is also acceptable if the resulting object's only use is as a beautiful work of art to look upon. Crochet art is beautiful and purposeful simply for that beauty.

Is Freeform Crochet Art Rather than Craft?

There is an age-old debate about where to draw the line between art and craft. Some will argue that crochet could never be art, but the freeform crocheter (and many other crafters!) would likely disagree. Freeform crochet can be compared to sculpting with yarn. If sculpture is art, then so is freeform crochet. Fiber arts have been gaining more validation and freeform crochet takes its place among them. Of course, it is up to you to determine whether what you make is a piece of art. Displaying it as such will help you celebrate it accordingly! 

Scrumbling in Freeform Crochet

One of the most important definitions of crochet in freeform that you must learn is "scrumbling". Scrumbling means to crochet several different pieces, often using different colors, textures, and stitches, and then join them together to create the finished piece.

Vintage crochet artists / teachers Sylvia Cosh and James Walters have a website with many different exercises and instructions for scrumbling and freeform crochet. One of their worksheets suggests crocheting a variety of organically shaped, textured pieces and joining them together to create a fabric. You can then use this fabric to make item such as art scarves or to fashion a crocheted sculpture. This patchwork approach is a great way to use up leftover bits of yarn while unleashing your creative side. Scrumble can be used as either a noun or a verb, with scrumbles as the plural.

You can get some terrific inspiration from scrumbling by checking out the work of Prudence Mapstone: Knotjustknitting. She combines both knitting and crochet into scrumbles and joins them together to produce unique fabric and garments. She has written several books. Two other book authors that you might want to look to for adventures in freeform crochet are Del Pitt Feldman and Myra Wood. 

Basic Motifs in Freeform Crochet

One way to turn classic crochet into crochet art is to combine motifs in unusual ways. Make a collection of the following motifs in different sizes and colors:

Take all of these motifs and join them together in a creative way. Add surface crochet embroidery designs. There you go; you've made your first freeform crochet piece. You can now say that you've made crochet art.

Ready to begin adventures in freeform crochet? Here are some freeform tips for beginners.

 

Article updated by Kathryn Vercillo.