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March 11, 2007

Improvisational Tutorial

My love for color, short rows, and log cabin construction coupled with my fascination with the quilts of Gee’s Bend and Nancy Crow have inspired my improvisational knitting.

I've written a tutorial for those interested in giving improvisational knitting a try.  Curiosity and a sense of humor are the only prerequisites for learning this style of knitting.  Once you understand — and are comfortable — with the techniques please abandon my instructions and let your own creativity take over.  Experiment!  Be curious!  Don’t be afraid of failure!  What’s the worst that can happen!?  It’s only knitting.

Not interested in a full tutorial?  Continue reading for a list of improvisational knitting "rules of thumb". 

Here are a few heuristics to consider for your own improvisational knitting.  These are not hard and fast rules, please experiment and find what works best for you and your knitting.

  • Work in garter stitch.
  • Use the YO short row technique — it’s fast and easy to work, especially with garter stitch

  • Whenever you encounter a YO, knit the YO together with the next stitch.  This closes the gap caused by turning mid row and keeps your stitch count consistent.

  • Add a new color on a right side row.

  • You’re going to have a lot of ends, so knit your ends in as you go.  I typically knit the old color’s end in on the 1st row of the new color and the new color’s end in at the next opportunity.

  • When you add a new color, level off the current shape — more or less — before adding any new wonkiness.   This keeps the piece from getting too lop-sided.

  • For greater complexity and depth of color, use several shades or textures of the same color.

  • Think about line verses shape.  2 rows will read as a line, while 4 or more will read as a shape.

  • Keep it improvisational!  Don’t think or plan too much.  Turn when you feel like turning!  Likewise, change colors or work in a different direction when your eye or intuition tells you it’s time.

March 11, 2007 in Improvisational Knitting, Tips and Techniques | Permalink


That swatch is gorgeous - I love the colors you're using! Will it become a garment or stay a (beautiful) swatch?

Posted by: Ingrid | Mar 11, 2007 6:37:23 PM

Thank you so much for the tutorial! You have done an excellent job of its production. I have several ideas running around in my head. I may at some point email you at your gmail account with some questions.

I'm glad you blog and love knitting!

Posted by: Brenda | Mar 11, 2007 6:40:44 PM

Wow..this is fabulous! I'm definitely going to give it a try!

Posted by: Jan in CA | Mar 11, 2007 6:55:51 PM

wow, thank you so much for posting that! i have just been drooling over your swatches and dying to try one out. i'm embarking on my own gee's bend inspired project right now, so maybe this will help me out!

Posted by: al | Mar 11, 2007 7:20:01 PM

That does remind me of Nancy Crow type work. Inspiration is a fun thing.

Posted by: Sheila | Mar 11, 2007 8:00:16 PM

Thanks for the tutorial! I know what I'll do with some leftovers I have...

Posted by: Josiane | Mar 11, 2007 8:23:15 PM


Posted by: Andrea | Mar 11, 2007 8:29:14 PM

Thank you so much for taking the time to write up this tutorial. Lately I have been thinking how I need to play around more with my knitting -- enjoy the process without worrying about the end product. Your guidelines are just what I need to get me from thinking to actually doing. I also appreciate the fact that explaining how you do something can be as challenging as what your explaining, if not more so!

Posted by: Laura | Mar 11, 2007 11:34:28 PM

Great! I've got a bag of bits just waiting for this...

Posted by: Mary de B | Mar 12, 2007 5:35:50 AM

Such beautiful colours together. I love your swatch.

Posted by: Christabel | Mar 12, 2007 5:37:53 AM

Love it, love it, love it (etc.) Thanks for doing this - I know it took a lot of time. Someday, I will use your instructions to make something very beautiful - maybe a baby blanket if a grandchild ever happens in our family!

Posted by: Mary K. IN Rockport | Mar 12, 2007 7:06:04 AM

I love that technique. Now I just have to get a few things off the needles so I can justify starting yet something new.....

Posted by: Hollis | Mar 12, 2007 7:41:40 AM

Thanks for the great looking tutorial! I can't wait to try out this new technique -- it looks both challenging and freeing at once!

Posted by: Em | Mar 12, 2007 10:19:28 AM

Oh what fun!!! Thanks for the inspiration and the tutorial!

Posted by: Kirsten | Mar 12, 2007 10:27:26 AM

beautiful.. I love the organic flow!

Posted by: kim | Mar 12, 2007 3:19:14 PM

its fantastic! than you so much. its brilliant- the whole series!

Posted by: hPNY Knits | Mar 12, 2007 3:23:54 PM

Thank you, thank you for the tips and tutorial. I just tried my hand at the YO short rows with my first ever short row heel - now I am ready.

Posted by: Sonya | Mar 12, 2007 6:45:51 PM

Thank you, Nona. I appreciate your time and effort and willingness to share. I know I will make use of this, and your generosity will go on to at least one other person I am helping to learn knit! I will have her come by...

Posted by: Linda | Mar 13, 2007 11:09:29 AM

Wow! I love your Gee's Bend inspired square. Thanks for the tutorial, too.

Posted by: Katie | Mar 14, 2007 5:47:08 AM

Stops lurking to say Thank you. Your tutorial has just solved a problem I've been fighting with for weeks *g*

Posted by: Cal | Mar 16, 2007 4:26:20 AM

I've just discovered your blog so have
lots of catching up to do -- I see lots of
things I really want to look at!

Thanks for the improvisational knitting
ideas -- but my computer says the link
(from Adobe) is damaged and can't be
opened. Just me or is the tutorial what
is above? Many thanks for all that you
are sharing!

Posted by: Maryjo | Mar 16, 2007 4:47:04 AM

Two days later: thanks, Nona -- I've rechecked the
tutorial sire and it is working now. Wonderful!

Posted by: Mary | Mar 18, 2007 12:08:33 AM

You are my hero.

Posted by: Cara | Mar 20, 2007 7:01:21 AM

wow- I just looked up Log Cabin Knitting on Google- found you! I have a blog called Retro Nona- my grandkids call me "nona". I am interested in perusing your blog extensively- this Improvisational knitting looks like it is for me!

Posted by: kate | Mar 20, 2007 8:41:41 AM

Thank you so much for sharing this!!

Posted by: colleen | Mar 20, 2007 9:50:23 AM

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