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Color brings me cheer, and mini skeins let me play with color while solving the puzzle of what to do with a mere 60 yards of yarn. How best to use smalls bits of color to create a cohesive whole? 

Here is my tale.

Start with a Set

Crochet allows for wild improvisation of stitches and shapes. Mini-skein sets are curated palettes, so there’s a certain security in committing to a full set. I may not know where I’m going as I wind them, but I enjoy the twists and turns of getting there. I trusted that the yarn, a set of Canon Hand Dyes mini skeins in colors curated by Melanie Falick, would speak to me. 

I wanted to make something airy and light, because it was intended for use in the air-conditioned interiors of Tennessee in June—fingering weight, loosely crocheted, soft and woolly.

Diving In

I began with simple granny squares of two or three colors each, a bit old fashioned. Granny squares do not have to be fuddyduddy, yet I found that no matter how I arranged the finished squares, the pink and blue read pastel.

I needed somehow to include more colors in each square, to find a way to balance the colors.

I truly enjoy making granny squares and shapes, but I like to mix it up, whether by varying patterns or colors. I decided to create loosely defined squares, to use every color at least once, but not more than once and to avoid putting the same edges together at the seams.

You can see hints of my first granny squares inside what became the log cabin-edged grannies.

For the log cabin portion of my squares, I used combinations of stitches. My favorite bits are the ones that look like the knitted linen stitch and the ones that look like the delicate tracks of bird feet in wet sand.

When I’m creating, I like to go where my mind and eye take me. My original vision was to create squares, slipstitch them together, then create an elongated log cabin-ish border to hold them visually together.

But these attractive but unruly shapes also aroused a certain anxiety in me. I didn’t have enough blocks to make a full scarf yet, but I needed to contain them somehow. I wanted to do longer runs with the little bird feet of my lacy double crochets.

A Pivot

I grew bored with making log cabin-edged granny squares. This stymied me for a day or two. The scarf, in order to be a scarf, needed to be at least twice as long as my connected six squares. I tried doing granny stripes.

I would make the second half of my scarf one rectangle as large as the original six squares combined. I got a few granny stripes in and worried that the result would be too structured. (I know.)

I ended up creating what looks like a very long tail, which doubled the length and made the scarf a scarf instead of a short table runner. I bordered the entire collection of my imagination with a mustard border, and it was quite striking. But, then I worried that the glowing mustard border might be a little neon. So I added a final border of gray. And that’s where I stopped.

Had I more than one set of mini skeins, I would have made a “tail” to go on the other side of the more structured six-square piece, then surround the resulting winged shape with a border of rows and rows of picots, shells, and birds feet. And then I’d call it a Shawl.


I think that 12 or 15 log cabined granny squares would make a wonderful scarf.

A structured rectangle of granny stripes made to the same approximate width of the original six squares would also have made a fine scarf.

The pattern, Gunn Lake Scarf, and it’s available as a free pattern on Ravelry, here. It’s a set of general guidelines and details about the stitches and colors I used.

About The Author

Liz Kaplan has been using fiber and textiles to make things ever since she was a child and not allowed to watch television. (She has since made up the viewing hours lost.) Liz has worked behind the counter, taught knitting and crochet, and created special events at yarn shops on both coasts. Liz currently resides in Oakland, California. You can find out more about Liz and keep up with her class schedule at LKStitches.

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  • It’s fun to see you exploring and playing with crochet, Ann. I tend to be looser and more willing to take a risk with crochet, too. I’m currently making a baby blanket; I crocheted a big rectangle, then got bored, and am now making up a border to adjust the shape and play with some pattern. It all feels very low risk and fun!

    • I wish I were the creator of this exploration, Robin, but this is all Liz Kaplan’s piece today—all glory is hers. Liz is an expert crocheter and teacher. I can barely crochet a chain!

      • Ooops! I didn’t read the author at 5:15 this morning! My bad. Can I claim first day of school jitters as my excuse?

  • The beauty of crochet is there’s only one “live” stitch. So your options are wide open.

  • Thanks for this Liz! While reading, I could just feel the fun that you had been having with using the different colors. I also like the granny square wrap that you made for Kay a while back. I am currently working on a granny square blanket for a new little baby girl with just been born. I’d like to know how you block your granny creations. Do you block each square separately, or do you block the entire piece after it’s sewn together?

    • Hi Diane, I am flattered that you think I block my grannies. I DO give them a bath and blot them on a towel and hold an iron over them before connecting. What I PLAN to do in the future is pin them hard and square with yet to be procured blocking mat and pins.

  • I love crochet for the way it makes me feel more relaxed and playful than knitting. Maybe it’s because it’s just one live stitch. But when I crochet, I feel much more able to go free form and mix up colors – so fun. I love this scarf, mixing granny squares and log cabin!

    • Thanks Wanda! I talk about this very thing in a previous piece. The freedom of crochet. I’m a knitter too but tend to do more free form stuff with crochet, even when doing things like the linen stitch and log cabin which are usually done with knitting.

  • Oh my goodness! Liz, you must be the person who made the beautiful, beautiful, amazing granny square blanket for Kay a while back. Yes?

    • That would be me. Thank you for your enthusiasm.

  • I love it! Those bird stitch stripes are beautiful! You’ve revived wonderful memories of crocheting a zillion granny Squares with an elderly neighbor when I was a child. I can’t imagine how many Afghans Margaret actually made, all I know is my family ended up with at least two, one of which I proudly displayed in my first “me-only” (no roomies) apartment. To my surprise no one ever made a wise crack about it, but I was often told my place felt homier than everyone else’s. Alas, the pics are lost in the wilds of Flickr. Thanks for the great ideas & the memories

    • Thanks Marilyn. The bird tracks are my favorite part!

  • Thanks for giving us a jumping off spot to experiment on our own. Not so scary that way. I have just taken ”Crochet Kaleidoscope’ by Sandra Eng (Franklin’s recent book review) from the library so I have plenty of choices for my motifs.

    • So many great sources for inspiration!

  • Wonderful and inspirational in a crocheter gone mad kinda way. LOVE IT!

    • Picturing myself as Christipher Lloyd in Back to the Future.

  • I simply hate granny squares. Surely there is an alternative knitting project. Ugh

    • Is it just the square ones, because there are so many other variations, triangles hexagons, mandala shapes, star shapes, flowers that are raised like roses flowers that are flat like the daisy, etc there’s so much on Pinterest to see, too.

      When I’ve not been in the mood for knitting I have turned to other craft projects such as counted cross stitch, stamped cross stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, weaving potholders, quilting. I also think of them as alternatives to knitting, so it’s interesting that you mentioned it that way. I guess in reality they are projects in their own right.


  • I love the way it came out and truly felt the process that you went through as you created it!!! It was wonderful to get into the mind of a wildly creative person as you developed the pattern. Thanks for walking us through it and for the free pattern. I’m going to dig through my stash and see what I have in small quantities (and if I don’t have enough, I’ll just have to buy some) thanks again

  • Wonderful to follow along as you improvise! Also enjoying the concept of a pattern as a mere suggestion and to go with your gut on what looks good.

  • I too struggle with getting bored halfway through a pattern, maybe I can find the courage to experiment like you did

  • how about some knitted items

  • This piece is so pretty in photos, but it’s even MORE beautiful and fun in person! Even my husband picked it out of a pile o’samples and said “that one is cool!” Love it Liz!

    • Thanks Liz. And, thank your husband too! xo

  • Love it! You always make the most random and creative works of art!❤️❤️❤️

    • Thank you!

  • Granny squares bring back such wonderful memories of my mother making blankets for absolutely everyone in my family (sisters, cousins, Aunts, etc). I love how you made what you felt at the time. It’s beautiful! Thank you!!!!!

  • Liz, this is just wonderful and inspiring – bird tracks! I love the peek into your mind and process, thank you for sharing. I have some rather wonderful mohair/silk odds and ends that would be just perfect for this kind of meandering and free form project.

  • I bow to her greatnes.

  • “log cabined granny squares”
    a wonderful phrase — a poem in and of itself.

  • This was so fun and enlightening to watch you improvise your way through your project. It’s lovely.

    And I quite agree: It’s so reassuring to work with a curated set of colors. I don’t always choose well, myself, but if I leave it to the pros there’s a much better chance of an eye-pleasing project! I’m working with a set of mini-skeins right now, chosen by the dyer (Knitted Wit). This is round 2: my first color combo, chosen by me, wasn’t quite right.

  • Liz, your talent and eye for color is outstanding!! Thanks for sharing your talents with others!!

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