Jan 15, 2017

Beyond the Block: 20 Surefire Configurations

I was planning to tackle this topic one day soon, but a question from a knitter prompted me to move it up in the blogging queue.

This is her dilemma. She's making the Tikkyn afghan for her grandson, and when she asked him what colors he preferred, he chose cranberry and purple.

We all know I'm fond of that particular combo (Angletyn Vivid and Flashpoint Bold), but it's not a natural pairing for many people. Our knitter prefers muted autumn shades of tobacco brown, olive and burgundy, so she's struggling to find a way to get this bold combination to work. To tone down the purple and red, she's thinking of adding a third color, such as grey or navy.

For context, it helps to remember Tikkyn features a block-based design worked in five strips rather than separate squares. The simple slipped stitch makes colorwork easy, but it's equally appealing worked solid.

With these factors in mind, let's think beyond the block and experiment with 20 surefire configurations that range from classic to creative and incorporate either two (purple, red) or three (purple, red, grey) colors.

Two-Color Concepts

1. Solid strips (purple MC for seams and trim):

2. Solid and two-color strips (purple MC):

3. Solid sections with two-color focal blocks (color-matched seams and trim):

4. Solid blocks alternated with two-color blocks (purple MC):

5. Solid and two-color blocks arranged for a diagonal gradient or ombre effect (purple MC):

6. Solid and two-color blocks arranged for a diagonal gradient or ombre effect (red MC):

Three-Color Concepts

7. Solid strips (grey MC):

8. Two-color strips (grey MC):

9. Solid sections offset with solid focal blocks (grey MC):

10. Two-color sections offset with solid focal blocks (grey MC):

11. Two-color sections offset with two-color focal blocks (grey MC):

12. Solid and two-color blocks arranged to create squares inside of squares (grey MC):

13. Two-color blocks arranged in a simplified Maltese cross (grey MC):

14. Solid blocks arranged in a simplified Maltese cross (grey MC):

15. Solid elongated blocks stair-stepped like tiles (grey MC):

16. Two-color elongated blocks stair-stepped like tiles (grey MC):

17. Solid blocks in each color (purple MC):

18. Solid blocks in each color (grey MC):

19. Solid and two-color blocks (grey MC):

20. Solid and two-color blocks (purple MC):

Whew! I'll stop here, even though we haven't come close to exhausting the possibilities. (We could quickly multiply the choices just by switching the MC shown to one of the other options.)

The illustrations feature the specific colors our knitter is considering, but the core concepts adapt to any color combo you might choose and accommodate purpose-bought yarn, stash skeins or a mix of both. We've focused on Tikkyn, but these strategies could easily be applied to Color Check, Drumlin, Lucben and Twegen. With a little thought and preparation, they could suit almost any block-based afghan design.

Color play like this keeps knitting fresh and fun. Add in the anticipation of making something special for someone you love, and it's easy to see why the planning process is just as addictive as knitting.

If you're at all like me, one of the toughest challenges is deciding which layout holds the greatest appeal. So tell us, which one would you make? What other configurations might work? Your feedback and suggestions are welcome, as always.

To see no. 11 in shades of grey and burgundy, go to FO | Tikkyn Flagstone.
For more color ideas and inspiration, click here.


  1. Wow, very helpful! If I had to cast on today, I'd make No.3 (solid with two-color focal blocks). Now, I'm off to rummage through the stash and see what possibilities surface :)

  2. I really like numbers 3, 5, and 13, and the overall quilt like feel to many of these ideas.

    1. Great choices, Julia, and what an insightful observation. I hadn't noticed the quilt-like quality, but now that you mention it, it seems quite evident :)

  3. I like 10 it reminds me of a city sky scape.
    But 3 and 11 are my favorites because of the way they join the colors together

    1. You're right, No. 10 does look like a cityscape, great analogy. Nos. 3 and 11 are among my favorites, too, and in fact No. 11 appears in Tikkyn Flagstone:


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