Pseudo random layouts

I’ve just finished knitting 65 squares from scrap sock yarn, and it was time to plan how to lay them out. (I only need 64, but one of them was annoying me, and I thought I might want to use a different one in its place.)

There are different numbers of the different squares — I had several sets of eight, one set of nine, and then a whole range of groups between one and seven. This makes it hard to create a coherent pattern from them, so my goal was to have them nicely scattered, with a result that many people would consider to be random. However, given how many choices I added to the process, it’s not strict randomness.

Here’s how I did it.

Sixty-four squares will automatically be laid out in an eight by eight grid.

I started by deciding which set of squares I wanted to start with. I felt it would be good to make sure that the group I think is the gaudiest was carefully spread out. There happened to be eight of that set, and so I decided I’d try to make sure there was only one such block in any given row or column, at least to start with. (My spouse said I should call this Sudoku-randomness.)

Since all the numbers involved are between one and eight, I set up’s integer generator accordingly, and made a long list of random numbers. I didn’t save all of them after doing the layout, here’s how I worked with the list.

A column of 8 squares along one side, a row of 8 squares at the bottom. Sorted stacks of squares on the left, and eight gaudy squares laid out so there’s no more than one square in any given row or column, above or to the side of the squares at the edges of the space.

I placed eight squares in a column at the side, mentally labeled 1-8 from the top to bottom. There’s eight more in a row at the bottom, labeled 1-8 from left to right. The first two random numbers in my list were 3 and 4, so I counted down three rows and over four columns to place the first gaudy square. I next looked in my list of numbers to find a pair of row and column numbers I hadn’t used yet, and placed the next square in row 7 and column 3. I continued onward, discarding numbers until I found good ones.

After using numbers to help me place the first four or five squares, I did the rest by eye. I looked at these results. They are somewhat random, which you can tell because of the clusters of squares. I decided I wanted them scattered more, so I moved them around a bit.

Some of the eight gaudy squares are the same locations, but some of them have been moved around to have more space between them.

There’s still only one gaudy square in any row or column. At the end of the layout process, I might swap them around a bit and ignore that “rule”.

Nine more squares, in stripes of rust red, grey, white, and brown have been added to the layout.

The next batch of squares I worked with was the group with the largest number. At least one row or column was going to have to have two of these squares in it, but that’s just guidance, not necessary. I followed the same process with numbers for the first four or five squares. If the numbers placed a square where one of the gaudy squares was, I just arbitrarily placed the new one to one side or the other, as I pleased.

I could have moved these around to be more scattered, but I felt that was most important for the gaudy squares, so I decided not to fuss.

The next two set of squares are first, yellow and multicolor variegations, and second, red, blue, yellow, and grey stripes.

Apparently I missed taking one set of photos. This shows two more sets of squares. At this point I’ve ended up skipping the numbers and putting things in by eye. I’ve also removed the guide squares at the edges, since I’m about to add them into the layout.

It turns out that the second and fourth yarns look more similar to each other than I’d expected. At the very end, I’ll probably swap them around a bit so the colors are spread out more.

A number of smaller groups of squares have been added in, with greens and browns and blues.

Almost done.

The next photo has all the squares laid out, but is not the final arrangement. The three photos after that show various stages of swapping squares around. Each layout is different, but I don’t remember my specific thought process for each change — it’s either to keep two squares that look too similar from being next to each other, or to keep all the squares in one of the small groups from obviously being in one small part of the quilt.

First Scattered arrangement of squares

That’s how I like to do this sort of layout. There’s other methods too! And if I had even numbers of light and dark squares, I might make a checkerboard arrangement.

Eight stacks in a row of eight squares each

Next I stacked the squares from each column in order, and ran a string through them with a knot to keep them in order. I pinned slips of paper to the front of each with labels from 1 to 8.

A shoe box with all eight stacks lined up in one big stack, on edge.

Then I stacked the clusters in a box to keep them in order. The strings and numbers will help me keep track of the order to sew them together.