Hi there, Jo Myles back again, and this time I’m talking about the humble crochet granny square. Poor old granny squares, they don’t get great press. There are too many truly awful examples from the 70s still hanging around to haunt us…
But aside from these fashion disasters, granny squares are often scorned as just too simple to bother with. Experienced crocheters move onto ever more complex projects, but I reckon there’s a timeless beauty to the classic granny square.
Granny squares are often a novice crocheter’s first project, and for a very good reason. Not only are they an excellent way to practice the basic double crochet stitch, but they introduce you to working in rounds, are small enough to be finished in one session, and great for using up small amounts of leftover yarn. What’s more, they can be made as large or as small as you want – not only can you adjust the hook size and yarn weight to get a certain size square, but as you start in the middle and work out, you can keep on adding rounds until it’s the size you need. You can even make a whole blanket this way, out of one giant granny square. I have a lovely rainbow afghan made this way (and a really cute kitten to go with it!)
I also like the fact granny squares are a portable project requiring little concentration. Perfect for picking up late in the evening when my brain’s too fuzzy to follow a pattern, or for carrying with me to crochet when out and about.
But what on earth can you do with a granny square? Or two, or three, or… [think of a number, any number]? Afghans are the classic choice, much beloved of the older crocheting generation, and they don’t have to be purely a mishmash of colours where people have used up their yarn ends. Sometimes they’re planned and can look incredibly stylish, especially if one colour is allowed to predominate and tie the whole thing together, or if different sized blocks are used. That said, there’s a place for the yarn end afghan too. I inherited one that was made for my gran by my aunt, so whenever I look it at it reminds me of two of my favourite people.
Other easy granny square projects are scarves, skinny ties and belts (just keep on joining them in a row), bags (two large granny squares joined together and a crocheted strap added, egg cosies (two tiny granny squares joined together). And if you want to create more complex shapes, you can join those little squares together into all manner of patterns. I love this granny square slipper pattern! I’m gutted my daughter has now grown out of her granny square jacket (see photo to the right, pattern from Candy Tots), but I suppose I’ll just have to make her another, larger one.
Speaking of larger granny square jackets, I was given this gorgeous 70s jacket a few years back and absolutely adore it, despite it being made with wool so itchy, I can only wear it over a high-necked, long-sleeved top. It’s made out of only 16 whole squares, 12 half squares and 6 quarter squares, with the sleeves and hood crocheted on in simple rows of double crochet. And if you fancy something a little more raunchy, there are even a few granny square bikini patterns out there. Unfortunately I have yet to track down a granny square willy warmer. Perhaps I’ll have to design my own…
For those who’ve either never tried or have forgotten how to make a granny square, here’s how you go about it (written using the US terms for stitches, because I’m bilingual like that):
Foundation ring: Chain a few stitches and join them into a ring by working a slip stitch into the first chain. This will be the centre of your square. I usually chain four for the centre, but you can work from anything between one and six chains as that centre. You can even use a magic ring if you know how to make those.
Round 1: chain three stitches. This is the equivalent of a double crochet stitch. Then make a double crochet into the ring, followed by another double crochet into the ring, and you have your beginning cluster. Then chain between one and three stitches to create the corner space (most people use two, but I’ve always preferred three). Make another cluster of three double crochets into the ring, then chain 1-3 (depending on preference). Make this cluster followed by 1-3 corner chain another two times. You will now have four clusters. Make a slip stitch into the top chain of that initial three that I told you was your first “double crochet”. Congratulations! You now have the smallest size of granny square.
If you want to change colour in the next round, you can cut off your yarn here and join the new yarn in any corner space. If you’re continuing with the same colour, then make a slip stitch into the top of the next two double crochets, then again into the corner space.
Round 2 and all subsequent rounds are worked by first making your beginning cluster, then working another 1-3 chains for your corner space in this round, and another cluster to finish off that corner. Between each cluster along the edge you make a one chain space. In the next round, you work your clusters into these one chain spaces. Corner spaces always get filled with a cluster, chain 1-3, cluster. It really is easy peasy, and if you want a picture or video tutorial there are plenty out there. Here’s a good one I found:
Just bear in mind, there’s no right or wrong way to make a granny square and many crocheters do it differently. Ultimately, if it lies flat and you like the look of it, you’re doing it the right way.
Beyond the basic square
But granny squares don’t actually have to be square. Once you’ve mastered the basic square, there are all kinds of variations out there. Granny hexagons are just as simple to make, but look even more striking. You can also make a granny square that starts off as a circle, before being squared in the last couple of rounds.
Joining the tricky little buggers
One thing that puts many people off making things out of granny squares is the prospect of weaving all the yarn ends away and then joining them together at the end. I can totally sympathise, having joined that cute little jacket of Daisy’s using the sewing method. Never again! It took almost as long to do as making it in the first place. I now know a couple of great cheats for joining squares. Perhaps the simplest is to join them while you’re making them. Here’s a wonderful pictorial lesson showing you how:
Another way that works well is to crochet the joining seam. This leaves a distinct ridge on the wrong side of the work, but it’s quick to do and results in a seam that stretches with the fabric. I now use crocheted seams on all my garments, including knitted projects. It’s so much quicker and more enjoyable than sewing. Here’s a tutorial on joining with a slip stitch, but you can also use a single crochet stitch to join (my preference):
And finally, for those who want to get adventurous, here’s a method that results in an almost invisible join, which also adds another round to the edge of each square:
I can’t really help you with the weaving yarn ends away issue, other than to suggest you do it after making each square rather than saving it all up until the end. Yarn ends are a necessary evil when changing colour regularly, and the “crocheting over the yarn end” method doesn’t really work with all the open spaces in a granny square. However, if anyone else has any good tips, please share them
Anyone else out there a fan of the granny square? Have any good patterns to share? Or do you just find them too retro for words?
And finally, proof that dodgy granny square fashion disasters aren’t just a thing of the past…
Right. I’m off to crochet myself a granny square bikini ;P
Josephine Myles first learnt to crochet when she was eighteen. After making one beret that turned into a teacosy and frustrated with the crappy choice of yarn in her local shops, she decided the craft just wasn’t for her. Fast forward ten years, and having a bun in the oven prompted Jo to have a go at crocheting some teeny-tiny baby things. Fortunately, by this time the world had caught up with her and there were all kinds of sexy yarns out there to indulge in. A few years later she taught herself knitting and dressmaking, and she hasn’t looked back since.
When she’s not busy with yarn or sewing machine, Jo can be found with her head in a book, pottering in the garden or running around after her daughter. She should probably get back to writing the steamy manlove novels, shouldn’t she?
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