As the year flipped over to 2015, I wondered about my upcoming crafting resolutions. Would this be the year I finally made a pair of socks? Would I tackle challenging and delicate lace-weight shawls? Or would I dip my toes further into crochet and try my hand at granny square blankets?
Well, my student teaching started and I did exactly none of that. Any time I would have spent with yarn I spent with grading pens and textbooks instead. But, as the year wound to a close and there were fewer things to grade, I started to discuss fiber crafts with the teacher who taught next door. She’s a veteran crocheter and, when she found out I had an interest in granny squares, she had no problem finding a pattern for us to follow.
Now, if you’re like me, the name may have felt a little off-putting. “Granny squares?” Excuse me, I only make hip, young things like pumpkin hats, Sherlock dolls, and Harry Potter inspired hats. But if you have a keen eye, you may have noticed these blankets show up in television shows over and over again, always draped across the back of the couch belonging to either the artsy character or the one who is especially invested in his or her family. Granny squares evoke a certain feeling because they’re calling back to a different time. Maybe we grew up watching our own grannies crochet these clever little squares into something greater, or maybe we just really like Mad Men. Either way, there’s something nostalgic about these patches of yarn, whether we lived it or not.
Making my own granny square blanket felt like a rite of passage. There isn’t an official master list of yarn creations for growing knitters and crocheters to check off as they advance their skills, but I have my own mental running list. The more I vary my projects, the more skills there are to pick-up. No one says you can’t knit hats and only hats for your entire life, but for me? I need to keep expanding (and not my waistline, thanks — maybe my next goal could involve learning to combine knitting and jogging).
Why are granny squares awesome? Well:
- They are portable. I know I talk about portability a lot on here, but the truth is hauling a full-sized blanket around, plus the skeins of yarn, can be a pain. I like to have a purse project lurking somewhere beneath my wallet at all times. I never know if I’m going to be stuck somewhere without anything to read or do, and waiting is just so much more satisfying if I’m being productive. So, with granny squares, you don’t have to take every square with you. Leave the bulk of the blanket at home and only bring what you need.
- For being such an iconic design, they can be so very different. There are thousands of ways to create a granny square and even changing the yarn type and color creates a thousand more permutations. They can be all the same, identical squares, or every square can tell a different story. You can make the design pop with the squares themselves, or you can let those stay uniform and leave the pizzazz to the borders.
- They are stash busters! As long as you keep the yarn weight about the same (or string two thinner yarns to match the weight of the other yarn), you can create a brilliant multicolored and multi-textured blanket with all that yarn that’s just hanging around, waiting for its turn.
- They can be fast. Now, you can of course use a tiny hook and make intricate squares that take hours, but you can also breeze through your squares using a larger hook.
- They make for bite-sized crocheting. Finish a few squares while re-watching The X-Files and watch the pile grow higher. Any task feels less daunting when you can approach it in smaller chunks (especially while Scully is asking Mulder, again, if he’s making absurd and insane suggestions regarding their case, which turn out to be totally right).
Connecting the squares can be a task, but once they’re loosely together, that’s an easy thing to do while chatting or listening to an audio book.
This is the finished product of a blanket I made in about two solid days. I was panicking over my very first teaching interview and I was viewing this blanket as a distraction, but also something to accomplish that would somehow get me the job. I was likening it to the story of the girl who folds all those paper cranes and, when she gets to 1,000, her wish comes true. I did not get that particular job, so either the magic only happens with cranes or I needed to make 1,000 granny squares. Oh well.
As with most things I make, once I finish I think, wow, I learned a lot, I could do another one and make it better. So, with a couple of friends having moved into a new place and a housewarming party on the horizon, I thought Granny Square v.2 would be a perfect gift. Change up the colors, tighten the stitches, and now we have an entirely different-feeling blanket. The dreamy subdued colors of the first blanket are much more style, but when I think of these girls I think of poppy, bright colors. Also, there may be a purposeful sprinkling of Chargers colors in there, too.
Now, my pattern came to me as a xeroxed copy of something my co-teacher found hanging at Jo-Ann’s, but through the magic of technology, it’s available for free on their website. This is a great starter pattern because it creates a manageable-sized project. It’s a lap blanket, so you’ll be finished long before you ever start feeling stitch-weary.
Going forward? I got my mother a book on granny squares for Mother’s Day. The idea is to make a mother/daughter blanket where we both make our own squares and then stitch them together. I took a small break from granny squares to go back to knitting for a bit, but I’m looking forward to busting my yarn stash and making an incredible blanket (or Frankenblanket, I guess we’ll see!).