Crochet Tips: What Are Granny Squares?

How to make the simple, yet versatile, granny square, with tips on variations, colors and uses.

When a set-designer for a sitcom or movie wants to make a home look humble, yet cozy, he or she will toss a granny-square afghan over the back of the old-fashioned sofa. Granny squares are that staple of the home crocheter, the colorful square out of which you can make afghans, bedspreads, garments and more. Its enduring popularity is due to its simplicity, its versatility, and best of all, the fact that it is a great way to use up scraps of left-over yarn that are too small to use in other projects. They're also quite portable, a bag with a variety of small balls of yarn, and a crochet hook are all you need to keep busy on the bus.

Here's the basic pattern:

- Chain 6, slipstitch in first chain to form a circle

- Round One: Chain 3 (counts as first double crochet), 2 double crochet (DC) in loop, chain 3, 3 double crochet in loop, chain 3, 3 double crochet, chain 3, 3 double crochet, chain 2, half-double crochet in third stitch of first chain-3. Tie off yarn and cut. You now have a tiny square, like a Celtic (equal-sided) cross, with four groups of three stitches and four empty corners connected by chain-stitch.

- Attach new color in one corner.

- Round Two: Chain 3 (counts are first DC), 2 DC, chain 3, 3 DC in corner; chain three to next corner, (3 DC - chain 3 - 3 DC), chain three to next corner, and repeat. When you've made your way to the last corner, chain two and half-double crochet in third stitch of first chain-3. Tie off yarn and cut. You now have a slightly bigger square, with two blocks of stitches on each side, a gap between them and four empty corners.

- Attach new color to one corner

- Round Three: Do first corner as above, chain three to gap, work three DCs in the gap, chain three and work corners as above. End each round with chain-2, half-DC in beginning chain-3.

- For a traditional granny square, the fourth round is crocheted in black yarn. Work as for round three; (3 DC- chain 3 - 3 DC) in each corner, (chain three - 3DC - chain three) in each gap.

The most common and recognizable granny square has four rounds, ending in the black row; you can either work all 'round ones' of the same color, all 'round twos' of the same color, etc, or just pick whatever colors suit your fancy. The squares are then joined together by sewing the edges with black yarn. If you pick all bright colors for the inner rows, the black-bordered granny square afghan can have a vibrant 'stained-glass' look. Of course, you don't have to edge each square in black if you don't like the look. A white border round on each square and pastel shades for the interior rounds will yield an afghan that evokes a summery, 'cool nights at the beach-house' look. An off-white or ecru border will give an afghan a kind of 'antique quilt' look.

The four-round square isn't written into law, either. If you want, you can just continue the basic pattern round after round until you get the size you want. (Of course the result will be a square; if you want a rectangle, as for a bedspread, you'll have to make smaller squares and piece them together.) As you get out into the larger rounds, however, you will no longer be able to use the smaller scraps of yarn that the interior rounds could use. Make sure you have enough of a color before starting a large round. Getting half-way around and running out of yarn and having to pull it all out is very frustrating!

Granny-square vests made out of a lighter-weight yarn (2-ply or baby-yarn) were very popular in the seventies. Make two-three rows of squares for each side and five-six rows of squares for the back - make the rows as long as you like. Longer is better for the Mod Seventies look. Stitch rows together, leaving arm-holes of two-three squares length, then stitch tops of sides to back. Wear with Granny Glasses and white lipstick, and you're really groovy. Granny squares are basic building blocks; what you can create out of them is only limited by your imagination.

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