Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Granny's Square

On my mom's side, I come from a long line of lace makers.  The women in my history used that fine little crochet thread to make miles and miles of lace that decorated the edges of tablecloths, napkins, hankies, pillow cases  and I'm sure many other household items.  One of my Uncle Jim's favorite stories is of his Grandma Chris (short for Christensen) getting together with the other ladies in the neighborhood to crochet and gossip.  He remembers these get togethers from his childhood and says that it was hard to tell whether their crochet hooks or mouths were moving faster and that sometimes Grandma would get so caught up in what was going on that she'd lapse back into her native Danish.  The startled looks from the other ladies would get her to giggling saying "Oops, I forget me English."  For no lack of my mom's trying, I never mastered the art of using such fine thread and tiny hooks, but I can crochet some simple items.  I guess I'll take my family heritage where I can find it...

One of my favorite things to crochet is the granny square.  They are simple and the repetitiveness is soothing and almost meditative for me.  If you want to learn to make them, Crochet Cabana has what looks to be a really great Granny Square Tutorial.  I admit, I googled that just this morning because I knew that surely someone had already put the work into it.  Why reinvent the wheel?

Granny squares are most often combined into afghans, sweaters or winter scarves.  To get the gratification of finishing a project much quicker, I also like to make them into potholders.  Here are 3, well used and many times washed, from my kitchen drawer.
Actually the one farthest to the right looks pretty new... it must have been hiding in the bottom of the drawer instead of getting used and thrown in the washer every week or two.

You can see, however, that while these are the same shades of blue and white that there is a variety of ways to put granny squares together.  I thought today, I'd talk just a little about two of those methods and then show you how I finish them off into a potholder.

First, is using multiple colors of yarn.  In this picture, you can see that I changed my yarn for each row.  It's relatively simple to do and provides pattern and contrast. which is very pretty.  The downside is that you have all those tails to tuck and hide in your work.  This is for a potholder, so there are 7 rounds for a total of 14 tails - one to begin and another to end each round.  Tail tucking is my most hated part of any crochet project!  I look for ways to avoid it.

You can also use contrasting colors divided on the diagonal by carrying the yarn you aren't crocheting on the back.  I didn't have enough left of either of these yarns to finish a potholder... but you get the idea.  Admittedly, it's a little awkward to carry that extra strand of yarn until you've done it for a few rounds but I really like this method because it is so very different and you don't have all those darned tails.

Obviously, by itself a granny square is too light and open to provide any protection to your hands from a hot dish so the potholder needs a backing layer.

 To do this, I chain 32, then use half double crochets (usually abbreviated hdc in commercial patterns) to make a solid square.  I like the hdc because it provides bulk and substantialness while working up faster and softer than single crochets (sc).  At the end, I don't cut my thread - saves me a tail to tuck!  I just begin sc around the edge to affix the solid backing and granny square together.  Then I finish the potholder off with a loop so it could be hung on the wall or a magnetic hook on the side of the stove.

To make the loop, I chain 10 in the corner where my last sc meets my first sc from putting the two pieces together and slip stitch to connect it.  Then ch 1 and sc around the loop to fill it in.  I just counted a couple of them and it's 18 sc in the loop.

Simple.  Pretty.  Useful.  And it makes me happy to feel this little connection to my family history.  You see my maternal ancestors didn't pass on a lot of great stories... or traditions.  Some of them didn't want to be found or known and went to some effort to hide their identities.  Most of my memories and sense of connectedness to them is in the things they left behind.  I love having Grandpa's gold rimmed shot glasses and Grandma's Blue Willow dishes and the pillowcases (great) Grandma Chris made out of old cloth flour sacks around me.


latter-daymom said...

Your Grandmother Burton, Aunts Ann and Wilma were also talented crochet-with-fine-thread women. Aunt Ruby, Grandma Burton's sister did beautiful tatting! Don't feel bad, I didn't get that gene either - or maybe it was too hard for my right-handed mother to teach her left-handed daughter!

Kathy Burton said...

Grandma Burton passed away about 6 months before I was born and with whatever all happened to estrange my dad from his siblings I knew very little of them and their families. Because I don't talk much about the family history you and I share, Jeanne, doesn't mean I don't love you... I just don't have the memories to draw from. Could you tell me those family stories?

Val said...

Lovely post, Kathy. I have some lace doilies that my Grandma Carrie Carson crocheted. Do you remember playing at her house with me?

Kathy Burton said...

I do remember your Grandma Carrie! She was such a lovely woman... We were pretty lucky to grow up with so many wonderful people looking after us!!

Bernadette said...

It is so wonderful to have something that your gran has made with her own hands, it is so sentimental and a treasure. I've just ignited a passion to want to crochet and these pot holders will make ones kitchen look so homely and quaint.
My first little thing I crocheted has been a little cell phone holder my gran can wear around her neck for her new Tracfone SVC for seniors.(a phone that's got the bigger buttons and letters on the screen). I just folded a square in half and sewed around the edges and sewed a red felt heart on the front. At least if my gran carries her phone around with her where ever she goes she can call us in case of an emergency.