A Granny Square Crochet-Off
And what I learned from trying something I didn’t think I would like
My quest for the perfect granny square
People generally love granny squares or loathe them. It doesn’t seem there is a whole lot of middle ground on the topic, and if you look at the totality of my work, I love them, but up until four years ago, I loved one particular kind of granny square.
What makes a granny square a granny square?
Granny squares, to my mind, have two defining characteristics.
- They are worked in the round
- They have the visually iconic element of three double crochet stitches (or granny shell as I call it) worked into one space
and, which, close up, look like this:
Within the world of crochet there is a lot of variation with what can be done with those granny shells.
There can be one, two, or three chains in a corner. There can be a chain between each granny shell, or there doesn’t have to be. It’s all up to the crocheteuse to decide what she wants to do, and it was on one March afternoon that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I sorted through my library of crochet books and selected four that each contained what their author believed was the best way to do a granny square.
Four crochet books; four different granny square patterns
The four books I picked from my collection are all iconic in some way.
America’s Crochet Book by Gertrude Taylor
Since the granny square is often considered a quirk of American crochet, I decided that I had to include Gertrude Taylor’s rendition in my crochet off.
A rather precise woman who seems only to be able to see the world through her own eyes, she disagrees with left-handed people crocheting with their left hand and believes they should learn to crochet with their right. However, despite her sometimes difficult and intransigent ways, she also has a lot of insights, so I decided her pattern was one that I would have to try.
The Adventurous Crocheter by Delia Brock and Lorraine Bodger
This is not one of my favorite crochet books, this is one of my favorite books. Ever. Published in 1972, everything in the books reminds me of what I consider the best parts of being 12, which is how old I was went it came out. The writers have a very can-do spirit that spills right off the page, and in contrast to the rigor of Gertrude, the embrace the fun of empowering oneself to make ones own things be it a belt, a wallet, a sweater, or in the case of this effort, a granny square. There was no way I was going to not include their granny square in my survey.
Woman’s Day Book of Granny Squares and Other Carry-Along Crochet
Published in 1975, at the height of the last resurgence of crochet, I selected the Woman’s Day granny square because I expected that it reached into a lot of homes as many of the patterns were first printed in the magazine. I thought having an option that would have been readily available widely distributed would give me insight into the granny square zeitgeist of the 1970s.
Crochet Workshop by James Walters
I love this book, and I love the way James Walters approaches various crochet problems. Like Delia Brock and Lorraine Bodger, he is a very free spirit but that is combined with a very traditional bent and a level of attention to detail , and that is reflected in his crochet. I credit the color photos in this book with having inspired me to see crochet as a vehicle for creative expression, so I thought I should at least give his version of the granny square a go.
How I did my crochet off
I used worsted weight yarn, a 5.0 mm hook, and I followed the directions to the letter.
When all was said and done, these were the four squares I was left with:
The top left square was made using directions from America’s Crochet Book, the top right square was made using directions from The Adventurous Crocheter, the bottom left square was made using directions from Woman’s Day Book of Granny Squares and Other Carry-Along Crochet, and the bottom left square was made using directions from Crochet Workshop.
Gertrude Taylor’s square was, like her book, firm and unforgiving. Perfect for any project you need to hold it’s shape.
Delia Brock and Lorraine Bodger came up with an iconoclastic version of this iconic crochet staple that has just 2 double crochet stitches per shell. That coupled with the generous use of chains between shells an in corners makes for a more fluid square that could be better used for sweaters than Gertrude’s work horse version.
The Woman’s Day Granny Square had a bit more open space, but through the uses of chains in relation to the granny shells it was, to paraphrase the evil stepmother in Snow White
The squarest of them all!
Which brings me to James Walter’s square. There is little space between the stitches, so it would be excellent for blankets meant to keep those underneath them warm and it embodies a firm embrace of tradition with a hint of modern flair.
Years t least a couple of these squares ended up rehabbed and included in my Journey of A Thousand Crochet Squares, so while they did not find an immediate use, they were used. Eventually.
Which square was the best?
All of them and none of them. I am still going through “a phase” that is now four years in the making where I have fully embraced Gertrude Taylor’s inflexible granny square, but I know that one day, some new crochet challenge will come along, and I will look over my options, and find that there is another, equally better one that I should use.