The Sublime Perfection of the Granny Square

The first twenty-five rounds of a large, scrap yarn granny square
The first twenty-five rounds of a large, scrap yarn granny square

I should be packing. Or cleaning. Or doing something that is not what I am doing.

And what I am doing is contemplating the beauty of a granny square. The one pictured above is one I began working on over a decade ago when I was trying to use up some of the many yarn scraps I had acquired. I wanted to create something from the tangle of scraps I had and see if I could make the disparate colors behave nicely with each other.

Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed and had to unravel my work and try again, and sometimes I just plowed forward anyway.

The truth is, when it comes to yarn, I have a lot more than I need. I have what is known in fiber circles as SABLE: Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. What this means in practical terms is that if you ply your fiber craft every day and live to be 150, there will still be yarn leftover.

My yarn holdings accumulated as they did, in part, because during my early crochet years, I did not just “use what I had.” For me the perfect project required the perfect color of yarn, and I would go to store after store after store in search of a green that was just like the green painted walls at my favorite Mexican restaurant. The green was perfect, just like their chili poblanos.

I never found the perfect green. Unfortunately, I bought a lot of “almost perfect greens,” as I searched for the green that eluded me, but once I had purchased the yarns and viewed them in natural light, they failed to deliver on my color vision, and I consigned them to the bottom of a bin that I then put in the attic where is sat, sometimes for years.

It also happened because I enthusiasm for crochet became common knowledge, and people were willing to share what they had with me. Something about me screamed, “I’m a yarn repository — give me the vintage burgundy Wintuck your aunt left you — let me help you with that retro color that is so out-of-date it’s fashionable — You had me at “orlon!”

I don’t know exactly how I became a yarn magnet (although it probably has something to do with my very ecumenical taste in yarn — I like cheap, garish, and washable) but whatever it is, I ended up with a very eclectic assortment of yarn and yarn scraps, and one afternoon when I was sorting through my own yarn scraps along with some that had been given to me, I decided I needed to take those yarn scrap “bits” I had no idea what to do with and make them into a “whole” that would be greater than the sum of its parts.

Granny squares, however iconic, are not without controversy. They are one of those things about which there is no middle ground. People love them or hate them.

I happen to love them and have no understanding of how they have come to be so maligned. For me, the sublime nature of the granny square is it’s combination of ease and versatility.

You can make them large or small. You can make them from scraps or full skeins of yarn. You can make multi-colored or solid . The pattern of stitches are easy to commit to memory, and so you are freed from consulting a pattern, and best of all, they can be purses or blankets or hats or whatever your imagination can conceive.

I had yarn, a hook, and a plan, so I got to work, crocheting one color until it ran out, at which point, I would switch to a new color until that ran out, and so on and so on and so on until I got this far:

A scrap yarn granny square as it nears six feet across
A scrap yarn granny square as it nears six feet across
The great granny square after a decade of on again off again work

I don’t know when I will be done with the great granny square. It started as an exercise in using what I had because I had too much, but now it has taken on a life of its own, and I am simply a vessel of creative conveyance..

The beauty of the granny square is that it is only limited by your imagination and the time you are willing to put into it.

As for me, I am limited by the time I am willing to put into packing and sorting and cleaning. All of it necessary, and all of it infinitely less interesting to me than a granny square.

Crocheter on a mission to make the world a better place — one stitch at a time. Twitter: @crochetbug. Crochet blog:

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