The Secret to Great Granny Squares

The Secret to Great Granny Squares

secret-to-great-granny-squares-crochet-by-darleen-hopkins-1
Grannies, aka granny squares, are the epitome of the awesomeness that is crochet.  They can be big and bulky, fun and quirky and even sleek and elegant.  I remember the first time I saw a granny square.  It was one my sister made.  She signed up for a beginning crochet class at the local library the summer she was 10 years old.  Once a week that summer she rode her bike back and forth to the library to learn the craft.  One of the items she made was an afghan for her bed.  The afghan was a giant, purple and white granny square.  I loved it.  And in true big sister fashion, she shared with me the skills she had learned.  We had some challenges, one was our age and two, she’s a lefty and I am a righty.  While I managed to learn the basics I never really did much with crochet back then.  Over the next couple of years my sister’s interest in crochet faded.  Fast forward 40+ years and I’m crocheting constantly now.  And I have never forgotten that amazing gigantic purple granny square.

So what is the secret to great grannies?

1.       The beginning.  My preferred method is to use a magic circle/adjustable loop to start a granny.  This method allows you to pull the center tight.  Unless, of course, you want a space in the middle then, by all means, start your granny with a joined loop of starting chains.  It is your granny so start it the way you like for the look you want!

The granny on the right was started with the magic circle/adjustable loop method.  The granny on the left was started with chaining four and then joined to form a ring.  Neither have been blocked.secret-to-great-granny-squares-crochet-by-darleen-hopkins-2

2.       Yarn and hook selection.  While granny squares are versatile and look great in any yarn or thread, it is important to always work with a hook that is appropriate for your yarn.  If your hook is too small for the yarn, your granny might cup, curl or lose the defining spaces.  If it is too big, your granny may be floppy, sloppy, or be too holey.  You also want to use a yarn that is appropriate for the project.  If you are making a scarf or a baby blanket, use yarn dk to aran weight.  If you are using your grannies in a dressy headband, you may want to use thinner, delicate yarns like fingering or lace weight.

The granny in the middle was crocheted with the yarn label’s recommended hook size.  The granny on the left was crocheted with a smaller hook while the on the granny on the right was crocheted with a larger hook.  Neither have been blocked.

secret-to-great-granny-squares-crochet-by-darleen-hopkins-4

3.       Color selection.  Ahhh, this is where the granny square shines.  There are infinite possibilities for the colors of your granny.  Use up scraps and make each round a different color.

*TIP! Vary the corner where you add and end your new yarn.  This will prevent all the ends from being woven in at the same location.

So how do you know which colors work well together?  Some people are gifted with an innate ability to blend colors.  Other people need assistance.  If you feel you are one of those who needs help grouping colors together, try what I do…learn by what others have done! No need to reinvent the (color) wheel.  Take a look at other crocheted projects and see what color combinations appeal to you.  Find something you like and make note of it. Find something you don’t like and make note of that too so you don’t make the same mistake.

Dora's UnSquared Granny Scarf, crochet

Dora’s UnSquared Granny Scarf.  She used up three different color changing balls of yarn (Boreal in Fireweed, Beaver and Taiga).  Every other round is solid off-white to tie it all together.  Perfect!  Ravelry members can view her project here.

Another option to use are free online sources.  Do an internet search for “color wheel” and you will find a number of sites dedicated to helping you select colors that look great together.  A couple combinations are contrasting colors; opposites sides of the color wheel, monochromatic colors; different values of the same color, and analogous; colors that are adjacent on the color wheel.  The better you understand the color wheel, the easier it will be for you to visualize colors for your projects.  Once you select the colors you like, do an internet search for “random stripe generator”.  There are a number of these available online for free.  Some are simple and some are complex.  Play with them and get some ideas of how you want to space out your selected colors.

Last, in regards to color, remember to have fun with it.  If you are making a project with a number of grannies, make each granny slightly different.  For example, maybe you picked out four analogous colors for a granny square blanket.  One option is to make a number of small grannies, randomly using only three of the selected four colors for each square and then stitch them all together.  If you are staying within the same color scheme, the squares do not have to be identical to work well together.

4.       Blocking.  Yes, this is an important step and should not be overlooked.  You should block your grannies.  This will give them shape.  And if you are joining grannies together, you want them to be consistent in size.  This will make it a lot easier to join.  A simple way to block your grannies is to block them all together, one on top of the other.  And remember, always block your squares with a method that is appropriate for your yarn.

*TIP! Measure the distance between your blocking pins for a perfect square.

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Get creative.  You can make so many different things with the simple granny square.  Whether you choose to make one gigantic granny square or join many grannies together, the possibilities are endless. Make a pillow, an afghan, a scarf, a blanket edging, a headband, a bag, a belt or a baby blanket. Who knew you could make so many beautiful items out of something so simple?

Happy Crocheting!
Darleen

PS: Once you’ve mastered the Granny Square, have some fun and try patterns that use the iconic granny formula but mix it up a little.

Tea-for-Me-Mug-Cozy-crochet-pattern-by-Darleen-Hopkins-squareCrochet-pattern-UNsquared-Granny-Super-ScarfAlien baby lovey crochet pattern

 

A Secret Society of Knitters and Crocheters

Who knew a secret society of knitters and crocheters actually existed!

yarn-bombing-in-Rome-GA

Well, maybe not too secret.  A few days ago, my husband and I spent the day in Rome, Georgia.  I’d never been there before and was looking forward to checking it out. There’s a bridge with 1000’s of love locks, a fantastic historical grave yard where a former first lady is buried, and a cute historic downtown.  When we first arrived to the downtown area I got so excited because I had finally found my first, real live yarn bombing!  The town has two bicycle sculptures, one at each end of the historic district.  Both had beautiful crocheted “spokes”.  And some of the lamp posts were covered with bright stitches.  I loved seeing it.  I used to think yarn bombing was a waste of good yarn and stitches, but seeing it has changed my mind.  It was beautiful.

more-yarn-bombing-in-Rome-GA

I asked a woman in town who was responsible for the artwork but she didn’t know. She said it gets changed out a few times a year and commented how nice it was to see the different colors.  I then reached out to another person.  I won’t say who or how because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble for revealing secrets. What this person told me really caught me off guard.  She said the yarn art was created by a secret knit and crochet society called the Knitterati.  I honestly didn’t know if this individual was serious or messing with me.  Was this group the fiber version of the Illuminati made popular by Dan Brown’s novel, Angels & Demons? Was this woman nuts? So I asked if she was able to give me a little more information about this secret society.  Turns out the woman wasn’t nuts.  She was super nice and explained the group does a lot of charity work throughout the year in addition to their colorful installations to the downtown area, that they always get permission to do the installations and that there is a group in Atlanta also known as the Knitterati.   And, well, it turns out they aren’t too secret after all considering they have Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RomeKnitterati/ 🙂

I really loved seeing how the knit and crochet artwork made such a difference to the look of this small town.  And I wish it wasn’t a two hour drive each way.  I would love to participate, that is, IF I could learn their secret handshake. Just kidding.  I don’t know if they have a secret handshake.  But maybe they have secret stitches. 🙂

Anyone in the north Georgia/Dahlonega area want to start a secret knit and crochet society?  My youngest already came up with our name, IllumiKNITti.

Happy (secret) Crocheting!
Darleen

 

#familyfun tic-tac-toe game board crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

 

Mother Bear Project-a volunteer that combines service with eco-thrifty

A few months ago I found out about the Mother Bear Project.  If you haven’t yet, check it out.  I have made four bears so far and plan to make more.  They are adorable, fun and quick to make, and serve a great purpose.  There is a group on Ravelry that focuses on making bears for the Mother Bear Project, Mother Bear Project.  It is in this group that I met Bitsy and Bobbie, two bears knit by Grace (uknowmeas on Ravlery).  I was completely smitten when I saw these two bears as they are not only adorable and made for a wonderful cause, but because Grace made the bears with scrap yarn.  And with a sense of humor, aptly named them Bitsy and Bobbie for “Bits and Bobs”.  I love it!  I asked Grace if should would agree to an interview for my blog and she graciously said yes.

bitsy

Bitsy

How did you find out about the Mother Bear Project and how long have you been making bears? How many bears to date?

I learned about Mother Bears from a blogger Compassionknit and decided to look into it, in May of 2017. I have made 186 bears for MB and about 11 for others.

WOW! 186 bears for Mother Bear Project and 11 others.  That’s a lot of bears since May 2017!
Bitsy and Bobbie are Scraptastic! Is this the first time you have used scrap yarn on a project? If no, what else?

No there are a couple of other bears out there made of scrap and I make scrap shawls and or blankets all the time. I usually crochet the shawls and blankets. In my projects bears 151 thru 154 are all scrap sweaters, and bear 127 is all scraps.

127-jo

Bear #127 made of scraps as well.  “Jo”

Please describe your process to save the scraps and then knit with them.

I almost like knitting with scraps more then knitting with a fresh new skein. I knit what I want out of the skein, hank, ball whatever the put up is and then I have a bin I put the leftovers in. These go to bears, sometimes there is enough left over for an entire bear, sometimes I need to stripe or helical knit the bodies to use more then one color.  When I have little bits left over 6” to about 3 feet, I roll them up in a ball and just keep adding to it. I just slip knot them, the knots wind up inside the bear. I keep the ball next to my chair and it grows, then when I decide it is large enough, I combine it with a fingerweight yarn and start a bear. This gives it continuity and strength and I do this with the blankets and shawls too but then I will use worsted weight.

What is your motivation for using your scraps? general thriftiness? Eco-conscience? other?

I just hate to see anything go to waste, although thriftiness plays in too.  I also love to play with color and I think the randomness adds to the bears personality.

Do you have a preference of crochet or knit?

I do both although I prefer knitting, it fits better with my sense of orderliness and neatness. I like the density of the fabric or the flow of lace that knitting creates

When you aren’t stitching Mother Bears, what do you like to knit or crochet?

Everything–I am very charity minded, partly because of the undeniable need but also because my family just doesn’t want anymore hand knits LOL so I knit hats for Linda’s Hats for Hope, shawls for any place that can use them, toys for a children’s support house in the neighborhood, and still the occasional scarf, mitten, fingerless glove or baby gift for the aforementioned ungrateful family (again LOL).

bobbie

Bobbie

Thank you so much, Grace! Your bears are adorable.  And I’m sure your family loves all your handcrafted gifts :).

If you haven’t checked out Mother Bear Project, please do.  It is a wonderful charity that is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear.  You can find the four versions of the bear pattern ( 2 knit, 2 crochet) here: Mother Bear Project pattern

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States.  This is a day that is known as a Day of Service.  You can honor Martin Luther King by serving your community.  Whether your community is local or global, you can make a difference in someone’s life by volunteering your time.  So if you are not able to go out and support a local cause, consider putting your knitting or crochet skills to service and make a bear or two for a child who could use a little comfort in his or her life.

Happy Crocheting!
Darleen

#familyfun tic-tac-toe game board crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Stash Bust Update, Second Half of 2018

I’m still, slowly, working on my stash.  I had a lofty goal of reducing my boxes of crochet from 12 to 6 by the end of 2018.  It is the end of 2018 and I now have…drum roll please…9 boxes.  While I didn’t make it to 6 boxes, the 9 boxes aren’t quite as stuffed as they once were. Not what I had hoped but a little progress.  In 2018 I only purchased two skeins of yarn.  This was to make a hat for my brother.  And I received some yarn support for two designs that will published in 2019 by third parties.  So overall, my yarn stash did decrease, just not as much as I had intended.  Once again, the second half of 2018 was busy and I just did not get to crochet near as much as I had planned.  Here is what I did complete in the last 6 months of 2018-

Pumpkin Eyeballs

 

Harvest Corn Pillows

candy corn crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins

Christmas Tree Pillows

Crochet pattern for Christmas Tree Pillows, set by Darleen Hopkins

Mother Bears for donation

MotherBears234

A potholder gift

FranklyFractalMandala

An ear warmer headband for me.

Calgary Ear Warmer Headband

And last, but not least, 3 more octos for donation to local NICU.

octos 6, 7, 8 for NICU

I’ll be back at stash busting in 2019.  However, I think I’ll make my 2019 goal a little easier to measure.  I plan to set a goal by weight rather than volume.

Happy New Year to you all.  May 2019 be filled with lots of happiness and lots of crochet.

Darleen

Owl crochet pattern

New Pattern Alert! Textured Christmas Tree Pillow

Textured Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern now available!

Textured-Christmas-Tree-pillow-crochet-pattern-by-Darleen-Hopkins-webThe Textured Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern is now available.   This is the second tree shaped pillow pattern in the Christmas Tree Pillows set. The pattern is written for heavy worsted, aran weight yarn.  I used Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Choice for the sample.  Adjusting the yarn will result in a different sized pillow.  Just be sure to use a hook that yields a tight stitch.  You don’t want stuffing creeping out of your pillows.

You can find out more about the pattern here: Textured Christmas Tree Pillow Pattern

Check out the set here: Christmas Tree Pillows

Crochet pattern for Christmas Tree Pillows, set by Darleen Hopkins

This pattern is included in my Buy 2, Get a 3rd for FREE sale! No coupon needed, Ravelry will automatically deduct the lowest priced pattern from your purchase.

Happy Crocheting and Happy Holidays!

Christmas stocking crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins

New Pattern Alert! Striped Christmas Tree Pillow

Striped Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern now available!

Striped Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern by Darleen HopkinsThe Striped Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern is now available.   This is the first of at least two Christmas Tree pillow patterns.  I hope to share the second one with you soon. The pattern is written for heavy worsted, aran weight yarn.  I used Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Choice for the sample.  Adjusting the yarn will yield different sized pillows.  Just be sure to use a hook that yields a tight stitch.  You don’t want stuffing creeping out of your pillows.  This pillow also looks great crocheted in one color and decorated with buttons.  OR for a large pillow, crochet with two strands held together.

You can find out more about the pattern here: Striped Christmas Tree Pillow Pattern

This pattern is included in my Buy 2, Get a 3rd for FREE sale! No coupon needed, Ravelry will automatically deduct the lowest priced pattern from your purchase.

Happy Crocheting and Happy Holidays!

Christmas stocking crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins

Eco-Craft update, dryer balls

Homemade Dryer Ball Update

I originally posted about my homemade dryer balls in March and I’ve been using them ever since.  At first I wasn’t sure if they worked but now I am sold on them.  Almost always my items are dry when the dryer beeps.  I rarely need to add time and run a standard load in the dryer longer.  This wasn’t the case before I started using them.  I’ve also used less dryer sheets.  I still use them, but I’m definitely using less.  Static is not bad either but that is hard to gauge because I’ve been using them during the warmer months where the heat hasn’t been on much.  The true static test will be in December and January.  But, less time in the dryer results in less static so I’m anticipating less static this winter.

A couple months ago I made two more dryer balls out of t-shirt scraps wrapped in wool.  And I lost one of the original balls somewhere in the house.  I’m sure it will turn up eventually.

Because we do a ton of laundry, my dryer balls have taken a beating.  One in particular unraveled a good bit today so it is time to fix them.  As you can see, they have been well used.dryer balls

Four of the six balls needed fixing.  I wrapped the unraveling one up with some wool scraps and finished it and the others with 100% wool yarn wrapped really tight.  I tried to work the ends in a little better as a few came loose with the initial batch.  Then I washed them with a couple of loads of towels set to hot.  This time I did not place them in a lingerie bag.  They seemed to felt better and we are ready to do some more laundry!

homemade dryer balls with wool and yarn scraps

 

Hello-Fall-crochet-by-Darleen-Hopkins