Carolina Springtime and the History of the Humble Granny Square

Colorful granny squares and beautiful yarn arranged in a rustic box.

Carolina Springtime and the History of the Humble Granny Square

Confession time! I have always wanted to be a quilter. There, I said it. Many years ago I even took classes, bought a bunch of expensive fabric, and attempted to make one. But here’s the thing, I despise measuring and sewing machines hate my guts. So for years I just believed that I had no ability to make beautiful blankets, that is until I discovered the humble granny square!

For me granny squares fall into the category of old fashioned goodness. They conjure up images of mountain cabins, churned butter, and home baked bread. While I neither churn butter nor bake bread, I love the thought of them. When I was a little girl I wanted to be Laura Ingalls and wear calico dresses and wear ribbons in my braided hair. I wanted to beat up Nelly Olson and listen to Pa play the fiddle. My love of all things homemade and old fashioned unite perfectly into the beautiful granny square.

Granny squares and Little House on the Prairie books.
Little House on the Prairie

History of the Humble Granny Square

Granny squares are timeless. They have the ability to be old fashioned and modern all at the same time. Some falsely believe the granny square was only popular in the 1970s but that is far from the truth. The first published record we have of the granny square is from the Butterick Publishing Co. from 1891. A description for how to make them was described in wonderful detail but with no written pattern, only a small engraving.

Although no one knows when the granny square was invented it definitely gained popularity in the Depression Era as a way for women to use up scraps of yarn. There are even descriptions of American frontier women who took sweaters and socks that were no longer useful and carefully unraveled them to crochet small squares. They were then given to the older women of the house, or grannies, as they were called, to sew them together.

If you are interested in reading more about granny squares here are two resources that I found while rummaging for information:

New Project

I have been toying with the idea of a new granny square blanket project for several months, but I could not settle on a color palette or a design. One day while scrolling though Instagram and Pinterest I came across a beautiful blanket made by The Patchwork Heart and knew those were the colors I wanted to use. The beautiful pinks, grays, and pop of mustard combined to create such a pleasing combination that I ordered yarn that day! I then stumbled upon the gorgeous Harmony Blanket design by Lucy from Attic 24. I knew in an instant that this was the project I wanted to make.

If you would like to learn more please visit my blog post: How to Read a Crochet Pattern

Materials

I’m using Stylecraft Special DK and I have been quite impressed by its quality and affordability. The colors are absolutely brilliant and it feels so good in my hands. They come in nice, big 3.5 oz skeins and there are 84 different shades to choose from!! It’s 100% acrylic so it will wash and wear well over time.

The Harmony Blanket combines five different colors to form each granny square, which means there are tons of ends! Lucy recommends not procrastinating and weaving them in after each round. I am taking her advice and tackling them with a religious passion. I would have no motivation to finish the blanket if I waited until the end to weave in over 1000 ends!

The squares are combined with the join-as-you-go method which is my very favorite! There are eight rounds of border that pull all the colors together for a very satisfying conclusion.

Little House on the Prairie books and stacked granny squares.
Granny Squares and Little House books

Delicious Details

I am using Lucy’s template for color combination and placement of each square, but I’m applying my own color choices. It is a really nice system to decide which colors to combine and how to join them together beforehand. Lucy’s pattern calls for fourteen different combinations and she includes a table for where to place each square.

Carolina Springtime

I am calling my new blanket, Carolina Springtime, which I decided on during a walk with our dog, Jersey-boy. Check out my YouTube video above to see our gorgeous springtime in technicolor!

You can read more about how he came to join our family here: Transformation of a Dog: Jersey-Boy

Walking through our neighborhood I couldn’t help but notice how all the blooming trees and flowers were the exact colors found in my new blanket! Springtime in North Carolina is incredibly beautiful and I love that I found a way to honor this season for our family to enjoy all year long!

I am still in the early stages of the project, but I have to say I am absolutely in love with it. The colors are so gorgeous and they currently mirror my view of the outdoors. I am totally gaga over the pattern and enjoy working on it every chance I get!


Advertisements

Comparing Cotton and Wool for Amigurumi

IMG_5302

I find the difference in these two puffins absolutely fascinating. Both amigurumi are made from yarn by the same manufacturer, Paintbox Yarns. The puffin on the left is made from their Cotton DK and the one on the right is from their Aran Wool Mix. The colors, textures, and sizes of each puffin depend on which yarn is used, which may seem obvious to some, but for me it is an interesting experiment.

For more information about the puffin patterns by Yan Schenkel,                    check out my blog post, Book Review: Animal Friends of Pica Pau

I began making amigurumi with cotton yarn. I love the smooth texture it produces, but found that, by its nature, was causing problems with pain in my elbow. You can read more about that here: Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn

This particular cotton DK produces a more muted tone puffin. His colors aren’t as bright but have a beautiful softness to them. The grey on the left puffin is a shade lighter than on the right, but the coral colors on the beaks and feet are almost identical. In contrast, this wool yarn achieves deep, rich hues.

The texture difference between cotton and wool is what stands out the most to me. The cotton has a knobby quality, but is very smooth at the same time. The wool puffin on the right has a slightly fuzzy consistency, which I think adds to his charm. I find that the wool mix yarn leaves very few holes if any in the stitches. But with the cotton it is easier to see each individual stitch.

The size is what surprised me the most. I thought that changing from a DK weight yarn to an Aran weight yarn would lead to a much bigger difference in dimensions. In reality the wool puffin is a heftier bird than his cotton cousin, but not by much. Even though I eliminated one small section of the color-work on the neck, the height difference is much less than I would have predicted.

I have used other cotton yarns like Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton, which is a mercerized fiber and is much richer in color. It has a slight sheen to it and I especially like using it for projects that could use a little luster. For the wool, I am currently using a wool blend labeled Berroco Vintage which comes in solids and heathers. It is really soft, affordable, and washable!

Cotton and wool mix yarns both make wonderful amigurumi. The choice between the two really comes down to preference and budget. I would recommend any of the yarns I already mentioned and think they will make magnificent animals.

Below are a list of my favorite cotton and wool yarns that I have personally used.

My recommendations for cotton:

Cascade Ultra Pima                                                                                                                Paintbox Yarns Cotton DK

My recommendations for wool:                                                                                            Paintbox Yarns Wool Mix Aran                                                                                             Berroco Vintage

IMG_5271

 

Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn

IMG_3699

I am head-over-heels in love with cotton yarn. I love how it feels. I love how it works up. I love the colors. I love how smooth the texture is.

But it seems that cotton yarn doesn’t love me back.

I began having pain in my elbow approximately six months ago. The pain continued to get worse and worse. I finally went to an orthopedic doctor and he diagnosed me with Lateral Epicondylitis, also known as Tennis Elbow, due to repetitive motion from crochet. He gave me a cortisone shot right in the joint to relieve the pain and inflammation. OUCH! It definitely helped but I have since read that repeated cortisone shots could damage the joint long term so I will not be getting another one. The shot definitely helped the pain. It almost went away completely but within four weeks or so the pain was back and much worse.

I have taken a lot of time to research repetitive motion pain in knitters and crocheters. I have found that it’s more common than I thought! I have discovered, for myself, that making amigurumi is the culprit and that cotton yarn is the accomplice. Making amigurumi requires making single crochet stitches over and over again. There is very little variation which I believe is the problem.

While listening to a Bhooked podcast about how wool yarn is made, I heard something that I hadn’t heard before. Cotton yarn doesn’t stretch, which can cause problems with hands, elbows, or wrists for knitters and crocheters! NOOOOO!!! I knew that cotton didn’t have any stretch, which is why it’s really good for amigurumi! But it’s not good for my joints.

So now I am trying different fibers to see how they behave with amigurumi but also how my elbow feels with more stretch in the yarn. I am currently trying Paintbox Yarns Wool Mix Aran, which is 50% wool and 50% acrylic.  It has a bit of a fuzzy texture when you look really really closely but other than that it looks fairly similar to the cotton yarn.

IMG_3705

I’m hoping that stretchier fibers will be the antidote to my tennis elbow but only time will tell.