A snowy day in Estes Park has me tucking in to knit and pulling an afghan across my knees. This afghan is as special as it gets because it was made for me by my grandmother in 1969. It is sturdy, warm, and full of love. What could be better.
As you can see from the picture to the left, it is a hexagon granny square pattern. I remember her crocheting it. She began with leftover wool pieces and augmented with new skeins of black and yellow. You may notice that the center of each hexagon is bright yellow. The black outer edges and the yellow centers make all the other colors work. The hexagon pattern is dense and lacy looking all at the same time. I treasure it and want to know a little more about the origin of granny squares.
According to a 1946 article attributed to the Oregon Worsted Company, the thrifty women of early America would carefully save scraps of yarn and fiber unraveled from old sweaters and socks. As these scraps accumulated, they were crocheted into small squares; the colors combined on the whim of the craftsman. The squares were then sewn together to make a blanket which was both functional and colorful. Because grandma was no longer up for manual labor, she was often the one to sew the squares together, thus they became GRANNY SQUARES. (Source: Confessions of a Yarn-A-Holic)
My research revealed a source from the 1800’s. The Art of Crocheting, published in 1891, contains one of the first published patterns for a granny square. In this publication, the pattern was called “a block for slumber robe” and was described as a good square for baby robes and blankets for adults. The book noted that no two blocks need to be alike, and the colors could be combined to suit the maker’s fancy. As crocheters know today, one side benefit of this design was to use leftover yarn from other projects. The book suggests that colors be combined to make the blocks as brilliant as possible. The surrounding color should be black. (PDF of original document here.)
Like many classic patterns, the granny square is still used today to construct throws and garments. The design is practical and timeless. New garment patterns like The Granny Square Cardigan designed by Kaitlin Barthold (published in 2021) looks modern and timeless all at the same time.
I guess the granny square will and should always be part of our stitching heritage. I hope that you will think about creating a throw for someone you love. The throw Gram made for me still delivers a hug and sweet memories of her each time I use it. I have included a tutorial, Crochet: Hexagon Granny Tutorial, by Bella Coco, in case you want to learn how to make a hexagonal pattern. Enjoy!