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Googling The Granny Square

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

While I was carving my piece of stone one day last week, the thought of granny squares flitted through my brain.

You remember granny squares–if you were a child in the 1970s, your mother made you something, probably a vest, out of granny squares.  If you were a grown woman, you crocheted granny squares during consciousness-raising sessions, and while watching The Smothers Brothers on TV.

Thinking about crocheting granny squares while whaling away with a mallet and chisel felt a little crazy.  Could there be any two more contrasting activities than stone carving and crocheting–one hard, the other soft;  one where every stroke is irreparable, the other where every stitch can be undone;  one high art and the other about as low as you can get on the scale of humble crafts.

When my arms gave out and I couldn\’t carve anymore, I dusted myself off and went upstairs to Google \”granny squares.\”

I\’m never prepared for this kind of thing.  I Google something that I think is hopelessly recondite–like pictures of hortus conclusus or recipes for kale pesto–and come up with hundreds of listings.  Invariably I am amazed, and grateful to live in such an age, and worried about what this instant access to everything in the universe is doing to the human brain.

But I have never been as amazed as when I Googled \”granny squares.\”  To look at the results, you\’d think that three quarters of the human race was out there crocheting granny squares day and night.  There is even a site where you can see an infinite number of granny-square designs and granny-square afghans, baby blankets, purses, hats, shawls and shoes. 

If, like me, your memories are of stiff polyester granny-square afghans in shades of orange and avocado green, you are in for a surprise.  In the last four decades, the granny square has undergone a magical transformation.  

The granny square need no longer be a square–it can be a circle, or a hexagon, or a triangle.The old basic square can be filled in, or ornamented with flowers and stars and rising suns.  You can still find plenty of dreary polyester confections, but the new granny square is being made in delicious shades of wools and cottons.  And the squares–or circles, hexagons or triangles–are joined in unexpected combinations of patterns and sizes, some as beautiful and intricate as quilts.

Fortunately, this cornucopia of inspirations is complemented by a collection of YouTube videos, in which ladies with quick fingers and patient voices demonstrate how to make every possible variety of granny square to those who want to learn.

Now that I officially qualify for grannyhood (though my grandchildren, I\’m glad to say, call me \”Lili\”), I wonder, is it time for me to revisit the granny square?  After all, here I am, forty years later, gardening and raising chickens,  sort of living off the land again.  

I have a stash of lovely wool, from real Vermont sheep, that\’s been on my conscience lately.

8 Responses

  1. Forever women have done this:knitting, crocheting, macrame, quilting,sewing: it's just what people do to consume their nervous energy and puzzle-minds with their hands. What were guys doing? Creating or playing with technology and what does the world reward with money and time?

  2. I do notice that I refer to women as \”people\” and men as \”guys\”. Clearly, I think that women are the \”people\” and men are the subset, guys 🙂 So I've revealed my 60s feminist life:-0 I now love sewing, don't think I want to knit/crochet but never did, but am intrigued by quilting: maybe.

  3. You are the third blog I have read this week that is talking granny squares. I have no patience for them…quilting is just too fast. But I adore my (high quality) polyester red and white granny square afghan I rescued from a resale shop.More quilt photos to come, btw, after this little nap i'm going to take. :^)

  4. I remember granny squares, but didn't realize that is what they were called. I'm sure I had a vest made from them, and, although I'll have to check to be sure, think I have a small afghan my grandmother made that is made from those crocheted squares.

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