My mother taught me how to crochet when I was 28. It took me this long to get into anything remotely crafty – I have never used a sewing machine and would never entertain the idea of darning socks. But that time, I was keen, and I realised crochet is really quite easy (knitting still scares me!) I made the obligatory pot holder, and then taught myself how to make granny squares. The internet is full of all kinds of instructions and patterns, it’s really quite brilliant, even when you are a complete beginner. I started off with the yarn my mum had given me – a lovely mix of cotton and bamboo fibers, and when I later realised it had been discontinued, I managed to find a different brand of the same natural fiber mix. I did not realise that this was quite a heavy yarn, but we’ll get to that later.
Crochet was a revelation for me: I was eager to keep my hands busy, and loved producing actual, physical results. I’m never stuck for presents, I just need time to make them. I’m not a fan of Amigurumi, the little crochet figures, but they do make great presents, and are sturdier than their knitted equivalents. I also bonded with my mother-in-law over granny squares – she doesn’t speak English or German, but gladly showed me a very small granny square blanket and told me (via my husband, a.k.a. my personal interpreter) that this was all she had managed to do during her second pregnancy. At that point, I had only made about 12 small squares, but I wasn’t ready to give up just then. My daughter, I decided, needed an heirloom. It would be done at some point before she left home.
So, on and off over the last three years, I just kept going. I added an extra color to the three original ones, which were pretty plain, and decided to add more rounds to the squares to make the final sewing together more manageable. I even made a color chart: Each square now had the same two rounds of the main color, plus one row of a contrast color, forming a nice pattern in the blanket. No random throwing together of squares for my German sensibilities! I eventually decided on a single-bed-sized blanket made of 7 rows by 11. Now it was just a matter of sticking with it. There were already too many squares to give up.
The worst part, of course, comes after you finish crocheting: Sewing in the many yarn ends you are left with if you change color every round. This is not only time-consuming, it’s also really annoying work.
By the time I got there, I had about 4 weeks left until my daughter’s birthday.
So I sewed and sewed. A week before the big day, I had my 77 squares.
I could finally arrange them all and see if my color chart made sense. I was quite pleased.
More sewing ensued. I spent a whole evening connecting 14 squares to form long rows. Two more nights were spent on sewing those strips together, and the night before the birthday, I added a shell border to hide the dodgy sewing. At 9 o’clock it was done. Now my five-year-old has an heirloom, and she better look after it well!
If you feel inspired to embark on a similar adventure, I can give you the following advice:
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- It is worth it. Do it. The sense of achievement will be enormous.
- It takes time. Maybe not three years if you work on it regularly, but a lot of time nevertheless.
- It’s not cheap. Don’t even try to calculate how much you spend on yarn. It will make you cry.
- Then again, the more expensive yarn made out of natural fibers is quite heavy, and would probably be a bit much for a smaller child. Acrylic yarns are cheaper and washable, and might be the way to go.
- Allow enough time for sewing in ends and finishing the thing. The run-up to a child’s birthday is stressful enough, and marathon sessions will make you hate crochet. Or blankets. Or children.
- There is something to be said for deadlines though. You might never get finished otherwise.
- Turn your granny squares into blankets! Nothing else is acceptable. Do not stop halfway through the process and make a cushion cover or a lampshade instead. Those are not cool. Not. Cool.
- Once you’ve finished, your house is safe, because you will never want to see a granny square ever again. In fact, there are much prettier designs out there, like ripples, which don’t require so much sewing. I might just make one of those next…
Now let’s talk about your heirloom projects! Have you made any? Do you have plans to make one?