Saturday 13 April 2013

Sparky Grannies

A new hooky book came through my letterbox last weekend and has had me absorbed in every spare moment I've had since.

It's Sue Pinner's new book, "Granny Squares" and it's a cracker.

There are lots of appealing, hooky project-books out there and I find they fall into one of two categories. The first category is books that are visually appealing and make for happy browsing over a cup of tea (or three) and probably contain at least one project that will make it from the page to my hook in due course. The second category is books that are equally visually appealing and also make for happy browsing over a cup of tea (or three) but have more to them. A book in the second category will undoubtedly contain quite a number of projects that will make it from the page to my hook and in addition has the capacity to spark all sorts of avenues of creative thinking, emerging from, but not necessarily contained in the originating pages. "Granny Squares" falls fairly and squarely (sorry!) in this second category. Of the twenty projects it contains, I've counted up well over half that I can see realistically translating into my own hook and yarn activities and in addition it's set my mind in new directions and sparked a number of related but slightly different ideas.

If you follow any of Sue's blogs - she has three! - Suz Place, The 8th Gem and The Flowerbed - you won't be surprised at any of this. Ideas and happy patterns seem to fall off her hook like leaves from the trees in autumn. Granny squares but not necessarily grannies as you know them; Sparky Grannies - grannies that might or might not be squares; grannies with four sides, six sides or eight; grannies with attitude; grannies with style; grannies that become flowers and stars and anything else in between as well as patterns that aren't grannies at all!

A couple of Sue's octagon "grannies" just made to see how they turned out!
I've been wondering what it is that makes a book fall into the second rather than the first of my two categories and I think part of it is the usefulness or lack of usefulness of the projects. Generally, I like to make things that, however decorative, do have at least a partially useful function as well. Not always, but often. Sue's projects are all useful as well as decorative and actually it's her ideas about innovative uses to which crochet can be put that give the book the sparkiness that sets alight the tinder of other ideas and possibilities beyond the book itself.

I've seen crocheted lampshades in blogland and elsewhere but never a bath mat, nor a deck chair cover, I've seen pillow-slips with crocheted edging but not a completely crocheted pillow-slip for a pillow to sit up in bed against, when reading or hooking - a clever twist on the simple idea of a cushion-cover but not one I'd thought of.

Whether a book falls into the second category or not is also something, I think, to do with the clarity and flexibility of the pattern instructions. Directions for a motif, used in one way, suggesting somehow all manner of other ways in which it could be used. The same thing is true of colours and yarns - the way they are written about or photographed, sometimes seems as full of creative potential as of actual creative history, while sometimes it doesn't.

Of the projects in "Granny Squares" it was the bath mat that grabbed me first. Why didn't I think of this before? It's a perfect crochet project - essentially straightforward, not too big, ambitious, or expensive, an open canvas for playing with colour and pattern, either in blocks or in a continuous piece, a fantastic way to use up oddments of cotton yarn and useful to boot. What household does not need another bath mat? The book's tantalising hexagon design sent me straight to my multi-coloured stash of Rico Creative Cotton, left over from blankets past.

And armed with a 4.5 mm hook, a little carpet of hexagons has crept forth this week in jolly Spring-like colours.

The hexagons have a lovely daisy-shaped flower in the centre, the perfected shape of which only emerges as you hook up the final edging round. I can't tell you how addictive I find it to watch the petals emerge, defined and flowery under my hook, in that final round!

The end of round two. The petals are made but you can't see them properly yet.

Here they are emerging, as the final edging round is made, separating and defining each one.

One finished Hexagon daisy with all her petals showing!
Seeing these appear, my best friend commented that some in softer, more muted shades would be lovely too. Nothing loth, and because I have been flirting recently with the idea of grey as a neutral to set off other colours, I tried some with soft-coloured flower centres and grey edging.

Not sure I liked them to begin with but as one grey-edged hexagon became two and then three and then four etc, love blossomed! Not sure now which I prefer, the vivid brights or the muted pastels-and-grey!

A third bath mat, would you believe, is also in production because Sue's suggestion made me recall the sampler squares I started making last year from the Better Homes And Gardens Knitting and Crochet book's pattern for a "Granny Square Sampler Afghan". These too were made from my stash of Rico Creative Cotton and were intended to make a picnic blanket. The idea stalled, principally because the squares were so darned complicated to hook and the instructions so tricksy to follow that I couldn't face making enough squares for a whole blanket and partly, of course, the weather last summer was so unconducive to picnics as to water down the incentive anyway. But brought out from the basket where they had slept undisturbed for almost a year, and set out on an existing bath mat, I realised that they were only a square or two away from a new destiny.

Some of the smaller squares need another round or two of edging to make all the squares the same size  and we will be in business! And it doesn't matter what the British summer does - my bath mat will be used whether it rains all summer again or not!

After the bath mats, I have my eye on the hooky pillowcase and then perhaps the kitchen stool cover but who knows what else will get sparked off in the meantime?

Happy Hooking of Sparky Grannies!

E x


  1. Oooh, a new book, and a good'un at that! A bath mat is a brilliant idea, and one of those projects that doesn't have to run on for months on end. I could quite fancy one myself for our new shower room....hhhmmmm

    Love the unusual squares that you did last year, I do love cotton, the vibrancy and the twitch definition, the only thing that stresses ma bit is, is tying in ends as they are a bit more unravelly don't you think?

  2. I love it when a book sparks so many more inspirational ideas than the ones contained in its pages.........I would buy that book for my bookshelf for the bathmat alone, I think a trip into Waterstones is called for tomorrow where I can have a good look through it's lovely pages..........I've a feeling this book will be coming home with me.

    Your crochet is beautiful.
    Kim x

  3. Cute! The first time I bought a granny book, I was VERY confused, but I should try again now that I am (a very small amount) better at crochet.
    I can see why you wanted to hook every minute.

  4. Hi Elizabeth! Not much time to write but love your colourful crochet!! I am working on that hexagon pattern too! I saw a photo on someone's blog and decided I really wanted to make a blanket using hexagons and it took me a while and a lot if Internet searching to figure out the pattern. I love how it looks flower like as well.

    Glad you are feeling better. Sorry to hear you had the lurgy over Easter. Hope you've enjoyed many mini eggs by now!

    Helen xx

  5. Hi Elizabeth. How exciting to get a new book that is so inspiring... Bath Mat a very unique idea. Love all your very colorful Springy crochet blocks. Happy Spring. Hugs Judy

  6. Hi Elizabeth, I think a trip to Amazon may be on the cards, I do have a couple of books that use blocks,(links to them on my blog) but there may be room for another! I saw a floor mat on another blog and thought I couldn't bear to walk on something I'd crocheted but after seeing the bathmat idea I may have to give it some thought. Rowen@Coastal Colours x

  7. Granny squares are certainly addictive...and so much fun to make. Enjoy!

  8. Thank you sooooooooooooo much for the fabulous right up about my book.
    It really seems to be doing ok so far....made my day to read what yoiu have written about my first effort...big cheesy grin lol
    Big hugs xx

  9. should learn to read what i write befor posting hehe..I do know the difference between right and write some author hey? lol
    Thanks again I have linked up to your blog post on my so over due post today..Sue x

  10. Right, I need to buy this book RIGHT NOW!! Thank you Elizabeth!

    I started a crochet bathmat from a pattern I saw in Mollie Makes a while ago. It was all one colour, about 17 hexagons grannies sewn together in a very irregular fashion. I just couldn't get on with the pattern though and abandoned it after a couple of squares, and was bored with the single colour too. These look much more fun!

    My rule with decorative crochet is - Will it gather dust? Can it be washed? I have small children...

    Gillian x

  11. I wish you'd written this post last week when I was looking for a book for my sister. Sadly the one I bought doesn't look half so inspiring - it had very good instructions for a beginner but of the twenty or so projects, only a few looked worth making. My rules are similar to Gillian's - dust collectors and unwashables get a thumbs down - but bath mats look an excellent idea.

  12. Hi Elizabeth- Your crochet squares inspired me to get my vintage blanket out again and carry on crocheting the squares. The pattern I was using is very similar - the sunny flowers make me smile. I love the idea of a bathmat- i had been looking at making a rag rug or even plating strips of fabric together and crocheting with them. I think I prefer this idea! Happy crocheting!!

  13. I'm looking forward to seeing your bath mats in all their glory:)

  14. when you go - you sure go!!! Is there time for eating and sleeping in your house?? Lovely E, particularly fond of the grey-edged hexagons, that's a classy looking combo. The brights are equally lovely though. The blanket on the front of your book is the one I am working on right now! What yarn do you use - it looks tres posh in your close ups!

  15. hi Elizabeth as usual a lovely uplifting post. I love the idea of making a bathmat and also a pillowcase, I hadn,t thought of that either.It's amazing where all this hooking will take you. Sorry about your Easter ours didn't turn out as expected either, watch out for the post something is winging its way to you!

  16. Hi, Elizabeth. I love your use of cotton yarns. They are perfect for bathmats, washcloths, etc. The colors you chose and the variety of granny square patterns make for some of the most interesting crochet pieces I've seen.

    I have a friend who crochets all sorts of rugs for her house. She buys giant skeins of inexpensive yarn and then uses triple strands of it to crochet throw rugs. She just uses simple, one-color designs, though, not as beautiful as yours but her rugs are practical and actually look very attractive--especially when she crochets with a bright color.

    Looking forward to seeing you before too long.

  17. Thank you so much for the inspiration!!! I neeeeed to make one of these bath MTS right now!!! (OK, maybe not right now as its nearly midnight...) I love your blog, thank you for all you write, I love to read it xxxxx

  18. Ooooooh! You have me swooning and hyperventilating! Such beautiful colours! :) x


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