Several blogs that I read and several comments I have gotten about crochet mention frustration with the Granny Square in general. I decided to take some close-up pictures as I crocheted one of the squares for my Larger Than Life tote bag so that I could feature a few of the things that I personally do to make a nice looking Granny Square.
Obviously I'm not going to give away the pattern here - the pattern is in the Spring Issue of Interweave Crochet. But I do have some general Granny Square construction tips that you might find helpful. This is good for general crochet help and also with doily making. My first crochet experience was with making thread crochet doilies which are often just a slightly more complex way to arrange the basic Granny Square - oh yes, and with thread. :)
The Willow block, which the LTL bag designer Cecily Keim used, can be found in the book 200 Crochet Blocks by Jan Eaton (Interweave Press).
The Willow block has seven rounds and uses three colors. This tutorial is organized with photos from each round and starts with the basic slip knot. The information in this tutorial is not the ONLY way to execute these steps or stitches, simply the way that I do them. My own methods are influenced greatly by tutorials and instructional guides that I read and I'm always open to trying a new technique so these may not always be my preferences.
Click any photo to enlarge
eta: As Paul noted, I am left handed! I hope this doesn't mess anybody up! The concepts and finished product are still the same.
THE SLIP KNOT
When making a doily or granny square I like to make a central slip knot so that the stitches can be worked in the space comfortably then the tail can be pulled to cinch the stitches together as closely as you like. With a granny square I like mine to be very tight. The pattern instructs you to make a ring of four stitches then double crochet "X" number of times into that ring. Sometimes it gets really difficult to get all those stitches into that ring which is why I like to crochet my first round of stitches into a slip knot loop. These photos show how that knot is created. You want a loop that is tightened when you pull the TAIL - not when you pull the WORKING YARN.
S3: with your crochet hook, pick up the piece that is crossing through the bottom center of the loop.
1a: enlarge the slip knot so that when you are ready to do ch3 as your first dc, you pull the first chain stitch through the slip knot loop you have made. keep the slip knot loop big enough to continue stitching but don't let the tail pull through.
1d: make all your dc stitches into the slip knot loop
1e: pull the tail to close the loop. this doesn't HAVE to be super tight! there is still a gap between the last dc and your ch3 which represents the first dc.
1f: slip stitch through the top of your ch3 (1st dc) to close the gap. this is the end of round 1.
2c: shows the second round completed. time to cut off the first yarn color!
Add your 2nd color at this point - round 3 is very similar to round 2. If you've gotten this far you shouldn't need guidance with round 3. Joining the new color can be done in many ways. When I made this tote I didn't crochet over any of the yarn tails as I joined new colors so there was a lot of weaving in of the ends when I was finished with the squares! If you want to avoid this you can crochet over the ends as you go and I'm sure there are good tutorials on the internet showing how to do this. I've gotta look for one when I'm ready to start another bag! :)
4a: at the end of round 3 you close the round by doing a slip stitch into the top of the ch3 (1st dc). to move up to round 4, ch1 then sc into the space where you did your slip stitch. this creates something to join to when you're ready to close round 4.
4b: in round 4 you are starting to form the corners of your block with ch5 spaces. when you do a slst into the 5th ch from your hook it will look a little funny. so does mine. but that's just the way it is. don't be alarmed when this sl st spreads out during the next round. it's the nature of crochet and if someone can give me a hint about how to avoid this, let me know! I've looked very closely at the pattern photos in the magazine and it appears that the same thing happened on their squares in that spot.
4c: round 4 is complete. close with a slst in that space I mentioned and do another loose slst to hop over to the first ch5 space.
5a: shows round 5 complete. you know the stitches and the routine by now. time to cut color 2!
Round 6 is the foundation for round 7. It goes very quickly but is very important! I kept wanting to skip round 6 and would start right in with round 7, then say Umm.... there's something wrong here! :)
6a: shows finished round 6.
6b: closeup of round 6 corner.
7a: closeup of round 7 corner.
7b: completed round 7 - completed square! when the square is first finished it's a wrinkled little mess. tug at the corners and pull the sides into shape - it really is a square!
If there are any steps I might have missed or you need clarified, please let me know in the comments. I know that the Larger Than Life bag designer Cecily Keim will LOVE to get your questions and comments! Be sure to check out the Larger Than Life Crochet-Along blog! :)