Friday, August 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Afghans

On the plus side, it's very warm.
Several years ago, I decided the time had come for me to try crocheting something other than a scarf. An afghan, I thought, would be perfect. After all, scarves are just rectangles, and so are afghans, and I could crochet scarves all right.

Never mind that I couldn't read a crochet pattern yet, never having bothered to learn the abbreviations or the symbols. I bought a ripple afghan pattern booklet, a truckload of Bernat Soft Boucle yarn in four lovely colors, and set to work, possibly without ever really looking at that booklet.

I had no concept of increases and decreases, so I just made something up, resulting in a very uneven ripple pattern. But I soldiered on, happily crocheting and sipping beer while my friends played Rock Band and watched Dr. Who.* Meanwhile, the afghan didn't just get longer, it got wider. Somehow I was adding stitches to the width, without being exactly sure how.  So in order to reel that tendency back in--because I wasn't about to rip out all my progress--I just inserted a lot of random decreases, which resulted in an odd ruffled effect across one end of the afghan. (You can sort of see that in this picture--those folds along the bottom are not just from the way it's draped.)

The winter ended, it got too hot to spend all my time with a blanket draped across my lap, and, apparently, I was expected to write a thesis in order to graduate. So the afghan went on hold. I pulled it out last winter, half-heartedly crocheted a few more rows, and decided I was sick of it. I fastened it off, wove in the ends, folded it up at the end of my bed, and decided I would never do that again.

So, naturally, I started another afghan in June. By then I knew how to read and follow patterns, I could increase and decrease reliably, and sometimes I even bothered to count my stitches. I also picked a pattern that was virtually impossible to screw up: a retro-cool giant granny square. Inspired by the color scheme of the Great Granny pattern in the July/August 2010 issue of Crochet Today, I set to work.

I finished it last night, and I really couldn't be happier with the way it turned out. The difference between the two afghans--essentially, the difference between my skills two years ago and my skills now--is astonishing. What changed? I stopped saying "screw it" and making things up, and instead sat down and made a concentrated effort to learn new techniques and do them properly.

Technical Details (granny square afghan): I used a size K/10 1/2 6.5mm hook and worsted weight yarn: Red Heart Soft Yarn in teal, off white, grape, seafoam, and light gray heather. (I don't always love Red Heart yarns, but the Soft Yarn is perfect for projects like this--it really is soft, it's not very expensive, and it comes in a nice range of colors.) The finished afghan is about 50" square.

*Yes, this was during college. Our Rock Band name was the Sonic Screwdrivers. We were... kind of weird.

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