Granny square book review roundup

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Ever since I first learned to crochet granny squares, I’ve loved them.  The “official” granny square pattern was originally published in 1890 by Weldon and Company in London.  Then, as now, the granny square was a great way to use up scrap yarn.  The pattern has basically been continuously in print since then, so that tells you something about how fun grannies are to make!

My first granny square throw, circa 2005.

Today, many people use the term “granny square” to refer to other square motifs that are crocheted in the round, and not just to that specific pattern.  Recently, I’ve been inspired by the beautiful granny square pictures that are part of things to make and do‘s Granny-A-Day project and Leslie from CrochetBug‘s 101 Crochet Squares crochet-a-long.  I definitely plan to make more grannies in 2012!

For today’s granny square book roundup, I defined a “granny square” as any square motif crocheted in the round. Because I have so many books to review, I’m using a standardized format like I did with my crochet stitch guides roundup.  And now, on to the reviews!

99 Granny Squares to Crochet, compiled by Leisure Arts

Summary: Pattern booklet with 99 motifs crocheted in the round in various sizes.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations.

# of granny squares: 86

What I like:

  • Booklet lays flat so you can crochet and read at the same time.
  • There is a color picture of each motif.
  • Almost all special stitches are included in each pattern so you don’t have to flip back and forth.
  • Instructions are consistently written/edited.
  • Some additional shapes (triangles, hexagons, and rectangles) are included.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • The patterns don’t include international stitch symbols.
  • The booklet doesn’t include any tutorials or technique lessons and focuses on patterns.
  • Several motifs are commonly available in many books.  There are not many very unique patterns.
  • The booklet is taller than most books and I have to keep it on a special bookshelf :(.

Type: Booklet.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3.5

101 Granny Squares: New Motifs For Contemporary Designs edited by Carol Alexander

Summary: Pattern book featuring a range of projects made with motifs, including home decor items, accessories, bags, and blankets and throws.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations.

# of granny squares: 108

What I like:

  • Book lays flat so you can crochet and read at the same time.
  • There is a color picture of each motif.
  • Almost all special stitches are included in each pattern so you don’t have to flip back and forth.
  • There is an interesting range of projects using different motifs, and each motif can also be used in different projects.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • The patterns don’t include international stitch symbols.
  • The booklet doesn’t include any tutorials or technique lessons and focuses on patterns.
  • There are many contributing designers, and the pattern writing is not very consistent.  I have also found errors in some patterns, which would make it difficult for a beginning crocheter to use.
  • Many of the completed projects seem dated (either due to construction techniques or yarn color choices).

Type: Hardcover book.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3.5

201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Projects and Ideas by Melody Griffiths

Summary: Pattern book with 201 crocheted motifs and 50 projects using these motifs.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.

# of granny squares: 38

What I like:

  • The book features many unique motifs which are whimsical and cute.
  • The motifs are in a range of shapes and using several construction techniques.  There are many floral and animal motifs, as well as a full applique alphabet.
  • The book includes international stitch symbols for the majority of patterns.
  • The projects are interesting and varied.
  • There is an illustrated stitch guide in the back of the book, along with some helpful tips.  This would make the book appropriate for a beginner.
  • The pictures are very clear and the book is definitely “eye candy.”
  • The binding doesn’t allow this book to lay flat, but it has built-in book flaps which can be used to hold a page.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • There are some patterns that don’t include international stitch symbols (presumably due to space constraints).
  • The book doesn’t have a lay flat binding.

Type: Paperback book.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 5

Beyond the Square: Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman

Summary: An exploration of crochet motifs in geometric shapes, including squares, circles, hexagons, and triangles, with tips for working in the round, joining, and changing colors.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  (This book is also on my list of must-have beginner crochet books.)

# of granny squares: 33

What I like:

  • The spiral binding allows the book to lay flat so you can read and crochet at the same time.
  • The layout and design are excellent – there is plenty of white space and samples are in striking colors and beautifully photographed.
  • All patterns include both U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.
  • The book opens with a “workshop” section which includes multiple techniques for starting a motif (sliding loop, slip knot, and chain ring), joining, working with multiple colors, and edgings.  This section includes plenty of text and also some step-by-step photos.  This chapter is something you can skip over and just dive into the patterns, but it includes the types of tips and tricks that can make your work look more polished.
  • While the book includes some classic designs, many of the patterns are different from those you’d find in other collections.  There is a nice range of shapes (even though this review focuses on squares).
  • There is a small section in the back which describes how to form each of the stitches used in the book (even the basics like chains), so it is definitely beginner friendly.
  • There are some graphs included in the back so you can design your own international stitch symbol charts.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • I’m not a fan of the cutesy 7 page section of illustrated ideas for how to use motifs.  I know, I know, it would be totally unreasonable for Edie to make samples and patterns for the hundreds of project ideas in the illustrations.  It’s just, well, I wish she did :).
  • While there is an illustrated sample in the back with joins for the non-square motifs (e.g., triangles), a sample might help crocheters visualize these ideas better.  (Again, this is isn’t really a problem with the book – more like my wishlist for Beyond the Square Part II!)

Type: Spiral bound hardcover book.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 5

Contest Favorites Afghan Squares, compiled by Leisure Arts

Summary: A pattern booklet compilation of the 30 best squares submitted by “crocheters just like you” to a Leisure Arts design contest, along with instructions for completing 10 afghans.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations.

# of granny squares: 23

What I like:

  • Booklet lays flat so you can crochet and read at the same time.
  • There is a color picture of each motif.
  • Almost all special stitches are included in each pattern so you don’t have to flip back and forth.
  • Instructions are consistently written/edited.
  • There is a pretty interesting range of motifs.
  • The three prize winners are profiled, so that adds a personal touch to the book.
  • Although the patterns use U.S. crochet abbreviations, there is a U.S. to U.K. conversion key in the front of the booklet.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • The patterns don’t include international stitch symbols.
  • The booklet doesn’t include any tutorials or technique lessons and focuses on patterns.
  • The booklet is taller than most books and I have to keep it on a special bookshelf :(.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4

Crocheting Patchwork Patterns: 23 Granny Squares for Afghans, Sweaters, and Other Projectsby Annette Lep

Summary: A pattern booklet featuring crocheted versions of classic quilt blocks, including five projects using the squares.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations.

# of granny squares: 0 (all motifs in this book are worked in rows)

What I like:

  • As a lover of quilts, the concept of this book really appealed to me.
  • Although the book is black and white, the covers fold out to include color pictures of each motif and completed pattern.
  • The booklet lays flat so you can crochet and read at the same time.
  • There is a small illustrated instruction section at the beginning of the book which reviews basic stitches.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • There are no international stitch symbols.
  • The projects are dated.  However, if you love vintage crochet books, you will love the modular sweaters made with crocheted quilt blocks.
  • Some of the patterns seem designed in the most complex way possible and frequently include multiple small pieces rather than frequent color changes on one piece.

Type: Booklet.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): Ok, ok, this book does not really belong with the rest, but I love the vintage awesomeness of it!  I give it 3 stars for utility and 4 stars for being fun to look at :).

Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia by Robyn Chachula

Summary: A comprehensive stitch guide.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  (I wrote a detailed review of this book here.)

# of granny squares: 28

What I like:

  • Hardcover binding makes the book more durable.
  • There is an attractive picture of each motif.
  • There is a pretty interesting range of motifs, including many lacy grannies.
  • Each pattern uses international stitch symbols.
  • There is a section on joining motifs that includes 8 variations.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • The book doesn’t include any tutorials or technique lessons and focuses on patterns.

Type: Hardcover book.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4

Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook by Ellen Gormley

Summary: A handbook for personalizing your own afghan projects, including 50 motif patterns for squares, rectangles, triangles, hexagons, and octagons, and 10 projects.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols. (I wrote a detailed review of the book here.)

# of granny squares: 10

What I like:

  • The spiral binding allows the book to lay flat so you can read and crochet at the same time.
  • All patterns include both U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.
  • The book opens with several sections that review materials and supplies and basic stitches (with illustrations).  These sections also address understanding patterns, color, modifying patterns to personalize a project, layout, assembly, and edging.  This section includes plenty of text and also illustrations.  This chapter is something you can skip over and just dive into the patterns, but it includes the types of tips and tricks that can help you create a very individualized project.
  • Most of the patterns are different from those you’d find in other collections.  There is a nice range of shapes (even though this review focuses on squares).
  • The afghan projects walk you through different techniques for assembly.
  • There are many layout suggestions for creating afghans using a particular shape throughout the book.
  • Each motif pattern includes suggestions for 5 other motifs to “mix and match.”

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • The book focuses on using motifs for blankets and no other project types are addressed.
  • The colors are a bit muted, so the visuals don’t “pop” as much as similar books.

Type: Spiral-bound hardcover book.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 5

The Great Granny Crochet Book compiled by American School of Needlework

Summary: A range of projects made using variations on the granny square, including bedspreads, toys, picture afghans, Christmas decorations, baby items, clothing, and home decor.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations.

# of granny squares: approximately 20

What I like:

  • There is an illustrated section in the back showing different joining and finishing techniques including fringes and pompons.
  • There are many picture afghans, made using charted granny squares in different colors.
  • There are many stuffed toys made from granny squares in different (mostly animal) shapes.
  • Most of the patterns use the actual granny square pattern, so if you enjoy making that particular motif, you will have quite a few patterns to entertain you.
  • There is a nice section explaining how to crochet half granny squares (triangles) in both one and two colors.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • There are no international stitch symbols.
  • The projects, particularly the clothing, are dated, but the book definitely has appeal as a vintage crochet book.
  • Although there are many projects, the majority of them use the actual granny square pattern with minimal modification, so there aren’t many motifs to choose.

Type: Hardcover book.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (4 if you like to make crocheted Christmas decorations).

The Granny Square Book by Margaret Hubert

Summary: An ode to the granny square, with 75 motif patterns and 25 projects using granny squares, along with tips for construction, design, and finishing touches.  Uses U.S. pattern abbreviations for motifs and projects, and international stitch symbols for motifs.

# of granny squares: 74

What I like:

  • The spiral binding allows the book to lay flat so you can read and crochet at the same time.
  • All motif patterns include both U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.
  • The introduction includes reflections on the Hubert family’s love of grannies, as well as personal quotes from other crochet designers about granny squares.
  • The “Crochet Basics” section includes descriptions with photos of crochet stitches (including basics and special stitches), so the book is very beginner friendly.  This section also includes an overview of crochet pattern reading, multiple techniques for starting a motif (adjustable loop, slip knot, and chain ring), joining and seaming working with multiple colors, and edgings.  This section includes plenty of text and also some step-by-step photos.  This chapter is something you can skip over and just dive into the patterns, but it includes the types of tips and tricks that can make your work look more polished.
  • There are many really pretty floral themed grannies.
  • Three of the motif patterns include matching half square (triangle) patterns.
  • Each motif pattern includes a difficulty rating.
  • The project section includes some design tips and suggestions for “graphing out” project ideas.

What I didn’t like or what’s missing:

  • Six motif (5 granny) patterns were already included in The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet, another book by Hubert published by Creative Publishing International.
  • There is a fair amount of overlap in content in the Crochet Basics section of this book and the Crochet Motif Workshop section of Beyond the Square: Crochet Motifs.  The motif patterns are different enough to make it worthwhile to own both books, though.
  • Most of the swatches are made with mercerized cotton, and there is a lot of “shine” visible in the pictures.
  • The project patterns don’t include international stitch symbols.

Type: Spiral-bound hardcover book.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 5 (If you already own Beyond the Square: Crochet Motifs, remember that you will already have a lot of the same content, but different motif patterns.)

You may be wondering why I didn’t include Granny Square Love in this roundup.  Granny Square Love (reviewed here) is focused on the original granny square patterns and doesn’t really offer up variants on the motif.

What’s your favorite granny square book?

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