I read an article a little while back about the history of why blankets are called afghans. It also mentioned the root of the name “granny square”. I had never thought about either of these things before but found the information super interesting.
The Root of the Word Afghan
Laurie Balbo wrote an article for Green Prophet about Afghans for Afghans, a charity crochet project that accepts knit and crochet blankets for people in the Middle East. In her article, she muses upon why afghans are called afghans and through research finds out that indeed it is because of the people of Afghanistan.
First Balbo explains that the word itself dates back to the eighteenth century when it was first used to refer to the people living in a specific area of Afghanistan. She goes on to explain:
“That country is known for its distinctive textiles, colorful carpets and lustrous karakul wool, so it’s sort of logical that “afghan” was picked up to refer to knitted or crocheted blankets. The word went mainstream in America in the early 1800′s, describing blankets and shawls made from multi-hued yarn.”
She notes that the colorful style of the granny square blanket especially resembled “a particular type of colorful Colonial-era rug brought over from England, by way of the Middle East” and could be a link to why the granny square blanket is often called an afghan. Possibly – it’s just one theory.
And What About The Granny Square?
In passing Balbo also mentions that the scrap yarn blankets that people were crocheting, especially popular in the middle of the twentieth century, were named “granny squares” because it was common for “granny” to be the person making these. I don’t know if that’s true. It sounds a little fishy to me in a way, one of those things that buys too much into the stereotypes of crochet. But it could be true. What do you think?
5 Free Granny Square Afghan Patterns
This whole topic inspired me to put together a roundup of some free granny square afghan patterns; each of these puts a unique spin on the traditional granny square blanket:
My favorite unique twist on the granny square blanket is this Bearghan, which is a free pattern through Yarn Crazy.
Drop in the Pond is a free crochet pattern for a lap blanket from Elizabeth Ham that you can get as a Ravelry download. It’s a ripple variation on a granny.
ErinLindsey’s Pile of Yarn has a free crochet pattern for a granny square, er um, granny rectangle blanket. Seems nice and easy to work up!
This crochet pattern combines the granny square with several other crochet squares to make a beautiful blanket that lets you try a variety of stitches. It was a free Bernat pattern that no longer seems to be published online, but here’s a forum post where you can learn more.
This design, a free Ravelry pattern from Allison Haas, combines colorful granny squares of different sizes into one unique afghan. Beautiful!
What colors do you think would be best to use if you wanted to celebrate the connection this design possibly has to the Middle East?