Granny Square Brain | Polka Dot Cottage

Granny Square Brain

Posted March 3rd, 2012 by

It got me. The disease known as Granny Square Brain has got me, and it won’t let go.  This is one of those disorders that keeps you awake at night, thinking about color schemes. If you want to get any sleep at all, the only option is to just give in to the fever for a while.  Let it win.

My particular strain of Granny Square Brain is not your traditional yarn-based variety, but the less-common polymer-based strain.  It has spent the last few days asking one question of me:

“How can I make a wildly colorful polymer clay granny square ‘blanket’ with just a single cane, and not go insane in the process?”

Well, the jury is still out on the “insanity” part of that question, but I do think I have cracked the code otherwise.  And, man, was it a long time coming!

Let me just pause here and give some credit to a couple of people who provided the sparks that let me get this far:

Cynthia and Meg. Cynthia’s recent Polymer Clay Daily post gave me the idea of using an extruder, and  introduced me to Meg’s granny square tutorial. Meg’s instructions and clear chart helped me see that there was a simple way to do this, and it didn’t have to be as complicated as I was making it.  Thanks, Ladies, for providing the kick in the pants that I needed to get back to figuring this thing out!

Ok, so those things helped, but what I wanted was more than just a simple granny square cane. I wanted to be able to build one cane – one square – but have the colors change as I sliced into it. In other words, if the face of the cane showed a red, blue, and green square, I wanted a cut in the center of the cane to show a pink, green, and purple square. And when the cane would be reduced and re-assembled, the face of it would have four squares, each with a different set of colors.

Make sense?

Essentially, what I am getting at is this: I am lazy. I wanted to be able to make a polymer afghan with squares in all different colors, but I didn’t want to have to build each of those squares individually.  And, I wanted to take a fairly simple idea and complicate the daylights out of it. In true Lisa Clarke style.

So I started simply, and followed Meg’s tutorial to the letter, with just one exception: I’d use the outer layer of the square to experiment with my color-change idea.  I did this in my Country color scheme.

It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted, either.

The black clay, which was meant to represent the holes and shadows in a granny square were too big for my taste.  On the pink background, they reminded me of a watermelon and seeds.  They’d have to be much smaller.

Additionally, I just didn’t care for the fact that the centers and the middle stripes were all the same color.  Those would have to be made in the color-changing manner as well.

And lastly, I thought there needed to be more contrast – lighter centers, darker edges – and more vibrant colors.

The important thing, though, is that the color-change idea worked.  So the next day I tried again, and this time I was much (much!) happier with the result.

Meg’s tutorial had filled in one crucial gap in my thinking, but I wasn’t able to make it yield the look I was after.  So, I kept the one appropriate-to-my-purposes fact in mind, ditched the rest of the steps, adapted Cynthia’s extruder idea for the black shadowy bits (which allowed me to make them much smaller, and much more consistent), and went back to my own original plan for the rest.

[This convergence of ideas from multiple sources, the percolating, the recombining, the evolution into something different – it is one of my favorite things about being involved in a creative community!]

To brighten up the colors, I switched to my Rainbow color scheme, and built the square using blends for every round of the square.  The center blend involved the addition of a lot of white. The second blend had just a small touch of white added to it, and the outer blend had a bit of black included.

The result is something that makes me quite happy, and surprised at the same time.  Why surprised?

Well, the Rainbow color scheme is made up of primary colors: Red, Blue, and Yellow. Yet, the resulting cane is anything but primary-colored.  I knew some blending would occur – that was by design – but I suppose I wasn’t prepared for just how much. It’s a good thing, though.

I think the biggest surprise to me is how little it looks like yarn, and how much it looks like bits of painted paper. I truly think if Eric Carle was going to illustrate a granny square afghan for one of his children’s books, this is what it would look like. And yet, it still is recognizable as granny squares.

I love it.

And I was up half the night thinking of ways to introduce even more variety of color. I think I figured it out.

My next challenge is to make a cane that resembles Eamonn’s blanket (which you’ll notice is coming along fairly well – I’m keeping up with my goal of doing a row a week – yay!).  The plan is to take a million pictures while I do this and then write up the instructions for the Download Shop. Does this sound like a design you’d like to learn to make? I’m really excited to get started!

Figuring this out has allowed me to do something I’ve been wanting to do since November: make crochet hooks with afghan handles!  To celebrate having finally figured it out, I’ve re-opened the Gift Shop, and am once again taking custom orders for these guys.  There are nine different patterns to choose from, including the new Rainbow Afghan you see here, plus you can now order Clover brand in addition to the Susan Bates and Boye brands I’ve always had.

Check it out, if you’re in the market for such a thing :-)

As for me, I have to take a shower, get dressed, do a little birthday shopping for my mom and my aunt, and bake a birthday cake, if Granny Square Brain can see fit to release me for a few hours.  If not, I’ll be at the clay table, furiously building blends, making squares, and hoping the birthday girls can forgive me.

Have a great weekend!

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