Posted on 16 Comments

Granny Square Brain

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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Posted on 16 Comments

16 thoughts on “Granny Square Brain

  1. yeah! you did it!@ now that you’ve got it out of your head, you can go about your day doing daily things.
    Congrats. looks great.

    1. You would think so, wouldn’t you? 😉 Now all I can think about is how to do it in different colors!

  2. Oh, I love this so much! Your blog always makes me happy. It’s a great combination of things I have no idea how to do (polymer anything!) and yarn-y things that I love doing. You’e been making me want to do something granny-square-ish for a new grandkid due in the fall. Have you seen this blog: ? She does some cool granny square stuff, too. I like her idea for the invisible join except for all the ends to weave in! Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
    P.S. Pls send cake!

    1. Aw, thanks, Sally, I’m so glad you like it here 🙂 That is one heck of a scarf! I think making all of those itty bitty squares and then sewing them all together at the end would drive me batty!

  3. Been playing with that tutorial myself today!
    Love it!
    Just finished my first square. I think one of my colors blends too much with the “hole” color, but I am happy with how it turned out ( started with the extruder from the first).

    1. I have been mulling this over all weekend. I wish I could use the extruder for the whole thing, but it wouldn’t give me the final effect I am going for. It’s too bad, because rolling up all of those tiny blended snakes by hand is a really mind-numbing task. I’m considering ways to improve my process. I’ve come up with one I want to try as soon as I buy more clay 🙂

      1. I just slapped colors, snakes, blobs and torn sheets and twisted into logs until I could get it into the extruder. I guess looking at my results, some of the rows are a bit too “round,” but– instead of mind numbing, I had a hand numbing afternoon from extruding! 🙂
        Here a pix of my efforts:

        1. I don’t know if you really can have them “too round.” I like your results! Hope your hands have recovered 🙂

  4. Love that your doing more clay. When you cover something with clay do you usually put a solid color underneath? Most of the things I cover are glass. It wonder if you get a smoother finish with the base coat? The granny squares are adorable.

    1. It depends on what it is. If the object is a good diameter and takes the clay easily, then I don’t bother with a layer underneath. Like with pens. I have no trouble covering them directly. Crochet hooks, though, caused me no end of frustration until I decided to do a base coat. The diameter of the hooks are too narrow compared to the thickness of the clay sheet, and the results were pretty terrible. Once I added a base layer and used a thinner setting on the pasta machine, things improved greatly. I don’t cover much glass, but I would guess that any surface that gives you trouble would benefit from a base layer.

  5. Oh…I love these! I wish I knew how to crochet! Maybe I will try and teach myself one day. I only know how to knit. XoXo

    1. Thanks! I learned only a few months ago, and honestly, I find making granny squares to be much easier and faster than knitting! I wish I hadn’t put it off for so long. I learned from a youtube video 🙂

  6. Good job! Haha, why didn’t I think of staking the squares like you did? Thanks for the color notes. I didn’t get much sleep last night for thinking of colors. And I love the crochet needle!

    1. Thanks, and I know that feeling. You know you have issues when you lie awake at night mentally putting colors together. I have issues galore, LOL!

  7. […] gushing so excitedly about granny squares and clay last weekend, you’d think I’d have gone millefiori crazy, made a small pile of afghan canes, written […]

  8. […] (Interested in the back story for this cane? Try this.) […]

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