Hey, hey, hey Beautiful People! Anyone who's been on my web shop or follows me on instagram knows that I have a burning, furious passion for granny squares. I don't know where it came from entirely, but lately I've just had to be surrounded by them. That includes my outerwear.
I've made 4 granny square cardigans in the last month and have been happily wearing them everywhere. And everywhere I go, people come up to me curious about where I got my cardigan or they share tales of a beloved grandmother who used to love making granny squares (crochet is a much more social hobby than it gets credit for!).
I learned my method for making granny square cardigans from a combination of studying vintage ones I'd pick up at thrift stores and experimenting on my own. Here is what I've learned: Granny square cardigans are simple to make. So, so simple...even someone who CAN'T crochet could make one. I know that sounds crazy, but read on and learn all about it.
First things first, you have a decision to make. Will you be making your own granny squares, or will you be upcycling an old afghan? My granny coats are usually a combination of new and vintage materials--I just love giving old things new purpose. If you do decide to use a vintage afghan, this will be an afternoon project. Also, if you can't crochet or are a nervous beginner, a vintage afghan is your gateway to an impressive project without the stress. I pick mine up at local thrift stores for $5 or less.
This tutorial will be done with a vintage afghan. If you choose to make your own squares, most of the same ideas will guide you though, so read on!
The simple illustration above is all the 'pattern' we'll need. Using this pattern, you can turn almost anything into a cardigan. The design may appear boxy here (it's literally all rectangles) but remember, crochet is stretchy and form fitting, so it will look very nice on. To make a cardigan, all you'll ever need is a body section with arm holes and 2 tubes for arms--that's it.
You will need:
- A Granny Square afghan, large enough to cover your body
- A crochet hook or yarn needle for sewing up seams
- Yarn for sewing seams--I like to save the yarn I unravel from the afghan excess so it matches perfectly
Plotting and Planning
Now, whether you're using vintage granny squares or new ones, you'll need to take a few measurements: Chest and arms.
My chest measurement is 45 in. and my arms are around 19 in. over a shirt. I want my cardigan to be roomy though, so I made my chest 51 in. and my arms around 22 in. The size of the squares also dictates the exact measurement you get. You want to measure to the nearest seam, because cutting through squares is a major pain.
Now, in selecting my afghan, I needed to make sure that there would be enough material, so I measured it to see if it was long enough to give me at least 70 in. of material, even if I had to do some arranging later (ie, removing a row of squares at the bottom of the afghan to make the arms from).
I was in luck! This afghan was the perfect size, so I moved on to the next step...CUTTING!
We'll be working on this part of the cardigan first (red):
When working with vintage materials, I like to save as much of the original work as possible, so instead of cutting out a 51in. X 25 in. chunk from the corner of the afghan, I get a little more tricky. I like to make my coats as long as the as possible with the material I have. To save the trim/border from the outside, I cut the excess away from the middle of the afghan (what will become the back). I fold my afghan in half and measure from the outer corner HALF of my chest measurement to the nearest seam (in my case, a little over 25 inches).
The material to the right of my scissors (the part with the fold) is the excess and will be removed (ditto on the seam on the underside; we'll be removing 2 rows). I cut through the border, tying off everything as I go. There's not really a science to this, so just get experimental and make sure everything is secured and won't unravel. Then, instead of cutting my way up the seam, I like to instead unravel the stitches holding it together. It may take a little more time, but you are less likely to cut through your precious squares.
In the case of the particular vintage afghan I was working with, the person who made it ran long seams on the vertical and horizontal, so I had to cut through the horizontal seams and tie off as I took off the excess.
And ta-da! My afghan was in three pieces: two pieces that would make the body of the coat, and one piece that would later become the sleeves.
Building a Body
So, to give you a better idea of how this is going to come together, here are my two pieces laid out:
The sides you just cut the excess off of will be the back, and the bordered sides you saved will be your front.
I decided to take the border off the top so that it wouldn't be on the shoulder seam when I closed it up. If you want to do the same thing, just cut at the top corner, tie off your loose ends and unravel the part of the border you don't want.
Holes for Sleeves
Now, remember that arm measurement you took? Now we're going to put it to use, making the sleeve holes. With your material laying flat (on the fold like in the picture), mark it from the top with half your chosen arm measurement--so for me it was one whole square.
Hopefully the afghan you use to make your coat is made of smaller squares, so that your sleeve placement falls on a seam. I was not so lucky. The large squares on this afghan looked awesome, but getting the size I wanted meant having to cut sleeve holes through a square. It was a messy and tedious process, but it turned out pretty well. I used a sheet of white paper to make my work a little more visible for you guys.
It was a lot of tying off, but I finally secured the whole thing, I decided to border it in black to make it look a little tidier and connect easier when it came to sewing on the sleeve.
Then, just do a simple seam up the back and your body is done! If you can crochet, I just used the same joining technique as the afghan. If you can't, you can always sew it with a yarn needle; there's a great tutorial here (including other granny square connecting techniques, it's a handy resource).
Your Sleeves, Madame
Time to put that excess to use. I decided to make my sleeves 2 squares by 3 squares. I was lucky with the composition of this afghan, that I didn't have to sew a bunch of squares together to form the sleeves, I could just cut the excess in half (using the same cutting technique I used for the body.
Because we're working with vintage materials, I don't know what you'll have, so just make sure your sleeves are big enough to fit into your sleeve holes; the length is completely up to you and how much material you have.
I folded what I just cut in half and they already looked like sleeves.
Put it all together and what do you get?!
So, here's where we are: body completed, sleeves ready to be attached. You may choose to sew up your sleeve seams before you attach them (making them into tubes). I chose to attach them at the armpit first, then close up the sleeves and shoulder seams all in one seam.
Here's how I did it: I opened the sleeve hole flat and laid my sleeve over it, then sewed up the seam.
Now all that's left to do is the final seam--the top of the coat. Line your squares up to sew them. Pinning will help during this stage so that you don't misalign your squares.
You'll notice that I folded the top corners of the body back. I like to make a little 'lapel' type shape; it gives you more neck room and adds a little flair. I measured and pinned my lapels in place, then when doing the seam I just stitched through all 3 layers. I also stitched right across the back of the neck as I completed my seam so that it was one unbroken line. It looks tidier and it strengthens your seams.
When I'm done with all my 'sewing,' I like to go through my finished product square by square and make any tucks and fixes. Vintage afghans require some upkeep and I like my piece to be as squeaky as possible before I debut it.
The Finished Product of your Labours!
Quite pleased with the fit. I'm thinking of adding a few toggles at the bust.
I hope this tutorial was helpful to you in your cardigan journeys. Once you get the hang of it, you're going to be combing the thrift stores for granny square afghans to feed your wild cardigan addiction! Make yourself a few, make some for your teenage daughters and granddaughters--everyone loves granny squares! There are no limits to a project like this. You can make dusters and cropped cardis and add buttons and bell sleeves! You name it, you can do it with Grannnnnny Squaaaaaares!