In praise of coils and afghans

There are lots of very clever and fancy afghan and throw patterns out there, but sometimes I want a throw (or a blanket for my bed) that is simple, brainless to make, and focusing more on the yarn than on fancy stitchwork. One easy solution is to cast on or chain as many stitches as appropriate, choose a stitch, and just work back and forth until the piece is either big enough or I run out of yarn, whichever comes first.

This can be a problem if I have a set amount of yarn and don't want to end up with something too short for how wide it is. In this case, it feels better to start small and make a big square. I could work in rounds, where each layer of stitches has a beginning and an end, but there may be two minor disadvantages: (1) there is a visual line where the row ends line up, and (2) I have to remember when I get to the end of the round. Case in point is the granny square in crochet. The nice thing about the traditional granny square is that you are always working into spaces, never into an actual stitch. That means you don’t have to watch things so carefully.

Rather than fussing with lots of little squares and having to join them all together, why not just make one big granny square for the whole afghan? It can work out very nicely. If, however, your brain is watching a fun movie while your hands are zipping along on the square, you may find at some point that you are going in a coil -- the end of the round has disappeared. Not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, you could start out in a coil as if you did it on purpose. Here’s one way: Chain 5, slip stitch in the last chain from the hook to make a ring. Chain 4. Double crochet 3 in the chain-5 ring. (Chain 3, double crochet 3 in the same ring) 3 more times to make the 4 sides. Then start the coil: Chain 1. Make a corner (double crochet 3, chain 3, double crochet 3) -- all in the chain 4 space. *Chain 1. Make another corner in the next chain 3 space. Repeat from * around until you hit a chain-1 space. From here on, there are only 3 things to do: make 3 double crochets into a chain-1 space, chain 1 as you skip over a 3 double crochet group, or make a corner.

As you can see from the picture above, it looks like a mutation at first. But after a few rounds, it smooths out and is just like a granny square -- only without that place where the round ends.

Rules: Always make a corner into the chain-3 space of a previous corner. Always make 3 double crochets into a chain-1 space. Always chain 1 as you skip over a 3 double crochet group. And if it turns out that you skipped a chain 1, pretend that you didn’t. And if it turns out that you chained 1 when you should have chained 3, pretend that the 3 chains are there and work accordingly.
Once you get the hang of the thing, it is really remarkably satisfying -- unless you were really looking for a pattern that involved lots of counting and colors and thinking..