THE Granny Square Jumper.

Posted by Eleanor Burke on

I so enjoyed writing my last blog, and I've had a bit of a weird morning so I thought I'd sit downstairs in the stillness of the office and have another go. This time it might be a more familiar piece as it's appeared a lot of social media and on the newsletter (haven't sent one of those since before Christmas but who knows what might happen...). The piece in question is this one: 

Eleanor, a fat, white woman wears a crochet jumper with deep jewel tone granny squares and a beige background.

I love that picture of me, it was a happy time in autumn last year and the whole garment had been a dream to put together. I don't remember really what made me start it as I knew the pattern was going to be a smash and I usually reserve what little sample making time I have to stuff that might not sell so well or needs a bit of 'explaining' to customers (like a self striper or a pattern that I think is done in the wrong yarn on the pattern so I can show it off better). I do remember about this time that King Cole had a big ol' delivery of the Luxury Merino after having been out of stock for a very long time - and now they're pretty out of stock again so bear with me, I have some ideas coming later. 

As an aside, I was speaking to somebody recently who is doing a masters in finance and business and explaining that whenever I've dipped my toes into the formal stuff around that it just bears so little resemblance to what I do on a day to day in business. I know I could run the shop in a more 'proper' way, and actually, the till is helping me do that (I might write a blog on it actually!) but for the most part the shop has always been run on instinct, what feels right, what I've got the energy for, what is sparking something for me in that moment. I am incredibly lucky that it seems to have meshed with what my customers want. But we did speak about how, recently with Covid, Brexit, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living and even more recently the horrendous earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, I'm starting to think about supply and demand more and more. It's never been the case that we've struggled to get stock before, not really. Sometimes if things are super duper popular they might sell out for a few weeks before coming back in but recently we've been struggling to get crochet hooks in! We've managed to cover the sizes between the three main ranges we do (Essentials, Soft Touch and Amour) but it's not as simple as just order and they turn up like it used to be.

The first time I really noticed that was when that boat was stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021 - I don't know if/how much yarn was on there but it had a knock on effect on whether our yarn was getting to us. Supply and demand, supply lines, logistics. All these things that seem to far away were suddenly on our doorstep. And what's more - my favourite bit of this - my understanding is that the boat only shifted when the moon made the tides do what they do - we think we're so fancy don't we? We think we can grow what we want, when we want, eat what we want, wear what we want, chuck it out, monopolise the earth, make everything into perfect little boxes and maximise productivity and really - we're all just at the mercy of the moon, the earth, the sun and the creatures on it. We are the creatures on it I suppose. Anyway... What a privilege to only have to think about this stuff now. 

So back to the jumper: 

A close up of the granny squares

I made it in the Luxury Merino and I used eight contrast colours and a main. The original pattern: 

A thin, white woman with long, brown hair wears a granny square jumper and jeans. The jumper is in bright blues, reds and yellows with a cream background.

uses the Cottonsoft DK in four colours and a main. I don't hate it but there is a chunkiness to it. I also don't hate the colours but it must be said, I've not sold a single set of the original colours - everybody has done their take on it. I don't know whether that's a reflection of the colours the designer chose or the fact that my customers are the literal best. The view on the back is a t-shirt in much worse colours (in my humble opinion...) and then there is another pattern by the same designer and released at the same time, for a long and a short cardigan made in Merino Blend DK and if I'm honest, I'm not sure I've seen a worse set of colours chosen. I can't put my finger on why I hate it, but I do. That pattern has sold much less - is it because I hate the colours so I'm not selling it well or is it because the colours aren't right? Anyway, I've started a sample of that in the brand new Linendale DK

Many crochet squares with a white flower, a dark blue petal and then a light blue outside.

I chose a palette I wouldn't usually, in colours that I knew weren't going to be the most popular because I knew this yarn would sell out before there was a chance for more to come into stock and if there's one thing I know about my customers it's that they'll buy anything that a mermaid would wear and they'll do so in buckets - purples, pinks, teals, interesting navies. I do like my colour selection though, I can imagine a kind of put together, proper, lady of a certain age wearing them and I'm intrigued at how it will look in this much more classic, subtle and laid back colour scheme. Would I wear it? Well, hmmmm.

But I would wear the jumper!! I did not make the jumper for me, I very much made it for the mannequin. I am only just coming to terms with the fact that my colours are changing/have changed. I used to be jewel-y, cool and bright, bold and strong colours. Then I discovered I look great in a pastel and before you know it I'm full on fucking autumn including beige. It is wild to me and I love it! Maybe it's to do with having normal coloured hair again. So once the mannequin has finished with it, this is very much my jumper and I am going to wear the hell out of it. I do think it's a sort of this time of the year, or maybe the next couple of months anyway, kind of jumper. It might be made in merino wool but it does have holes in it all the way through. 

I loved making this jumper. It's a clever construction, not wild, not incredible, but sensible and shaped and a little bit quirky. You make a load of squares which you crochet together in a very pleasing fashion (and in a way I've never seen before), then you crochet out a bit and up a bit - more or less depending on the size that you're making. The front and the back are the same. The sleeves are more interesting, a load of squares crocheted together again but there is some very clever, and very simple shaping to make the bicep bigger than the forearm. I wasn't expecting it to be like that and I liked it a lot. I was in the car driving with Dr Chris to pick something up from down south for jhis work and I kept saying 'ooooooooh, this is interesting!' but he was not interested, funnily enough. 

Many people have added another row of the squares to make the whole thing longer. This is very easy to do. A few people have added an extra column of squares to make the whole thing wider. The pattern sizing is not terrible actually - covering (apparently) chest size 28" to 54" with a lot of positive ease - I will say there is more positive ease at the bottom of the size scale than at the top but there we have it... Within the pattern the width is altered by adding rows of granny stripes at each side, the bigger the size the more stripes, and that's okay until you need a lot of stripes in which case you might want to add a column of squares so that the stripes are in a better ratio with the main body. You could also leave out a column of squares for the same reason at the bottom end of that scale and I was just thinking, this would down size very nicely into 4ply actually. Either to make the whole thing smaller OR TO USE UP ODD SCRAPS OF SOCK YARN!!!!!!! Use the Opal Uni as a base colour. Ooooohwee that would be nice! 

A shot of the flat lay jumper with writing on it saying 'The Side Bits' and 'The Shoulder Bits'.

Another choice a lot of people have made is to keep the side and shoulder strips in the main colour which calms the whole look down a fair bit and might make it a bit more wearable for some people. 

I believe the first person to finish this project from my shop, was Rachel who made this cutie patootie version in the Cottonsoft DK

Rachel, a white woman with her hair in a pastel coloured scarf stands with her arms outstretched in front of a brick wall. She's wearing a granny square jumper in beautiful pastel shades with a creamy white edging

I remember her buying the yarn, she came in for the pattern kind of innocuously, the shop was quite busy but we have a chat about the options and then I went about my business with other customers. I served a line of people and then she popped up next and she'd chosen just about every single colour that was available and she's really the one that gave me the go ahead to suggest more than the four contrast colours (not that I would have stuck to that anyway har har, but her version just proves you should do exactly what you want to do). She was thrilled with her version, as she should be, and I remember her speaking to me about the ends to which I said smugly, 'oh, I'd do them as I go'. Did I do them as I went? I'll let you take an educated guess... Her husband also made a super useful excel spreadsheet so that none of the colours ever touched or repeated - I'm not sure the best way to impart that to you but if you want it I am happy to forward! It is very common for partners of yarn crafters to have geeky/techy skills and I absolutely love it. Rachel sent me those details, I believe, in October (the dates are weird on our emails because it's an American thing and I can never remember which way round it is) so it's really taken me this long to get into gear...

So, in terms of choosing yarn. I actually love Rachel's version in the Cottonsoft and I don't think it looks as bulky as the pattern picture so that's a great option. Bamboo Cotton in a similar vein and you could add in a little of the Finesse DK to either of those to round out the colour choices. As I said earlier, the Luxury Merino is not in great stock at the suppliers so we've been relying on mixing and matching that with the Majestic DK and the Subtle Drifter DK - all three work wonderfully together actually and it's great fun to play around with it all in the shop. The Oatmeal in the Subtle Drifter is a great match to the Luxury Merino colour that I chose so I've stocked well up on that for this blog, I know a lot of people have been surprised at how well they've liked that beige colour once it's in a context. 

I was planning to to take to photos of sets of colours that I thought would be wonderful for this project but this has turned into a much longer blog than I was planning so maybe I'll take some photos later and do another, more photo inspiration blog later. Hmmmm. 

Have you finished this jumper? I would be so excited to get photos (and share them with your permission?!). I was assessing the sales and I think we've sold nearly 200 copies so there must be lots of Knit Nottingham versions floating about. 

Love Eleanor. xxx

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