Knitting the Foursquare Patch Afghan

The foursquare patch afghan was a stash reduction project. Although I ended up buying an extra cone of cotton, both the cotton base and the colorful mixed-fibre scraps were left over from other projects.

Because I’d used most of the cotton base yarn to knit a slipcover for a 1970s vinyl-upholstered armchair, I chose to use the rest to knit a lap blanket big enough to wrap around knees or shoulders, not both. Once you’ve knitted a square or two, you can put together as many squares as you need…in theory you could patch together enough of these squares to cover a football field. The lap-sized blanket used less than three cones, almost exactly one kilogram, of Peaches-n-Cream cotton yarn (I used ecru) and an equivalent yardage of scraps.

For this project I just wound yarn off a ball of scraps I’d rolled up after sewing up knitted pieces and trimming the ends. The colors are random, yet there’s some harmony among the colors in each individual square. Not all of the scraps knitted up to 4 or 5 stitches per inch, as Peaches-n-Cream does. Most did, and since I wanted this to be an indoor blanket with a loose, cozy feel rather than a tight, solid feel, I used #11 needles to knit one strand of scrap and one strand of Peaches-n-Cream in every stitch, for an average gauge of 2.75 stitches per inch. (If you use up scraps of different weights in a project like this, your gauge will vary slightly from row to row when measured over rows of thicker and thinner yarn.)

At this gauge it doesn’t take a lot of stitches to make a good-sized patch. For these big bold squares I cast on 144 stitches, using markers to divide them into 4 groups of 36. If you happen to have double-pointed #11 needles, feel free to use them. I used straight #11’s and worked back and forth, thusly:

Pick a stitch pattern (or mix them up). In order to make the squares lie flat without blocking, use a row-intensive stitch like these six:

1. Garter Stitch—knit every stitch, every row.

2. There’s some disagreement about the names for moss and seed stitch. Here is the simplest one: Row 1–*knit 1, purl 1* across. Row 2—on an even number of stitches, the first stitch on the needle is one you purled on the previous row, which now presents itself from its knit side; purl it. Knit the next stitch, and continue to K the P st and P the K st across. Repeat these 2 rows.

3. A four-row elaboration: Row 1–*knit 1, purl 1.* Row 2—the first stitch on the needle was purled on the previous row and now presents itself from its knit side—knit it, as if working 1×1 ribbing. Purl the next st,and continue to K the K st and P the P st across. Row 3–*purl 1, knit 1,* as for row 2 of pattern Option 2 above. Row 4—as for row 2 of this pattern; now the first stitch on the needle was knitted on the previous row, and now presents itself from its purl side; purl it, knit the next stitch, and finish the row as if working 1×1 ribbing.

4. Row 1–*knit 2, purl 2* across. Row 2 (on 36 stitches)–*knit 2, purl 2,* as if working 2×2 ribbing, K the K’s and P the P’s as they present themselves. Row 3–*purl 2, knit 2.* Row 4—although the stitch count has now changed, what you’re doing is basically *purl 2, knit 2* as if working 2×2 ribbing again.

5. Row 1–*knit 2, purl 2.* Row 2–*purl 2, knit 2.”

6. Random stitch—knit any random number of stitches, then purl any random number of stitches; this works best when the numbers of stitches knitted or purled are fewer than 10 each time. Random stitch does more to randomize and mingle the stripes of different colors in a multicolored knitted fabric than any regularly repeating pattern.

What the six stitch options listed here have in common is that they all mix up knit and purl stitches enough to give a 5:9 or even 5:10 stitch-to-row ratio instead of the standard 5:7 ratio found in stock stitch. If you want to use a fancier pattern based on stock stitch, you may need to block and stretch the squares to make them lie flat. Blocking works better with wool than it does with cotton or acrylic, so I recommend using a row-intensive stitch.

To begin each square, work 2 rows (1 ridge) even, slipping markers.

Next row (rs): *Work 2 together, work 32 in pattern of choice, work 2 together,* slip marker, and repeat 3 times more.

Next row: Work back in pattern as set.

Next row: *Work 2 together, work 30 in pattern, work 2 together,* slip marker and repeat 3 times more.

Continue decreasing 1 stitch at each side of each of the four quarters of the square until you have 4 stitches left on the needles. Remove markers, join these 4 stitches, and use one long end of one yarn to sew the square together.

Choose a side of this square, pick up 36 stitches along this side, cast on 108 more, and repeat.

Continue to pick up stitches along sides of previous squares to begin new squares until you have a blanket of the size and shape you want.

Knit or crochet borders, add fringes, or add other embellishments if you want them.

This is not my Foursquare Patch Afghan, but it shows the sort of effect produced by knitting with two strands of yarn together:

[Photo from Wikipedia: “Close up of multi-coloured knitting slip-stitches” by Brian Sawyer from Westford, MA, USA – close_up. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons –]