Crocheting Creativity

Crocheting Woolly Thoughts’ “Square Root”

Posted on: 6 March 2011

Woolly Thought’s “Square Root” knitting pattern is easily translated into crochet, explained step by step in this entry. Their afghan starts with a central square that is all the same color. For the more colorful among you, start with a square composed of two different color triangles. The only difference is whether you switch colors in the middle of that first square. But I’m jumping ahead—let’s start at the beginning.

The first step is to determine whether your single crochet stitch is square (American usage – that’s “double crochet” in British usage). So, yeah, there’s no getting around it, you have to do a swatch! The good news is that once you get a good one, it can be the center of the afghan, no need to start over again.

So start with a slip knot, chain (ch) 2, single crochet (sc) in the second chain from the hook, ch 1, turn.

  • Do 3 sc in the first (only) sc, ch 1, turn.
  • Sc inc in first stitch, sc, sc inc, ch 1, turn (where “sc inc” is a single crochet increase, working 2 sc in a sc of the previous row).
  • Continue in this pattern, sc inc in first and last stitch of each row, ch 1, turn to start the next row.

When the edge from your first row to the beginning of your current row is the length you want for your central square, stop and assess. Do the rows expand out from the first stitch in such a way that the two edges form a right triangle (90 degrees)?

If so, great! Your swatching is done and we’ll move on shortly (don’t cut the yarn – we’ll be picking up here). Count the number of stitches you have in this row – write down that number and don’t lose it!

If you don’t have a right angle, are your rows expanding faster than they should so you have an obtuse angle or not fast enough so it’s an acute angle? Try a smaller or larger hook respectively and see whether that gets you to a right angle. Yes, you have to start from scratch for each trial, preferably with a fresh section of yarn.

If changing hooks doesn’t help, experiment! If your first swatch had too wide an angle, try doing the sc inc only at the beginning of each row, or doing the increases every other row. If too narrow, try doing an extra sc inc per row, in the second sc of the previous row. Whatever works to get the swatch to a right angle – write it down!

At this point you have a swatch in the shape of a right triangle that is the size you want for the middle of your afghan. If you are doing Woolly Thoughts’ “Square Root,” you’ll continue in the same color. If you want two triangles in the middle, change colors to start the next row – I’m assuming you already know how to do that. You have written down the number of stitches in your longest row, right?

To complete the center square, do decreases in the same pattern as you used to make the triangle. That is, if you got here by doing an increase at each end of each row, do a single crochet (American usage) decrease at each end of each row until you’re back down to one stitch. To do a single crochet decrease (sc dec) pull up a loop in the next two stitches, then yarn over and pull through all the loops on your hook. If you had to make any adjustments to get a right triangle, make those same adjustments when you decrease. For example, since my triangles tend to flare out at more than 90 degrees, every third or fourth row, I was doing a decrease in the middle of the row to “cinch” it back in a bit. So to complete the square, I need to do a mid-row increase in the rows corresponding (mirror image) to where I did the decreases in the first half.

What happens if you end up with three stitches, unable to decrease at both ends? One method is to decrease once in each of two rows. Another is to do a single crochet decrease in all three stitches: pull up a loop in each of the three, then yarn over and draw through all the loops on your hook. Try it both ways and see which looks better to you.

Now you’re ready to start building out a triangle on each side of your central square. Remember that number you wrote down earlier? Here’s where you need it. Divide that number by 1.4—no, you don’t have to do it by hand, although that would be great mental exercise. Google will do it for you if you don’t have any other calculator handy. And yes, I know that’s a really rough approximation to the square root of two—yarn is so forgiving! Keep one decimal point in your answer for now, such as “7.2” or “6.9”.

Now think back: did you get a perfect right angle earlier without having to make any adjustments along the way? Then round your answer up or down in the usual way to the closest whole number. If your first try resulted in less than a right triangle before you made adjustments, go to the next larger whole number. If your first try gave more than a right angle, go to the next smaller whole number. So because my initial try grew too wide too fast, resulting in more than a right triangle, if my answer was 7.2, I’d now use 7; if it were 6.9, I’d use 6. Write this number down! You will need it again.

Use the number for what, I hear you asking? That’s the number of single crochets you’re now going to do across the side of your square. Space them out as evenly as you can but don’t obsess. Have I mentioned that yarn is a wonderfully forgiving medium? Now you’re all set: do your decreasing as you did in finishing your central square, so when you’re back down to one stitch, you’ve completed another right triangle. Repeat this on each edge of your central square. Voila! You now have a bigger square completely containing your initial square.

Ready for the third round? Go back to your first number, the one from the longest row in your central square. That’s how many single crochet stitches you’re now going to do along the side of your new square. Decrease as before to a right angle point. Are you getting the pattern here? Do that on each side and once again you’ll have a square, the next size larger, containing the previous square. This is really easy to see if you’re using a different color on each round.

Fourth round? Do twice the number of single crochet stitches per side as you did in the second round. And so on, with each new round doubling the number of starting stitches from the round two earlier. Double check as you go that you’re still getting right triangles. The larger the square, the more likely it will be that you’ll need to make some adjustments as you go. Again, if this will be a pillow cover, or you plan to add a border that will help square up the results, the yarn will hide any wobbles or unevenness.

Finally, enjoy! Who knew geometry could be so much fun??

Related project: a pillow that evolved out of a motif started in a Woolly Thoughts workshop.


4 Responses to "Crocheting Woolly Thoughts’ “Square Root”"

You are the Elizabeth Zimmerman of crochet, writing with a comforting familiarity and humor about mathful nerdy fiber projects! Got any pictures?

Thank you! Hearing that from delightful writer/photographer/designer/knitter extraordinaire you, I’m flattered! Photos: just the pillow and links to the knit versions. I’m thinking I need to do a pillow-sized – or maybe dollhouse-sized – version for the county fair this year.

Thanks for the tutorial – just finished a 3 ft by 3 ft Square Root in crochet- used a J hook and 2 strands worsted weight- makes a great bedside rug! posted pictures in my profile at ravelry (Cynr) shared with Woolly Thoughts group also! great job and thanks for the inspiration- on to the Curve of Pursuit…

[…] joy of spending four days in their workshops, I was able to both apply work I had already done in translating their knitting techniques into crochet and learn numerous new skills while serving as their “crocheting translator.” While […]

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