A good afghan will incorporate all three of those qualities.
I’m not talking about Middle Eastern people called Afghans. I mean the kind that you use to keep yourself warm on a cold winter evening while sitting in your chair with a cup of hot herbal tea and a good book.
I guess most people would call them “throws” these days. The blankets, not the people. And based on the mess in Afghanistan right now, I could see the wisdom in that. But I’m old-fashioned as well as old and I still think of the sweet little blankets that I like to crochet as “afghans.”
I’ve often wondered why they are called as they are. One explanation is that the country of Afghanistan is known for its distinctive textiles, colorful carpets, and beautiful karakul wool. So someone, somewhere, at some time decided to call colorful knitted or crocheted blankets “afghans.”
And if you look at some of the more traditional patterns for afghans, like granny squares and ripple stitches, I can see why you might attribute them to Afghanistan.
Most people will recognize the need to pick harmonious colors for their crocheting project, whether it is a scarf (I do still call them mufflers), hat, sweater, or afghan. Also people will often consider the pattern (order of colors, but that can also refer to the way they use the various stitches) they want to use. If you are making a solid color sweater, then pattern is not as essential. But the thing a lot of crafters often neglect to consider is texture. And in a solid color project, texture can become critical. Think of a cable knit sweater and think about how much more interesting that is than if the whole thing were done knit one, purl one.
Very often, a crafter will let the qualities of the yarn stand in for texture. Big, chunky yarns are great for that. And some of the newer yarns (I’ve been crocheting for over 40 years and can remember when about all you could find were worsted yarns) with their stretch, and whiskers, and multiply dyed plies are really good for adding texture to your project.
The thing about a worsted yarn is that it is smooth. On its own, it has very little interesting going on. But by using your crochet stitches creatively, you can add texture to the equation. And there are some interesting stitches in the crochet arsenal that crafters have been coming up with over the years. Front and back post double crochet comes to mind along with the puff stitch about which I have written in the past.
But even without the benefit of these more dimensional stitches, you can still work texture into your project with just the four or five most basic stitches of crochet.
When making an afghan, I try to vary the stitch pattern with each variation in color. So if I am using, say, tan, brown and green and each color will be three rows deep, I might do three rows of tan in single crochet only, then three of brown alternating single crochet, double crochet and then single crochet again with each row. Then for the green, I might do all three rows in double crochet.
Not only can you see a visible difference in the texture, you can also feel it. And I think my work should feel interesting as well as look interesting. I like to do the same thing with the mufflers that I make. Although, there is nothing wrong with uniformity or simplicity. The Quakers have done a lot with simplicity and keeping things fairly plain.
A simple trick that can be done with just about any crochet stitch is to pick up only the top loop of the next stitch in line. This will create a “line” along the length of that color and adds some visual appeal. A caution is that if you do that too much in a larger project like an afghan, the result can be too loose for the weight of it. In scarves and sweaters and hats and the like, though, it is not as much of an issue.
Really, though, when all is said and done, the whole point of crocheting is to enjoy doing it. So just do it however it pleases you. I’ve always found that works the best for me.
Here are some of my favorite crochet quotes.