My First Graphgan Was Embarrassingly Bad But Yours Doesn’t Need To Be
I made my first graphgan blanket when I was still very much a newbie crocheter long before I knew all of the graphgan tips and tricks I’ll share with you today. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to share with you but let’s just say it was far from perfect. With wonky edges and questionable color change techniques, the kindest way to describe it would be ‘quirky’. Despite this, I fell in love with making graphgans. There’s something so satisfying about using simple, repetitive stitches to paint a picture with yarn.
Since that first slightly disastrous attempt, I’ve made many more graphgans and I’ve learned so much along the way. My first graphgan experience would have gone a lot more smoothly if I’d known what I know now. Those wonky edges? Superbly straight. The questionable color changes? Neat and tidy. And the thing is, the skills I needed to up my graphgan game weren’t particularly complex, you don’t need to be an expert crocheter to make a good graphgan. In fact, I’d argue you only need to know five things in order to make a flawless graphgan and two of those things don’t even require picking up a crochet hook.
Graphgan Tip 1: Start Small Or Start Simple
I love my Big Mountains Blanket. It was the first graphgan pattern I ever released and it will always have a special place in my heart. However, if you’re making your first graphgan, you’re going to want to stay clear of this one. First off, it’s big. 38,340 stitches big. That’s 38,340 times you have to make a half double crochet stitch whilst attempting to stop your yarns from getting tangled and trying to keep track of where you need to place your next color change. Oh, and those color changes around the tree section? Quite frankly, a bit of a faff.
So yeah, as lovely as the Big Mountains Blanket is, it’s not the place to start. Instead, you’re going to want to start small, a baby blanket is a fantastic first graphgan project. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a baby-sized version of the Big Mountains Blanket you could try out? Yes, it would and that’s why I made the Mini Mountains Baby Blanket. With a far more manageable 12,420 stitches and no pesky trees, I would absolutely recommend this as a first graphgan project.
If I can’t convince you to start with a small blanket, (I get it, a baby blanket is only going to keep your calves warm, what use is that?) at least let me convince you to start with something simple. Pick something with two or three colors such as my Stag Blanket. Making a large blanket with lots of colors will get overwhelming quickly. When you have multiple working yarns, they get tangled constantly. Before you know it, you’ll be spending more time detangling than you will be crocheting and where’s the fun in that?
Graphgan Tip 2: Use A Chart Keeper To Stay On Track
‘What row am I on?’ If I had a penny for every time I said that before learning this next tip, there’d be no yarn left for you to make your graphgan because I would have bought up every last skein. Gone are the days of ticking off every row of the color chart with a pen and subsequently forgetting whether I’m supposed to tick the row I just finished or the row I’m about to start. Did I gain some sort of superpower you ask? No, I purchased a document holder. Now when I’m doing any crochet colorwork, I print off the chart and place it in the document holder. Every time I finish a row I slide the line guide up to keep track of my progress. It’s such a simple trick but so effective.
Graphgan Tip 3: Get Off To A Speedy Start With Foundation Stitches
Have you ever seen a pattern start like this? Does it make you want to put down your crochet hook and find a different pattern? For me it does, long starting chains are the worst. It’s not so much the chain that’s the problem, it’s the row after where you crochet into the chain that I hate. You end up twisting the chain, working into the wrong loop or worst of all – you get to the end of the row and count your stitches to find you have 204 instead of 205.
Luckily, starting chains can be entirely forgotten when it comes to making graphgans thanks to foundation stitches. With these magical stitches, you work your foundation chain and the first row at the same time. There are three different foundation stitches – foundation single crochet (FSC), foundation half double crochet (FHDC) and foundation double crochet (FDC) – and you can learn how to do them all in under five minutes with this video:
Graphgan Tip 4: Keep The Edges Tidy
Crisp edges are so important when it comes to making your graphgan look polished and professional and it’s easy to do. When you get to the end of a row, chain 1 (this does not count as a stitch) and turn. On your next row, work directly into the very first stitch and every stitch across, DO NOT work into the turning chain at the end of the row.
Graphgan Tip 5: Conquer Your Color Changes
Color changes were the most confusing part of the graphgan process for me when I started making them. Are you supposed to carry the yarn you’re not using? Crochet over it? Cut it and rejoin it the next time you use it? I had no idea. Thankfully I know exactly what to do now and I’ve written an entire blog post to help you out: Master Graphgan Colour Changes Quickly.
You’re Ready To Make Your First Graphgan!
With my five simple graphgan tips in mind, you’re ready to go and crush your first graphgan. If you don’t already have a pattern in mind, be sure to check out my blanket patterns – remember tip 1! If you need a quick recap of all the tips, you can watch my quick recap video: