I have had many discussions with people about turning centers in their granny squares when crocheting in the round and what they can do about it. A friend of mine asked me if I could write up my explanation and advice because she kept forgetting. So here goes!
What is a turning center granny square?
Before we look at what the cause is and how to prevent your center turning, lets first take a look at a turning center. If you look at this large square afghan worked in the round, this is up to part 21 of the Dutch CAL 2015, you will see that the center turns to the left relative to the outer corners. As you get closer to the center, the turn becomes more pronounced. This turn is to the left because I’m right-handed and work from right to left. If you are left-handed your turn will be in the opposite direction, i.e. to the right.
You might think it strange that my work turns, after all I am a semi-experienced crocheter. There is a myth that turning centers only happen to novice crocheters. Nope. Not true. It happens to the best of us.
What causes your center to turn?
To understand why a center turns, we have to look at the way crochet stitches are worked into one another. When working a round of stitches into the stitches below, the new stitches are positioned ever so slightly to the right of the stitches directly below them.
To show you what I mean, take a look at the image below. I have drawn a line through the center of the stitch in round 1. The post of the same stitch in round 3 is not aligned with the post of the stitch in round 1, but offset by a millimeter or so. As such this is not much, but when making large squares these millimeters build up as the square grows and at a certain point any given stitch is no longer above the equivalent stitch a few rounds down.
If you are right-handed your stitches are offset to the right, so your square turns to the left. If you are left-handed your stitches are offset to the left and your square turns to the right.
How to prevent your center from turning?
This turn is very frustrating and can really be a bummer on your beautiful work. So what to do about it?
The first thing you can do is block, block, BLOCK your work. If you have noticed that your work tends to turn a lot, be sure to block your work at regular intervals whilst making your project. If you wet-block and keep your corners pinned down at square angles you can straighten out the turn before it becomes prominent. This requires patience and perseverance; I know from experience that the last thing I want to do during a project is stop my work to block.
To illustrate the effect of blocking I show you a comparison between the Dutch CAL up to part 21 after serious blocking. The turn is not completely gone, but it is considerably reduced. To un-turn a square by blocking you need to wet-block, just spraying your square is most probably not enough, and use a lot of pins to really force the square back into shape.
Skipping the first stitch
A second thing you can do is change the way the stitches are worked. Do not attempt this if you are new to crochet because it’s easy to cause mistakes and get your stitch count all messed up. The trick to correct the problem is to skip the first stitch after the corner which will cause your work to pull back to the right. But now you have one stitch less than you need, so the best thing is to add an extra stitch in your corner.
An example to illustrate
Assume the pattern says
(2dc, ch2, 2dc) in the ch2-corner space, 1dc in next 7 st.
To correct, adapt the pattern as follows:
(3dc, ch2, 2dc) in the ch2-corner space, skip the first st., 1dc in next 6 st.
The effect of this adaptation only becomes visible when you work a new round because then the posts of the new stitches are aligned with the stitches two rounds down. If you look at the comparison below the square on the left has been worked in the ‘normal’ way and the square on the right has been corrected by skipping the first stitch after the corner in round 3. The result is that the stitches in round 4 (the blue round) are realigned with the stitches in round 1.
Flipping your work
To get the same effect as the skipping the first stitch correction option above, you can also flip your work to work a round with the back of your work facing. This way the stitches are worked in the opposite direction and you again align your stitches. Personally I don’t like this option because in most designs the front of your work contains all the pretty details and if you work a row ‘the wrong way’, you lose some of that detail.
A forth option is to look for designs which already incorporate the skipping stitch correction. Two examples are Sophie’s Universe by Dedri Uys and Around the Bases by ChiChi Allen. Both these designs tweak the square back every few rounds by skipping the first stitch immediately after the corner. This way the designers correct for that inevitable center turn and prevent it from happening in the first place.
I hope this helps you a bit to understand what the underlying cause of a turning granny square center is. At the end of the day it’s just a natural crochet phenomenon.