Squares are the most basic shape in geometry, one of the most perfect sided-shapes in the universe, and they are one of the easiest shapes to knit. They are a versatile shape to use in designing, or they can stand alone as a finished object from a coaster to a dishcloth, to a boat-neck tunic, to a pillow facing, to a building-block afghan, to even a lace shawl. Squares can be portable, relatively mindless knitting to keep in any bag or passenger seat to knit when the stitcher only has a few minutes of time to devote.
There are five common ways to knit a square. The easiest is the straightforward method of casting on and knitting until the length and width of the item match each other. If row gauge and stitch gauge do not match and the square has a framed picture for a pattern, however, the knitter may end up with a rectangle instead of a square. The good news is that most building-block squares are relatively small, so ripping it out to re-knit it is usually not as traumatic as, say, noticing an error in a lace pattern several rows down.
If a straight square does not have a framed pattern in the middle, the question is how far to knit until you have a square? Geometry makes this easy: slide the item to the center of a set of circular needles or spread out the stitches evenly across straight needles, if possible. Extra-ambitious knitters can take the item off of the needles and lay it flat on a table. Then, take the bottom left corner of the item and fold it so that the left edge lays along the tops of the live stitches. If the bottom hangs over the right side, you have knitted too much. If the bottom does not meet the right side, you still have some knitting to do. Stop knitting when the sides are even.
Some squares are knit on the bias; this method, and the straight method, are both useful for dishcloths and building blocks. To make a square using this method, the gauge will be typically spot-on to slightly tighter than the recommended gauge on the ball band of the yarn. Cast on three stitches, and increase one stitch on each end on the right side while knitting or purling back on the wrong side. Two sides of the square are hanging from the needles with the diagonal being the live stitches. When it comes time to decrease, one stitch on each end gets decreased on one side and the other side gets knitted or purled across.
The next two methods are in the round, and a square can either be knitted from the center out or from the outside in. If four stitches per row, or eight stitches every other row, are increased or decreased at exactly the same point in a pattern in an “x” formation, the item will take a square shape when it is off the needles. This method is used for lace patterns, building blocks, medallions and panels on garments, home decor items, and practically anywhere a few eyelets will be appreciated.
Finally, some squares use a technique called “mitering,” mirrored after a technique used in architecture and carpentry. Mitered squares are knitted by casting on two of the four square sides, and then pairing two decreases in the center of the item to form a diagonal. The only requirement with this method is that the knitter starts with an even number of stitches.
Since squares are so versatile both for practice and designing, they are great projects to just cast on and go, without a definite project destination in mind. All of the projects featured in the list are free, so grab the needles and start making squares.
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Squares knitted straight
This Coffee Connection Afghan Toast Square from Off da Hook Designs is an example of a knitted square from the bottom up, or “straight.” The pattern can be found here, and gauge is important if you want the item to be square instead of rectangular when finished.
Squares knitted on the bias
This design, called Grandmother’s Favorite dishcloth, is a traditional design which incorporates knitting on the bias to form a square. Here is a link to one of many traditional patterns incorporating this design.
Center-out square knitting
Pattern 114-3 in the DROPS catalogue of patterns is a jacket with squares in garter stitch. Some of the squares are made by starting at the center, and increasing a set number of stitches at set intervals to create a center-out square. The pattern can be found using this link.
Edge-in square knitting
This nine-inch plain blanket square by Amy McElwain incorporates decreases at set intervals to form a square. The square actually terminates in the middle, with the outer edge being the cast-on edge. To make one, you can see the pattern here.
Mitered square knitting
This Perfect Square Pillow by Vickie Howell is an example of two mitered squares sewn together; mitered squares are made by casting on two edges and decreasing up the center diagonal. The pattern for the pillow can be found on Vickie’s blog.