The Great American Aran Afghan

So perhaps I'm a bit obsessed with cables and celtic designs, as well as loving to block things into a perfect square! Having said that, I'm seriously contemplating starting the squares that compose the great american aran afghan (TGAAA)
Am I crazy? It would be the largest and most time consuming project I've ever tackled. I've made other afghans before, but nothing of this complexity. It's not the complexity that worries me, I *think* I can handle the's the amount of time, and the fact that I would have to buy ALL that yarn at once. If it ends up as a UFO (un-finished object) I'll be stuck with a couple individual squares, and lots of leftover yarn. Decisions, Decisions.....


MitchPR08's picture

Just looking at that thing frightens me, but then again, I panic easily...I say go for it...quite ballsy though but I'm sure you can do it if you put your mind to it, either way, itll eventually get done, sooner...or much later.

DeceptiveCookie's picture

You know... I've contemplated starting that monster a few times... It's definitely not for the knitter who is faint of heart! Why not try alternating shades of yarn to lessen how much of the materials you have to buy at a time?

scottly's picture

Oh, do it. Set yourself small goals like one block every two weeks or something like that and before you know it will be done. You can have other projects going at the same time. And if it ends up as a permanent UFO you can always unravel what you've done and use the yarn for something else - good yarn need never go to waste. God knows I've frogged my share projects that I've lost interest in.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

I've never had the inclination to tackle this but a few friends have. It is a good way to learn all about cables and some of the designs are quite striking. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

bigrich5885's picture

I would really like to do it in all one color (not necessarily white or ecru)..I'm open to suggestions.
Preferably I would like to do it in wool (although if money was no object, I would DEFINITELY make it in cashmere!). Seems like most people who have done them have used Cascade 220.
Any suggestions for different brands of yarn that would be a good quality but not cost prohibitive?

Kenny's picture

do it do it do it. think about it, just one square at a time. never a boring project.

TheKnittingMill's picture

I'm with Kenny....DO IT! There's someone who posted on all of her blocks on Ravelry. You might want to check it out! DO IT! Oh, and welcome Rich! Glad to have you aboard. DO IT!


Tallguy's picture

One important point you are missing here:
Knitting is just working one stitch at a time, with two pointed sticks. Period. You can make some really nice designs with a variety of combinations of how you manipulate those pointy sticks, but that is the basis of knitting.

Ok, so whether you are making a bookmark, a dishcloth, a sweather or an afghan, it is all done one stitch at at time. Time is not really a factor, is it? Are you near the end of your life, and you need to get this done in a hurry?

You need to decide whether you are a process or product knitter. By that, do you enjoy the process of knitting, or do you knit so you have a finished object? If all you want is the afghan, for pete's sake, you can go to WM and just buy one. Faster, easier, all in the colour you want, done! Go on to something else.

If you are knitting for the sake of knitting, then does it really matter how long this takes, or even if it gets finished ever? When it's done, it's done. In the meantime, you enjoy the knitting. If you only have one square or 15 done, does it matter? You can always make a cushion top with one. or a bag with two, or a lap-ghan, or anything else with just a few squares, if that bothers you. Never look to the far horizon of how far you have to go... just go one step at a time. You'll get there, one step at a time.

Use a line of yarn that will be around for a long time, and just buy one skein/ball and use it. Get another when you can. Does it all have to be the same colour? Why? Think outside the box. Live dangerously! Break out of your comfort zone! Get a mortgage for all the yarn you will ever need -- it doesn't matter -- there is always a way.

And go wash out your mouth with soap!! You said a nasty word... we don't have left***s, that is just unheard of! What you talkin' 'bout, Wills?? We have projects in progress, a WIP, some unfinished objects, but nothing is ever left***!!!

Now, pick up those pointy sticks, and cast-on (with a bow to Brenda Dayne).

CRobertK's picture

It is a beautiful pattern. It's definitely something I would need a lot of convincing to try myself.

It's similar to a pattern I saw on Knit Picks I think. They call it a Sampler Afghan.

I've always wanted to try the the LB Tree of Life pattern too.

As far as color, I would suggest a sage green or mocha. I think they would help show more depth in the stitches and not be an over powering color like a red or maroon in a large afghan. Just my thoughts. As far as yarn, try looking at the Knit Picks Wool of the Andes selections. I am working with it for the KAL clogs and absolutely love it, and is only around $1.99 to 3.99 a ball/hank.

Be sure and post lots of pictures!

-- Why live and let live when we can live and help live?

-- Why live and let live when we can live and help live?

It is a Beautiful afghan, Have you thought about plymouth encore it is a blend, but will make washing so much easier. Just last year I made 12 afghans and I only use blends or acrylics for them, Just so they can be machine washed and dried.In the years to come you never know what could get spilled on an afghan. Have fun with it and just enjoy knitting all those lovely patterns.

JesterTwin's picture

Wow, good luck on accomplishing that wonderfully involved project. I bought that very same book in December of last year. I fell in love with the little aran sweater in one of the squares. I like DeceptiveCookie's idea of varying the shades of color for 2 reasons: I could decide at any time to stop and make the existing squares into whatever is useful, and I can buy a color, work on a square until it's done, and move on to a different one in a different shade. I could even bring the finished squares into the LYS to help with the color selection. You know, now that I've mulled over those ideas, I just might start knitting mine. Have fun with yours, and I'd sure like to see some progress picutres. jim.

Tom Hart's picture

I like Tallguy’s observation about product versus process. For me the intended product is pretty much just an excuse to engage in the process. I think an afghan is a great excuse to engage in a really rewarding process. I don’t know about that Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, though. Seems like I remember a yarn discussion a while back and Knit Picks Wool of the Andes did not come off well. This is from a post of Albert’s: “It's Wool of the Andes- it fuzzes and pills, and generally looks shabby when subjected to wear. I knit a sweater for a friend a while back (see my post about the F.O. sweater). A few weeks after I gave it to him, he wore it into work and it looked like a mangy dog- shabby and covered with pills that would choke a horse.” And Mathew Gnagy had this to say about Cascade 220: “..the one made of Cascade 220 did not age well at all...the yarn was pilled and terrible looking after a year of wear.” I was able to dig up those comments by going to the “search” box and typing in “knit picks wool of the Andes” and “cascade 220”. Seems like if you’re going to get into such an awesome project you really ought to pick a yarn that will last a few years. I, personally, am a beginner and couldn’t really tell you about either one of those yarns but Albert and Mathew are definitely not beginners. All the best with it.

Good luck with the project.

I have never had time to knit the project but I did help a friend to finish hers. Be prepared to do a lot of blocking.

There is such variety within the squares that the chances of any given knitter creating evenly matched squares is slight. My friend almost gave up after a few squares due to the mismatch in sizes.

Fortunately she was using Patton's Classic Wool (Canadian equivalent of Cascade 220) so we could really perform some serious blocking. So make sure you have some wool in whichever yarn you finally pick.

What I did was to take a piece of 3 inch thick Styrofoam and drew a template of the size required for the blocks on the foam. Then as my friend finished each block, I would pin each block to the template and give it a good steaming. Sometimes I really had to punish the wool to get it to fit, but the wool, in the end, was very forgiving. Be perpared to use a lot of pins. On a few squares I had to place pins at strategic points in the square to avoid pattern distortion. Then over the next couple of days I would spritz it with a water from a spray bottle that I kept next to square. After a few days of this, I just left the square to completely dry before removing the pins.

When we finally got around to piecing the work, only a few of the squares need a bit of reblocking.

Don't wait until you have finished all the squares--block as you go.

Again good luck.

rdought's picture

Take the plunge! There should be no regrets about starting a project like this. Enjoy the process regardless of how long it takes. I did 63 squares in Barbara Walker's Learn to Knit Afghan in my quest to learn to knit. In addition to learning knitting techniques, I learned: (1) you should block the squares as you go, (2) don't underestimate the time for finishing, and (3) when you're finished, you'll love the final product.

stch's picture

Thank you for sharing this with us. It's a beautiful afghan and looks like it'll be a fun project.

mrossnyc's picture

Do it. My first big project after the obligatory hat and scarf was an Aran afghan and it was a great learning experience. I followed some patterns from a book and the others I designed myself. I also extended some patterns into rectangles to break up the grid of the afghan a little bit.

It took me about 9 months to complete it, but again it was early on in my knitting experience. But, don't let the size throw you; it will be worth it in the end to really get a grasp on Aran knitting.

Good Luck!

michaelpthompson's picture

Somehow I just KNEW Tallguy was going to say that. And he's right. It's all just one stitch at a time. That advice has given me more encouragement than he'll ever know.

Personally, I'm partially process and partially product. I really like having a FO to show off or give as a gift, I like the sense of accomplishment in making something. But I also just like to BE KNITTING.

I hadn't done any knitting for a few years when I picked it back up again while on a job that involved a lot of sitting around. I started a scarf, plain garter stitch, row after row. I've put it down and picked it back up a lot of times now. It might be half done or so, I haven't decided yet how long I want it, and I've been working on it more than three years now, maybe close to five. So what? I enjoy the process, and it's a great conversation starter.

"All knitting is just one stitch at a time."