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What is an Afghan?

Amy Pollick
Updated: May 16, 2024

An afghan is the knitted or crocheted blanket everyone has seen thrown over the back of a rocking chair or folded at the foot of Grandmother's bed. Afghans are often given as gifts and may become family heirlooms. Many people use an afghan as a throw on a chilly day, as a bedspread, or as decoration for the back of a chair. An afghan also makes a good three-season blanket, adding warmth without a lot of weight.

An afghan derives its name, in all likelihood, from its resemblance to Afghan Oriental rugs. Many afghans have geometric stripes and patterns, worked in bright colors, just as Afghan rugs have. No one is positive that this is where the name comes from, but it is a pretty good guess.

Many people who are learning to crochet or knit make an afghan as their first "big" project. This is because the construction is usually straightforward and requires only basic stitches. More elaborate patterns exist, of course, but making a simple afghan is a good way to master the basic stitches and techniques.

There are many popular afghan patterns, whether they are crocheted or knitted. The chevron stripe is a good beginning crochet pattern, and a block stripe is good for beginning knitters. A lovely afghan can also be made using only single crochet, either in a solid color or in stripes. A granny square afghan is another popular pattern, and can be either knitted or crocheted. The granny square may be made of squares or rounds, worked as single units and then joined together in designs. Squares are usually bound on all sides, while rounds are generally joined by thin threads of knit or crochet work, creating a lacy look. Afghans made from rounds are usually more decorative than functional.

Any afghan pattern will give the number of skeins of yarn needed to make the blanket and the size of crochet hooks or knitting needles. The crafter needs to pay careful attention to this information, so that the afghan will be of the desired size when finished. Buying yarn all at once is a good idea as well. If a crafter waits to buy more yarn, the skeins may have the same color printed on the sleeve, but may be of different dye lots. The colors could be subtly different.

Working an afghan is a satisfying way to learn a new skill and create something useful and beautiful at the same time.

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Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at HomeQuestionsAnswered. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By wavy58 — On Jul 11, 2011

My favorite afghan is the one my mother bought at a flea market. It is blue and green, and it looks like a series of waves. Looking at it relaxes me, because it reminds me of the ocean and being gently rocked.

The color pattern starts with a deep blue and proceeds through a series of shades that lead from blue to green. Then, the colors fade from green to a light sea-green. From there, they change to light blue and progress back to the original deep blue color.

The colors resemble the sea and how different depths have different shades. If you have ever seen an aerial shot of the ocean, you have probably noticed that some areas are quite green while others are sky blue. When examining this afghan as a child, I could pretend that I was flying above the ocean looking down at all the shades and the waves.

By seag47 — On Jul 11, 2011

I am taking a knitting class, and we are learning the three styles of crocheting afghans. Right now we are beginners, so we started with what’s called the mile-a-minute afghans. These are made in one piece using minimal stitches, and they are simple to make.

Next, we are going to be making join-as-you-go afghans. These are made of many pieces, and one begins where the other ends. The pieces can be different shapes and colors.

Lastly, we will do motif afghans, like the granny square. They are made from lots of small pieces that are called motifs. They can be all the same design or different, but either way, they are the same size so that we can join them easily.

By shell4life — On Jul 10, 2011

I wonder if the afghan dog got its name from the afghan blanket. Its coat certainly bears a resemblance to one.

I have never seen an afghan hound up close, but in pictures, they are a striking breed. Their long hair flows all the way to the ground. It hangs down from their backs like a curtain.

Even the dog’s feet are draped about with fur. It’s like they are wearing bellbottoms on their legs and an afghan on their backs. The lengthy hair of their heads parts in the middle and hangs straight like a 1970's hairstyle. I imagine the owner of an afghan hound would have to devote considerable time to grooming this animal.

By cloudel — On Jul 10, 2011

One of my first and longest lasting memories is of the lacy afghan at my grandmother's house. She made it using light pink rounds attached by web-like threads of the same color yarn. To me, it was the most beautiful thing in the house.

I liked to cuddle up with it on chilly days. The soft yarn comforted me, and I almost always fell asleep within a few minutes.

I also liked to drape the afghan across the ironing board, sit underneath it, and pretend I had the most beautiful tent in the world. My grandmother gave it to me when I graduated so that I could take it to college with me and feel more at home.

By Monika — On Jul 09, 2011

@JessicaLynn - That sounds like it can get to be a very heated debate! That's funny though because my mom and step-father have an afghan at their place that was made for them by my step-fathers former mother-in-law. I know for a fact it was made from acrylic and it is so soft and comfy!

I guess I'll have to throw my hat in the ring with the acrylic supporters on this argument. Also, I'm allergic to wool so I suppose I could never be a "fiber snob!"

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 09, 2011

In the knitting/crocheting world there is an argument that seems to always pop up: natural fibers versus synthetic fibers.

Some people, who are lovingly referred to as "fiber snobs" refuse to knit with anything but wool or other natural fibers. None of that yucky acrylic, which "feels like plastic." Others swear by acrylic because of it's low cost and how easy it is to care for. These people always remind everyone that yarn manufacturers have improved acrylic yarn a lot over the last few years.

Once this argument gets started someone always brings up a crochet afghan their grandma made out of Red Heart Super Saver (a type of very inexpensive acrylic that has been available forever.) Some assert that Grandma's afghan looks as good as when it was first made and will last forever. The fiber snobs always come back with a comment about how their respective Grandma made them an afghan long ago out of acrylic and it is "scratchy."

No one ever wins this argument but it pops up regularly on crafting forums and groups and probably always will.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at...
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