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Zigzag broomstick 

When I first started crocheting, I read somewhere that there were two classic types of project you had to try: one with granny squares (been there, done that) and one with zigzags or chevrons. Never one to do as I’m told, I let my crochet journey take me where it naturally wanted to go. And years later, it’s finally led me to zigzags.

As you may remember from my last post, I’ve been experimenting with broomstick crochet for Simply Crochet magazine. For part two of the how-to guide, I needed to think of a project that involved changing colour, increasing and decreasing, all in broomstick crochet. Blam! That was the sound in my head as the idea hit me: stripy zigzags.

Making a blanket with the technique would’ve been nice, but I didn’t have that much time so I decided on a shawl/wrap instead. Simply Crochet gave me some beautiful Cascade Ultra Pima cotton yarn in purple, yellow and lavender, and here’s the result:

Broomstick wrap flat

Broomstick wrap flat

I actually crocheted this over Christmas and New Year, so evokes really joyful feelings for me. There were so many rows to work that I took it almost everywhere, trying to squeeze in more rows at every opportunity, even to family gatherings. A girl can crochet and mingle, you know – although having a broomstick involved as well makes it slightly more challenging!

In total, I worked a whopping 111 rows, changing colour at least every three rows, sometimes more. I made a plan of the colour changes about 25 rows in, and then ignored the plan when I felt like doing something different! My only regret was not weaving in my ends as I went. It took me about as long to weave them all in as it took to work 30 rows. Groan.

But when it was finished, it all seemed worth it. I love the zigzag shape and how the colour changes create a different geometric effect all the way along. The lacy broomstick rows give the fabric a gorgeous drape, while the double and treble rows make sure the stripes are solid and keep their zigzag shape. Looking at the whole wrap, the pattern reminds me a lot of sound waves and tree rings – it almost vibrates with positive energy! Even close up, the pretty colour combinations and gentle wavy shapes have a relaxing effect. It’s just divine.

Broomstick wrap close-up

Broomstick wrap close-up

If you’d like to make your own broomstick zigzag wrap, it’s in the new issue of Simply Crochet (issue 43). Feel free to formulate your own colour scheme using any colours you want, but if you like the look of my wrap and want to use the same colour scheme, here’s a list of which colour I used for each row:

Row 1 Yellow
Row 2 Yellow
Row 3 Yellow
Row 4 Purple
Row 5 Purple
Row 6 Lilac
Row 7 Yellow
Row 8 Lilac
Row 9 Purple
Row 10 Purple
Row 11 Lilac
Row 12 Yellow
Row 13 Yellow
Row 14 Lilac
Row 15 Purple
Row 16 Purple
Row 17 Lilac
Row 18 Yellow
Row 19 Purple
Row 20 Yellow
Row 21 Lilac
Row 22 Lilac
Row 23 Lilac
Row 24 Purple
Row 25 Yellow
Row 26 Purple
Row 27 Purple
Row 28 Lilac
Row 29 Lilac
Row 30 Purple
Row 31 Yellow
Row 32 Yellow
Row 33 Purple
Row 34 Yellow
Row 35 Lilac
Row 36 Lilac
Row 37 Yellow
Row 38 Lilac
Row 39 Purple
Row 40 Purple
Row 41 Purple
Row 42 Yellow
Row 43 Yellow
Row 44 Lilac
Row 45 Purple
Row 46 Lilac
Row 47 Yellow
Row 48 Yellow
Row 49 Lilac
Row 50 Purple
Row 51 Lilac
Row 52 Lilac
Row 53 Yellow
Row 54 Yellow
Row 55 Lilac
Row 56 Yellow
Row 57 Purple
Row 58 Purple
Row 59 Yellow
Row 60 Purple
Row 61 Lilac
Row 62 Purple
Row 63 Purple
Row 64 Yellow
Row 65 Yellow
Row 66 Purple
Row 67 Yellow
Row 68 Lilac
Row 69 Lilac
Row 70 Yellow
Row 71 Lilac
Row 72 Purple
Row 73 Yellow
Row 74 Lilac
Row 75 Lilac
Row 76 Lilac
Row 77 Purple
Row 78 Yellow
Row 79 Purple
Row 80 Lilac
Row 81 Lilac
Row 82 Lilac
Row 83 Purple
Row 84 Yellow
Row 85 Purple
Row 86 Purple
Row 87 Purple
Row 88 Lilac
Row 89 Yellow
Row 90 Purple
Row 91 Lilac
Row 92 Purple
Row 93 Purple
Row 94 Lilac
Row 95 Yellow
Row 96 Yellow
Row 97 Yellow
Row 98 Yellow
Row 99 Purple
Row 100 Purple
Row 101 Lilac
Row 102 Lilac
Row 103 Lilac
Row 104 Yellow
Row 105 Lilac
Row 106 Yellow
Row 107 Yellow
Row 108 Purple
Row 109 Yellow
Row 110 Purple
Row 111 Purple

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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Crochet

 

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Broomstick crochet

Learning new techniques is one of the best aspects of crochet – and there are so many different techniques to learn!

Recently, I got my head (and hands) around broomstick crochet, which involves creating long loops of yarn (wrapped around a ‘broomstick’) which you can then work standard crochet stitches into – the finished fabric is beautifully lacy. You can use almost anything as your ‘broomstick’ – I’ve tried it with a large knitting needle (worked well), the handle of an actual broomstick (a bit too big for me) and for the project below, a marker pen! (That worked surprisingly well, too.)

Being new to the technique, I started off by practicing with some spare yarn. Broomstick crochet is actually really easy to do, so I quickly progressed to making this little bracelet. With only 12 stitches to worry about, there wasn’t much for me to get wrong!

Broomstick bracelet

Broomstick bracelet

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It was the perfect opportunity to use a pretty yarn from Bergere de France called Reflet, which combines a soft strand of organic cotton with a sparkly strand. I chose the Ocean colourway, but I’ve got my eye on the other shades for forthcoming projects (watch this space).

I decided to use buttons to fasten my bracelet and chose three that were small enough to pass through the broomstick loops – I think it’s neat that the fabric formed its own little buttonholes.

Bracelet buttons

Bracelet buttons

After finishing it, I was a little worried that the buttons were rather fiddly to undo and do up with one hand, but it soon became clear that wouldn’t be a problem – the next day I showed it to my friend and work colleague Becca Parker (from Knit Happens). The buttons were already done up and before I could say anything, she tried it on by stretching it over her hand. “Nooo!” I exclaimed. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to harm the bracelet, so that’s become my new method of putting it on! Problem solved, thanks to Becca 🙂

A small project like this is ideal when you’re first getting to grips with a new technique, so if you’d like to try broomstick crochet and even make the bracelet, check out issue 42 of Simply Crochet magazine (on sale now), which includes the pattern for the bracelet and a step-by-step guide to the techniques involved.

Broomstick bracelet flat

Broomstick bracelet flat

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Crochet

 

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Loving handmade

Apologies for the lack of posts in February – making, doing and organising for the wedding has entirely taken over my life and blogging has somewhat fallen by the wayside… fear not though, I’ll be making up for it in May by telling you about everything I’ve been making for the wedding, including a sewn bridal bag, a personalised guest book, paper table confetti, a sewn bridal wrap decorated with crocheted hearts, a decorated card box and more.

Alongwith wedding crafting, I’ve also been working on (paid!) commissions for Simply Crochet and The Sewing Directory. I’m not quite sure how I’ve squeezed it all in really…anyway, my latest make for The Sewing Directory has been this canvas messenger bag:

Sewn canvas messenger bag

Sewn canvas messenger bag

I really love messenger bags – I feel secure with it worn across the body, I like the way it sits on the hip, and it’s easy to get stuff in and out. They’re the perfect bag for me!

I’ve wanted to try my hand at making one for ages, and then my current messenger bag (the one in this post, here) started fraying so I knew it was time. I pitched it to The Sewing Directory and they said yes, so I got to work and I’m really pleased with the outcome.

It wasn’t easy and took me about a week to make it, while working out the pattern at the same time, and then another week to write out the pattern in detail from my scribbled notes and draw step-by-step diagrams that someone else could follow. But it’s a pattern I’m really proud of. The bag itself has also been getting a lot of attention – people can’t believe it when I say I made it (I always love that).

If you’re interested in making your own messenger bag, pop over to The Sewing Directory for the free instructions. What I don’t mention in the instructions, though, is the extra pocket that I added to make the bag perfect for me! When I travel on the bus, I always worry about losing my bus ticket and try to keep it in the same place every time – but that place is usually inside a pocket that’s inside my zipped-up purse that’s inside my zipped-up bag. It’s a Russian doll effect that makes it tricky to get the ticket out in a hurry if I’m late and the bus is arriving just as I am (yes, that happens more times than I’d like to admit). So I gave my bag a hidden outside pocket along the side – you can see it in this photo if you look for the extra stitching near the orange flower:

Hidden outer pocket

Hidden outer pocket

It was fun trying to line up the pattern on the two pieces of fabric to get that ‘hidden’ effect and I think I did a pretty decent job. I love having a special hidden bus ticket pocket – it’s perfect for me. I also added another little pocket inside for my house key (which I can never find when I need it!). It’s these sorts of little life-improving details that makes me love handmade!

And so onto another made-to-measure treat that I crocheted for Simply Crochet – these men’s colourwork mittens:

Crochet colourwork mittens

Crochet colourwork mittens

These fine mittens are modelled above by my other half (soon to be husband!) who happily got to keep them afterwards. He really did deserve them as well because I made them to fit his hands while we were on holiday in November – he tried them on so many times for me that I think he worked almost as hard as I did to help bring them to life!

I used a simple spike stitch wave pattern to create a manly argyle look (if you squint, you can see it much better!). He loves these mittens (I just checked with him and he does) because they’re soft and warm, they have a subtle pattern and obviously the fit is perfect. He’s worn them much more than the previous rainbow-coloured mitts that I knitted for him about 10 years ago, so I think that’s a success.

If you’re interested in the pattern, it’s in issue 41 of Simply Crochet magazine, which also features the pattern for my rainbow scarf:

Rainbow scarf

Rainbow scarf

I made this one a while back and blogged about it here. It’s one of my favourite ever scarves and I wear it all the time, so it’ll be great to see what creative effects other crocheters can achieve with the pattern.

Right, I’m off back to sewing crocheted flowers onto a crocheted ribbon to decorate the front of my bridal car…

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Crochet cables

Nowadays, I seem to spend much more time crocheting than I do knitting. In fact, I think it might be more than a year since I last picked up the needles! I’m quite happy for the hooks to dominate my creative time instead – crochet is a wonderful, flexible craft and there’s always something new to learn. But there is one aspect of knitting that I miss: cables.

I remember when my granny first showed me how to make a knitted cable, using an extra little needle with a quirky little kink in it. Crossing over the stitches wasn’t easy and I found it very fiddly with my child’s hands, but the finished effect was like magic. Ribbons of twisty, turny, flowing stitches were so elegant – I loved them. I spent hours knitting more rows of that swatch, just repeating the one twist she’d had time to show me.

So you can imagine my delight when I heard that you could create cables in crochet. However, a quick glance at the patterns totally scared me off – they seemed so complicated and I had no idea what a Post Stitch was. It was a good year before I had enough crocheting confidence to tackle Post Stitches (which are ridiculously easy) and then another few months before I tackled my first crochet cable for this cowl.

I learned a lot from that project and so when Simply Crochet asked me to put together a guide on cables and a simple cable project, it was a pleasure. In fact, the biggest pleasure was working up a variety of crochet cable swatches – it showed me just how many different effects you can create with the technique and it reminded me of that first knitted cable swatch that my granny showed me.

Eventually, I decided on a simple 2-stitch twist and made this cabled headband:

Cable headband

Cable headband

Cosy headbands seem to be a growing trend for winter headwear (apparently they’re good for avoiding ‘hat hair’) and my fashionista friend had been wearing one last winter, so I knew I was onto a winner. I made this one way back in October, and by December they seemed to be in all the shops!

While making the headband, I learned that forming a crochet cable is actually quite straightforward – it’s trying to write it down in pattern form that makes it seem complicated! It’s so hard trying to explain that you work this post stitch into that post stitch at the front, then skip some stitches, then work some more post stitches into post stitches at the back, then go back to the skipped stitches… for me, it’s highlighted just what a physical skill crochet is and exposed the inadequacy of the human language (or at least written crochet patterns!) to explain how to do that physical skill.

Anyway, the important thing is that the finished headband looks great, with all the flowing elegance of the knitted cables I love – plus, the Drops Air Mix yarn is super-soft on your head. Actually, it took a while to find a cable pattern that looked right with the yarn – it’s so soft and fluffy, many of the cables I tried lacked definition. In the end, I went with a 2-stitch twist with a 2-stitch gap at the centre to help define the two interlocking lines. The fuzzy yarn has actually worked amazingly well in making the stitches merge into each other so the lines flow beautifully along the band.

Cable close-up

Cable close-up

I’m really pleased with this make and feel much more confident with crocheted cables now. I’ve worn the headband quite a few times now and no one can believe it when I tell them I made it and that it’s crocheted. Even my crochet friends! That makes me smile 🙂

If you’re interested in getting the pattern, it’s in issue 40 of Simply Crochet, which is on sale now.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Crochet

 

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Festive gifts 

Now that the festivities of the big day are over, I think it’s safe to share some of the gifts I made for Christmas…

First off, my mum asked for a bobble hat, so I showed her various yarns and drew different designs, but eventually this is what I crocheted for her:

Crochet hat for mum

Crochet hat for mum

I used an aran-weight alpaca yarn, working in treble stitches in the round. I started off in blue and then worked the increases in red, creating an interlocking spiked effect. There was a lot of colour changing and counting involved, but it was worth it because mum really likes the finished hat. I think it has a subtle crown-like element to it. It’s certainly unusual anyway.

The weather is unseasonably mild at the moment so my mum won’t need to wear it for a while, but she says it’s lovely and cosy. She wanted the big bobble pompom on the top, which used a lot of yarn and took a while to make. And it really does ‘bobble’ about on your head when you wear it, which is fun!

Next up, I also used my crochet hooks to make this adorable owl for my aunty:

Crochet owl

Crochet owl

Owls are my aunty’s favourite and it just so happened that Simply Crochet features an owl pattern in issue 40 (on sale soon) – as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make it for her. The pattern actually comes from a book, Sweet Crochet by Sandrine Deveze, and it was really easy to make. I used a cream linen yarn with variegated lengths of sparkly gold, which gives the owl a lovely texture. And of course, I had to make a little gif of him in his natural woodland habitat!

I also made a few foodie treats, as is customary at Christmas. The most effort fun was making jars of pancake mix for two of my cousins. My cousin Adam is coeliac so I had the idea of making him a gluten-free pancake mix, to which he could just add milk (dairy or dairy-free). I like to keep a good stock of empty jars for such occasions, although of course, I had to do a bit of dressing up to make the jar look festive:

Pancake mix

Pancake mix

So I glued a circle of red fabric over the lid, then added a circle of glittery gold netting over the top and worked some gathering stitches to keep the two fabric layers in place. Then I added another piece of festive ribbon to the body of the jar (my mum had just given me this ribbon so that was perfect timing!). The only thing missing was a label, so I designed that on the computer, printed out the front and back, glued the two sides together and attached it to the jar with a small piece of ribbon. Here’s a close-up view of the label:

Gluten-free pancake mix label

Gluten-free pancake mix label

This jar turned out so good that I decided to make a second jar (not gluten free) for another cousin – I figured, who doesn’t like pancakes? They’re such a treat, which is what Christmas is all about.

If you’re interested in the recipe for the pancake mix, please head to my foodie blog, littlegreenplate.wordpress.com where you’ll also find some of the other foodie treats I made for a happy vegan Christmas! Hope you had a good one 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Baking, Crochet, Other Crafts, Sewing

 

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All Sorts sewing guide

If you saw my last post, you’ll know that I made these cute crocheted liquorice all sorts recently:

Crochet All Sorts

Crochet All Sorts

If you’re interested in making them, you can get the pattern at my Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MakeMeDo

While designing these, I found that the shapes were all pretty simple – except for the round slices for the Coconut Chips and Button sweets (the Coconut Chips are the ones that look like eyes in the picture above and the Buttons are the ones covered in seed beads).

As (bad) luck would have it, the Coconut Chip was the one that I decided to make first, so this one took me considerably more time than the others and included a lot of huffing and puffing about why I couldn’t get it to look how I wanted!!

Eventually, I came up with a design that works, but it does involve an unusual technique for sewing up. So I decided to put together this step-by-step guide to demonstrate how the method works – plus I’ve got a few extra top tips along the way to help generally with sewing up projects, which will be especially useful when you’re making toys or other stuffed items.

Ready? Here we go…

Step 1: The round slice shape of the Coconut Chip and Button sweets are made up of two crocheted halves, so you need to hook these two halves first and fasten off, leaving a really long tail (approx 20cm) on one of the halves:

Fasten off, leaving a long tail

Step 1: Fasten off, leaving a long tail

Step 2: Now make sure the right side of each crochet half is on the outside:

Check it's right side out

Step 2: Check it’s right side out

Step 3: Push each starting tail end of yarn inside each half – this neatly hides the end and acts as light stuffing for the sweet. You can use your finger or the blunt end of a tapestry needle:

Stuff with starting tail

Step 3: Stuff with starting tail

Step 4: Now you need to flatten each half, squeezing it between your thumb and finger to press the piece into a flatter circle:

Flatten each half

Step 5: Flatten each half

Step 6: Thread the really long tail end of one crocheted half onto a tapestry needle – I like to use one with a needle with a large eye and a tapered (but not sharp) point:

Thread long tail onto tapestry needle

Step 6: Thread long tail onto tapestry needle

Step 7: Now you can bring together your two halves, with wrong sides together. The shape works best if you position the fasten off points of each half so they’re opposite each other. You can leave the tail end of the other half running to the outside for now:

Put the two halves together

Step 7: Put the two halves together

Step 8: Press the two halves together and roughly line up the stitches. Now you can start sewing them together. Start by taking the tapestry needle from the wrong side fasten off point to the right side of the fasten off point, to the right of one double crochet (US single crochet) stitch from the last round of crocheting:

Start sewing up

Step 8: Start sewing up

Step 9: Identify the dc (sc) stitch that lies to the left of the tapestry needle and insert the needle behind the front two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind first dc (sc) stitch

Step 9: Insert needle behind first dc (sc) stitch

Step 10: Pull the needle and yarn through, but not too tight. Now identify the dc (sc) stitch that lies directly below this stitch, on the other crocheted half. Insert the needle behind the front two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind dc (sc) below

Step 10: Insert needle behind dc (sc) below

Step 11: Pull the needle and yarn through, but not too tight – you’re aiming to join the two halves together, but without forming a dip in the side wall of the sweet. Now identify the next dc (sc) stitch on the other crocheted half above – it will lie slightly to the left of this stitch. Insert the needle behind the front two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind dc (sc) above

Step 11: Insert needle behind dc (sc) above left

Step 12: Pull the needle and yarn through, but not too tight. Now identify the next dc (sc) stitch on the other crocheted half below – it will lie slightly to the left of this stitch. Insert the needle behind the two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind dc (sc) below left

Step 12: Insert needle behind dc (sc) below left

Step 13: Repeat the action in Steps 11 and 12 to join each stitch to a parallel stitch on the other crocheted half. Keep going until you get back to where you started – work into the stitch where you started to secure your join:

Work around to the first stitch

Step 13: Repeat around to the first stitch

Step 14: Now take the needle through to the opposite side of the sweet, without pulling too tight:

Step 14: Insert needle to other side

Step 14: Take needle to other side

Step 15: Carefully knot this tail end to the other tail end on the other side, being careful not to pull too tight – you don’t want to form a dreaded dip in the side wall. Now use the needle to take both tail ends through to the other side, again, without pulling tight:

Step 15: Take needle to other side

Step 15: Take needle to other side

Step 16: You should now have a small tail end of yarn inside the sweet, so it’s safe to cut off the excess yarn, leaving approx 1cm:

Step 16: Cut yarn

Step 16: Cut yarn

Step 17: Use the tapestry needle to push the excess 1cm of yarn inside the sweet – you might find it easier to use the blunt end of the needle:

Step 17: Push tail end inside

Step 17: Push tail end inside

Step 18: Your sweet should now be finished:

Step 18: Finished sweet

Step 18: Finished sweet

Step 19: The key aim with this joining method is to get a smooth side to your sweet so don’t pull too tight and don’t worry if you can see your stitches – there are so many strands of yarn that no one will know that some of the strands are joining stitches:

Step 19: Check the side wall

Step 19: Aim for a smooth side

Hope you get on ok with this and let me know if you have any problems or questions 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Crafted All Sorts

Until recently, I’ve always been a practical crafter, preferring to make practical items like hats, scarves, bags, and other useful items that serve a purpose or fulfil a need. I’m not sure what’s changed but I find myself more and more drawn to whimsical projects that are all about fun, joy and decoration, such as amigurumi toys and fabric flowers.

My latest project is all about having fun with crochet and hooking your own liquorice all sorts:

Crochet All Sorts

Crochet All Sorts

I’m not actually a big fan of eating these sweets because I don’t like liquorice! But I remember them being very popular when I was a child – I love the iconic look of them and the colourful designs, so I thought they’d be perfect to crochet. I even bought a pack of the real thing to make sure I got the look just right – can you tell the difference?

Real All Sorts

Real All Sorts

Ok so my crochet versions aren’t perfect, but I’m still really pleased with them. Actually, the pack of sweets I bought didn’t include all the different sweets, which was disappointing, so I had to use a bit of artistic imagination… and Jonny still enjoyed eating them up for me afterwards.

Making these sweets was so much fun and each one is finished really fast, which is soo satisfyingly! I used spare bits of DK yarn that I had in my stash and each one uses only a few grams of yarn so they’re great little projects for stash-busting. They’re not difficult either – I could crochet all the bits for one All Sort on my morning bus commute and then sew it together on the commute home. That’s about an hour for each sweet. The sewing together can be a little fiddly because the pieces are so small, but it’s not difficult.

Mind you, the Button All Sort did take a bit longer though (that’s the round sweet with little bits on it) because I decided to decorate them with tiny seed beads for a more authentic look. They still looked good without the beads, but I think the extra detail was worth the extra time.

Beaded Button All Sort

Beaded Button All Sorts

In case you’re not sure of the official names for each All Sort, I’ve made a handy gif-tastic guide for you…are you ready?

Some of the names are pretty obvious, like the Battenberg All Sort, which looks like Battenberg cake:

Happy Battenberg All Sorts

Happy Battenberg All Sorts

The round All Sorts with liquorice in the centre (I think they look a bit like eyes!) are Coconut Chips:

Dancing Coconut Chips

Dancing Coconut Chips

Next up is the little black and white tube that seems to have the least-known name: Cream Rock!

Wriggling Cream Rock

Wriggling Cream Rock

And finally, the most well-known All Sort seems to be the sandwich – do you prefer the standard sandwich or the many-layered Cube Sandwich?

Sandwich All Sorts

Sandwich All Sorts playing together

Yes, I have learnt how to make gifs! And I think they really help to bring the sweets to life. Although now I’m thinking about whether to make the sweets out of felt – that would be so cute!

If you like these little makes, you can find the pattern for three of the All Sorts in the latest issue of Mollie Makes magazine (issue 61), on sale now. Look out for the pattern for all of the sweets on my Etsy shop, coming soon: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MakeMeDo

I’ll also be posting a step-by-step guide to the trickiest sewing technique involved in making the Coconut Chip and the Button, so come back at the weekend for that.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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