Hello, September

For me, the beginning of the year starts in September. As a student and a dance teacher, everything starts again this month. After having July and August off from working and homework, September can be a bit of a stressful adjustment.

Next week I will have my “last” first day of the year of university classes. I will be graduating in June of 2017. I’m feeling quite the push to get this part of my life finished! I took on more hours at work this year in my teaching contract. I’ve booked 4 markets so far. I just received my second huge wholesale order of the season. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and it’s only the first day of the month.

I’ve decided to do something a little different this year. I was inspired by Knot Bad’s mood scarf that he worked on a few months ago. Essentially how it works is you assign a certain number of moods to different colours. Each day you are feeling one of those emotions or moods you work a few rounds or rows of a scarf. After a few weeks (depending on how you organize your scarf) you should have a colourful masterpiece that is a visual representation of how you have been feeling recently.

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Vincent of Knot Bad modelling his own mood scarf. Go check out his website and the Gracie Project he is working on!

Being a maker can be stressful at times. Being a student is stressful most of the time. Maybe I just get stressed out easily, but even teaching and dancing can be stressful from time to time. So can you guess what my scarf is going to be themed around?

Stress.

I thought that starting this project on the first day of September would be the best time. I’ve got one more week off before things really start getting crazy, so hopefully I will see some good and hopefully not too much stress in my scarf.

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I’ve chosen 5 colours and 5 corresponding emotions/states of mind for each colour. I picked the number 5 totally randomly and it just happened to match up with the five most common states of stress I feel, so I think this was meant to be! My colours and moods are set up as follows:

  • White – Happy/Minimal Stress
  • Dark Gray – High Stress
  • Gray – Tired
  • Navy – Overwhelmed
  • Mauve – Content

I tried to assign colours based on what they made me feel. White is clean and innocent, so I tied it with having happy days. Navy reminds me of dark ocean waters, so I thought it would match well with being overwhelmed. You get the idea.

Why do I have more negative moods than positive ones? I did this because I am hoping that my scarf will be mostly white and mauve, my two lightest colours. If my scarf turns out very dark I will know that my month is not off to a good start. This will be a bit of a test for me, because I am predicting that I will have a very dark and very gray scarf, so hopefully I will be wrong.

I think this project will be a fantastic way for me to prove to myself that I need to relax and step back sometimes. Living a high stress lifestyle is not good for the mind, and certainly not the body. If my scarf has mostly dark gray in it, I will have proof right in front of me that I need to find ways to lighten my load.

I am planning on making a shell-stitch infinity scarf. Each day will get one round of colour. I will likely have to keep track for upwards of 2 weeks in order to make the scarf wide enough for my taste. If I find I don’t have time one day to crochet my round, I have a little notebook set up that I am going to be writing down each day’s mood and why I felt that way. When my scarf is complete I am planning on sharing my journal entries and of course pictures of my scarf! I love the colours and I think it will turn out beautifully no matter what.

Join me and create your own stress scarf! Pick out a colour palette and match the colours to some moods or emotions and see how it goes. Completing mindful activities and tasks such as this force you to be honest with yourself. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Hopefully this will be a friendly reminder for everyone that minimizing stress is important.

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I am off to a bad start! I did my first round today and I had to choose feeling tired. This time of year is rough for me. I am just leaving my allergy season, which already makes me feel a little sleepy anyways. I also have a vitamin D deficiency. When it’s cloudy and gray outside, I don’t get the amount of vitamin D I need naturally. These two little quirks of mine can really pack a punch. I was exhausted this morning. I got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night, but I woke up with a migraine. I couldn’t snap out of my sleepy state until probably 3:00pm in the afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

It’s not too late to start your own mood scarf! Think back to how you were feeling yesterday (or earlier today if you are a night owl like me and reading this right now) and crochet or knit your first day. I would recommend choosing your favourite scarf pattern that can easily have stripes worked into it. This should be a fun activity! I can’t wait to do my stripe tomorrow and see how I’m feeling!

As always, enjoy your yarn and make something pretty today!

 

Marvel Graphghan Square #6 – Hawkeye

Funny story. I’ve been doing some serious reorganizing of my work space the past month. I needed to find a way to separate work from rest, so I decided it was time I make myself more of a “working area” within my home. Upon deciding this, many of my projects had to be packed away temporarily. Guess what was last to be unpacked?

My Marvel squares.

So I ended up momentarily forgetting that this little project of mine existed. Thankfully I have anxious readers who have been wondering when the next square was going to be released and they reminded me that I need to get my little butt in gear!

Hawkeye is actually one of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe. I feel like he is a bit of an unsung hero, causing him to be brooding and mysterious.

I LOVE the way this square turned out! I was worried that it wouldn’t look the way I had envisioned, but after testing it I managed to prove myself wrong.

I’m going to be quick and to the point with this post. I know many of you have been waiting for this magical moment. Here are the grids for Square #6:

Hawkeye Pixel

Hawkeye Grid

As always, don’t forget to print off the grid made of letters and cross each square off as you go. It seems redundant, but I can promise you that it will save you a huge headache in the future. P stands for purple and W stands for white (yes I know it is written in black). Fairly simple!

For ease of designing the grid (and also the horrendous colour selection I had available to me through my cheap editing software), the grid is shown in a vibrant purple. I am planning on using more of a dark eggplant and white for the target. If you were wanting a bit of a darker look, you could even change the white of the target to black or dark gray!

You have a lot of free reign with this square. The colour changes are fairly simple, and we already have practice working out a circle shape from our Captain America Square. I can’t wait to see all of your creative ideas!

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #marvelgraphghan on Facebook or Instagram so I can stalk you all and creep your pictures.It really is a favourite past-time of mine.

Just joining us now? Where have you been?! If you are a little lost, here are some links to the previous squares we have done:

Square #1 – Iron Man

Square #2 – Captain America

Square #3 – Thor

Square #4 – The Hulk

Square #5 – Black Widow

Happy crocheting!

Why I sometimes really hate being a maker.

There. I’ve said it. Sometimes I really do hate being a maker. And I’ve got my reasons.

Exhibit A:

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I came across this adorable little cozy mug at the dollar store a few days ago. Wandering the aisles of dollar stores is actually kind of fun because you occasionally come across secret treasures, just like this one. I almost put it into my shopping basket.

And then I thought to myself, “Hey… I could literally make this.”

It happens pretty regularly. My creative brain is always whispering, “Don’t buy that, figure out how to make it instead!” When in reality I know that it would likely cost me much more money and time than it would to just simply buy it at the store. I was just about to “quiet the voice” as I usually do, but the fact that this coffee cozy is knitted made me stop.

If I were to try and make something like this I would first need to buy the yarn required, which would be about $3.00. A mug would cost me $1.00. Then I would need to spend about 4 hours actually knitting the thing. It’s made out of a very fine yarn, so that right there makes the entire process take way longer. It also has cables and I am not very good with cables yet, so that adds even more time to the project.

So I’m in about $4.00 plus about 4 hours of my time. If I wanted to sell something like this and pay myself at least minimum wage, it would be about $45.00 total for the mug and the coffee cozy.

How much do you think the dollar store was selling it for?

$3.00

I can’t even begin to compete with that. And the most frustrating part is that I can almost guarantee someone will see this mug and ask me to make one for them. I will have to decline because the price would be absolutely ridiculous. They will go back to the dollar store and buy it there.

The hardest choice I have to make is whether or not I should accept a commission. I enjoy what I do so much that I actually consider (and sometimes agree) to pay myself less than minimum wage for my work just because I want to make the item. The business part of my brain usually steps in and solves my internal struggle, but sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s hard enough to convince people to purchase your handmade items over store bought goods. Prices like what I found at this dollar store make it almost impossible.

When I first started my business I was 17. I had very few sales and I had very little recognition within the maker community. People didn’t want to buy things from me because they didn’t trust my skills as I was so young. I don’t really blame them either.

I do remember having an interesting argument with a friend about my prices. I remember her telling me that she was shocked anyone would pay $15.00 for a hat (yes, I was only selling my handmade crocheted beanies for $15.00 when I first started out). I didn’t protest much or try to defend my prices. I was a little more self-conscious back then about my abilities and I thought she might be right. Maybe my prices are too high. Maybe I really shouldn’t be doing this.

We went to the mall a few weeks later. Her words were still stuck in my mind. I remember taking a small hiatus from knitting and crocheting because I was trying to decide whether or not I should continue with my work. She bought a beanie that day for $35.00. It was a chunky knitted beanie with a big fat pompom on the end that looked like it was about to fall apart. It was an expensive name brand accessory from an expensive name brand store.

Of course I immediately questioned her purchase. Why would she buy one of those hats for over twice the price of one of mine? Her answer was simple: “Because it’s (insert name brand here) obviously and you just make yours.”

Oh.

So it’s okay to give large amounts of money to a clothing store that doesn’t care about you to support a business who either makes everything with machines or child labour.

Interesting.

The concept of priorities is an interesting one. I want more people to shop for handmade goods to support small  businesses, and in turn, support small families and young entrepreneurs. But even I catch myself sometimes choosing something from a large name brand store over a smaller handmade shop because for some reason it seems more trustworthy.

I could keep rambling about this topic for hours, but I’ll keep it short and sweet tonight. One of the most difficult things about being a maker is the fact that you have to compete with stores that have been around forever and have established themselves as credible sources for consumer goods. Your product could be a million times better than what can be found in stores; it could even be cheaper. But there will always be people out there who do not trust things that are handmade and will always choose to shop at the name brand stores over choosing handmade.

And it sucks.

Free Beanie Pattern to Celebrate the End of Summer!

I know some of you may disagree with me, but I’m just going to say it anyways. I hate summer. While having time off is fun, and lots of exciting events take place during the summer, it is just not my cup of tea. Too hot. Too many bugs. Too sunny (I am am quite pale so I think that is self-explanatory).

Thankfully this summer has gone by extremely quickly! I can’t believe it is August already. We have had a fairly mild summer so far on the coast of British Columbia, but I am really looking forward to the crisp mornings and chilly evenings of fall.

Knowing that fall is just around the corner has put me in high gear for market prep and pattern designing. I am cranking out beanies and scarves like crazy and my yarn stash is rapidly depleting. I have even made a few things for myself for once!

I have been tinkering with a beanie pattern in the past few weeks, and I think I’ve finally perfected it. What better way to celebrate the fact that my favourite season is closing in on us than by sharing a free pattern?!

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This is definitely one of those no-brainer patterns. After I completed my first one I seriously shook my head and thought to myself, “Why on Earth did I think this would be so hard?!”

Playing with measurements can be tricky, but thankfully this pattern is 100% adjustable for both length and circumference/width. I’ve done some experimenting and I have come up with a few yarn weight/needle size/and stitch combinations to make different sizes and styles!

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I’ll start out with my most favourite style and size and hopefully you’ll get the idea of how to adjust this pattern and create all sorts of shapes and sizes!

The Classic Beanie

A pattern for beginner knitters. This beanie will fit an average woman’s (or even teenager’s) head in a slouchy style!

Supplies:

  • Approximately 60-70 yards of super bulky yarn OR 2 strands of any worsted weight yarn
    • I used Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick for the bulky version
    •  I used Loops N’ Threads Impeccable for the worsted version
  • Size 13/9.00mm short circular needles with a 16 inch cable
  • Stitch marker
  • Scissors
  • Yarn needle
  • Pom pom maker (optional)

The Pattern

  • Use your favourite cast on method and cast on 40 stitches
  • Use your stitch marker so you know where the beginning of each round is
  • Ribbing – * K1 P1, repeat from * around for 10 rounds
  • Knit around normally for 15 rounds
  • Decrease
    • * K3, k2tog, repeat from * around
    • Knit one round normally
    • *K2, k2tog, repeat from * around
    • Knit one round normally
    • *K1, k2tog, repeat from * around
    • k2tog around for the remaining stitches
  • Break your yarn and use a yarn needle to weave the tail in through each stitch. Pull tight to close the top of the hat
  • Use your pom pom maker (or whatever method you prefer) to make a nice big pom pom to sew to the top of your beanie
    • This step is optional! I just love pom poms!
  • Weave in your ends

You now have a beautiful chunky hat to keep you warm all fall and winter long!

Here are a few other size options I have various yarn weights and sizes:

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Chunky Men’s Beanie

  • Cast on 42
  • Follow the same steps as the original pattern EXCEPT:
    • Work the ribbing for 11 rounds
    • Knit normally for 16 rounds
  • Follow the same decrease method. If you have extra stitches just knit them normally to maintain a nice looking decreased top of hat

Chunky Children’s Beanie (age 1-3 roughly)

  • Cast on 32
  • Follow the same steps as the original pattern EXCEPT:
    • Work the ribbing for 8 rounds
    • Knit normally for 12-13 rounds depending on preference
  • Follow the same decrease method

Fitted Women’s Beanie

  • Use bulky size 5 yarn
  • Cast on 56
  • Follow the same steps as the original pattern EXCEPT:
    • Work the ribbing for 13 rounds
    • Knit normally for 20 rounds
  • Follow the same decrease method. If you have extra stitches at the end of your rounds, just knit them normally to maintain a nice looking decreased top of hat

This is an amazing pattern that can easily by adjusted, changed, or customized to fit anyone and everyone. I bet I’ve made close to 50 of these beanies so far for market prep and early fall orders. Trust me, they will be a hit with everyone.

Experiment with stripes and different sizes. Create fitted beanies and super slouchy beanies. Try incorporating a little bit of some fair isle style! The possibilities are endless.

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Let’s connect on social media! Use the hashtag #classicbeanie so I can see all of the beautiful creations you come up with using this pattern. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

Have fun!

 

 

 

Marvel Graphghan Square #5 – Black Widow

I’m back with everyone’s favourite female assassin, Black Widow! This is a super easy grid and will be a nice break from all of the crazy colour changes we have been doing with graphghan squares in the past. Only two colours are involved in this one (can you guess?) and there should be very few loose ends to weave in once you are done. YAY!

Again, if you are just joining us now, it’s never too late to start! We are half way through now at square 5/9 and they work up quite quickly. I will post links to all of the previous graphs at the end of this post so you don’t have to go hunting for them.

Let’s get started. All you will need for this graph is your regular size H/8-5.00mm hook and one skein each of black and red yarn. Super simple.

Black Widow Square

I’m sure you can see already how easy this square is going to be. I am personally really excited about this because sometimes you just need an easy pattern to quickly work through. Concentrating is hard.

Make sure you print out this grid and check off the boxes as you go. I promise, it will make your life so much easier. While this square is significantly more simple compared to the ones we have done in the past, it is very easy to get distracted and lose your place. All it takes is for one square to be the wrong colour and the entire graph gets messed up.

Black Widow Grid

As usual, don’t hesitate to send me any questions or concerns you might have regarding the graph. I have made mistakes in the past and thankfully someone caught them quickly so I was able to go back in and adjust the grid.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #marvelgraphghan so I can see everyone’s beautiful work! I can’t wait to get to the end of this monster of a blanket.

Square One: Iron Man

Square Two: Captain America

Square Three: Thor

Square Four: The Hulk

Perfect Puff Stitch Hexagons – Free Pattern!

HEXIE

I have a love-hate relationship with custom orders. They are a fantastic opportunity to try out new patterns and learn new techniques. They are a pain from a business standpoint as they usually take longer to complete due to the learning component of a new pattern. This makes my profit margin quite low if I properly account for my time spent on the project. I usually underestimate by quite a few hours. Oh the things we sacrifice for love.

I received a custom order for a baby blanket from a new customer. After discussing yarn, price, and what she was looking for, she ended up finding a free pattern online that she wanted to be replicated. I usually decline these types of requests as it takes away the creative side of my love for yarn. I like to adjust patterns, or see just a picture and figure out how I could make it truly “mine” rather than just reproducing someone else’s design. I ended up accepting the order as I am in my slow season and my fingers are itching to make.

The pattern was simple enough. It was a combination of an African Flower and hexagon-shaped granny square. Half way through the hexagon I could tell something was weird with the pattern and must have worked out extremely uniquely for whoever wrote it. It was wrinkly, misshapen, and holey in weird areas. Definitely not cute baby blanket worthy.

I was almost excited at this point. Since the first pattern didn’t work, that meant I got to make up my own hexagon design!

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I used the original pattern as inspiration and added my own personal flair to make it truly adorable. The end result was a perfect hexagon with a clean, smooth edge, and a floral center. Girly, but not too girly. The sturdy edge proved to be excellent for easy joining. It was an amazing moment of discovery.

What better way to celebrate this discovery than to share it with the world?!

I have done my best to write out the instructions. This hexagon combines quite a few different techniques, so I would consider it to be an intermediate design. To make this hexagon you will need to know how to do the following:

  • Sl st – slip stitch
  • Ch – chain
  • Sc – single crochet
  • Dc – double crochet
  • Puff stitches
  • Bobble/Popcorn stitches

If you are new to puff stitches or bobble stitches, I have included the steps required for each stitch if you’re like me and prefer reading step-by-step instructions. I have also provided links to some of my favourite video tutorials for each stitch. The first hexagon you make may take a while to figure out, but they will go by faster and faster. It took me about half an hour to tinker with the original pattern and come up with this design. Now that I’ve made about 20 of them, I can finish one in roughly 7 minutes!

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The Pattern

This hexagon is made by working in the same direction the entire time. There is only one turn which is done immediately after completing the magic loop for the beginning center of the hexagon. After each round completion you continue working in the same direction. Do not turn.

Supplies

  • Any worsted (4) weight yarn in any colours you’d like!
    • I used a combination of Loops & Threads yarn from Michaels for the chartreuse and eggplant colours, and Caron Simply Soft for the gray
      • I used three colours of yarn just to show the different rounds, but in the baby blanket order I am making right now I am only using two colours
  • Size H/8-5.00mm crochet hook
  • Yarn needle for weaving in ends and joining
  • Scissors

Here we go!

  • Start with a magic loop with 6 sc in the loop, join with a sl st, turn
  • ROUND ONE: We are going to be completed a series of puff stitches. Do not ch 1 to start. Complete one puff stitch in the first sc from the hook, ch 2, complete another puff stitch in the following sc, ch 2, repeat around for a total of 6 puff stitches and 6 sections of ch 2. Join to top of first puff stitch with a sl st

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  • PUFF STITCH WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS
    • Yo and insert hook into sc
    • Yo again and draw up the loop
    • Yo and insert into same sc
    • Yo and draw up the loop
    • Repeat 4 times total (a total of 9 loops on the hook)
    • Yo and pull through all loops except for the last two
    • Yo and pull through last two loops
  • Change to second colour (or continue if you are using the same colour throughout)
  • ROUND 2: Sl st into the first ch 2 space
    • Complete all of the following in the same ch 2 space: Cluster 1, ch 3, Cluster 2
    • Ch 1 and move onto the next ch 2 space. Complete all of the following in the ch 2 space: Cluster 2, ch 3, Cluster 2
    • Repeat around until you have completed all six ch 2 spaces (total of 12 clusters and 6 ch 3 spaces), join to top of first cluster with sl st
    • NOTE: The clusters are very similar to making bobble or popcorn stitches, just with far fewer “posts” in the same stitch. This makes sort of an oval shape, but without the puffed out look of a bobble stitch

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  • CLUSTER ONE: Ch 2, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, pull through all loops
  • CLUSTER TWO: Yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, pull through all loops
  • Change to third colour (or second colour, or don’t change at all)
  • ROUND 3: Sl st into ch3 space, ch 2, 3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc all in same ch 3 space, 3 dc in ch 1 space, repeat around (total of 54 dc and 6 sections of ch 2 spaces that create the corners of the hexagon)

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And there you have it! Weave in all of your ends in whichever way is your favourite, or save your ends for joining your hexagons together to make a big beautiful blanket.

I am still working my way through my little baby blanket, so I haven’t quite figured out how many hexagons you need for all of the different blanket sizes. As soon as I finish, I will create a chart and either make a new post or add to this one so you have a helpful guide to refer to. So far I have only made about 35 of these hexagons and I am maybe 1/3 through my blanket, so I’ve got a bit more to do.

The best part about these hexies is that they scale so nicely! I tried making a few in very light weight yarn and also very bulky yarn and I had no issues.

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I seriously love this pattern. I am constantly day dreaming about which beautiful colours will go together to make a blanket for every room in my house. I was also pleasantly suprised with the way my sample colours worked together. I just grabbed three really random contrasting colours in order to show the different rounds in the pattern, but they look so cool together that I am now debating buying more of these colours to make a full sized blanket. Chartreuse and eggplant are such beautiful colours!

Please let me know if you have any questions by commenting on this post or sending me an email at stringsandthings16@gmail.com. I am here to help!

Marvel Graphghan Square #4 – The Incredible Hulk

This minimalist Hulk pattern I’ve made up is a little more cute than incredible. He doesn’t look quite as fearsome as I was going for, but it’s hard to work with only 20×20 pixels! I tried to stick as close as I possibly could to the traditional feel of the Hulk. Angry face. Black hair. Bright green and purple colour scheme. Ladies and gentlemen, the Incredible Cute Hulk!

Hulk Pixel

Look at his cute angry little eyebrows! His grouchy little mouth! So cute.

I originally wanted to showcase his fist, as that is likely one of the most recognizable features of the Hulk. He has massive hands capable of breaking anything that may cross his path. Do you know how hard it is to try and make a fist out of pixels? It’s hard. Hence the little angry Hulk face.

I think this square is one of my favourites so far! I didn’t like it as I was trying to design the grid, but it’s starting to grow on me. I wanted everything to look as realistic as possible while working with only 400 little coloured squares. This vision was quickly demolished as I realized that my Incredible Hulk was looking Incredibly Adorable.

Please ignore the fact that he also looks a little Frankenstein-ish. Hey, future inspiration for another graphghan?!

Before you start, I’ve got this handy dandy colour-coded grid for you to follow as you are crocheting. Print it out and check off each box as you go. When you are following an intricate pattern (such as this one) it is easy to get off track and skip a row or repeat the same row twice. In order to avoid countless hours of crocheting, ripping apart, crocheting, and ripping apart, follow the grid! It will help you, I promise.

Hulk Grid

I’m planning on using some beautiful Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice for this particular square. She’s got some lovely shades of green and purple that are hard to find in other brands of yarn that will fit this grid perfectly. As usual, I have left the square that are meant to be WHITE in black font. In order to hopefully not confuse anyone, I have made all of the squares that are meant to be BLACK one size larger and bolded. Hopefully this isn’t too confusing!

If you are new to the whole “graphghan” style of crocheting, but really want to start, head over to Repeat Crafter Me for some really helpful video tutorials. Graphghans seem a lot harder than they actually are. Once you get started, it’s hard to stop!

Just joining in now? The first square was Iron Man’s helmet, the second square was Captain America’s shield, and the third square was Thor’s Hammer! It’s never too late to start.

This is square 4 of 9 so we are getting to the half way point! I have so much free time now that my super condensed university semester is over, I should be releasing the remaining squares within a few days of each other. Next up is everyone’s favourite female assassin, Black Widow!

Don’t forget to share your progress on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #marvelgraphghan so I can check out how everyone is doing! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or send me an email. I am here to help!