PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

new mobile-friendly website

It was only 9 months ago that I launched my new updated website, and I’d never have imagined that I’d be changing things so soon after all the work I put into developing a single unified look and feel for my entire site. But Google had other plans, and I’ve been back in web developer mode again for the past 6 weeks so I could learn how to meet the new Google requirements for a mobile-friendly website by their deadline of April 21st.

Here’s how Google saw PlanetJune before today:

pjwebsite_nonmobile
Old site: not mobile friendly :(

It’s been a huge task but I’ve finished with 5 whole days to spare(!) and I’ve just launched the new, responsive, PlanetJune website. (If you’re reading this by email or in a feed reader, please do click through to see the site!)

If you’re using a desktop, laptop, or large-screened tablet, you may not notice any difference in the site – I’ve tried to keep everything as consistent as possible while making it easier to use for those of you using smaller screens. If you previously had to zoom into the pages to read and navigate my site, you should now find that everything loads in a clean, clear format so you can read everything without needing to zoom.

Here’s how Google sees PlanetJune now:

pjwebsite_mobile
New site: I’m mobile friendly!

The screenshots above are from Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page – as you can see, PlanetJune.com is now Google-approved for phone and tablet users! (If you need help finding out how to make your site mobile-friendly too, I recommend you check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Websites guide as a starting point.)

Although I wasn’t delighted to have to to take on such a steep learning curve and large project with only 6 weeks notice, I’m pleased to have done it. Acquiring new skills is always fun and useful, and the more new pages I tested on my phone, the more I appreciated the simplified design for smaller screens. It’s hard to show this in a screenshot, but in case you’d like to get a better idea for how it works, here (below) are 3 side-by-side snapshots of the new homepage at 3 different screen widths (separated by black bars for clarity).

This is called responsive design – instead of you deciding between seeing a full ‘desktop’ version and a pared-down ‘mobile’ version, my page will detect how wide your screen is, and modify the page layout to fit your screen, so the text is always large enough for you to read without zooming in. If you rotate your phone or tablet from portrait to landscape, you may notice that the layout changes as your screen becomes wider!

new PlanetJune responsive website
L-R: instead of shrinking the page to fit the full site onto a narrower screen, now the elements automatically move around to fit your screen at a readable size.

Of course, you don’t need to worry about how it works – the end result for you should just be a seamless and enjoyable browsing experience, whether you use a desktop or laptop computer or any size of smartphone or tablet.

I’d like to thank the many helpful volunteers in the PlanetJune Ravelry group who’ve spent the past few weeks helping me test the functionality and layout of the new site on every device, operating system and browser we could find, to try to ensure it’ll work smoothly for everyone! This rigorous testing hopefully means that I’ve ironed out all the bugs before launching this new site. However, there’s always a chance that something won’t work for you, and I’d be very grateful if you could email me immediately if you find anything that looks strange, wrong, broken or unusable, so I can fix it.

I do hope you enjoy the new PlanetJune mobile-device experience – please let me know if you like it!

Comments (4)

How to make ‘baby’ amigurumi animals

With the Baby Animals CAL in full swing in the PlanetJune Ravelry group, I thought I’d demonstrate a couple of simple methods to convert almost* any amigurumi animal pattern into a ‘baby’ with very little effort and no pattern modifications.

Method 1: Use Bigger Eyes

This couldn’t be simpler: to make an individual animal automatically look cuter and more babyish, all you need to do is use proportionally larger eyes than those recommended in the pattern. This works because baby animals (and humans!) are born with very large eyes in proportion to the rest of their bodies.

There are, of course, other differences (larger head, shorter limbs, larger paws, shorter muzzle, etc), but just making this one change can instantly turn an amigurumi dog into a puppy, for example:

how to make 'baby' amigurumi animals, by planetjune
Don’t you want a Beagle puppy now?

Method 2: Make a Mother & Baby

The other easy and effective way to make a ‘baby’ amigurumi is to crochet two of the same animal, and make one much larger or smaller than the other. You can do this with no changes at all to the pattern, simply by using a heavier yarn (and correspondingly larger hook) to make a larger adult, or a finer yarn (and correspondingly smaller hook) to make a smaller baby (see my Resizing tutorial for more details).

elephant crochet pattern by planetjune
The blue Elephant is definitely an older sibling to the tiny baby grey ones! 

aquaami polar bears crochet pattern by planetjune
Mama and baby Polar Bears

And here’s a gorgeous example from Amanda from Australia (via my Ravelry group), who made a Tuxedo AmiCat with her own little AmiKitten:

mama and baby planetjune tuxedo amicats by amanda
Awww! Amanda’s absolutely adorable AmiCat and kitten

Method 3: Do Both!

You can combine Methods 1 and 2: try using the same size eyes in both sizes of your amigurumi animal, and they’ll look even more realistically like a mama and baby! Just look at my little brown alpaca and see how cute he looks with his smaller body and relatively big eyes:

alpaca crochet pattern by planetjune
Same size eyes in a smaller body: definitely a baby!

*Caveat

I said you can use these tips with almost any amigurumi animal pattern for a reason: these techniques only work for animals where the baby is essentially a miniature version of the adult. Some animals have very different looking young: most obviously, any that go through a metamorphosis (for example, a baby butterfly is a caterpillar, not a tiny butterfly, and a baby frog is a tadpole, not a miniature frog).

This also applies to birds, who turn from a bundle of fluff into a sleek-feathered adult. For example, using bigger eyes or a smaller hook/yarn combo with my (adult) Emperor Penguin pattern would definitely not give you a Baby Emperor Penguin!

adult and baby emperor penguin crochet patterns by planetjune
Remember, baby birds look nothing like their parents…

Aside from those few exceptions, these simple techniques are the easiest way to make a ‘baby’ animal without needing a whole new pattern. Give it a try and breathe new life into your animal patterns by making cute baby versions of them, or an adorable mama-and-baby pair!

(And, if you’re tempted to give it a go in the next couple of weeks, don’t forget to show off the resulting amigurumi by entering them in the PlanetJune Baby Animals crochet-along on Ravelry!)

Comments

April update

Knee update

It’s almost 7 weeks since my knee surgery and things are definitely improving week by week. My rehab is both time-consuming and exhausting, and my knee still feels very uncomfortable at times, but I’m supplementing the rehab sessions with yoga-based stretches and massage therapy which are making a big difference to my range of motion. I still have a long way to go, but I think I’ll get there. :)

PlanetJune update

You may have heard that Google is changing its algorithm on April 21st to penalise non-mobile-friendly sites. A large fraction of PlanetJune sales comes from Google searches, so non-compliance is not a choice I can afford to make. That means I have to redesign my entire website – not a task I’d have undertaken at the moment, given the choice, but it’ll be worth the effort: soon you won’t need to zoom in if you’re viewing PlanetJune on a tablet or phone.

So, in between my knee rehab sessions, I’ve spent most of the past month learning about responsive web design (thank goodness for online courses!) and I’m starting to convert my site. I could hire someone to do this upgrade for me, but keeping on top of the technology means I’ll be able to make more tweaks and improvements in future; that’d be very difficult to do if I hadn’t built the site myself and didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. And I’m enjoying having an excuse to update my tech skills, plus it’s really an investment in my business, so it’s a win-win!

Raining AmiCats & Dogs CAL Report

We had so many adorable kitties and pups made during the March CAL! Here’s a sampling of the CAL entries (click the pic to see them all on Ravelry):

PlanetJune Raining AmiCats & Dogs CAL 2015 - sample of entries

Baby Animals CAL

Just a reminder that, if you’d like to join us for the Baby Animals crochet-along this month and haven’t yet bought my new Baby Guinea Pigs pattern, today is the last day to take advantage of the CAL discount on the pattern – although you have the rest of the month to make all kinds of cute amigurumi animal babies, such as the ones pictured below:

PlanetJune Baby Animals CAL crochet pattern options

Won’t you join us? You can find all the details in the first post of the CAL thread in the PlanetJune Ravelry group :)

Review and Win contest

You’re automatically entered in the next monthly draw every time you write a review for a PlanetJune pattern you’ve enjoyed – and you’ll also be helping future customers make an informed decision about patterns they are considering buying.

Baby Bunnies crochet pattern by PlanetJune

March’s winner is Rachel G‘s review of my Baby Bunnies:

This is a great pattern! The instructions were clear and thorough, and my finished bunny is adorable. The shaping is great and it has the sweetest expression. I’ll definitely make more bunnies and also try more Planet June patterns (this was my first one). While I was making my bunny, I kept referring to June’s crochet tutorials, and they guided me through everything I needed help with. I don’t have a ton of crochet experience but this pattern presented no problems (well, except for me misreading a line and adding an extra round. But that was entirely my fault and the bunny looks great regardless.). Fellow rabbit lovers-this is the pattern for you!

Congratulations, Rachel – I’ve emailed you to find out which pattern you’d like as your prize!

What’s Next?

The new PlanetJune.com is still very much a work in progress, but thanks to Google I have that firm deadline, so it has to be ready in the next two weeks – wish me luck! I’ll let you know when it’s ready to launch…

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Baby Guinea Pigs crochet pattern

For the past 3 years, I’ve been designing baby animal patterns around this time of year – it seems appropriate, as spring heralds the birth of lots of baby animals, and why should it be any different in the crochet world?! I’m keeping up that tradition today, with my new pattern release: Baby Guinea Pigs!

Baby Guinea Pigs crochet pattern by PlanetJune

The Story Behind The Pattern

When I was little, my sister and I used to visit the pet shop all the time, to watch the baby bunnies and guinea pigs scampering around together in their big pen in the middle of the shop and choose which were our favourites. In 2012, I remade those bunnies in crochet (the Baby Bunnies pattern), and, in 2014, I added some patterned bunnies to the collection (the Baby Bunnies 2 expansion pack):

Baby Bunnies and Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack crochet patterns by PlanetJune
What’s missing from this picture?

And yet, something was still missing from my original vision… All those baby bunnies, and not a baby guinea pig in sight! With this pattern, I’m setting that right and finally recreating the pet shop scene from my childhood memories. :)

Baby Bunnies and Baby Guinea Pigs crochet patterns by PlanetJune
Awww, that’s more like it!

(By the way, while researching for this pattern, I discovered that it’s commonly recommended to not keep rabbits and guinea pigs together long-term. Luckily that never applies to the crocheted varieties, who will stay as cute baby best friends forever!)

About the Pattern

I designed my Baby Guinea Pigs to be perfect companions for the Baby Bunnies – a match in size, style and simplicity, but of course with their own distinctive shaping and personalities.

My pattern includes a quick and easy Single-Coloured piggy (with optional brushing instructions, to make it fluffy as shown in my sample), and three different types of colour patterns. As with Baby Bunnies 2, the three marking types are graded by difficulty:

  1. Test the waters by making your first simple colour changes for the Banded guinea pig.
  2. Get your feet wet with a few more colour changes for the Blazed markings.
  3. Wade into multiple changes per round with the more complex Dutch markings.

Baby Guinea Pigs crochet pattern by PlanetJune
Top to bottom: Single-Coloured, Banded, Blazed, Dutch

And if you want even more choices, you can go even further by mixing and matching (use the Blazed head with the Banded body, for example, or use the Dutch foot colours on any of the other piggies) to really customise your guinea pigs!

You can pick up the pattern from my shop right now (but don’t miss the discount below!) I can’t wait to see all your cute baby piggies. :)

If you’re not quite ready to buy, how about adding Baby Guinea Pigs to your queue or favourites on Ravelry so you don’t forget about it?

Baby Animals CAL (& Discount!)

The April PlanetJune CAL starts tomorrow, and its theme is Baby Animals – perfect timing for crocheting up some Baby Guinea Pigs (and maybe a few Baby Bunnies too, and some turtles, and an octopus, and…)

But here’s the great thing: you really don’t have to limit yourself. One of the nice things about my baby animals patterns is that, being small, they’re much faster to complete than larger amigurumi, so you can make lots of them! Here’s a sampling of your pattern choices:

PlanetJune Baby Animals CAL crochet pattern options

Ready to get started? Hop across to the PlanetJune Ravelry group and you’ll find a special CAL discount on the Baby Guinea Pigs pattern waiting for you in the Baby Animals CAL thread! Join us and let’s see how many baby animals we can crochet in April. :)

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in tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

When I heard yesterday that Sir Terry Pratchett had passed away, my first thought was to make something to pay tribute to the man and his work, but then I realised that Terry Pratchett’s writings have already inspired me in so many ways over the years.

Although my heart hurts today, it makes me happy to know that, in 2008, he got to see my tribute to his work in the form of my Amigurumi Discworld, and I hope he could tell from that how much his books mean to me:

amigurumi discworld by planetjune
See my Amigurumi Discworld page for more details on this project

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

I’ve just realised that Terry Pratchett’s books have been a part of my life for over a quarter of a century! At age 11, when my best friend recommended Reaper Man to me, I took one look at the skeleton on the cover and decided it looked weird, creepy, and definitely not a book I’d enjoy reading. Luckily I ignored that first impression and trusted my friend (thank you Helen, wherever you are now) and my life was forever changed…

I could never have guessed that Death, that ‘weird, creepy’ skeleton, would become one of my favourite characters in literature! That’s part of the Pratchett genius, and something you can’t possibly understand until you read his books. The characters, the humour, and the way the strands of the plot always come together in such a satisying way by the end of the book – every Terry Pratchett book is a gem.

As time went by, I devoured every new Discworld book as soon as I could get my hands on it. In high school, I was delighted to ‘get’ the Shakespearean references in Wyrd Sisters after studying Macbeth in English classes. During my student days, I queued for hours at Cambridge book signings to exchange a few words with the man himself and get a favourite book or two signed. And commuting through a long Canadian winter (2 hours each way, driving cross-country through the darkness and snowstorms) was made bearable by having my Discworld audiobooks for company.

crocheted orang utan by planetjune
See my Crocheted Orangutan page for more details on this project

My enduring love for orangutans was first sparked by Terry’s interest in them via, of course, the Librarian from the Discworld books, and also by a documentary he made (Terry Pratchett’s Jungle Quest) about his trip to Borneo to see the endangered orang utan population. This not only led to my year-long art project to make a life-size realistic poseable baby orang utan (above), but also to last year’s trip to Borneo where I trekked through jungle (with my bad knee!) just so I too could see orangs in the wild.

And it’s not just the Discworld books: his Bromeliad trilogy for children (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings) – together with a documentary by my other hero, David Attenborough – inspired me to learn about, and create my own, tiny bromeliad-dwelling frog:

strawberry poison dart frog polymer clay sculpture by planetjune

Which in turn led to my Poison Dart Frog crochet pattern:

poison dart frog amigurumi crochet pattern by planetjune

As you can see, Terry Pratchett’s writing has always been a source of enjoyment and inspiration to me. Last year, I started re-reading all the Discworld books, and once I finish those, I’m going to continue reading (or re-reading) the entire Pratchett canon – I know it’ll be a pleasure.

Although I’m desperately sad to know that he’s no longer with us, Sir Terry will live on forever through his books, which will continue to inspire and delight me and millions of other people all over the world. Now that’s a legacy to be proud of.

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    June Gilbank

    Hi, I'm June. Welcome to my world of nature-inspired crochet and crafting. I hope you enjoy your visit!

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