PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

South Africa wildlife VII: Durban

Last weekend, I took the opportunity to travel with Dave, as he had an astronomy conference in Durban, on the other side of the country. South Africa is so huge that it takes 2 hours to fly from coast to coast, from Cape Town to Durban. We stayed at Umhlanga Rocks, a resort village just north of the city of Durban.

durban_from_cape_town

Cape Town is on the cold Atlantic Ocean, and Durban is on the warm Indian Ocean, so the climate is quite different. We’re in the middle of winter at the moment, and it can get pretty cold in Cape Town, but this is Durban’s weather:

durban1

Not a horrible place to come for a winter weekend break! And waking up to this gorgeous sunrise over the ocean was quite nice too…

durban2

While Dave was working, I walked along the promenade by the beach and hunted for wildlife. It’s amazing what you can find, when you really look. What’s that on the roof of that hotel?

durban3

It’s a monkey!

durban4

Vervet monkeys are common in Durban. We saw some from the car as we were leaving the airport, but I couldn’t stop on the highway to take photos, so I was secretly hoping I’d be able to spot one when I had my camera ready. I got lucky with this thoughtful-looking windswept monkey – doesn’t his fur look soft?

durban5

I also spotted lots of birds that I recognised as being related to ones I know from Cape Town, but different regional varieties. I had to look them all up when I got home, like this stunning Spectacled Weaver:

durban6

And this happy little guy is an African Pied Wagtail:

durban7

A sunbathing skink:

durban8

A handsome Dark-Capped Bulbul (the Cape Bulbuls I see in my garden have white rings around their eyes):

durban9

And Common Mynas, which I didn’t expect to see in South Africa!

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I was amazed to spot this wild bee hive half-hidden beneath the leaves of an aloe:

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And very happy to see my first Speckled Mousebird (it’s hard to see in the photo, but its long tail feathers extend right down to the bottom left of the picture):

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But possibly best of all was when I spotted a pod of dolphins, swimming together in the sea!

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Although my photos don’t really capture the magic, it was just beautiful to watch as they came up to the surface and dipped under again as they swam…

durban14

It was a lovely, if very short, getaway. My knee held up to a lot of walking, and didn’t hurt at all provided I stayed on flat, paved surfaces. So I’m definitely not up to hiking just yet, but I think I’m ready to cautiously resume my quest for wildlife. :)

And I’m also consciously working to improve my wildlife photography skills – I don’t know if you can tell that from these photos, but I’m trying! I’ll only ever be an enthusiastic amateur in this area, and there’s a lot of luck involved in wildlife photography, but I’m happy that I managed to capture almost everything I saw last weekend in a fairly pleasing portrait. I think I’ll keep improving with more practice and trying to be more aware of lighting, surroundings, etc.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little window into some of the wildlife on the east coast of South Africa!

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Summer of Dinosaurs CAL: How to Enter

We’re now 2 weeks into the Summer of Dinosaurs crochet-along, and the dinos are starting to overrun the PlanetJune Ravelry group, with 50 projects and 37 finished dinosaurs posted already!


PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs CAL: How to Enter a CAL

With 5 more weeks to go, I thought now would be a good time to help out any of you who’ve been reluctant to join the CAL because you’re not familiar with Ravelry. Ravelry is a huge site that has a lot to offer, and that can be a bit intimidating when you first sign up and have so many options to click into. There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve to Ravelry, but the good news is that you only need to use a tiny fraction of the site to enter a PlanetJune CAL.

Don’t be scared! Just click through to my PlanetJune Crochet-Along FAQ, where I’ll show you, step-by-step, everything you need to know to add your CAL project to Ravelry and post it to the PlanetJune group.

PlanetJune Ravelry group
The PlanetJune group on Ravelry, where you can find pattern support, chat about crochet (and more), make new friends, and share your love of PlanetJune patterns!


And, once you’re comfortable with the PlanetJune corner of Ravelry, I recommend you start to explore the whole site a bit further – it’s totally free to use, and it has a lot to offer anyone who crochets (and/or knits).

Ravelry includes a searchable database of pretty much every pattern and yarn in existence, so if you’re looking for something in particular it’s easy to find it. You can also see all the projects other people have made from the patterns or yarns (before you decide to buy them!) and their verdict on what they thought of it.


Don’t forget that with every Summer of Dinosaurs CAL entry, you’ll be entered to win some of the amazing prizes pictured below: your favourite colours of Lion Brand yarn, an amigurumi kit, PlanetJune patterns, and runner-up prizes for all entrants (see the main CAL post for full details of the prizes).

PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs CAL - prizes

Ready to make some dinos? Join the crochet-along now!

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Summer of Dinosaurs CAL: Tutorials

We’re only 1 week into the Summer of Dinosaurs crochet-along, and the PlanetJune Ravelry group is already teeming with dinos. Just look…


Rawr!

It’s a thrill to see new unique colourful dinosaurs popping up every day, and to have lots of new participants joining our regular band of CALers! There are 6 more weeks to go, so that’s plenty of time for even a complete beginner to crochet a dinosaur to join our virtual herd…

If you’re tempted to join the CAL but you’re new to amigurumi, or haven’t made a PlanetJune pattern before, this is a great opportunity to have a go. Even if you’ve been crocheting for years, amigurumi (and my patterns in particular) use a specific set of techniques that you may not be familiar with.

PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs CAL: Tutorials

For your first dinosaur (or even your first amigurumi!) I recommend you choose the Brachiosaurus (who’s also our CAL mascot, pictured above left), as it has simple shaping, only a few pieces to stitch together, and an undeniably cute result.

I have a comprehensive range of amigurumi tutorials at www.planetjune.com/help, but you’ll only need a few of them for this CAL. To set you on the track to success, let’s take a look at the tutorials for making the best-looking dinosaurs…


The Essential Tutorials

To make beautiful amigurumi with no lumps, bumps or holes, all you need are these 4 absolutely essential techniques:

Magic Ring for Crochet
Start crocheting in the round with no hole in the middle.
video tutorialphoto tutorial (right-handed)photo tutorial (left-handed)

Invisible Decrease for Amigurumi
Decrease without leaving any bumps or gaps.
video tutorialphoto tutorial (right-handed)photo tutorial (left-handed)

Ultimate Finish for Amigurumi
Close up the remaining hole neatly with a smooth, gap-free finish.
video tutorialphoto tutorial

Amigurumi Seamless Join
Create a smooth, almost invisible join when you stitch an open-ended piece to a closed piece.
video tutorial

Bonus Tips for Dinosaurs

For those dinos with horns, spikes, plates, wings and flippers, these tutorials have you covered:

Flattened Pieces
What does it mean when a pattern says to flatten a piece of an amigurumi after crocheting?
photo tutorial

Narrow Pointed Tubes for Amigurumi
My tips for making thin pointy bits on amigurumi, such as spikes, legs, horns and tails.
video tutorial

Basic Techniques and Troubleshooting

If you’re new to amigurumi-making or find your stitches don’t quite look right, try these tutorials (or see my Amigurumi Troubleshooter for further assistance):

Which is the ‘Right’ Side?
Which side of your work should face outwards? (And does it matter?)
video tutorialphoto tutorial

Front, Back, Both Loops
Which loop(s) should you work into to make a crochet stitch?
video tutorial

Yarn Over
How exactly should you wrap the yarn over your hook for crochet?
video tutorial

And if you still have any questions, that’s what the PlanetJune community is here for: we have lots of friendly crocheters in the PlanetJune Ravelry group who understand exactly what you’re going through, and are waiting to offer any help and advice you need. :)


PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs CAL - pattern options

I hope this post has tempted you to join the dino fun this summer (and, don’t forget you may win a great prize too, thanks to our CAL sponsor, Lion Brand!)

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Armadillo crochet pattern

Time to show you the results of my latest crochet pattern commission: I’ve designed an amigurumi Armadillo!

Armadillo crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Armadillo Fun Facts

  • Armadillos are very unusual-looking mammals; they are covered in bony plates of armour that form a protective shell over their backs.
  • They are primarily nocturnal, live in burrows, and eat insects.
  • Armadillos come from South and Central America, and there are 20 different species. My design is based on the nine-banded armadillo (the only variety that’s also found in the United States).
  • The bands in an armadillo’s armour provide flexibility. The nine-banded armadillo may actually have between 7 and 11 bands (my design has 7)!
  • Although you’ve probably heard that armadillos roll into a ball to escape predation, only three-banded armadillos have this ability; other armadillos run away or can jump several feet into the air to escape danger.
  • A nine-banded armadillo always gives birth to exactly 4 identical babies (quadruplets!)

Armadillo crochet pattern by PlanetJune

About the Pattern

It was an interesting challenge to come up with techniques to replicate the shape and texture of an armadillo’s amazing armour while still creating a sturdy toy without any holes that could leave ugly gaping holes. I spent a long time playing with different stitches and shaping techniques to give the effect I wanted without making the pattern overly-complicated, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

I hope my photos convey the shape of the armour and the way it curves over the neck and tail just like it does on a real nine-banded armadillo. The armadillo uses three different techniques to produce that wonderful textured armour over the back and on the tail, but the pattern still only uses combinations of the most basic crochet stitches.

Armadillo crochet pattern by PlanetJune

My nine-banded armadillo is 13″ (33cm) long – although a large fraction of that is tail! The special techniques used for crocheting and assembling the armadillo’s armour are all explained in full in the pattern, with lots of step-by-step photos to help you along the way.

Armadillos & Aardvarks…

Armadillos and Aardvarks are an example of convergent evolution – although they hail from different continents and aren’t closely related, they have similar diets and lifestyles and they independently evolved to look similar. I find this concept fascinating, so I designed my Armadillo to form a matched set with my Aardvark – don’t they look cute together?

Armadillo crochet pattern by PlanetJune

(Now I just need to design an Anteater and Pangolin to complete the ‘family’ of long-nosed insectivorous mammals!)

Ready to Crochet?

I’d like to thank everyone who commissioned this design – it was certainly a challenge to develop such innovative techniques, but one I was very happy to undertake! You can download the pattern from your PlanetJune account whenever you’re ready – I hope you’re as pleased with the results as I am…

Armadillo crochet pattern by PlanetJune

If you weren’t one of the commissioners, my Armadillo pattern is now available to purchase from the PlanetJune shop.

Or, if you’re not ready to buy just yet, please add my Armadillo to your queue or favourites on Ravelry, so you don’t forget about it:

I really hope you like my Armadillo design!

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Summer of Dinosaurs CAL

The PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs crochet-along (CAL) starts today and runs through to the end of July. If you haven’t joined a PlanetJune CAL before – maybe you’re intimidated about joining Ravelry, or just haven’t found the time to sign up? – this is a great time to join, as this is a prize CAL, sponsored by Lion Brand, with prizes for all participants!

PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs CAL - pattern options

You can join this CAL by making any of the 18 PlanetJune amigurumi dinosaur patterns (all pictured above). These patterns are always popular because they’re simple to follow (with no colour changes), work equally well in any colour you can imagine, and make lovely sturdy toys for both girls and boys of all ages.

How to Join

It’s really easy to join a PlanetJune CAL:

  1. Join Ravelry and add a profile pic to your profile.
  2. Join the PlanetJune Crochet Designs group.
  3. Make a dinosaur based on any PlanetJune dinosaur pattern and enter it in the CAL (instructions are given in the Rules below, and in the CAL thread)

(See my FAQ How do I enter a PlanetJune CAL? for more details on how to complete steps 1 and 2.)

Prize Details

PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs CAL - prizes
Note: pictured yarn colours and crochet patterns are just examples – winners may choose any colours/pattern

Grand Prize: 3 skeins Vanna’s Choice (the yarn I used to make all my dinosaurs!) and 1 skein of the gorgeous new Textures yarn (all generously provided by Lion Brand, winner can choose colours) plus a PlanetJune crochet pattern of your choice

Second Prize: a PlanetJune Amigurumi Essentials Kit plus a PlanetJune crochet pattern of your choice

Third Prize: a PlanetJune crochet pattern of your choice

Runner-up Prizes: there are no losers at PlanetJune! All other participants who complete one or more entries in the CAL will receive a 10% discount code towards your next order from PlanetJune.com :)

Rules

For each entry in the CAL (and contest), make a dinosaur based on any PlanetJune dinosaur pattern and enter it as follows:

  1. CREATE a new project for your dinosaur
  2. LINK the project to the PlanetJune pattern you’re using
  3. TAG your project PJDinoCAL2015
  4. ADD a photo of your completed project
  5. MARK your project as ‘Finished’
  6. POST the photo in the CAL thread

(If any of this doesn’t make sense, don’t worry – the PJ group moderators are ready to help and answer any of your questions. New Ravelry users are always welcome and no question is too stupid!)

To be counted as a valid entry, your project must be started on or after June 12 2015, and it must meet all of the above criteria by the end date of this CAL: before the end of July 31 2015 (in your local time).

That gives you 7 full weeks to make your dinosaur(s), and you’re welcome to complete and submit multiple entries – just make sure you create a new project for each dinosaur and follow the CAL instructions for each one.

The contest is open to everyone, worldwide – yay! Prizewinners will be drawn as follows: one entry into the draw per completed project that meets all the CAL requirements. Grand, Second and Third prizewinners will be chosen by random drawing; all other participants who complete at least one project as specified will receive the Runner-up prize. Prize notifications will be made by me (June) by Ravelry mail, so check your Rav inbox!

Grand Prize yarn to be provided by Lion Brand and shipped to the winner (if you’re from outside the US you’ll be responsible for any duty and/or import taxes on the prize); all other prizes to be provided by me :)


PlanetJune Summer of Dinosaurs CAL

Are you as excited as I am? I think this is going to be an especially fun CAL, and I hope you’ll join us! Let the Summer of Dinosaurs begin…

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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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