PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for January, 2010

making cat toys

Today is my furbaby Maui’s 6th birthday. (Well, we adopted him when he was a year old, so we don’t know his actual birthday, but we settled on this date for him so it wouldn’t be too close to Christmas.) If you don’t know my lovely boy, here he is:

Maui
Awww, handsome cat!

The actual subject of this post is making toys for your cat, and whether it’s worth the effort. I’d like to demonstrate with a couple of toys that I made for Maui three years ago (please excuse the photos - my photographic skills have clearly improved since 2007!)…

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

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polar bear pattern redux

Looking at my crochet pattern sales over the past few years, one of my least popular patterns has been my poor neglected AquaAmi Polar Bear, and I think I know why…

aquaami by planetjune

It’s entirely my own fault: I wanted to keep the design in line with the other AquaAmi (who are all about the shaping and have no features other than eyes), so I didn’t give my polar bear a black nose.

polar bear (old version) by planetjune

Although it was an intentional design decision, I’m pretty sure that was a mistake from the point of view of selling patterns; most people couldn’t see the implied (invisible) nose and so overlooked the pattern, which is actually a really nicely-shaped realistic polar bear design.

So, let’s try an experiment to see if I’m right… Today I am proud to (re-)introduce the AquaAmi Polar Bear crochet pattern!

polar bear amigurumi crochet pattern (new and improved!) by planetjune

Beautiful realistic shaping and a classic black bear nose make this a must-have pattern! Worked in a bulky weight yarn, he stands at about 8″ long and  5″ tall. You can easily resize the design down by simply using a worsted weight yarn and E hook to make a more compact bear, or a couple of baby bears to follow the mama bear around (oh, wouldn’t that be cute?!)

So, why not pick up a copy of the Polar Bear pattern today?

For those of you who’ve already purchased the pattern, don’t worry, this is essentially the exact same pattern you bought! But if you’d like a copy of the new version, please contact me and I’ll happily email it to you!

I’ll be very interested to see what (if any) effect this has on sales of the Polar Bear pattern. As my business evolves, I’ve been learning to focus more on what my customers want rather than arbitrary decisions that only make sense to me. For example, my patterns were originally categorized by ranges: AmiDogs, AquaAmi, AfricAmi, PocketAmi, etc, but the ranges were beginning to dictate which animal designs I could make, and navigating through those categories was not at all clear to anyone except me! Last year, I changed my shop categories to make it easier to find the type of pattern you’re looking for (Wild Animals, Farm Animals, Pets, etc etc) and I think that’s much more intuitive.

There are other things about PlanetJune.com that aren’t as user-friendly as I’d like. I’ve been compiling a list of things that could be better, and I plan to work my way through the improvements as the year progresses, so if you have any suggestions for other changes that would improve the whole ‘PlanetJune experience’ (LOL), please feel free to let me know so that I can add them to my list! Gentle and/or constructive criticism only, please – don’t make me cry :)

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‘best of 2009′ award

crocheted lemmings by planetjune

What a lovely surprise! Out of tens of thousands of projects posted on Craftster in 2009, my amigurumi Lemmings were chosen as one of the 5 best crochet projects of the year. Yay!

Craftster Best of 2009 Winner
I’m a Craftster Best of 2009 Winner!

In other news, posts may be a little scarce for the next few weeks, as I’m entering the home stretch of the biggest, most exciting secret project I’ve ever been involved with!

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Groundhog-along!

The power of Twitter strikes again! A Twitter conversation between Groundhog Day fans @SisterDiane, @kpwerker, @kitchensinkdye and myself (@planetjune) led to a cool idea: We’re having a Groundhog-along!

Groundhog-along 2010!

Join in and crochet your amigurumi groundhog by Feb 2nd. You can join  the Groundhog-along 2010 Ravelry group and/or grab the above button image (created by Kim from my photo) for your blog. (Save the button image and upload it to your own server, please.)

If you don’t already use Ravelry, it’s free to join and a wonderful resource for all crocheters and knitters. But if you don’t want to join, send me a pic of your amigurumi groundhog before Feb 2nd and I’ll include it in my Groundhog-along wrap-up post on Groundhog Day!

(Don’t forget to get the Groundhog crochet pattern so you can add to our army of adorable crocheted groundhogs!)

amigurumi groundhog by planetjune

I’m so excited that in one evening we’re up to 25 Groundhog-along group members already – this is going to be so much fun!

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amigurumi groundhog

I’ve been planning to design a groundhog for the past 2 years, but every time I remember, it’s late January, and far too late to give anyone other than me a chance to make one in time for Groundhog Day (February 2nd). This year I got my act in gear and made sure I’d get my design finished with a month to spare!

For those of you unfamiliar with Groundhog Day, go out and buy the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. RIGHT NOW. Seriously, you won’t regret it. It’s one of my favourite movies of all time :)

crocheted amigurumi groundhog by planetjune

But the concept of Groundhog Day (the day, as opposed to the movie) is that the groundhog is a talented weather forecaster… On February 2nd, the groundhog wakes up from his winter hibernation, comes out of his burrow and looks around. If he sees his shadow, there’ll be 6 more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t see his shadow, we’ll have an early spring. There are several famous annual Groundhog Day ceremonies around North America, each with their own famous groundhog, including Punxsutawney Phil (yep, he’s the one in the movie!) in Pennsylvania, Wiarton Willie (an albino groundhog) in Ontario, and Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia. Of course, the chance of spring starting in early February is fairly non-existent in these parts, and the groundhogs correctly predict that by seeing their shadows most years ;)

crocheted amigurumi groundhog by planetjune
I took this photo of a pair of baby groundhogs last spring

But a groundhog is for life, not just for Groundhog Day… The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a member of the marmot family. Here in Waterloo, Ontario, we see a lot of groundhogs throughout the year (except winter), sitting in fields and grazing on grass verges, and they are really cute. I love how fat they look (I made sure to build that into my design!) and when they stand up on their back legs to look around, they are just adorable! They aren’t greedy – they build up all that fat for a reason: so they can survive through the harsh winter by hibernating in their burrows.

crocheted amigurumi groundhog by planetjune

crocheted amigurumi groundhog by planetjune

And now you can make a cute and chubby little groundhog of your own, with my latest amigurumi crochet pattern! I made mine from Bernat Satin which is quite fine as worsted weight yarns go, and he stands at around 6.5″ tall. If you used a thicker worsted weight yarn (confusing, I know) like Vanna’s Choice, your groundhog would be even larger. If you’d like to make your own, the Groundhog crochet pattern is now available in the PlanetJune shop :)

I’m hoping my little guy will not see his shadow this February 2nd, so we can all look forward to an early spring!

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Bobby award nominee!

Today I saw that the nominations for Ravelry’s annual Bobby Awards had been posted. I thought I’d take a look through and see the wonderful knit and crochet projects that made the cut this year. Imagine my surprise when I saw that my own amigurumi Discworld had been nominated – yay! As I continued to browse through the categories, I discovered that my Discworld has been nominated for not one, but three Bobby Awards!

I'm nominated for 3 Ravelry Bobby Awards!

I don’t think I’ve ever been up for an award before! My Discworld is nominated in three categories: Geekiest Pattern, Coolest Toy and Best Personal Pattern Project. If you have a Ravelry account, and (of course) if you think my Discworld is worthy of the awards, please consider voting for me in any or all of the three categories :)

crocheted Discworld by planetjune

It would be lovely to win, of course, but right now I feel so honoured to even be nominated and be recognised as an artist and designer. Thanks, of course, to Terry Pratchett, for inspiring me to recreate his wonderful Discworld in crochet. And thank you, Ravelers, for nominating (and voting for!) one of my all-time favourite designs!

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‘Worms’ in polymer clay

As I’m a bit of a perfectionist (you may have noticed!) I really struggle with quick crafts, because I want everything to be as good as I can possibly make it. Sometimes that’s not healthy: when even my relaxation time is spent being very careful and striving for excellence, I put a lot of pressure on myself. So one of the things I’d like to do this year is to spend more time making ‘fun’ things without caring as much about how ‘good’ they are. And this is my first attempt at that.

Many years ago, I used to love making teeny tiny things with polymer clay – I once made a complete set of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (and Splinter the rat) that were each about 1cm tall! I thought it would be fun to try something more like that again – something quick and fun and colourful; almost the antithesis of my 3-years-in-the-making R2-D2 sculpture.

A bit of background for the non-gamers: in the late 1990s, there was a series of multiplayer games called Worms (Worms 2, Worms Armageddon, etc etc). Each player controlled a team of cute worms and took turns to try to annihilate each other by arming their own worms with a selection of outlandish and hilarious weapons. Crazy cartoon carnage ensued. Worms has recently made a comeback with new releases for consoles and iPhone, but 1999′s Worms Armageddon on PC is still a great game too.

Okay, enough talk! Here’s the action shot as the Worms go into battle on my computer keyboard:

Worms (polymer clay) by planetjune
Click through for the bigger pic at Flickr!

And because some of the details don’t show up too well against the black keys, here’s a posed shot of all the pieces:

Worms (polymer clay) by planetjune
Click through for the bigger pic at Flickr!

Worms L-R: no weapon, shotgun, dynamite, bazooka, grenade, no weapon
Back: health crate, mystery crate, oil barrel, super sheep (it’s a weapon!), homing missile, bazooka, mine

A couple of hours well-spent, I think – they just crack me up, especially their little expressions, and the super sheep with his billowing cape :D

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2009: year in review

It’s hard to believe that 2009 has ended and I’ve been self-employed for a whole year already! My resolution from last year was “to give myself the chance to succeed, but to not beat myself up about it if things don’t go as well as I hope”, and I think that was a good resolution to have. Taking the leap into self-employment was not an easy decision, and this year has definitely been an eye-opener for me. My original plan was to spend my extra time designing more crochet patterns, and see if I could build my business that way, but, in the end, that wasn’t what happened at all…

The very next day after I made the decision to quit my job, I was approached to write a papercraft book (as a result of my work on Folding Trees). As it was my first book, I was totally unprepared for the amount of hard work this would entail – designing projects, shopping for materials, making project samples, giving myself a crash course in Adobe Illustrator so I could create quality illustrations for the book… oh yeah, and actually writing the book! But it all came together in the end, after 3 months of very hard work, and the end result, Paper Chains and Garlands, is out now to buy from Barnes & Noble stores and online.

After that, I came up with the bright idea of self-publishing a punchneedle embroidery eBook, so I spent a couple of months writing and photographing that, and designing patterns to go along with it. The result was The Punchneedle Handbook and a range of (currently) nine patterns.

2009 books by June Gilbank
Two books in one year!

I also had two sewing patterns published in the book One Yard Wonders. I taught three crochet classes at two Creativ Festivals, plus gave an online class at Crochetville. I gave a talk on designing amigurumi animals, and I was interviewed for two podcasts: Getting Loopy (about my crochet designs) and CraftyPod (about my experiences with print and eBook publishing). I finally finished my crocheted baby orang utan and was interviewed about it for an online art magazine. I did some web design contract work. And, for the past few months, I’ve also been working on 2 secret projects which I can’t reveal quite yet.

So really, it’s a wonder I had time to crochet at all, let alone follow my original plan of increasing my rate of producing new patterns! But I did manage to publish 16 new crochet patterns in 2009, some of which (African Violets, Alpaca, Dinosaurs, Christmas Trees) are now among my bestsellers, and I bought a special notebook that’s now filled with ideas that I haven’t had a chance to make yet, so I’m in good shape to start 2010.

Here’s a visual roundup of most of what I’ve made this year:

PlanetJune 2009 roundup

All in all, I will count 2009 as a very successful first self-employed year. There are a lot of things I was hoping to accomplish that I just haven’t had a chance to do yet, but I’ve worked very hard all year and I think I have a lot to show for it. Having said that, my resolution for the coming year is to learn to say “no” to some things – there are only so many hours in the day, and it’s not healthy to work all the time! Setting priorities is key, and this is why Eve and I made the difficult decision to close Folding Trees last week – we both have too many other things to juggle and something had to give so that we could save our sanity and spend some time with our families once in a while…

As for 2010: bring it on! I already have enough ideas to fill the entire year, but I’m not going to write a list of plans and goals here: I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and be flexible with my plans so I can seize new opportunities when they arise. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey, wherever it leads me.

On a personal level, 2009 has been a difficult year for many of us, myself included, so let’s cast all that off and move forward into a new decade and a new adventure! Don’t be afraid to try new things: shrug off the things that don’t work out and be encouraged by your successes. I wish you all a very Happy New Year, my friends!

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  • Welcome to PlanetJune!

    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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