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Musicians of Bremen punchneedle

I’ve been waiting for a very long time to be able to show you this piece! I was commissioned to make some punchneedle-embroidered artwork in 2009 for a book about stories told through needlearts. Recent years have created an uncertain climate for traditional print publishing, and (to make a very long story short) the book never made it to print. So, after years of waiting, I’m finally free to show you what I made…

Musicians of Bremen punchneedle embroidery by June Gilbank (PlanetJune)

I chose the folk tale of the Musicians of Bremen for my design for several reasons: the story spoke to me; it’s not an obvious choice of story, so it hasn’t been overused or Disneyfied; it features animals; and there’s the iconic image of the animals standing on each others’ backs that I thought would translate well into my artwork.

If you’re not familiar with the story, the four abandoned animals find each other as they each set out alone to seek their fortune as musicians in Bremen, but ultimately they discovered all they needed to be happy when they found a home and the companionship of their friends. I like this moral of simple comfort and happiness.

Musicians of Bremen punchneedle embroidery - detail - by June Gilbank (PlanetJune)
Fine detail in the cockerel and silver mackerel tabby markings.

I designed my piece to be set in the forest at night, showing the animals looking through the window of the cottage that would ultimately become their home. The visual impact comes from the color of the animals and the warmth of the lighted cottage window against the cool, dark background of the forest. I used a palette of 29 shades of embroidery floss in this piece, including a colour-blending technique to add depth to the forest floor.

Musicians of Bremen punchneedle embroidery - detail - by June Gilbank (PlanetJune)
Awww, donkey! Plus some of the colour-blended background.

It took a couple of months to complete the embroidery. The finished piece measures 7 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches (19.7 x 14.0 cm) and is stretched over felt-covered board so it doesn’t need a frame and can be propped on a mantelpiece or hung on a wall. The Musicians of Bremen is my second-largest punchneedle project after my globe (pictured below, with my crocheted orangutan):

punchneedle globe by planetjune

I haven’t had time to make any new punchneedle projects since the globe, but looking at my Musicians of Bremen piece makes me hope I can find some time to start punching again – it makes for such colourful, textural, satisfying projects!

punchneedle embroidery patterns by planetjune
If this post has you intrigued about punchneedle embroidery, please see my Punchneedle FAQ for more info, a tutorial, lots of patterns, and my ebook, The Punchneedle Handbook.

Comments (14)

amigurumi Lt Columbo & Dog

Columbo has always been my favourite TV detective. I love how the show turned the detective genre on its head by showing the murder at the start, so you never had to guess whodunnit as you watched (something I never manage with my other favourite detective, Poirot), and how dishevelled, disarming Columbo always got the better of the arrogant, affluent murderers. I have all the box sets on DVD and still think that watching Columbo makes for a perfect cosy Sunday afternoon at home.

When I heard that Peter Falk had passed away I decided to make an amigurumi Columbo as a tribute to all the years of brilliance he brought to his most famous role. And here it is:

amigurumi Columbo by PlanetJune
Please click through to see the larger version!

I used the Boy pattern from my own book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi. If you’ve seen my book, you’ll know that I made my Boy and Girl patterns fairly generic so it’s easy to customize and embellish them (using the techniques I explain throughout the book) to create any character. For ami-Columbo, I shortened the legs and added a belt, shirt collar and tie. I made the arms thinner so that the raincoat would fit over the top, I changed the hair, and I added the cigar. Apart from that, ami-Columbo is worked exactly as the Boy pattern.

“Excuse me, sir?”

amigurumi Lt Columbo by PlanetJune
Reproducing Columbo’s crumpled old raincoat took a long time of trying different hooks and stitch patterns until I found one that would give a flexible fabric without any lacey holes, so it wouldn’t hang too straight and perfect or look too ‘pretty’. I was going to make the raincoat fully removeable, but I decided that, as I wanted him to have jointed, poseable arms, I should work the arms (including raincoat sleeves) separately, and then attach them over the body of the raincoat. This way, the arms of the raincoat can move with his arms, so the fabric doesn’t bunch when I change his arm positions.

“Sorry to bother you, ma’am…”

amigurumi Columbo by PlanetJune
Ami-Columbo’s hair is crocheted from 2 strands of curly eyelash yarn worked together (the black yarn alone was too stark, and the brown too light) with a side parting, and shaping at the back. Even his ever-present cigar is crocheted!

“What did you pay for those shoes?”

amigurumi Columbo by PlanetJune
Of course, Columbo wears his scuffed old brown shoes, and, were you to peek under his trouser cuffs, he’s wearing black socks too.

“Alright, now stay! Don’t go running around. You see? This dog could be a lethal weapon; he’s already partly trained.”

amigurumi Dog from Columbo by PlanetJune
And how could I make Columbo without also crocheting Dog, his pet basset hound and sometime sidekick (talents: eating ice cream and staying in the car). By the way, if you’d like to make your own Dog, look out for my AmiDogs Basset Hound crochet pattern, coming next week…

UPDATE: AmiDogs Basset Hound crochet pattern is now available for purchase!

“Just one more thing…”

I did consider crocheting Columbo’s other great supporting character: his battered old Peugeot car. Then I calculated how large it would need to be, to be in scale with ami-Columbo… Peter Falk was 5’6″ (let’s say 5’8″ including shoes and hair); the Peugeot 403 was 176″ long. Ami-Columbo is 11″ tall, so at that scale, his car would have to be 28.5″ (72cm) long! I definitely don’t have enough time or yarn to make something that size, although it would have made for an amazing crocheted diorama :)

I hope you enjoyed my little tribute to Lt Columbo and to Peter Falk – I hope he would have appreciated it! Please leave me a comment if you liked it…

UPDATE: I’m adding this due to the massive amount of requests I’ve received for Columbo commissions or a Columbo pattern. Thank you so much for your interest, but:

  • Please don’t ask me to make you a Columbo – I’m a busy designer and just don’t have the time to take commissions for finished pieces.
  • If you’d like to make your own amigurumi characters, you can use the Boy (or Girl) pattern from my book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi, together with the customization and embellishment techniques I explain throughout the book, to create any character. That’s how I made my Ami-Columbo, so there is no pattern to replicate Columbo exactly (although, if you’d like to make one too, there are some notes on my customizations in the post above). Use my techniques and your creativity to customize my basic Boy/Girl patterns into any character you choose!

Comments (61)

crocheted Reepicheep the mouse

I was inspired to make this by a crochet challenge on Craftster. The challenge theme was fantasy, and Narnia sprang to mind immediately. When I was younger, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia series, especially The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I spent my pocket money on a lovely boxset of the paperbacks that included the original illustrations. And then I was given a book written about Narnia that explained all the Christian symbolism C.S. Lewis had built into the stories, and I was horrified: I felt like I’d been cheated into reading religious propaganda, and Narnia lost its appeal. It took me many years, but I eventually decided to ignore all the Christian subtext and re-read them, and I discovered that the stories are still charming and wonderful (except The Last Battle, but that’s another story) and I returned to the magic of Narnia. If you haven’t read these books, you really should!

Anyway, back to my design. I thought Aslan was too obvious a choice, but I wanted to make a very recognisable character, so who better than the fearless and valiant mouse Reepicheep? The scene from the end of The Voyage of The Dawn Treader has always stuck with me, and the prophetic verse:

Where sky and water meet,
Where the waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter East.

So, without further ado, I present… Sir Reepicheep! (Please click the pic to see the full size version – you can’t appreciate it properly at this scale.)

Reepicheep by planetjune
Reepicheep paddles in his coracle, through a sea of lilies, to the end of the world

Reepicheep was very educational to me: without him, I wouldn’t know what a coracle is (a small, round, lightweight, one-man boat made from woven wooden strips) or the meaning of the word poltroon (a coward). In fact, I think ‘poltroon’ is such a great word, we should all start using it in daily conversation!

Reepicheep and accessories took 11 types and colours of yarn and 4 sizes of crochet hook. It’s very important to me to make as much as possible from crochet, so everything you can see is crocheted. I used fiberfill stuffing, 3 different types of wire (pipe cleaners, floral wire and beading wire) to provide internal structure, and a piece of plastic canvas inside the paddle blade to keep it flat. And every single item came from my stash, so the entire project cost me nothing!

Reepicheep by planetjune

Reepicheep stands at 9 inches (23 cm) tall. His arms and legs have a floral wire skeleton to make him poseable; his tail is crocheted over pipe cleaners, and his fingers and toes are stabilised with beading wire so they are also poseable. He wears a red feather behind one ear, tucked into a gold band. The gold band gave me problems – every yarn I tried looked too bulky and ridiculous. After 3 useless attempts, I thought I’d try crocheting an i-cord with gold-coloured embroidery thread – something I’ve never tried before (i-cords are usually knitted) but had been meaning to try. It worked really well and made a neat square tube that I stitched together at the ends to form the band.

Reepicheep by planetjune

I crocheted Reep’s rapier over a length of floral wire so it would be rigid. I found some crewel wool in my stash that I thought would make an interesting texture for his sword belt. Unfortunately, you’d have to touch them to appreciate the contrast between the soft yarns I used for Reep and the coarser texture of the belt – so you’ll have to just believe me on this one :)

Reepicheep's Coracle by planetjune

The coracle took a lot of figuring out! I decided to make a basket-weave texture using front- and back-post stitches, to give the coracle a realistic woven look, but because the sides are sloped, I had to figure out how to make increases without interrupting the pattern of the basket-weave. I eventually made every ‘woven strip’ 2 stitches wide at the base of the coracle, and, over 8 rounds, gradually increased the width of each strip so that they are all 3 stitches wide by the top edge. I crocheted tightly so that it’s very sturdy and hold its shape pretty well, and I wet-blocked it over a bowl to help it to stay perfectly round. The paddle has a floral wire handle and plastic canvas blade so it’s strong and rigid.

waterlily by planetjune

And finally, I love the sea of waterlilies that Reep paddles through, so I couldn’t resist making a pretty little waterlily to complete the scene! I can’t make a pattern for Reepicheep: for starters I crocheted him freeform so there is no pattern, and, of course, profiting from other people’s copyrighted characters is not legal! But I will be writing up the pattern for the waterlily flower and leaves – it should be finished later this week if you’re interested.

UPDATE: The water lily crochet pattern is now available in my shop.

I hope you like my Reepicheep! I’m very happy with him :)

Reepicheep by planetjune

Don’t forget to enter my anniversary contests, if you haven’t yet – they are open until Friday!

Comments (41)

handmade delights

I have to admit I’ve been a bit slow to appreciate the appeal of buying handmade, mostly because I’m usually guilty of seeing something and thinking “I could make that!” Well, yes, I probably could, given many hours/weeks/months of time, learning a new skill, and investing in new equipment and tools to do it properly… Now I’ve started to actually buy beautiful things that have been individually made by talented people, I can appreciate them for the lovely treat they are, instead of feeling like I have to challenge myself to make everything.

Of course, receiving a handmade gift is even more of a pleasure! I’ve been absolutely spoiled recently by some of my best crafty-blogger friends. Just look at this gorgeous grey-blue shrug that Kari (Crafty Ginger) made for me. It’s so beautifully knitted – a skill I have never picked up – fits me perfectly, and I just love the colour:

knitted shrug by crafty ginger

Kari also spoiled me with lots of other treats too, but they were dispersed before I thought to take a picture. Thank you, Kari – I love everything!

Alice (futuregirl) sent me a huge pile of lovely origami papers to use – I can definitely make good use of those for Folding Trees! But, even better, she sent me a handmade by futuregirl Birdcage Handbag! It is just beautiful. Alice is currently in the process of writing up the patterns for some of her bags, so head over to the futuregirl craft blog soon if you’d like to make one for yourself. In the meantime, take a look at mine:

crocheted handbag by futuregirl
Sorry for the strange angle of this pic – I was trying to show the embroidered birdcage on the front AND the bird fabric lining on the inside!

Thank you, Alice – I shall treasure my bag!

I’ve also been doing a bit of shopping on Etsy and ArtFire. As a buyer, both were easy to use, although if a seller has a store at both venues, I’m choosing ArtFire, because I know the artisan won’t be paying commission fees on my purchase that way! I thought I’d put together a little showcase of things I’ve bought and would recommend if you’re looking for gifts or to treat yourself. In no particular order:

I have been intending to commission a portrait of Maui from ArtFire seller Christy DeKoning for a year, but I was having difficulty selecting the perfect source photos (difficult choice with such a photogenic cat… yes, I know I’m biased!). I’m so glad I finally made my mind up… Christy has painted the most adorable little watercolour for me, and she also e-mailed me a proof and was happy to correct the one little line that originally didn’t look quite like my boy (now it’s perfect). Christy also documented the process on her own blog – wow! The result is a beautiful work of art:

original watercolour painting by christy dekoning

This adorable carved wooden chickadee comes from Etsy seller and talented artist Sandra Healy. Sandra has a huge range of over 270 species of wild animals and birds, and she individually carves and paints each one. If you like animals, you really must check out her store. Here’s my darling chickadee:

handmade wooden chickadee by sandra healy

I bought this beautiful polymer clay covered crochet hook from Etsy seller Jenn Edwards, aka The Fanciful Feline. Jenn also sells polymer clay beads and more in her store. Jenn has taken my favourite type of hook (Susan Bates) and added a comfortable smooth handle complete with floating flowers and intricately caned butterflies. It’s my new favourite hook:

handmade crochet hook by the fanciful feline

Lip balm is one of my vices – I never wear lipstick, but you’ll never find me without my trusty lip balm. ArtFire seller Bohemian Rose makes handmade soaps and sugar scrubs, and also has a lovely range of deliciously scented lip balms. If you feel in need of a delicious little treat to pamper yourself, check out her store. I picked up her Pele lip balm, which is a yummy fruity pineapple flavour, and a steal at only $5 for two balms (I also chose the Cuticle Balm – much more convenient than a bottle of moisturiser for those emergency dry cuticle situations):

handmade lipbalm by bohemian rose

I hope I’ve inspired you to look into buying handmade items for yourself and your friends and family. You can find beautiful, original, high quality handcrafted merchandise from forums such as ArtFire.com and Etsy.com, and the knowledge that you are directly helping to support the artist/artisan will give you that warm glow that you just don’t get from a trip to the mall. Long live handmade!

Comments (9)

orang behind the scenes

Wow. What a response! Thank you all for your comments – it means so much to me that you like my most personal work to date :)

crocheted orang utan by planetjune

Okay, so now you’ve seen the finished product, but I think I need to share a little of the insane amount of effort that went into making my orang utan! I would guess we’re looking at about 100 hours of June time, of which the actual crocheting that you see is less than half of that. Aside from that, highlights include:

  • sculpting the hands and feet from pipe cleaners
  • snapping and unsnapping armature parts to get the skeleton proportions right (literally hours of struggle, one pinched fingertip and one hugely bruised knuckle to show for that)
  • sewing cushioned sleeves to cushion the skeleton and keep them in the right place inside the body
  • the previous 2 heads that went wrong wrong wrong
  • creating a wire base for the head so it wouldn’t sag

Here’s a glimpse into a little bit of the work that you don’t see in the finished orang:

orang utan hand in progress
left: pipe cleaners formed into shape of hand
middle: beginning to crochet over the form
right: finished hand with arm attached

orang utan limbs in progress

left: a finished arm and leg
middle: the spine (this is the plastic segmented poseable armature I used)
right: quilted covers for the armature limbs so he wouldn’t feel too bony

I didn’t take any pics of the inside of the body or head, but that should give you an idea – there’s more than meets the eye to this little guy! But the result is that he is infinitely poseable and feels very realistic, thanks to the weight of the armature and the ‘backbone’ bumps you can just feel when you stroke him.

I’m so flattered that some of you would like a pattern, but, as you can see from the above, this wouldn’t be a crochet pattern – it would be ‘how to make a plush art sculpture (oh yeah, and you’ll need to crochet too)’. And that’s one reason why my orang utan is art, not craft – it’s not something that can be reproduced. So definitely no pattern (sorry!).

But there may be a way you can own a little piece of him, even though you can never make/buy an original: I’m thinking of selling high quality prints of a really good photograph of him. I tweeted the idea yesterday and had some good responses – I still need to investigate the logistics but I think it would be doable.

So now I’d like to ask you: would you buy a print if they were for sale? Would you prefer something more ‘useful’ like a blank notecard or postcard, or an art print that you could frame? Or something else again – I’m open to all ideas. If there’s enough interest I’ll get some printed and put them in the shop.

Comments (27)

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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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