PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for My Craft Business

Improved Charts & Graphics

While working on my Paper Chains & Garlands ebook, I discovered a better way to import my illustrations into the finished document which allows for the ultra-high resolution of today’s tablets and smartphones. This technique will also make my stitch diagrams and illustrations look much cleaner in my future crochet patterns.

Of course, once I realised this was possible, I couldn’t just leave my back catalogue of patterns as-is, with the less-good charts and diagrams, knowing they could be better… So, I’ve just released new versions of all my patterns that contain a charted stitch diagram, illustration or diagram (see the list of patterns below).

(By the way, there’s nothing wrong with the old versions; they’ve always looked fine to view or print, but if you zoom in on a chart/illustration on your tablet now, the new diagrams will stay perfectly sharp, no matter how much you zoom.)

improved PlanetJune quality: charts, diagrams and illustrations

I doubt you’ll ever need to view my charts at this size, but now you have the option :)

Your pattern licence entitles you to free updates to any PlanetJune pattern you’ve purchased, so, if you’ve previously bought any of the following patterns, just log back into your PlanetJune account and you can save the updated version!

Tip: Go to this link to see an alphabetised list of all your pattern purchases, so you can jump straight to the right order(s) without hunting :)

PlanetJune Accessories patterns:

  • Banded Lace Wrap
  • Cascading Clusters Shawl
  • Chunky Elegance Rug Trio
  • Chunky Moebius Cowl
  • Climbing Eyelets Triangular Shawl
  • Diamond Flowers Scarf Wrap
  • Diamond Lattice Neckwarmer
  • Eyelet Ripple Scarf Sweater
  • Frosty Windows Scarf
  • Gossamer Lace Wrap
  • Lacy Bobbles Cowl
  • Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl
  • Scalloped Scarf
  • Tunisian Stripe Purse

Amigurumi (and misc) patterns:

  • Aliens
  • AmiCats Calico
  • AmiCats Single-Coloured
  • AmiCats Tabby
  • AmiCats Tuxedo
  • Armadillo
  • Baby Cephalopods Set 1
  • Baby Cephalopods Set 2
  • Cuboctahedron
  • Dimorphodon (Dinosaur)
  • Frilled Lizard
  • Fruit Bat
  • Fuzzy Bear
  • Fuzzy Bunny and Chick
  • Fuzzy Lamb
  • Gaming Dice
  • Iguana
  • Koala
  • Polyhedral Balls
  • Primroses
  • Shamrocks
  • Sloth
  • Water Lily
  • Yeti and Bigfoot


AmiCats: a design evolution study

In January 2015, I released my AmiCats Collection, and their reception has blown me away – in well under a year, they’re already within my top 20 bestselling patterns of all time!

Sometimes you strike gold with a design, and this was definitely one of those times, but it wasn’t just a lucky break; it was the result of an unprecedented amount of work, and my most difficult challenge to date.

AmiCats amigurumi cat crochet patterns by PlanetJune

I mentioned at the time of release that it took me more than a dozen prototypes over a period of three years to complete these designs to my satisfaction. Let’s look back at some of the development stages, so you can appreciate the process that finally got me to the AmiCats you see today, and see how far removed they are from my first (terrible) attempts at making a cat!

This is a story of dogged persistence and refusal to admit defeat, even though there were moments where I thought I’d set myself an impossible task…

Initial Research & Prototyping

Although I’ve always been a cat person and have loved cats my whole life, I’d never really examined their overall shape that closely. I started out, as always, with research, and sketched some basic cat studies to give me a better idea of cat poses and movement.

amicats prototypes
A few of my initial quick sketches

I narrowed the position down to a sitting-up pose, as I felt this was a typically feline pose – like the way a cat sits when it’s watching something out of a window.

After 3 or 4 prototypes, I felt I had a good clever cat design. The body had a strong kidney shape to allow the legs to sit directly beneath the chest instead of splaying out in front of the body, and the muzzle – unlike a dog’s – was tiny and triangular. I completed assembly of my design, taking all the step-by-step photos that would go into the pattern as I went, and thought it was pretty much finished.

amicats prototypes
Not one of these photos appears in the final patterns!

Then I showed a photo of my prototype to a trusted friend, and she said ‘it’s nice, but it looks kind of like a wolf cub’. And she was right, of course! Try not to laugh too hard, now:

amicats prototypes

Somehow, despite my efforts at clever design, the essence of ‘feline’ was missing, and I was so close to the design I hadn’t noticed how terribly wrong it had gone until I stepped back and took a proper look at the result.

I decided that my design was missing the fluidity of a cat – you don’t see a cat’s haunches and muzzle as defined shapes, and crocheting them separately lost the smooth lines that are so distinctly ‘cat’.

And there was another problem niggling at me: the front legs had proven fairly difficult to attach smoothly to avoid an awkward crease where they joined the chest. If this gave me problems, with my years of experience of stitching pieces together as smoothly as possible, would it be fair to inflict that on my customers? Of course not.

Major Redesign

With all this in mind, I set myself the challenge of going back to the drawing board to solve these problems. My goal was to reproduce the exact shape of my cat prototype, using completely different shapes and techniques that would give a seamless feline appearance without needing amazing sewing skills…

amicats prototypes

  1. The muzzle shaping is now built into the face
  2. The front legs and body are crocheted together smoothly
  3. The haunches are built into the body shape

I truly thought I’d nailed it with this prototype – the overall shape was very similar to the previous prototype, but it looked so much better and smoother than my previous attempt! And this cat (nicknamed Proto Kitty) was the basis for the final AmiCats, but of course the story doesn’t end there…

Design Refinement

I began to crochet the ‘final’ cats, developing the colourways and marking patterns as I went. I also spent hours watching my cat Maui, feeling his bone structure and trying to analyse his shape more closely, as I still had that nagging feeling I was missing something.

I’d started all the cats, and completed the two below, before I began to have doubts about the shape of them (although these cats were pretty cute!)

amicats prototypes

  1. The eyes stuck out too much from the head
  2. The chest was underdeveloped
  3. The front legs were too long and chunky and splayed forwards more than I’d like
  4. The front paws were overly-large, giving the cats too much of a kittenish look
  5. The straight back didn’t have that unquestionably feline curve

These niggles didn’t all present themselves at once, so I made many more prototypes as I refined and further refined my design to tweak the shaping to create subtle eye sockets, reduce the size of the paws and the length and thickness of the front legs while bulking out the chest, add that magical cat curve to the back, and create a completely new innovative leg-joining technique that keeps the legs sitting correctly beneath the cat.

With each of these changes, the cat shape grew slowly closer to what I’d hoped for when I began this project, and I started to think that my impossible task may just work out after all….

Resting Period

Finally, finally, I couldn’t find anything else I was unhappy with, and I left each cat sitting next to the TV as I finished it and continued to work on the rest, so I’d see them all the time and let any remaining niggles come to the front of my mind.

I had thought, once again, that they were finished, but this resting period wasn’t wasted: although even I thought I was crazy by this point, I remade the entire Calico cat so I could modify the markings slightly. In doing that I changed it from my least favourite cat to (possibly) the cutest of all – that last tweak is always worth it!

And, when all 4 were truly finished, I decided this was really it, and it was time to take a deep breath and bring my beautifully-shaped AmiCats into the world…

AmiCats amigurumi cat crochet patterns by PlanetJune

This was the scariest release date of my life, as these designs represented so much love and care, and I was terrified that everyone would be disappointed or critical of them. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and I’m as delighted as I am relieved to see people appreciating all the little details that took years to get just right and that make these patterns so unique.

The End?

Not necessarily! Even now, the collection isn’t complete the way I’d originally planned: AmiCats was originally conceived as an ebook, including 6 cat designs. In addition to the 4 standard-body-type designs you see in the AmiCats Collection, I’d intended to make one design each of the two other major body types: the shorter, wider, flat-faced exotic (e.g. a Persian) and the elongated, elegant, long-nosed oriental (e.g. a Siamese). The ebook was also to contain additional bonus supporting matter with embellishment options and examples (different eyes, whiskers, expressions, etc).

I devoted weeks to the prototypes for the other body types, but I still haven’t completed them to my satisfaction, so I made the executive decision that 4 perfect cats now are better than 6 perfect cats in another year or more, and I scrapped the ebook. Although that was a difficult decision, the work I’ve already invested in the remaining designs hasn’t necessarily been wasted: there’s always the possibility of my designing a second AmiCats Collection at some point in the future. (If there’s a particular type or breed of cat that you’d like me to consider for a possible new collection, please do let me know, so I can add it to my Ideas List.)

But, for now, I’m content to leave the AmiCats Collection as this set of four very special and meticulously-developed designs…

AmiCats amigurumi cat crochet patterns by PlanetJune

I hope you’ve found this 3-year design journey interesting! This project was an extreme example of my design process, partly because cats are so difficult to capture realistically, and partly because I was so invested in the result.

Although my designs usually take a few months (instead of a few years) to go from concept to completion, I always bring this tenacity to my work – whether I want to or not! – exploring alternatives until I’m satisfied that I’ve found the best balance between instructions that are easy to follow and results that are cute, realistic, and unmistakeably PlanetJune. :)

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September plans

This September, Dave and I will be taking a trip to the UK and Europe for a long-overdue visit to see our families – yay! We’ll be packing 5 cities in 3 countries into just over 2 weeks, and travelling by air, sea, and road. (I’m just hoping that my knee will hold up, and that there’ll be time for a little relaxation in between all that travelling…)

Unlike last year, I can’t afford to take an offline break for a whole month this year – there’s just too much to do! – but, for safety reasons, I will be going on minimal operations throughout September so it won’t be too obvious exactly when I’m travelling. Here’s your advance warning of how this will affect PlanetJune:

  • I’m closing the Crochet Tools section of my shop for the entire month of September, so please place any orders for kits, stuffing tools and stitch markers before the end of August! (You may still order during September, but I won’t ship anything until the first week of October.)
  • For everything else, I’ll be around, but not as often as usual. If you need help with a PlanetJune pattern, I recommend you follow my support triage steps before you email me, so you can hopefully find the answer you need more quickly than waiting for my reply!
  • I will be checking in while I’m travelling, so, for urgent problems only I can help you with (e.g. technical support), you’ll never be more than a couple of days away from my help.
    Note: I’ll only be checking Twitter, Ravelry and Facebook occasionally, and I won’t be able to reply to any non-essential emails until I’m back home.

I’ve pre-written and scheduled some interesting blog posts for September, and I’ll have my new commissioned AmiDogs patterns ready to release soon (next week!), so you probably won’t even notice a change unless you’re ordering a kit, or waiting for an email from me. Thanks for your understanding, and I hope you have a great month! :)

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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:

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:

New site: I’m mobile friendly!

The screenshots above are from Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page – as you can see, 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!

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my knee surgery, and PlanetJune operations

In an unexpectedly speedy turn of events, I’ve just discovered that I’ll be going in for my knee surgery this Wednesday! I’m very happy to be getting my knee sorted out after a year of chronic pain, but it’s going to affect operations at PlanetJune for as long as it takes me to recover from the surgery.

Hopefully it won’t take too long, but please bear with me in the meantime. Here’s how it’ll play out:

Patterns: No change

You can always buy my patterns from the PlanetJune shop at any time, as they are automatically available for download. (I will be temporarily closing my external Etsy and ArtFire shops though.)

Shipped items: Order today, or wait…

I won’t be able to fulfill any orders for physical items until my knee is fully recovered and I’m able to drive to the post office again! So, if you think you may need a stuffing tool, stitch markers, or an amigurumi kit in the near future, please place your order by the end of the day today (Monday), so I can ship them to you tomorrow before my surgery on Wednesday.

If you miss the deadline and would like to be notified when PlanetJune crochet tools are available to ship again, please sign up for the one-off notification email.

Help: Check my resources first

I’ll be offline while I recover, so anything that requires personal attention from me will be unavailable for a time – how much time depends on how long my recovery takes. If you email me for help, I’ll reply when I’m able to, but I suggest you check my online resources first – you may well find the answer to your question:

  • If you have crochet questions, please visit my Crochet Tutorials page for help. (And if you’re having trouble with a PlanetJune pattern, but aren’t sure what you’re doing wrong, check my Amigurumi Troubleshooter to find which of my tutorials will solve your problem!)
  • If you have any other questions for me, please check the FAQ first to see if I’ve already answered them there.
  • If those pages don’t answer your question, feel free to ask for further assistance in the PlanetJune Ravelry group, where your friendly fellow PJers are ready and waiting to help! This is the quickest way to receive knowledgeable help from a real live person.

If you still have questions about PlanetJune patterns or tutorials, or anything else you’d like to say to me, you can still e-mail me, but please be aware that I may not be able to respond for days (or weeks), depending on how my recovery is going and how many email questions have piled up.

Please keep me in your thoughts on Wednesday. My health has to be my first priority for a little while, but I’ll be crossing my fingers for a full and speedy recovery so I can get back to coming up with new designs for PlanetJune!

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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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