Archive for My Craft Business

pattern re-releases: Plants

I’m updating my entire back catalogue of patterns with extra information and tips and a new space-saving layout, and re-releasing them in batches as they are ready. Please see the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information.

Time for the next batch of re-releases (and a test run for some improvements to my shop – keep reading for details and to help test the changes). This batch includes all my plant patterns: Cactus & Succulent Collections, African Violets, Lucky Bamboo, Water Lily and Christmas Trees. Note:

  • This batch doesn’t include the donationware flowers etc – all my Donationware patterns will be re-released in a separate batch.
  • The Primroses pattern also isn’t included in this batch as it’s a new release, so it’s already in the new format – there’s nothing to update :)

plant amigurumi patterns by planetjune

If you’ve previously purchased any of these pattern(s) (individually, or the Cactus and/or Succulent multipacks), the update(s) are now ready for you to download in the new format!

Log back into your PlanetJune account at any time in the next 2 weeks and you’ll see the download buttons for these pattern purchases have been re-enabled, so you can click and download the new versions.

If you have lots of past orders in your PlanetJune account, you don’t have to hunt for the right ones; just follow these simple steps:

  1. In your PlanetJune account, click Show All Orders.
  2. At the top of that page, click to the list of all your past purchases.
  3. Find the pattern name in the alphabetical list.
  4. Click the order number to go directly to that order.
  5. Re-save your pattern :)

PDF Download Test & Survey

This batch also has a special second purpose. As many of you know, zip file downloads are becoming less popular, particularly as they are very difficult to use with iPads and other mobile devices. To make everyone’s lives easier, I plan to convert my shop to straight PDFs, but this is a huge task with over 250 products to convert, so I want to be very careful to make sure nothing goes wrong, and make sure that your old orders will still be available if you need another copy of any of your patterns.

As a first test run, I’ve added a new PDF version of the Christmas Trees pattern to every order that already included that pattern. If you’ve bought this pattern, you’ll see the updated zip file (MP008.zip) in your order, and also a new file (Christmas Trees crochet pattern.pdf).

download the test PDF pattern from your account
Here’s what the files should look like when you access your order in your account.

If you’ve purchased Christmas Trees, please try to download the Christmas Trees crochet pattern.pdf file and fill in this brief survey about your experience. This will give me valuable feedback to make sure the system is working well for everyone before I start to convert over 250 items in my shop! This isn’t a job I want to do twice, so it’s important that as many people test the system as possible before I get any further into making changes.

As a thank you for helping me test this new functionality, everyone who completes the survey will receive a discount code to use on your next order from PlanetJune! Complete the survey here >>

Note: If anything goes wrong and you can’t save/view the new PDF, you can just download MP008.zip instead – it’s also been updated to the new version of the Christmas Trees pattern, so you won’t miss out. Please let me know what went wrong as well, though, so I can make sure to fix it before the new shop format goes live.


If you have any questions about the pattern reformat project, or you received the patterns through a different mechanism (and so don’t have an order for them in the PlanetJune shop) but you’d still like the new versions, check the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information.

(There’ll be more pattern re-releases coming soon – if you’d like to get an email notification each time a new batch is ready, sign up for the Crochet Pattern Updates mailing list.)

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Meerkat Design Report #4

I’ve been sharing my process as I design my amigurumi Meerkat crochet pattern – hope you find this behind-the-scenes journey through what goes into a PlanetJune design interesting! To catch up, see:
- Part 1: Research, Shape, Colour and Sketch
- Part 2: Construction Decisions
- Part 3: Making The Head

Last time, I’d figured out the perfect colour changes for the head, and was ready for the final stage: finishing the rest of the head and designing the body, limbs and tail…

Part 4: Making the Body

I’m not sure if it’s because of the psychological aspect of showing you my progress as I go, or just something about the meerkat itself, but this design is proving to be really slow going. I’ve been struggling with proportion and had to draw myself a life-size reference sketch – I think it’s because meerkats are so long and thin, I kept underestimating how tall it should be!

planetjune meerkat proportions: full-size sketch
Full-size sketch for proportion reference

I typically have several designs on the go at once, and if I get stuck on one, I set it aside and work on something else for a while. The solution usually pops into my head a few days later, while I’m doing something completely different. Trying to force it doesn’t seem to make my brain come up with the best solution any more quickly – I’ll come up with something if I force myself, but I’ll usually end up redoing that part later when I think of a better-looking or simpler solution, so it’s best for me to just let it sit and wait for inspiration to strike.

That’s what happened here: it took me 3 attempts to get the arms right, not because the shape was wrong, but to improve my technique so I could simplify the pattern while keeping that unmistakable shape – meerkats have very unusual arms! There’s always a trade-off between making a design more realistic and making it easier to crochet, and, in my opinion, the best pattern will give a good balance: a recognisable result combined with an enjoyable crocheting experience.

Before I release a design into the world, I always take the time to stand back and consider if I’ve really done my best or if anything could be improved. If I’m not satisfied, it goes on pause for a while until I figure out how to improve it. That’s the stage I’m at right now – I’ve roughly pinned all the pieces together so I can get a better idea of what else needs to be changed:

planetjune meerkat design in progress
Almost there…

This isn’t the final design, but it’s pretty close! (I’ll save the full reveal for the finished design.) I have a little more work to do on the leg area, and some placements need adjusting, but next time you see my meerkat, he’ll be finished :)


So that’s really it for the design process – my next steps will be to make the final tweaks to the design and then, when I’m happy with all the pieces, to photograph the assembly process. I’ll write up my notes into proper crochet instructions, then edit my photos and describe the assembly process carefully so you’ll be able to easily understand how to turn the crocheted pieces of your meerkat into a close copy of my completed design.

After this, I have to set the pattern aside for a while so I can approach it with fresh eyes for technical editing and proofreading. During this break, I’ll be figuring out how to best photograph my meerkat so he’ll look at his most appealing, then take him into the studio (or out on location) for his cover photoshoot. I’ll select the best photos, edit them, and then add them to the pattern.

Once the pattern is complete, it’ll be time to do a final check for accuracy and clarity, then the pattern will – finally – be finished! Everyone who commissioned it will receive their copy, and then I’ll then publish it in my shop, so you’ll be able to buy my Meerkat crochet pattern if you aren’t among the commissioners.


I hope this insight into what goes into making a PlanetJune design has been eye-opening for you. Some of my designs come together more quickly and easily than this, but there’s always a lot that goes on behind the scenes to create my deceptively simple-looking shapes and designs, and I don’t regret a second of that time – it’s always worth it :)

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Meerkat Design Report #3

I’ll be sharing my process as I design my amigurumi Meerkat crochet pattern – hope you find this behind-the-scenes journey through what goes into a PlanetJune design interesting! To catch up, see:
- Part 1: Research, Shape, Colour and Sketch
- Part 2: Construction Decisions

Last time, I’d decided how to approach my design, and was finally ready to start crocheting my Meerkat!

Part 3: Making the Head

Looking at the shape of a Meerkat, I know I shouldn’t try to work the head, muzzle and body as one continuous piece. As the nose is so long and pointy, the all-important nose shape would be compromised if I tried to build it with increases and decreases in a top-down shape, especially with the added complication of the facial markings. So my options are to:

  • Crochet the head from the nose to the back of the head, and crochet the body from the bottom up, as a separate piece, to meet at the neck.
  • Crochet the head and body as one piece, with the muzzle added separately.

I decided that the most elegant result will be from the latter, as it won’t introduce an artificial break at the neck, so I’m planning to build my Meerkat with a one-piece head and body.

It’s not easy to design an animal head: it always looks strange and wrong until the additional pieces (eyes, ears, muzzle) are attached. You’ll know this if you’ve made any of my animal designs! You just have to follow the pattern and trust that all the strange-looking pieces will magically come together in the end – they always do, I promise :)

But designing from scratch means I need to have test ears, muzzles, and heads all on the go at once, so I can hold them up to each other and see if they work together, or if/where the shape or colour patterning need to be modified. In my prototyping, I changed the shape of the head, and played with the shape, size and positioning of the markings:

planetjune meerkat head prototypes

Now, don’t be alarmed – I know that none of these prototypes looks anything like a meerkat! You’ll have to trust me on this; it’ll all make sense when the other pieces are attached…

To save time, I try to test a few changes at once, and then pick and choose aspects from all the prototypes and refine them to get the perfect result. I’m particularly happy that my innovations in amigurumi colourwork now let me create symmetrical patterning with smooth edges, although it takes some extra work to even things up once I’ve decided on the final shape and size of the markings. Below, you can see some of the undesirable features (asymmetry and jagged edges) in the early prototypes:

planetjune meerkat face prototypes
These ‘features’ won’t be a part of the final version!

After these 3 complete prototype attempts, and some more minor tweaks as I crocheted, I’m satisfied with the head shape and markings, and the 4th prototype will go on to become the final head. You can see how it turned out when the design is finished – you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the full effect if I showed it to you now, without the muzzle, eyes and ears :)

An aside, for a moment – this is a great example of how my failed prototypes can lead to inspiration for future designs! I can see the basis of an alien in the prototype on the right…

planetjune meerkat head prototypes

…do you see it too? I think a cute PlanetJune alien with big built-in colourwork eyes would make a good addition to my Mythical pattern collection!

Although I’m tempted to jump right into researching aliens, I don’t want to get distracted. I’ve added ‘Alien’ to my Ideas List (with a few construction notes so I don’t forget my plan for the colourwork eyes), and now I have to put those tempting aliens completely out of my mind and get back to thinking about Meerkats….

Next for the Meerkat, I have to design the final muzzle and ears, and then I can move onto the body, limbs and tail. Now I’ve completed the main head piece, the rest of the design should flow from there, as I can build each piece to match the scale of the head, following my original sketch for the general shapes, proportions and colours, and referring back to photos of real meerkats as I go.

Stay tuned for Part 4: Making the Body

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pattern re-releases: African animals

I’m updating my entire back catalogue of patterns with extra information and tips and a new space-saving layout, and re-releasing them in batches as they are ready. Please see the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information.

With my Meerkat design in progress, it seemed fitting to select all my other African animal patterns for the next batch of re-releases. These include the AfricAmi trio (Elephant, Hippopotamus, and Rhinoceros), and my Ring-Tailed Lemur, Aardvark, and Lion & Lioness patterns.

african animals amigurumi patterns by planetjune

If you’ve previously purchased any of these pattern(s) (individually, or in the AfricAmi Set 1 multipack), the update(s) are now ready for you to download in the new format!

Log back into your PlanetJune account at any time in the next 2 weeks and you’ll see the download buttons for these pattern purchases have been re-enabled, so you can click and download the new versions.

If you have lots of past orders in your PlanetJune account, you don’t have to hunt for the right ones; just follow these simple steps:

  1. In your PlanetJune account, click Show All Orders.
  2. At the top of that page, click to the list of all your past purchases.
  3. Find the pattern name in the alphabetical list.
  4. Click the order number to go directly to that order.
  5. Re-save your pattern :)

If you have any questions about the pattern reformat project, or you received the patterns through a different mechanism (and so don’t have an order for them in the PlanetJune shop) but you’d still like the new versions, check the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information.

(There’ll be more pattern re-releases coming soon – if you’d like to get an email notification each time a new batch is ready, sign up for the Crochet Pattern Updates mailing list.)

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Meerkat Design Report #2

I’ll be sharing my process as I design my amigurumi Meerkat crochet pattern – hope you find this behind-the-scenes journey through what goes into a PlanetJune design interesting!
To catch up, see Part 1: Research, Shape, Colour and Sketch

Last time, I’d completed my sketch and chosen my yarns, and was ready to start thinking about how to create a 3D crocheted Meerkat from these little rough sketches:

planetjune meerkat design: sketch

Part 2: Construction Decisions

There are several ways to achieve a specific 3D shape in crochet:

  1. Build it up by stitching together smaller, simpler shapes
  2. Create shape in a single piece through strategic placement of increases and decreases
  3. Create shape in a single piece by varying the type and size of stitch used

The right solution for me depends on what I’m trying to achieve in a specific design; I may use some or all of these techniques within a single pattern to achieve the best result. For the Meerkat, I have to decide:

  • Will the head, muzzle, ears, body, arms, legs, feet, tail, all be separate pieces, or should some (or all) of those be built in with shaping?
  • Should I start from the bottom and work up, from the top and work down, or from the front and work back?

Making these decisions involves more trade-offs: what gives the cleanest look; what produces the best shape; what makes the pattern easy to follow; what makes the pieces easy to assemble.

At this stage, I often develop several partial prototypes using different techniques and see which looks best. It’s never wasted time, as even the terrible results help to point me towards the solution, and sometimes I come up with a technique that doesn’t work for the design I’m working on but gives me a great idea for something else!

In this case, I’ve been playing around with a new idea for leg shaping, using scrap yarn and just testing the principle. I wasn’t trying to create the exact shape I’d need for the Meerkat, so don’t be concerned that it doesn’t look like anything in particular:

planetjune meerkat shaping technique prototype
Trying out a new shaping technique

To achieve more defined shaping than this, I’d need to either use multiple increases/decreases, or change the stitch – those are both techniques I try to avoid in my designs, as they spoil the smooth, regular look of the single crochet stitches. I think, though, that this approach I’ve been testing could work for my Meerkat’s legs, so that’s the direction I’m going to aim for (although it’s all subject to change if it doesn’t work out the way I hope…)

Next up, prototyping the head. I almost always start my real design with the head, as the head and face can make or break an amigurumi. The head is typically the most complex and detailed part of my designs, and I can build and shape the other pieces based on the size of the finished head. Working the other way and leaving the head until last, I may find that my Meerkat is so small I can’t make the eye patches look good, or I’d need a partial number of stitches or rounds to make the features the right size.

planetjune red panda head prototypes
Red Panda head prototypes

So the next step will be trial and error prototyping until I create a good-looking Meerkat head. I still have most of my Red Panda prototype heads (although some are partially unravelled to reclaim the amber yarn), and, as you can see from the above photo, it took me at least 5 attempts to perfect the combination of shape and markings! This isn’t unusual, and it was worth every step to get to the final result. ‘Quick’ and ‘good’ aren’t words that work together in my design process ;)

My design is already further along than this post – I planned to post this last week, but my new Baby Bunnies pattern took precedence, so you’ll get 2 Meerkat updates this week instead! Stay tuned for Part 3: Making The Head.

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Meerkat Design Report #1

I’ll be sharing my process as I design my amigurumi Meerkat crochet pattern – hope you find this behind-the-scenes journey through what goes into a PlanetJune design interesting!

I originally intended to design my meerkat during the Ravellenic Games, and this (below) is the first and only post I managed to complete before I realised I was too busy with book edits to continue with the design at that time. Now I’m resuming the design, so let’s go back to the start and get you caught up…


Part 1: Research, Shape, Colour and Sketch

Stage 1 of the meerkat design is complete :) This stage goes through from researching the animal to drawing my sketch, and there’s a lot of work involved!

Research: To get an idea of my process, take a look at my blog post showing how I designed my Pteranodon:

amigurumi pteranodon: from sketch to design

In this case, as I want a realistic meerkat, I didn’t really look at other amigurumi designs beyond a quick glance to see what’s out there, as I don’t want to accidentally be influenced by them – only by real meerkats. I spent a long time studying meerkat shape, posture and colouring, via google, and from my own photos like this one:

Meerkats at Durrell (photo by June Gilbank)

Once I’ve finished the research, I have a few more decisions to make:

Shape: proportions, positions. I decide on the best position based on what I like best, what I think will be most recognisable, and what will translate into a good pattern (i.e. stable so it won’t fall over, and easy to crochet).

Colour, part 1 – How many colours to use: It’s a trade-off between more colours (more realistic) and fewer colours (easy for you to follow the pattern). Critical details must be included, but others can be simplified so it still ‘reads’ as the animal but with my clean, simple style. For instance, I originally considered 6 shades for my Red Panda design (light red, dark red, dark brown, black, white, cream), but managed to simplify it down to 3 (aren’t you glad I did?!) and it still clearly says Red Panda:

red panda amigurumi crochet pattern by planetjune

Colour, part 2 – Amount of colourwork: This is a trade-off between simplicity and recognisability: a pattern with a colour change in every stitch may have a beautiful result, but be too frustrating for you to want to crochet. So, again, I limit the colourwork to what I decide is essential to make the animal unmistakable, and simplify the rest.

Colour, part 3 – Which specific shades: This is a decision that only really affects my sample, as very few of you will use the exact same yarns I did. But a good picture really sells the design, so I need my sample to look as amazing as possible! The shades I choose are a compromise between the colours I’d most like to see and the closest colours in my stash; the closest suppliers of my amigurumi yarns are thousands of miles away, so I don’t have the luxury of shopping for missing shades.

I only ever mix yarns if they have comparable weight and sheen (see my worsted weight yarn comparison) as otherwise the pattern would be yarn dependent, having different gauge and appearance for different parts. I always use only one type of yarn in any one design, so, whatever yarn you have available, all you need to do is pick the closest shades in the yarn you prefer (or have access to) and the pattern will work out for you. I originally intended to use Vanna’s Choice for the meerkat, but my supplies are perilously low, so, in the end, these are the colours I decided on (Red Heart Soft in Wheat and Chocolate):

planetjune meerkat design: yarn choices

Sketch: After making all these decisions, I finally reach the point where I can draw my sketch. Now don’t worry: the sketch isn’t supposed to look exactly like the final meerkat – it’s just a reference for the basic shape (sitting up, not on all four paws or standing balancing on those spindly legs and tail!) and the colours I plan to use. Especially when there’s colourwork involved, getting the shape and colours to all work together and look symmetrical means the finished animal will never look exactly like my sketch, so there’s not much point in me trying to draw a work of art! This is just to remind me of the decisions I’ve made up to this point and to give me a starting point when I pick up my hook:

planetjune meerkat design: sketch

And yes, I do draw in pink (or aqua, or purple) pen – it makes my notes more fun, and gives me permission to not try to make my sketch perfect, as I can’t erase pen :)

Next up, stay tuned for stage 2: deciding how to best reproduce this sketch in crochet!

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pattern re-releases: Alpaca & Baby Bunnies

I’m updating my entire back catalogue of patterns with extra information and tips and a new space-saving layout, and re-releasing them in batches as they are ready. Please see the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information.

I finally have time to resume my crochet pattern re-release project! I’m starting back in gently, by re-releasing a small set of 2 patterns: my Natural Fibres collection. These patterns both get very popular at this time of year, so I wanted to re-release them as soon as possible.

natural fibres amigurumi patterns by planetjune
Both these patterns are personal favourites of mine, and my real-angora-yarn bunny and real-alpaca-yarn alpaca are extra-lovely and snuggly.

If you’ve previously purchased the Alpaca and/or Baby Bunnies pattern(s), the update(s) are now ready for you to download in the new format!

Log back into your PlanetJune account at any time in the next 2 weeks and you’ll see the download buttons for these pattern purchases have been re-enabled, so you can click and download the new versions.

If you have lots of past orders in your PlanetJune account, you don’t have to hunt for the right ones; just follow these simple steps:

  1. In your PlanetJune account, click Show All Orders.
  2. At the top of that page, click to the list of all your past purchases.
  3. Find the pattern name in the alphabetical list.
  4. Click the order number to go directly to that order.
  5. Re-save your pattern :)

If you have any questions about the pattern reformat project, or you received the patterns through a different mechanism (and so don’t have an order for them in the PlanetJune shop) but you’d still like the new versions, check the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information.

(There’ll be more pattern re-releases coming soon – if you’d like to get an email notification each time a new batch is ready, sign up for the Crochet Pattern Updates mailing list.)

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Commissions: rebooted

I had to take a break from my crochet pattern commissions towards the end of last year, to keep up with my book deadlines. Now it’s time for me to start them up again, and this is a good opportunity for me to re-examine the process and see how I can improve it to make it more sustainable…

The Good

I love accepting commissions for new amigurumi patterns – I’ve come up with some very special designs that I’d probably never have got around to making, had they not been commissioned. Knowing that people believe and trust in my ability to create a certain animal makes me even more determined to get it right!

PlanetJune Commissions: the first 18 months

The Bad

The idea of the commissions is great, but the reality of fulfilling them has contributed to my stress in the past year; my skin condition makes me essentially allergic to deadlines because it’s triggered by stress. The more pressure I feel, the more that manifests physically, and that only adds to my stress (as well as stopping me from taking any in-progress photos until my hands heal – a big problem when I’m trying to get a new pattern finished!)

Moving Forward

I’ve thought long and hard about this, and here’s my solution: the new commissions model will have no hard deadlines. Expected time to completion will be 1-3 months, depending on when inspiration strikes. If the stars align and I’m not working on anything else, I may be able to complete a commission in 2 weeks! But if the design isn’t working out as planned, being able to set it aside for a while and let my subconscious mull it over while I work on a different project will be much healthier for me than the nerve-wracking running-out-of-time feeling.

You still end up with the same end result – no PlanetJune pattern is ever released until I’m satisfied it’s as good as I can possibly make it – but without the time pressure of the deadline, the process should run more smoothly and help keep me healthy enough to keep designing for many years to come. There’s a lot more that I want to accomplish, and physical or mental breakdowns aren’t part of that plan!

Dropouts and Top-Up Pledges

If you’re not happy about this change, I do understand, and I’m happy for you to cancel any pledges you’ve made towards future commissions. I’ll be emailing everyone who has outstanding pledges to confirm that they’ll still be happy to honour their pledges when the time comes for me to collect them. Please check your email if you’ve made any pledges!

If there are dropouts, some of the designs already in the fully-pledged waiting list may no longer be fully pledged, so I’ve come up with a plan – I think this is the fairest way to tackle it:

  • I’ll offer top-up pledge spots to replace any dropouts, so you can pledge to keep a design in its place in the waiting list.
  • Any design that receives enough top-up pledges to make up for the dropouts will keep its place in the waiting list (currently: Meerkat, Camel, Armadillo, Macaque [monkey], Bernese Mountain Dog, Miniature Schnauzer).
  • Any design that is no longer fully pledged by Feb 1st (when I will begin the next commission) will lose its place and have to wait until I complete everything else in the queue before it has another chance to be commissioned.

So, if you particularly want any of the currently-commissioned designs, keep checking the Commissions thread in the PJ ravelry group over the next week for my updates (I’ve asked for all dropout requests to be submitted by Tuesday), to see if it needs your top-up pledge to keep its place.

I’m looking forward to picking up the commissions reins again! I wonder how many lovely animals I’ll have the chance to crochet this year, thanks to this scheme… :)

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2013: year in review

2013 has been one crazy non-stop year! I love making these annual reports – it’s a way to take a step back and really see what I’ve achieved in the year. Until I started this post, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much this year apart from the new book (which will unfairly count as next year’s accomplishment even though 95% of the work was completed in 2013). It turns out that’s not true at all:

2013 PlanetJune crochet patterns
PlanetJune 2013 crochet patterns – if you’d like to make any of them this month, the 2013 Designs CAL starts today in the PJ rav group

I was surprised to discover that I’ve actually published 18 new crochet patterns – that’s about 3/4 of my typical annual average! If I add all the patterns I’ve designed for the book (which I can’t show you yet, but there are lots!), I’ve actually designed many more patterns this year than in previous years.

And I managed to squeeze in 9 craft projects – 6 crocheted, 2 knitted, and 1 sewn:

2013 PlanetJune craft projects
My 2013 craft projects

The rest of this post is long, personal, and introspective, but my life and my business are so closely tied that talking only about PlanetJune without explaining the changes I’m making for myself wouldn’t paint the real picture. I don’t like to overshare, but honesty is important – I want to explain the reasons for my big decisions. Feel free to skip it if you’re not interested!

Personal Report

2013 has been probably been the most challenging year of my life. For the past 3 years, since discovering we’d be leaving Canada for South Africa, I’ve been struggling against sickness, moving halfway around the world, culture shock, dealing with a growing business that takes more and more time, and constant other challenges that never let me take a breath. Every time one crisis was over, something else came up, but I felt like I just had to keep going, as there was no other option – things have to get done, and there’s nobody else who can do them.

Well, now, I feel like I have to not keep going – there really is no other option. I’d like PlanetJune to be around for many years to come and that won’t happen if I don’t start looking after myself. I’ve struggled for 3 long years and that’s enough: it’s time to take care of myself.

I’m absolutely worn out. I’m spread far too thin – the challenges of my life take a lot of time away from my business hours, and I’ve been forced to work longer hours than I’d like while achieving less than I want to. It’s frustrating when there’s so much more I want to do, but that’s just the reality of my life.

Taking on another book when I was already feeling very fragile (after a very tense few months of jumping through ridiculous hoops to try to get my visa renewed before it expired) wasn’t a healthy move, but you have to make sacrifices for things you really want. This was a book I really wanted to write, and an opportunity that wouldn’t come again. I’m very happy to have written it – I think it’s an amazing book! – but now it’s finished, I’m drawing the line. I can’t take on anything else, no matter how tempting. I’m not healthy and I need to change that, and I need to make time to enjoy the advantages of living in South Africa – good food, natural beauty, and wildlife galore!

Christmas dinner, SA style

We’ve already made a start on that over Christmas: a simple relaxed braai (barbecue) in our garden for Christmas, a trip to the Cape Winelands to go cherry picking; watching a sea turtle and rays being hand-fed at the aquarium; and an amazing encounter with a large troop of wild baboons (don’t worry, we were safely in the car at the time). I’ll be resurrecting my SA wildlife photoblog post series so you can share some of my nature encounters, starting with those baboons, coming soon :)

Business Report

Despite the fact that I’ve been pulled in multiple directions this year and haven’t been able to devote anywhere near as much time to PlanetJune as I’d like, my business income has stayed on par with 2012. That’s actually a huge achievement when you consider I’ve probably spent less than half the time on it than I have in previous years.

Looking back
In 2012′s review, I said:

This past year, I’ve worked harder than I ever have in my life… But the big goal here is worth it: to transition my business from a very hands-on one-person business to an automated one-person business, so I can spend the majority of my work time creating new designs and tutorials. I’m trying to… grow past the one-person level without expanding or outsourcing. I’m hoping that all my automation strategies will pay off in 2013, and I’ll have a virtual assistant (in the form of my own website and systems reducing my workload) instead of having to hire an actual assistant.

Although I anticipate another year of very hard work behind the scenes of PlanetJune, I’m giving this plan one more year to succeed. If it doesn’t, I’d have to either find a way to scale back my business, or take on minions (unless I can come up with another alternative, as neither of those options appeal to me).

I still think my plan was good, but unfortunately, all the unforeseen non-PlanetJune time-grabbers that came up in 2013 mean that I’ve barely had a chance to progress with it. It looks like I’d have another year of hard work ahead to get all my ducks in a row and see if I can really make my business sustainable for the long term without overloading myself or outsourcing. But I can’t keep forcing myself to maintain the pace I have been for the past few years, so scaling back some of my ambitions is the only way I can keep going.

What’s next?

These are the absolute requirements for 2014:

  • Get healthy
  • Make time to get out and see more of South Africa
  • Enjoy myself creating new designs with no time pressure

And, if nothing else comes up, I hope I can manage these too:

  • Complete the behind-the-scenes tech upgrades and pattern updates
  • Continue with my pattern commissions with less-pressuring deadlines
  • (Possibly) get the homepage and shop redesign completed

That list encompasses so much less than I’d like to do, but, realistically, even that sounds like a lot to take on, and I can’t push myself hard any more. There are dozens, or possibly hundreds, of exciting design ideas floating around inside my head, and some of them are desperate to get out! I need to look after myself so I can make that happen, and start enjoying my life again.

I’ve realised some things while working on this book: I don’t do well with deadlines. I don’t like working under pressure. I want my work to be right, not the best I can manage in the time available. While I’m very proud of the book, getting it to meet my standards in such a limited time pushed me almost to breaking point, and I don’t think I’ll repeat this process again.

I’m fortunate that I’m not motivated by competitiveness or money – I want the things I do to count; to hopefully make a difference to people, or at least to give me the satisfaction of having done the best I can. Of course, I’d like to make a good living too, but that’s really secondary to living a fulfilling life.

So, I will be true to myself. I will only take on projects I really want to do. I will let go of projects that aren’t working out. I will love what I do, and if you love it too, that’s even better, but being genuine comes before anything else.

This feels right: looking over all my designs, I feel that my work has a calm, tranquil aspect to it, and I’d like that to be a reflection of the real me too, not just the PlanetJune style.

Here’s to a positive and relaxed 2014 – let’s make it a great one!

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Limited Edition: Amigurumi Essentials Kit

A quick Public Service Announcement…

In an effort to streamline my business, I’ve decided to discontinue my popular Amigurumi Essentials Kit. I still have a large box of kits, but once the remaining stock has gone, that’ll be it!

Amigurumi Essentials Kit (eyes, stitch markers, stuffing tool) by PlanetJune

Note: I’ll still sell my PlanetJune-exclusive tools (Detail Stuffing Tool and Stitch Markers), so you don’t have to buy a kit if you just want my exclusive products – they aren’t going anywhere for the forseeable future!

Think ahead to Christmas and buy a crocheter (or future crocheter!) on your list an amigurumi kit, or pick up one for yourself to test out a selection of black and clear eyes in all the common amigurumi sizes. Each kit also comes with the essential PlanetJune stuffing tool and a set of locking stitch markers. If you’re on the fence about ordering, here are some tips that may change your mind:

  • Combine shipping and save! All my tools are very light, so shipping costs the same for up to 3 kits, or a combination of kits and lots of stuffing tools and stitch marker sets. (Just add the items to your cart and you’ll see the shipping fee right away – it’s the same cost for up to 100g of products.
  • Take advantage of my free bookmark promotion (available while stocks last) to get a signed Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi bookmark in your package, to keep with your copy of my book. I’ll even sign it to you – or your gift recipient – if you let me know your/their name!
  • Every order for one or more kits also includes an exclusive bonus coupon you can use on a future order from Suncatcher Eyes, so you can order more eyes once you’ve figured out which sizes and types you like best.

You’ll find all my shippable products (kits, bookmarks, stuffing tools and stitch markers) in the Crochet Tools section of my shop. Don’t wait until it’s too late – buy your Amigurumi Essentials Kit(s) before they’re all gone!

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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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