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block printing workshop

block printing workshop

On Saturday, I attended a block printing workshop, taught by Jesse Breytenbach, a Cape Town-based illustrator and printmaker. Jesse has a Masters in printmaking and many years’ experience of relief printing, producing beautiful textiles like these:

block prints by Jesse Breytenbach

The last time I tried printmaking was ‘carving’ into styrofoam with a pencil in primary school(!), but I love learning and I love making things, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn a new skill from a world expert in this craft.

I loved that this workshop wasn’t a class to make a specific project, but a way to learn the skills and techniques which we can then apply to any projects in future. Jesse just told us to draw simple shapes and then start to carve them….

block printing workshop

We used plastic easycut lino and learnt how to use a selection of carving tools to turn our drawn shapes (above) into a block ready to print from (below).

block printing workshop

Jesse (below, left) walked around throughout and offered help and insight to all the participants. It was so useful to hear all her tips and expertise as the workshop progressed.

I started out far too timidly with carving away the excess material, but by the end of the class I really felt like I understood the process: how to make clear outlines, how to carve fine and deep lines, how to efficiently clear away unwanted material, and how to check if the block is finished or needs a bit more work.

block printing workshop

Then it was time for the messy part: inking up our blocks and printing onto fabric!

block printing workshop

Everyone else’s test blocks were far more ambitious than mine – I just wanted to learn to carve, but the others made far more complex shapes with more fine detail and multiple colours. Here are some of my favourite prints from other participants:

block printing workshop

Looking at the variety of blocks we made, you can start to see how versatile this medium is. It was really interesting to see how all the different types of blocks behaved when they were printed.

I rotated my simple ‘boring’ block to make different patterns, which was fun and yielded some surprisingly interesting patterns! These were just test prints, so I tried to judge the spacing and angles by eye, but, with a few registration marks so I could print them evenly, I think I could make some really nice prints from my little block.

block printing workshop

This workshop was such an enjoyable and creative morning. I usually make things in isolation, so it was really fun to be creative in a group setting and get to see what other people were making. I’d definitely recommend learning a new craft from an expert, if you get the chance – they can point out exactly where you’re going wrong so there’s a lot less trial-and-error and having to figure things out for yourself.

If you live in or near Cape Town, I can highly recommend learning about block printing from Jesse! If you’re interested, contact Jesse for more information or to sign up for her mailing list for notification of her next workshop dates.

Once I got home I felt so fired up by learning a new skill, I really wanted to do some more carving. My ultimate goal when taking this class was to be able to carve a block in the shape of my PlanetJune yarn planet logo. Before I went to the workshop, I thought I’d need lots of practice before I even attempted it, but I was so excited by the whole process that I couldn’t stop myself from getting started right away, on the same day…

As a novice with only a few hours’ carving experience, I knew I’d probably mess up the carving a few times and waste some lino, and I was prepared for that to happen. But I took it slowly and steadily and remembered Jesse’s advice, and, somehow, I didn’t make any critical errors – I even remembered to carve my block as a mirror image so the design will print the right way round!

planetjune logo block print

And a couple of hours after starting, I’d gone from a square of blank lino and a piece of plain fabric to a PlanetJune yarn planet print…

planetjune logo block print

I’m so excited by all this! It feels really special to have my own hand-carved block so I can print my own hand-designed logo.

What am I going to do with it? Well, I’m planning to sew up some project bags to store my crochet works-in-progress, and print my logo in one corner of each one. They’ll be PlanetJune projects in more ways than one – isn’t that just perfect?!

Comments (8)

thread crochet poinsettia

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that I have a tradition of crafting a new poinsettia every year, to mark the holidays. Here’s the collection to date:

tsumami kanzashi poinsettia by planetjunecrocheted poinsettia by planetjune
polymer clay poinsettia by planetjunepunchneedle poinsettia by planetjune
polymer clay poinsettia by planetjunebeaded poinsettia by planetjune

Top (L-R): 2006 kanzashi poinsettia; 2007 crocheted poinsettia 
Middle (L-R) 2008 polymer clay poinsettia; 2009 punchneedle poinsettia
Bottom (L-R) 2010 felt poinsettia; 2011 beaded poinsettia

Although you can’t tell from these individual photos (and I don’t have them all to hand to take a group shot), there’s one sore thumb in my poinsettia group: the crocheted poinsettia. It wasn’t until after I’d made it that I decided to start this collection, so it doesn’t match in colour or size. All the others are 2-3″ diameter; the crocheted version much larger, at about 6″ across!

I decided to rectify that this year, and scale down my crocheted Poinsettia pattern by using thread and a small hook instead of the worsted weight yarn specified in the original pattern. I like #8 perle cotton because it’s available in many colours, so easy to find appropriate shades, but it’s too fine for me to crochet with – I get hand pain when I try to crochet with very fine yarns and tiny hooks. This time I determined to be sensible – it’s so important to listen to your body and stop when it hurts, before you reach the point of doing real damage…

And here’s the result: the 2012 PlanetJune Poinsettia is a thread crochet poinsettia. If you’d like to make one too, just follow the Small Poinsettia instructions in my pattern and use crochet thread and a small hook.

thread crochet poinsettia by planetjune

For this poinsettia, I used 2 strands of #8 perle cotton held together, and a B (2.25mm) hook, which gave me the perfect sized poinsettia (2.75″) to fit in with the rest of my collection. I limited myself to a maximum of 2 leaves per day, with only minimal discomfort as a result. And now I’ve proved I can do thread crochet again, provided I keep it to just a few minutes at a time :)

There’s still time to make your own small poinsettia before Christmas: with only 12 leaves instead of 18, it’s much faster than the standard large version, and it still looks good. You can find all my Poinsettia designs as PDFs in my shop, or use the links above for the free online versions.

And that makes 7 poinsettias! I wonder which craft I’ll try for next year’s design…

Comments (2)

wip project organiser

Sometimes an idea is so simple you can’t believe it never occurred to you before – and this is one of them.

I have a system for organising my crochet WIPs (works in progress): each project gets its own zip-lock bag or plastic tub, and the yarn, hook, swatches or prototypes, completed pieces, and any other project bits all stay together until the project is finished. But I have a lot of designs on the go these days, and the WIP bags and boxes were piling up all over my office. Furniture here is expensive, so I couldn’t just run out to buy an inexpensive storage solution as I would have in Canada. Then, inspiration struck!

wip project organiser

I bought this canvas hanging closet organiser when we first moved to South Africa and our temporary apartment had no storage areas except for the built-in closets. Once we moved into our house and all our clothes arrived, we needed all our hanging space for clothes, so the organiser was forgotten, until today.

A minute with the Dremel and a tiny drill bit, a couple of white screw-in cup hooks and an offcut of rope, and voilà: an instant WIP organiser. I’ve hung it in the wasted space just beyond the door in my office – and there’s actually room to add a 2nd one next to it, if my number of projects expands further…

Each project is still contained in its bag or box, but now I have a place to store them all together for easy access. The bottom shelf is reserved for items waiting to be photographed – I had to remove several amigurumi before snapping this pic, as they aren’t quite ready to show their faces in public yet 😉

It doesn’t look bad, and it cost nothing as I already had everything I needed. Obviously, this wouldn’t be sturdy enough for heavy storage, but a canvas organiser is perfect for yarn projects. I can already tell that I’m going to love being able to see all my WIP designs at a glance and not have to hunt to find the appropriate project bag when I need it!

Comments (10)

homemade cardboard cat scratcher

Maui loves his double-wide corrugated cardboard scratchers – it’s the only type he’ll use. The pet shops here are tiny, with very little selection, and this type of scratcher doesn’t seem to be available anywhere. Luckily, we have an almost-infinite supply of boxes stored in our garage, which I kept after our move for just such thrifty/crafty purposes…

homemade cat scratcher
Maui supervises as I get to work

The flaps of the moving boxes just happen to be exactly the same width as the length of Maui’s old scratcher, so I kept the old outer box and cut 1.75″ strips of corrugated cardboard to make a new scratching surface. Measure, mark, cut, repeat… I needed 60 strips to fill the old outer box.

homemade cat scratcher
Measuring and cutting strips of cardboard

After that, I just ran a line of white glue along the centre of the length of each strip, stacked them all together, and applied pressure for a couple of minutes so they are all packed tightly together. Edge on, you have the perfect scratching surface for the demanding kitty:

homemade cat scratcher
As good as bought!

Cutting 60 strips was a lot more effort than I thought it would be – I had to split the task over several days, as my hand holding the ruler in position would start to ache after 5 or 10 strips. If I still had access to buy a new scratcher instead, I would. But, as I don’t, it’s worth a little hard work to make one for Maui every now and then.

homemade cat scratcher
This is the state of the old one – better that Maui does this to the cardboard than to our furniture!

As a bonus, it’s fully reversible, so when it looks like the photo above, I can just flip it over, and Maui will have another new scratching surface to decimate before I have to make another one.

homemade cat scratcher
After extensive quality control testing, Maui proclaims it totally scratch-worthy.

A happy cat = time well spent!

Comments (15)

Crinkle Ball Cat Toy

Today is Maui’s birthday! As the most important member of our household, and to celebrate his bravery at coping with a hugely traumatic trans-continental move last year, I wanted to get him an extra-special present. Unfortunately, the pet shops here are lucky to have a ball and a mouse as their cat toy selection, and Maui already has loads of each of those.

maui helping me choose appropriate yarn colours
Maui also likes to supervise when I’m designing – here he makes sure that my yarn ball doesn’t get away from me while I crochet succulents

The balls I crocheted for my Yarn Over vs Yarn Under comparison had a dual purpose – I added some catnip as I stuffed them, so they could double up as new toys for Maui.

crocheted balls
Maui won’t care if I crocheted these with YO or YU, as long as there’s catnip inside!

But that wasn’t good enough – he already has crocheted balls to play with, and I wanted to give him a really special treat. So I put on my creative thinking cap and the result was pretty amazing – I think I may have created the best cat toy ever! It turned my 8-years-young lazypuss into a kitten again, and held his attention for far longer than any store-bought toy has.

crinkle ball cat toy tutorial by planetjune

If you have, or know, a cat, and you like to craft, you must try this. It’s really easy, it only takes 5 minutes, you’ll have a valid excuse for eating chocolates while you craft, and you’ll have the happiest cat in the neighbourhood! The foil makes an irresistible crinkly noise when the ball is played with.

crinkle ball cat toy tutorial by planetjune
The ball on the right has been thoroughly quality-tested by Maui, and after half an hour of kitty football, stalking, pouncing and batting, being carried by mouth, dropped into shoes and being fished out again, you can see that it hasn’t fallen apart at all!

Note: this is my first donationware craft tutorial. As I’ve had requests for PDFs of other tutorials, I’ll also be converting some of my older tutorials to donationware, as I find the time, so there’ll be a handy printable option for them too. As always with my donationware, the full tutorial is available online for free, whether or not you choose to pay for the PDF version!

Go to the Crinkle Ball Cat Toy tutorial >>

Comments (9)

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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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