PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for Tutorials

tutorial: better BLO stitches for amigurumi

I always like to experiment and see if there are ways to improve amigurumi techniques to give better results, and today I have a new one to share with you.

Back loop only (BLO) stitches are often used to add detail in amigurumi designs, particularly for turning sharp corners. For example, look at the bottom of a crocheted plant pot (where you turn a sharp corner from the base of the pot to begin the sides) or the bottom of a foot (where you turn from the flat base to the side of the foot).

better BLO tutorial - examples of uses of back loops only at the edge of the base of feet or plant pots
Stegosaurus and Succulent plants both have a round of BLO around the bottom edge (of their feet and pot, respectively)

But BLO stitches are looser and more open than standard stitches worked in both loops, so the corner round will lose the solid, firm fabric of the rest of your amigurumi. My new modified BLO technique solves this problem!

better BLO tutorial - the holes above the unworked front loops are eliminated with my technique
The holes above the unworked front loops are eliminated with my technique

Now, before we get started, I should explain what this technique is not: this is not a new method for patterns that are worked in BLO throughout. Using it in that way would change the shape of the finished pieces (more about that later).

This technique is best used to replace occasional BLO details in a piece worked in both loops, e.g. the round of BLO stitches used for turning sharp corners in amigurumi patterns. Just as you can replace a “ch 2” start with a magic ring, and an “sc2tog” with an invisible decrease, you can replace that round of BLO with my modified BLO (in any amigurumi pattern) and it’ll give your amigurumi a much nicer result.

What’s wrong with BLO?

The problem with BLO stitches compared with stitches worked in both loops is that they can easily stretch open. When you’re making amigurumi, where the stitches are stretched by the stuffing, this results in taller stitches with larger gaps between each round.

better BLO tutorial - comparison of samples worked in normal sc and sc in back loops only
L-R: sc worked in both loops, sc in back loops only

(I discussed this in more detail in my tutorial Front Loops, Back Loops, Both Loops.)

Why Use BLO?

But BLO has several uses as an accent in amigurumi designs, for example:

  • to add textural detail with the unworked front loops
  • to add anchor points for additional stitches worked back into in the unworked front loops
  • to turn sharper corners than you can achieve with regular single crochet stitches

This last one is the main use of BLO in amigurumi, and the situation that you can most improve with my new technique! Although BLO makes a nice corner, it does leave the fabric looser and more floppy around that round, because the stitches can stretch open.

A Better BLO

When you look at a single crochet stitch, you usually work into both the front loop and the back loop at the top of the stitch:

better BLO tutorial - step 1

But, if you rotate your work forwards a bit, you can see that there’s another horizontal bar just beneath the back loop, at the back of the stitch (below, left).

To improve the appearance of your BLO, work each stitch into both the back loop and this back bar (below, right).

better BLO tutorial - step 2

Are you left-handed? Here’s how it’ll look for you:

better BLO tutorial - step 2 (left-handed)

You can see the stitch in action in the videos below:

Video Tutorial (right-handed)

Video Tutorial (left-handed)

Note: The videos may look a little small embedded in the blog: if so, you can fullscreen them or click through to YouTube (links: right-handed; left-handed) to watch them full-sized ūüôā

Stitch Comparison

So you can see the difference this technique makes, let’s compare the modified BLO stitch with a standard single crochet (worked in both loops) and a standard BLO single crochet.

I’ve crocheted the same sample 3 times, once using each stitch.

better BLO tutorial - comparison of samples worked in normal sc, modified scBL, and standard scBL
#1: single crochet in both loops
#2: modified BLO single crochet
#3: BLO single crochet

As you can see, the modified BLO does not stretch out like a BLO stitch; the stitches are much closer in size to a standard single crochet (although very slightly smaller still, as the stitches are tighter).

Comparing the BLO and modified BLO in close-up:

better BLO tutorial - comparison of stitches worked in standard scBL and modified scBL
Left: BLO; right: modified BLO

You can see that the gaps that result from standard BLO stitches are eliminated with this technique, and the stuffing doesn’t show through between the stitches.

So this modified stitch is a much better match for a standard single crochet, as it keeps the tight, solid appearance of a regular amigurumi, and doesn’t leave any unwanted gaps.

Caveats

  • Do not use this technique for a piece designed to be worked in back loops only. As you can see, using the modified BLO stitch with a pattern designed to be worked entirely in BLO would give the same problem as working the pattern in both loops – the shape would be compressed vertically.
  • I recommend you use this technique only as an accent stitch for pieces crocheted predominantly in both loops. (The only reason I crocheted the above sample piece entirely in modified BLO is to give you a clear way to compare the differences between the size and shape of the stitches.) This stitch is more difficult to work than either standard or BLO single crochet, because the back bar is tighter, so I don’t suggest you ever crochet an entire piece using this technique!

In Practice

better BLO tutorial - sample piece with sharp corner made by modified BLO round at edge of base

I crocheted this little amigurumi-style pot as a sample to demonstrate this technique. The corner formed by the modified BLO round is neat and firm, and it’s actually a little sharper than the corner you get from a standard BLO stitch.

Conclusion

You can safely use the modified BLO to replace a single round of stitches (or any number of individual stitches) worked in back loops only in any amigurumi pattern.

It prevents the gap from forming below each BLO stitch as the fabric stretches, and it maintains the firm solidity of the amigurumi fabric throughout your piece.

While this isn’t an essential technique, it’s another ‘upgrade’ you can use with any pattern (like my invisible increase) to improve the look of your amigurumi.

I know I’ll be using it for all my BLO details in future, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

Comments (10)

Origami Poinsettia papercraft tutorial

In celebration of my new PlanetJune Papercraft ebook and donationware tutorials, I decided to design a papercraft poinsettia to add to my collection…

origami poinsettia by planetjune

The ‘petals’ of this Poinsettia are made with origami techniques, and the ‘flower’ is assembled with wire (with an option for sewing thread) – that can also be used to create a stem or hanging loop – and beads for the centre.

Did you know that the red ‘petals’ of a poinsettia are actually bracts – modified leaves – and only the central yellow parts are the flowers? So, while this isn’t actually a ‘flower’ in the case of a poinsettia, you can also make this design as a pretty flower at any time of year!

If you don’t have origami paper, inexpensive gift wrapping paper is the perfect thickness for paper folding. You only need to cut 3 squares to make a flower, and you’re bound to have some leftover wrapping paper before Christmas, so don’t throw it away! My origami poinsettia measures 3″ (7.5cm) in diameter, but it can be easily scaled to any size by starting with larger or smaller squares of paper. Beads or a button add the finishing touch to this lovely easy decoration.

The origami techniques in this design are very simple – this would be a fun introduction to paper folding if you haven’t tried it before – and once you’ve learnt how to fold a leaf you’ll be able to whip up a poinsettia (or several!) very quickly. If you’d like to give it a go, the link to the free tutorial is below, and, as always, if you choose to thank me with a donation, you’ll get the handy printable PDF version ūüôā

Go to the Origami Poinsettia tutorial >>

The Poinsettia Collection

I only had one year off before I felt compelled to return to my tradition of crafting a new Poinsettia ornament every year. This new design brings the total up to 9! Here are all the previous PlanetJune Poinsettias:

tsumami kanzashi poinsettia by planetjunecrocheted poinsettia by planetjune
polymer clay poinsettia by planetjunepunchneedle poinsettia by planetjune
felt poinsettia by planetjunebeaded poinsettia by planetjune
thread crochet poinsettia by planetjuneknitted poinsettia by planetjune

Top (L-R): 2006 kanzashi poinsettia (no tutorial); 2007 crocheted poinsettia
2nd Row (L-R): 2008 polymer clay poinsettia; 2009 punchneedle poinsettia
3rd Row (L-R): 2010 felt poinsettia; 2011 beaded poinsettia
Bottom Row: 2012 thread crochet poinsettia; 2013 knitted poinsettia

(You can find all my Poinsettia designs as PDFs in my shop, or use the links above for the free online versions.)

Happy seasonal crafting!

Comments (4)

How to Fold a Triangular Shawl

how to fold a triangular shawl by planetjune

If you’ve been bitten by the shawl-crocheting bug, it can be easy to build up quite a collection! As part of¬†the¬†Accessories CAL (in the PlanetJune Ravelry group), I thought now¬†would be a good time to discuss how you store your shawls. I used to hang mine in my closet, but I quickly ran out of hanging space, and now I prefer to keep them all neatly folded in a plastic storage box.

Triangular shawls, in particular, can be a bit tricky to fold for storage, so here’s my method to turn any size and style of triangular shawl into a tidy rectangle.

Step 1: Hold your shawl with the point facing down:

how to fold a triangular shawl by planetjune

Step 2: Bring the top left corner across to the top right corner:

how to fold a triangular shawl by planetjune

Step 3: Bring the bottom point up to the top left corner:

how to fold a triangular shawl by planetjune

Step 4: Bring the top right point across to the top left corner:

how to fold a triangular shawl by planetjune

And that’s it:¬†a perfect rectangle. If your shawl is large, you may want to fold it in half again before you store it (but I think you can figure out how to do that without a photo…)

So now you can go from this:

Cozy Mesh and Palm Leaves shawl crochet patterns by planetjune

to this tidy little stack of crocheted loveliness!

Cozy Mesh and Palm Leaves shawl crochet patterns by planetjune

And – in case you’d like to make a few more shawls so you can practice your folding technique – you can find all my shawl patterns here¬†ūüėČ

Comments (2)

Tip: Feeding Yarn Through Buttonholes or Beads

Whether you’ve made a sweater, a phone cosy, or jewellery, sometimes you want to add a button to your yarn project and run into a problem…¬†For a perfect match, it’s nice¬†to use the project’s yarn to attach the button – whether that’s to minimise ends to weave in, or just give a polished look. But, while it’s fairly easy to find a button with holes big enough to fit the yarn through, it’s very rare to find a button that has a hole large enough for both the yarn (doubled)¬†and the eye of a yarn needle!

crochet braid bracelet pattern by planetjune

Below, I’ve shown¬†an example (from a¬†Crochet Braid Bracelet, pictured above). The hole on this shank-backed button is just large enough for my yarn to fit through, but the yarn is too floppy to push through the hole. When I try, it either bunches up and refuses to go through, or separates into plies.

feeding yarn through buttonholes

The simplest trick is to wet the end of the yarn to keep the plies together while you thread the end through the buttonhole – the same technique as licking your sewing thread before you thread a hand-sewing needle. But sometimes that just isn’t enough, and with a long buttonhole like this one and/or a close fit, the yarn is still too floppy to make it right through the buttonhole.

There’s just no way to get that yarn through that buttonhole… Or is there?

feeding yarn through buttonholes

Yes there is!¬†Here’s the magic, you need to stiffen the end of the yarn before you thread it through the button, so it’ll act like its own needle and pass easily through any buttonhole that’s large enough to fit a single strand of the yarn.

The easiest way to do that is with basic white craft glue, and here’s how to do it:

  1. Squeeze a small drop of white glue onto the end of the yarn.
  2. Using your thumb and fingertips, press and roll¬†the end of the yarn to distribute the glue through the fibres of the yarn. For threading¬†normal buttons, you only need to dampen about 1/2″ (1 or 2 cm) of the yarn with glue.
  3. Twist the wet plies together by rolling between your fingertips in the direction of the twist of the yarn, to hold the plies neatly together.
  4. Press the tip of the yarn gently between your fingertips to form a nice rounded point (see above photo).
  5. Leave the glued yarn to dry for a few minutes (while you wash/rub the glue off your fingers) – although, if you’re impatient, it doesn’t need to be perfectly dry to¬†work!
  6. Thread your yarn through your buttons as desired.
  7. Snip off the hardened end of the yarn with scissors.

Easy! It works the same way as the plastic-coated ends of your shoelaces: compressing the yarn into a tight, stiff point that can pass easily through the hole. This method also works on embroidery floss, crochet cotton, or any other type of thread you want to pass through a small hole.

Bonus tip: You can also use this technique¬†for stringing beads onto yarn or thread¬†where the bead hole is too small to fit a doubled strand of the yarn – perfect for bead crochet, or even stringing children’s necklaces!

I hope you find this helpful next time you’re trying to feed yarn through a buttonhole (or bead) – it’s a handy little trick. ūüôā

Comments (12)

Crochet Terminology

This is the final post in my three-part series aimed predominantly at crocheters outside North America. For the rest of the series, see Yarn for Amigurumi and Crochet Hook Styles.

Non-Standardised Terminology

The names of the crochet stitches are, unfortunately, not standardised throughout the English-speaking world. Most crochet patterns you’ll find through online sources are written in US terminology (which is why I call this ‘standard’ terminology) – but if you buy/use a pattern written or published in UK/Aus, that may not be the case.

Conversely, if you learnt crochet from a British or Australian source, or some other countries with a historical British influence, you probably know the UK terminology. Your ‘double crochet’, for example, refers to a different stitch (US single crochet) than a US double crochet (which is equivalent to your ‘treble crochet’) – confusing, huh?

Note: If you’re not sure which terminology you use, look at my single crochet tutorial: right-handed or left-handed. If you know this stitch as a ‘double crochet’, you’re using UK terminology!

US/UK Conversion Table

Here are the most common stitches with their equivalent US and UK names:

US Stitch Name UK Stitch Name
chain chain
double crochet treble crochet
half double crochet half treble crochet
slip stitch slip stitch
single crochet double crochet
triple (or treble) crochet double treble crochet

The basic rule is that the UK stitches are always named one step higher than their US counterparts.

Converting Amigurumi Patterns

Amigurumi patterns aren’t too difficult to decipher, as they are (almost) always worked in (almost) all single crochet stitches (i.e. ‘double crochet’ stitches in UK terminology), so it’s very easy to convert these patterns between US/UK. Using the above table, you’ll see that chain and slip stitch are unchanged, so it’s just the single/double crochets you may need to change to convert to your preferred terminology.

Note: All PlanetJune patterns – amigurumi and accessories – are written in standard (US) terminology, but, to prevent confusion, my patterns always also include a conversion table at the start for all stitches used, so you can look up the pattern abbreviations and see which stitch should be used, whichever terminology you’re used to.

Terminology Tips

  • There is no stitch known as ‘single crochet’ anywhere in UK terminology, so, if you see any pattern that uses ‘sc’ stitches, you know it’s a standard/US pattern. UK/Aus: work a dc in place of every sc, and convert all other stitches.
  • If you see an amigurumi pattern worked in ‘dc’ stitches, but the stitches look like those of a regular amigurumi, it’s almost certainly a UK pattern and you should work a US single crochet everywhere the pattern calls for a double crochet. UK/Aus: work the pattern as written.
  • If in doubt when you use an indie pattern that doesn’t have a terminology table to clarify the stitches, check with the pattern designer.
  • A pattern in a book or magazine will almost always use the terminology of the publication’s country of origin, but you can check the description of the stitches used (usually at the start or end of the book/magazine) to make sure.

It’s very unfortunate that when you find a crochet pattern that calls for, for example, a ‘double crochet’ stitch, that may mean one of two different stitches depending on where the pattern was published (or which terminology the designer/publisher decides to use), but I hope this post will help to clear up the confusion!

Comments (3)

« Previous entries
  • 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!

    If you'd like to get in touch, you can contact me here.
  • Follow me

    RSS FeedSubscribe to my blog by EmailFollow me on TwitterFollow me on Facebook
    Friend me on RavelryWatch me on YouTubeFollow me on PinterestFollow me on Instagram
  • Breaking News from June

  • Life Behind the Scenes

  • Browse Blog Categories

  • Blog Archives

  • Support PlanetJune!

    Want to say thanks? You can send me money in seconds at paypal.me/planetjune.

    Or simply click one of these links before you shop at Amazon:
    And click the logo below before you buy your next online class from Craftsy:
    Thank you for your support!