PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for Tutorials

how to: Brushed Amigurumi

I’ve discussed the technique of brushing crochet several times before: I experimented with different yarns; I showed you how to convert my Fuzzy Friends patterns to brushed patterns; I told you about different brush options; and I’ve included more specific details of how to brush crochet within each of my patterns that uses the technique.

There’s lots of great information there, but having it all scattered around over several pages isn’t ideal, so I’ve combined the salient points from all my previous brushed crochet posts into a comprehensive tutorial: a guide to Brushed Amigurumi.

how to: brushed amigurumi by planetjune

You can now also find this tutorial in my Master List of crochet tutorials – your one-stop shop for help if you have any amigurumi questions! – and I hope you find it useful if you’re new to brushed crochet, or have questions about the technique.

PS – If you write your own crochet patterns and would like to link to this info in your pattern, please feel free. As with all my tutorials, you’ll find the easy-to-type shortlink – in this case, www.planetjune.com/brush – at the top of the tutorial page, for your linking convenience. :)

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knitted poinsettia

Before we go any further: don’t panic! This is not the start of a shift away from crochet and into knitting patterns – it’s just that my Poinsettia ornament happens to be knitted this year. As with my other Poinsettia designs, I’m making it available as a donationware pattern. Although I’m not ruling out the possibility of publishing other knitting patterns in future, it’s not part of my current plan :)

As you may remember, I have a little Christmas tradition of crafting a new Poinsettia ornament every year, and, although I’ve been madly busy this year, I’ve managed to squeeze in another poinsettia design so I can keep up the tradition. Now I’ve been doing this for 8 years, I have enough poinsettias to decorate a small tree! And that’s exactly what I’ve done for my Christmas decorating this year:

poinsettia christmas tree by planetjune
My poinsettia tabletop tree! Can you spot the new addition?

Here’s a closer look at the PlanetJune Poinsettia 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
thread crochet poinsettia by planetjunepunchneedle poinsettia by planetjune

Top (L-R): 2006 kanzashi poinsettia; 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 …?

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

And now for the 2013 PlanetJune Poinsettia: the knitted poinsettia!

knitted poinsettia by planetjune

As I’ve been teaching myself to knit over the past couple of years, a knitted poinsettia seemed appropriate for 2013. This is a very simple pattern, provided you know how to cast on, make knit and purl stitches, and increase and decrease. If you don’t already know how, this is a nice small project for learning those skills! (And, although teaching you to knit is not something I can take on, there are many good books and tutorials, and I’ve linked to my favourite online tutorials in the pattern.)

I know we’re only a week away from Christmas, but this really is a speedy pattern, so I hope you’d like to try knitting one of your own – the link to the free pattern is below, and, as always, if you choose to thank me with a donation, you’ll get the handy printable PDF version :)

Go to the Knitted Poinsettia pattern >>

* * *
PS – I’ve just finished my book – yay! – and I’m going to take a much-needed break for the next few weeks. I’ll just be popping in for minimal maintenance on PlanetJune stuff, so please be patient if I don’t respond promptly to your emails etc. I’ll be back with exciting new things once I’m completely rested. In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful festive season!

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open zip files on your Android device

This is a companion post to the iDownloads+ tutorial I wrote for iPad users.

Note: Now that tablets are so popular, I intend to convert my shop to use straight PDF files instead of zip files. It’s a big job to figure out how to do that for my 150+ (without losing your old orders from your account), and one I won’t even have a chance to start until well into next year, so zip files it is for the time being!

My patterns are instantly downloadable after purchase, as zip files. Unfortunately, Android tablets and smartphones have no native way to handle zip files, so you need to either download your patterns to your computer first, and then transfer them to your tablet/phone, or use an app that can open zip files for you and extract the PDFs.

There are many app options for Android and they all work in a similar way. I’ll give you a brief tutorial on one I’ve tested that’s free and easy to use, called ZArchiver. This is one (free) way you can download and open zip files from your PlanetJune account directly on your Android device.

(Please note: I can’t provide support for apps, so please don’t ask me if you have questions about this – I’m just providing this information as a service to Android users.)

To view your PlanetJune patterns on your Android device

  1. Download ZArchiver from Google Play.
  2. In your browser (e.g. Chrome), go to your PlanetJune account and tap the download link for your pattern. Your zip file will be saved into your Download folder.
  3. Open ZArchiver and browse to the Download folder. You’ll see your zip file in the list of files in that folder.
    open zip files on your Android device
  4. Tap the file name (XXX.zip). A menu will pop up.open zip files on your Android device
  5. Tap Extract here and the contents of the zip file will be extracted and saved into your Download folder. You’ll see the pattern PDF.
    open zip files on your Android device
  6. From here, you can open the PDF by tapping it in ZArchiver, or however you usually open PDF files. It’ll still be saved in your Download folder when you need to view it again, or you can move it using your usual file management app.

If you’re an Android user, I hope you find this information helpful :)

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Chains and Slip Stitches in Amigurumi

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/tension

With all crochet, to keep your stitches even, you keep the yarn under tension, so a controlled amount of yarn forms each stitch and all the resulting stitches will be the same size. This is particularly true for amigurumi; if your stitches aren’t consistently tight, it’s very obvious.

tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
Tension is created by balancing the forward pull on the yarn from the hook (right) with the backward pull of your other hand on the yarn (left). Consistent tension keeps all your stitches the same size (middle).

Chains and slip stitches are different, though, because each stitch consists of only one loop. If you maintain the same tension as you use for single crocheting amigurumi, as well as tightening the stitch you’re forming, you’ll pull on the previous stitch and make that stitch much smaller and very difficult to work back into.

If you learnt to crochet the traditional way (working in rows to make scarves, afghans, etc) and then progressed to amigurumi, you’ll be familiar with making your starting chain loosely so you can easily work back into it (you can also achieve this by using a larger crochet hook, just for the foundation). But if you began your crocheting adventures with amigurumi, you may never have even made a starting chain foundation!

Problem: Too-Tight Stitches

In the examples of chains and slip stitches below, the ‘too tight’ photos show the results of using the same tension I use for single crocheting amigurumi, while the ‘just right’ photos show how your chains and slip stitches should look:

Chains:
tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
Each example has 6 chains. The difference may not be clear for each stitch individually, but notice how short the overall length of the tight chain (left) is compared with the correct chain (right).

Slip stitches:
tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
Each example has 4 slip stitches. In the tight example (top), the sideways Vs along the top of each stitch are noticeably smaller and stretched more tightly than in the surrounding sc stitches. In the correct example (bottom), the Vs of the 4 sl sts are indistinguishable from those of the surrounding sc stitches.

Not only do these stitches not match the rest of my work visually, but they are very difficult, or even impossible, to work back into: the loops are smaller than the head of my hook and there’s no slack in the yarn. Here I’ll try to work back into the slip stitched examples:

tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
I can’t work back into the left slip stitches without a serious struggle! The right slip stitches are almost as easy to work into as a normal sc stitch.

Solution: Reduce Tension

The goal with chains and slip stitches is to have the sideways V shape of each stitch be exactly the same size as the sideways V along the top of a single crochet stitch (see the ‘just right’ examples above). That requires relaxing your tension considerably and may feel strange and wrong if you’re only used to tight amigurumi control. Here are some tips to practice:

  • Slow down and pay attention to your stitches when you make a chain or slip stitch.
  • As you form each stitch, don’t tug on the yarn with your hook; draw it through smoothly.
  • Check the size of your stitch by comparing it with the Vs at the top of your sc stitches.
  • Only draw the yarn back with your non-hook hand if the working loop looks too large; it should sit loosely on the throat of the hook so the hook can move freely within the loop.

Once you get used to it, chaining with low tension should become easy – it just takes a little practice to make your chains evenly sized. Slip stitching with low tension is slightly trickier when you’re used to amigurumi: the stitches are so similar to single crochet stitches that I still have to remind myself with every slip stitch to keep it loose, so my stitches don’t shrink and tighten.

If you’d like to practice these stitches, here are a couple of examples from my amigurumi pattern collection that make great use of chains and slip stitches:

examples of chains and slip stitches in crocheted amigurumi
These patterns use chains (Baby Cephalopods, left) and slip stitches (Magic Lamp, right).

With this low tension technique, you’ll no longer have to battle to work back into chains and slip stitches, and your work will look smoother, tidier, and more even. It’s one more step along the road to becoming an amigurumi expert!

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steam-relaxing yarn

When you unravel something you’ve crocheted, the yarn looks kinked up and squashed. Re-using this yarn can leave your crocheting looking noticeably different from starting over with fresh yarn. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to refresh the yarn and return it to its unused state so you don’t have to waste it or put up with the re-used appearance? Guess what: there is!

steam-relaxing yarn
Can you turn ‘stressed’ yarn back into ‘relaxed’ yarn? Yes!

I first read about this technique at TECHknitting but I wasn’t really convinced it’d work on acrylic (although I really hoped it would), so I decided to put it to the test with the yarn recovered from one of my prototype pandas.

(You may be wondering ‘why bother?’ The nicer acrylic yarns are actually quite expensive, and, if you’re a crochet addict, the cost of yarn soon mounts up; if there’s an easy way to save money, why not take it? But, for me, the real reason is availability – now I have to import all my amigurumi acrylics from the US, they’re like gold dust to me, and I hoard every metre! Making 3 prototype pandas took a whole skein of white Red Heart Soft, and that’s not something I can easily replace. Reclaiming the yarn so I can use it to design another amigurumi would be ideal, but not if it’s going to look messy and obviously re-used.)

steam-relaxing yarn
A 65m length of kinked up acrylic yarn reclaimed from a prototype panda.

Steam-relaxing

You can steam yarn with a clothes steamer or ordinary steam iron, and it will magically relax, de-kinking and fluffing itself back up! And yes, as I discovered, you can even do this with acrylic yarn – you can see my results in the photos below.

Note: to reclaim an entire skein of yarn, it’s probably easier if you wind it into a hank (a large loop), soak it, and let it dry (for more details on this method, see Webs’ article: How to Recycle Yarn). But for the yarn length recovered from frogging amigurumi or other small projects, steaming is simpler and faster.

Steam-relaxing yarn really is like magic: the yarn wriggles about as it relaxes and it looks quite eerie, like a pile of snakes – watch TECHknitter’s video to see exactly what I mean – but soon the yarn will turn from a kinked tangle into strands of fluffy yarn spaghetti.

My iron doesn’t have a ‘shot of steam’ feature, so it took a fair while to steam the entire 65m pile you see above, but the method really does work. I didn’t touch the yarn at all between these two photos – this is how it moved, by itself, in reaction to the steam:
steam-relaxing yarn
Before (left) and after (right) comparison of a small section – you can see that the yarn has de-kinked and untwisted itself.

steam-relaxing yarn
Pre-steamed (left) and post-steamed sections of my big pile of yarn.

Top Tips

Learn from my experience!

  • It’s much more effective if you spread the yarn out so you’re only steaming one layer at once, and work over a small area.
  • Watch to see when the yarn stops wriggling about when the steam touches it – that’s when it’s fully relaxed and time to move on.
  • For acrylics in particular, it’s critical that you don’t ever let the iron touch the yarn. Sit so you’re at eye level with your ironing board, then you won’t have to bend to see what’s going on, and you’ll be able to keep an inch between your yarn and the iron (you do need to keep it close though, so the steam is most effective).
  • If you have the option to avoid it, don’t start with a big tangle of yarn (as shown in my photos) – once it’s de-kinked, you’ll still have to untangle it and wind it. I’d recommend you wind the yarn into a ball as you unravel your work, then unwind a couple of metres at a time and lay it in rows along the ironing board. Steam-relax that length of yarn, then wind it immediately into a new ball before pulling out the next kinked length. (Once it’s all relaxed, you can re-wind the yarn into a neater ball if you like.)

steam-relaxing yarn
The 65m pile of yarn, post-relaxation. (Don’t leave it in a pile like I did here!)

I’m almost tempted to buy a handheld clothes steamer now, after seeing how effective this method is. And, as an added bonus, the yarn goes from feeling quite hard when it’s kinked up and squashed, to lovely and soft and bouncy again – it really does seem as good as new!

steam-relaxing yarn
After winding it into a centre-pull ball it’s practically indistinguishable from new yarn and ready to use for another amigurumi design!

Steam-relaxing is a bit of a niche technique, but if you frog a project and want to reclaim the yarn, I highly recommend it. You’ll save money, you can re-use the yarn so it’s not wasted, and I promise you’ll have fun watching the yarn wriggle about – what’s not to like?

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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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