PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

10th blogiversary!

Hello! I’ve just got back from travelling to the other side of the world to realise one of my life’s ambitions of watching sea turtles in the wild (and I’ll share more about that once I’ve sorted through my thousands of vacation photos…)

This blog has also been quiet for a while because I’ve been working on big PlanetJune projects – including a huge new pattern collection – so I’ll have lots to share with you very soon, but first it’s time to celebrate a big milestone: my 10th anniversary as a blogger!

10 years ago today, I started my blog with a small goal:

I hope I’ll be inspired to be more creative by keeping track of my crafts here.

Little did I know that this blog would change my life and my career path, allow me to build a successful business, and help me to meet some of my best friends and inspiring crafters all over the world. PlanetJune (the business, and my career) has all come about as a direct result of starting a little blog as a way to document the things I make, way back in 2006.

10 Years of Crafting

Here’s a sampling of my last decade of making:

10 years of PlanetJune - craft projects made by June Gilbank

During my 10 years of blogging, I’ve made and shared several hundred projects, written over 800 blog posts, and received close to 12,000 comments… It’s amazing how it all adds up!

The Changing Face of Blogging

In the past decade, the blogging landscape has changed dramatically. Social media has made blogging unnecessary or irrelevant for many people, and I’ve seen a lot of my craft-blogging compatriots from the early days either abandon their blogs, shift their focus, and/or delete their old content (which always makes me irrationally sad to see).

For me, the situation is complicated: my blog is now a place where I share information about my business (new patterns and tutorials, details about my books and crochet-alongs, and general PlanetJune news) but it’s still also a record of my personal creative pastimes. That includes both the things I make, and the things that inspire me to make, and sharing some of my wildlife and nature photos has also become an important part of my blogging.

This blog isn’t – and never will be – a cynical tool to try to drive sales. My policy has always been to only post when I have something worth posting about, so I’ve never developed a blogging schedule or strategy, or felt guilty during quiet times. I think that freedom is what makes it easy to keep my blog going, because it never becomes a burden or a chore.

Creativity & Inspiration

When I moved to South Africa five years ago, I started sharing some of my wildlife photos. Amateur wildlife photography has been a big part of my life for many years, but I’d never thought anyone else would want to see my photos until I moved somewhere ‘interesting’. Of course, now I realise that everywhere is interesting, and I take and share wildlife photos wherever I travel – 4 continents so far!

10 years of PlanetJune - wildlife photos by June Gilbank

The photography itself is just a hobby for me, but learning more about the natural world is a big part of my creative inspiration for new patterns. I’m so happy that many of the people who enjoy my work also enjoy my wildlife posts – I love being able to share a few of my photos with you, and I hope to find time to put together wildlife posts more regularly in future.

Through Thick and Thin…

I didn’t have a chance to mark my last two blogiversaries (due to my traumatic home invasion experience in 2014 and my knee surgery in 2015). I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years battling ill health and stress. Crafting is a way to regain some sense of control at times when life deals you a hand that’s hard to deal with – all you need to think about is making the next stitch.

Business-wise, it’s been a massive comfort to know that PlanetJune keeps ticking along, whatever happens, and I can keep making ends meet, no matter what I’m going through behind the scenes. But I feel that I’ve reached a turning point with my personal situation now, and things will continue to improve from this point on, so I’ll be able to get back to making things in all sorts of crafts, just for the fun of it – yay!

These days, I may not post here as often as I used to – or as often as I’d like to – but I make fewer, larger projects than in the early days of my blog when I had more time and energy to tinker and experiment with various crafts. The act of making, and my love of wildlife, are more important to me than ever, and my blog will continue to reflect those themes 🙂

Thank You!

I’d like to thank you for visiting my blog and sharing in my enjoyment of making, creativity, and nature, whether this is your first visit or you’ve been travelling with me for the entire 10 years! I have a huge list of ideas for projects waiting to be made – both new crochet patterns, and new fun craft projects to try – and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you as my blog continues into its second decade.

I could never have imagined, 10 years ago, that PlanetJune would change my life so completely, and I’m so grateful to this blog, and to everyone who has ever read my posts or left me a comment, for playing a role in that process.

Now, I wonder what changes the next 10 years will bring…

Comments (5)

British Wildlife in Spring

There’ll always be a special place in my heart for UK wildlife, and Britain in springtime is especially lovely. I’ve just got back from visiting my parents, and I thought I’d share a few British wildlife photos with you – a change of pace from my usual African pics!

Ahh, a glade of bluebells – the quintessential sign of spring in British woodlands:

ukwildlife_bluebells

My all-time favourite British bird, a happy robin:

ukwildlife_robin

A wild bunny in a field (straight out of Watership Down):

ukwildlife_rabbit

A cheeky wood pigeon gobbling up pretty cherry blossoms:

ukwildlife_woodpigeon_cherryblossom

And, best of all – my first ever photo of a red squirrel! I just love their gorgeous colouring and tufted ears. (This is a wild squirrel, by the way – it was just eating nuts from a squirrel feeder.)

ukwildlife_redsquirrel

Whenever I post photos of South African wildlife, I get comments saying “you’re so lucky; there’s no interesting wildlife where I live”. I’d like to dispute that – everywhere I’ve lived (various places in the UK, three cities in Canada, and of course here in Cape Town) I’ve enjoyed photographing my local wildlife. It may not always be as ‘exciting’ as zebras and flamingos, but, as I hope you can see from the above photos, that doesn’t make them any less interesting, or enjoyable to watch out for. Even in cities, there are parks and wilder areas, and venturing out into the local countryside is a great way to look for photo opportunities when you have time (and, as an added bonus, getting out into nature is good for your physical and mental health too).

If you just take the time to look, I bet there are always some birds or animals you could try to spot and/or photograph fairly close to home…

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos, and that this post will inspire you to keep your eyes open and enjoy the wildlife that lives on your doorstep 🙂

Comments (2)

May update

We could all use a little less pressure in our lives, so I’m changing the PlanetJune crochet-along model to give you a bit more choice and flexibility. We’ll still launch a new CAL roughly every month, but I’m extending the runtime of each so there’s plenty of time to make whatever you want, even if a month turnaround time is too fast for you. So, in future, you’ll see 2-3 CALs running simultaneously, and you can join in with as few, or as many, as you want to.

I’ll keep this model going for the rest of the year as a trial run, but so far it seems to be working well, with Turtle Beach still going strong, while the new Hoofing It CAL is just starting…

Hoofing It CAL

I’m really enjoying seeing the first projects posted for my new Horse, Unicorn and Pegasus patterns, for example:

PlanetJune Hoofing It CAL samples
Photo credit: these lovely projects were crocheted by Ravellers CrochetChrisie, Stormwhisper and craftywhizzbang

Don’t the Unicorn and Pegasus look good in all the different mane and tail colours? Oh, and when I launched these patterns last week, there was so much to say that I actually forgot to mention that my Unicorn & Pegasus pattern includes bonus instructions for the rainbow mane and tail option (pictured middle bottom) – so if you want to make a Rainbow Unicorn, I’ve got you covered 🙂

If you’d like to share your project(s) too, please join the crochet-along in the PlanetJune Ravelry group – I love to see what you’re making from my patterns!

Commissions Update

I’ll be relaunching my crochet pattern commissions system later this year, to make it easier, faster, and more fun. With the completion of my new Horse pattern, I’ve finally cleared the queue of commissioned designs, so I’m temporarily closing PlanetJune Commissions to new pledges while I complete the upgrades.

(If you sign up for my new Commissions newsletter, I’ll let you know when the new system is ready to go, and give you a tour of the new features and a sneak peek at the new design options on the list!)

With the relaunch, I’ll be adding new options to the commissions list, and I’d love to know if you have any requests for new animal or plant designs. Are any of your favourites missing from my pattern range, or is there something special you’d love to see me tackle? Let me know in the comments below!

Review and Win contest

You’re automatically entered in the next monthly draw every time you write a review for a PlanetJune pattern you’ve enjoyed – and you’ll also be helping future customers make an informed decision about patterns they are considering buying.

Primroses crochet pattern by PlanetJune

April’s winner is Annette H‘s review of my Primroses pattern:

Everything is very clear described with pictures where necessary. Even the assembling – where most other patterns just say nothing about – is described and very easy to follow. 100% recommendation.

Congratulations, Annette – I’ve emailed you to find out which pattern you’d like as your prize!

What’s Next?

I’ve been planning a very cute and colourful amigurumi collection for a couple years, and I’m finally making it happen. It’s coming together nicely, but I’m putting it on hold for a couple of weeks while I visit my parents in the UK. (So, if you email me, please understand that it may take me a little longer to respond than usual! See my FAQ for the best and fastest ways to get PlanetJune help.)

I’m so driven to make my ideas into reality that I end up working really hard all the time. When it’s just you making it all happen, it’s hard to ever stop thinking about the business and new designs and planning for the future, and that’s a situation I need to improve. Although I truly love what I do, I’m looking forward to getting a little distance from PlanetJune for a short while, and some rest, fresh air, and walks on the beach with my family.

See you when I get back!

Comments (1)

Horse, Unicorn & Pegasus crochet patterns

Don’t miss the launch discount, at the end of this post!

I’m not even sure where to begin this post, as I have so much I’m excited to show you… I’ll just dive straight in:

Horse crochet pattern

First, the pattern that started it all – my latest commissioned design, for a Horse, is now complete:

horse

My horse has a sweet face, a realistic shape and bay colouring. In addition to detailed assembly instructions, this pattern includes two amazing new techniques to make a really special mane and tail:

  • The mane is thick and full, and the strands are attached neatly and firmly.
  • The tail hangs beautifully with no knots or visible attachment points.

Both techniques require no additional materials and are explained in full in the pattern, with lots of step-by-step photos so you can make a perfect horse!

Unicorn and Pegasus Expansion Pack

And, of course, having a horse design opens up a whole world of possibilities for other designs, and I couldn’t wait to add a Unicorn and Pegasus Expansion Pack for the Horse. And I’m so thrilled with the result – I hope you agree!

unicorn_pegasus

What is an Expansion Pack?

Expansion Packs by PlanetJune

  • An Expansion Pack is an add-on to an existing PlanetJune pattern.
  • The Expansion Pack lets you modify or add to the original pattern to create something else.
  • You cannot use the Expansion Pack alone – you must also purchase the original pattern in order to be able to complete the pictured items in the Expansion Pack pattern.

This Expansion Pack lets you convert my Horse into a Unicorn, a Pegasus, and/or an Alicorn (that’s a winged Unicorn – or a horned Pegasus if you prefer!) – so you actually get three options in one Expansion Pack:

unicorn_pegasus_alicorn

I’m especially pleased with the elegant wings – they’re a combination of sturdy and decorative, as they’re stiff enough to stand up by themselves, while still looking delicate with the feathered edge.

Hoofing It CAL

In honour of the new patterns, we’re starting a new crochet-along in the PlanetJune group on Ravelry – you can make any of the new designs, or any other PlanetJune designs with hooves (see the CAL thread for the full list). The CAL runs right through till the end of July, so you have time to make one of each if you want 😉

I hope you’ll join us – I can’t wait to see everyone’s horses, unicorns etc!

Links to Buy & Launch Discount

As with all my Expansion Packs, you can buy the patterns separately (although please note that you do need the base Horse pattern to be able to make a Unicorn or Pegasus), or there’s a discount when you buy both together.

But to sweeten this deal even more and give you an incentive to join the CAL right away, I’m offering an additional discount on the Multipack Set (Horse, Unicorn & Pegasus) if you buy within the next 7 days, so you can get all three for only $7.50 – that’s only $2.50 per pattern!

So, here are your options:

Or, if you’re not ready to buy yet, click through to Ravelry and favourite/queue them so you won’t forget about them!

Horse:

Unicorn & Pegasus:

horse_unicorn_pegasus

Can you resist these sweet faces? I hope you love these designs as much as I do – please leave me a comment if you do! Which will you be making first?

Comments (8)

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 🙂

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 (11)

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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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