PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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; theย 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)

April update

Isn’t it frustrating when external factors affect your productivity? There’s an ongoing construction project happening on my street at the moment, and my house is filled with loud machinery noises all day long. I’m finding it hard to get much of anything done – there’s nowhere I can go to escape this noise!

I like to work in silence so I can really concentrate, so this is proving to be a big problem for me. If you have any suggestions for coping with a noisy working environment, please leave them in the comments – thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

Turtlemania CAL

The Turtlemania crochet-along is in full swing and I’m really enjoying seeing the large and small turtle blankets that have already been finished, for example:

PlanetJune Turtlemania CAL samples
Photo credit: these lovely projects were crocheted by Ravellers jomeigs and sujavo

I’d love to see more baby turtles popping up in the PlanetJune Ravelry group – please come and share if you’re making the turtles and/or beach blankets too! ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

I didn’t do a draw last month, so today I’m drawing the winners for both February and March:

AmiDogs Miniature Schnauzer crochet pattern by PlanetJune

February’s winner is Virginia B‘s review of my AmiDogs Miniature Schnauzerย pattern:

I needed a schnauzer pattern to make for a friend of my daughter’s. Found the perfect one on Planet June. Very cute. After I downloaded the instructions, I was very pleased with the clarity of the directions, the pictures included and even detailed assembly directions-quite a reasonable price and very professional. I have been crocheting for years and realized a good design when I saw it. I immediately ordered the cat pattern because it was even cuter and I have cats. Told my son about the website and he ordered June’s book The complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi for me as a gift. It is also excellent and well written. Thank you June for your excellent patterns.

Baby Guinea Pigs crochet pattern by PlanetJune

March’s winner is Megan W‘s review of my Baby Guinea Pigs pattern:

I love this pattern! The guinea pigs are perfectly chubby and I have a whole family of them! The pattern is very well-written and helps you place the eyes and the legs in the right spots!

Congratulations, Virginia and Megan – I’ve emailed you both to find out which pattern you’d each like as your prize!

What’s Next?

My Horse design is just about finished and looking good. I’m working on the pattern, and my next challenge will be to figure out the wings for my Unicorn and Pegasus Expansion Pack! All being well, the patterns should be ready in the next few weeks, so look out for them soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Comments (10)

PlanetJune Stories: Domino Joyce

Today’s PlanetJune Story comes from Dr Domino Joyce, an evolutionary biologist by day and crocheter by night, who found a novel way to use amigurumi to educate children (and adults) about evolution!

I’ll let Domino explain:


history of life interactive crocheted exhibit

I’m an evolutionary biologist at the University of Hull, UK and I’ve wanted to learn to crochet for ages. Last year, when I was on maternity leave, I taught myself with YouTube videos, and I started making toys while my baby son slept on me. I became a little addicted to it and found some amazing patterns representing the diversity of life, but the PlanetJune site quickly became my favourite place because the animals are so much more realistic than many designs, and the patterns are amazingly clear and well designed.

Every year at Hull University, we have a Science Festival, and I began to formulate a way to combine science communication with my new crochet addiction. I thought I would make a poster containing a timeline of the history of earth, and use the toys to illustrate when particular things evolved. The PlanetJune dinosaur sets proved particularly inspiring for this!

history of life interactive crocheted exhibit

I made a tabletop timeline poster, as well as backdrop posters with links to the patterns, and have made these available (here) for anyone who wants to download and print their own.

The key message I wanted to get across is that evolution has taken place over a timescale so long, it is hard to visualise. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, but most of the life we know about and see today evolved ‘only’ in the last 540 million years or so. There was a very long period of time when not much happened at all!

history of life interactive crocheted exhibit

This weekend (after a lot of crocheting) the festival took place. It was a big success – we were expecting about 1500-2000 visitors, but received almost 5000. I asked the children who visited my stand to place the crochet dinosaurs on the timeline where they thought they should go, and nearly all of them put them right at the beginning of the line, and were amazed when I told them the correct place was much closer to “NOW” than they thought.

history of life interactive crocheted exhibit

I was able to talk them through the history of (some!) life using the various organisms I had made, including a crochet Mary Anning and Charles Darwin representing Homo sapiens. My favourite part used the Emperor Penguin to convey the idea that birds are simply dinosaurs that survived and carried on evolving.

history of life interactive crocheted exhibit

The toys worked really well to draw children and adults in to the stand to find out what it was about, and I think I convinced a few of the adults they should try crocheting, as well as inspiring a few who already crochet to try some of these patterns!

But most of all, I hope I helped both children and adults to understand the history of life on earth a little more clearly.


(Back to me, June, again!)

Based on your account and photos, I’m sure you accomplished that mission, Domino! Congratulations on such a successful event, and for coming up with such a great idea for a fun, interactive learning experience.

One of the things that makes me really proud as a designer of realistic animal and plant patterns is when professional scientists who study the organisms I reproduce in crochet are fans of my work – it’s high praise indeed whenever I hear from botanists, paleontologists, marine biologists (and now evolutionary biologists!) etc who appreciate my designs. And I’m so happy that my patterns could play a part in Domino’s Science Festival exhibit – it’s lovely to think that, even though I’m no longer working in the field of science, I’m still helping in some small way to educate the scientists of the future.

Thank you so much, Domino, for sharing your story with us today ๐Ÿ™‚
Please leave Domino a comment if you’ve enjoyed this post!

Do you have a PlanetJune Story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! Please email your story to june@planetjune.com, together with one or more high quality photos showing what you’ve made from PlanetJune patterns. If I choose your story to feature here on the blog, I’ll send you your choice of pattern from my shop to say thank you!


PS – If you’re feeling inspired to crochet some PlanetJune dinosaurs and penguins too, you can find all the patterns in my shop:

Comments (10)

Ribbed Ripple/Turtle Beach pattern

Since I published my Baby Sea Turtle pattern two years ago, several people have attached the turtles to afghan squares or blankets showing the babies hatching on a beach and making their way to the sea. It’s such a sweet idea, as the turtles are quite flat, so they work well as an appliquéd element on a blanket or square.

About a week ago, one of these blankets went viral on Facebook and I’ve consequently had dozens of requests for a beach blanket to attach my baby sea turtles to, so I thought I’d modify my eyelet ripple crochet pattern into a ribbed ripple, to depict wavelets moving towards a beach. And here it is: Turtle Beach!

turtle beach crochet pattern by planetjune

Note: The Baby Sea Turtle pattern is sold separately, here!

You can stitch Baby Sea Turtles to it, or just use it as a play mat or display background for turtles and other small aquatic amigurumi (like my Baby Cephalopods, perhaps!)

This is a Donationware pattern – my ribbed ripple stitch pattern, the basic pattern for a 10″ Turtle Beach square, and general instructions for making a Turtle Beach blanket are free for you to view on my website (links at the end of this post), but the PDF version includes lots of bonuses:

ribbed ripple turtle beach crochet pattern
  • Full patterns to make 3ft x 4ft Turtle Beach blankets with either 4 or 5 shades of yarn (yellow, white, and 2 or 3 blues)
  • The modifications required to turn my Hatching Turtle (from the Baby Sea Turtle Collection pattern) into a Swimming Turtle that looks like the back half of its shell is submerged.
  • Optional edging instructions to square off the rippled top and bottom edges, so you can use this as a beach-themed square in a larger blanket, or turn it into the front of a cushion cover, for example – and there are lots more applications.
  • Any-size modification instructions, so you can make any size afghan square, a baby blanket, or even a huge blanket to fit a king-sized bed!

Both versions include the written stitch pattern, a charted stitch diagram, and suggestions for how to make the beach and sea colouring (and how to arrange the turtles).

You can also use the Ribbed Ripple stitch pattern with any other colourway if you don’t want a beachy blanket – a 2-row repeat in 2 or 3 colours would look amazing too. Here’s a small sample showing an alternate colourway and the bonus edging you’ll get in the PDF version:

rippled ripple crochet pattern with edging, by planetjune

I hope you’ll enjoy this pattern and that you’ll share what you’ve made with me, on Ravelry and/or on your favourite social media (tag me @PlanetJune to make sure I see it!)

We’re also running a Turtlemania CAL in the PlanetJune group on Ravelry from now until the end of April, and we’d love it if you’d join in if you’re making PlanetJune turtles, a Turtle Beach blanket, and/or a Wavy Stripes blanket from the Ribbed Ripple pattern!

Go to the free Ribbed Ripple stitch pattern >>

Go to the free Turtle Beach pattern/instructions >>

Go straight to buy the PDF version! >>

Comments (9)

Captioning YouTube Videos

Yesterday, I spent the entire day transcribing all my crochet video tutorials so I could add closed captioning to my videos. From now on, if you’re hard of hearing or have any problems understanding my accent, you can turn on the subtitles (it’s the ‘CC’ option on all YouTube videos) and read along as I talk.

PlanetJune crochet video tutorials on YouTube - now with captions
An example screenshot of one of my tutorials with CC turned on.

An added bonus is that, now YouTube is owned by Google, non-English speakers can use Google’s auto-translate to get a (reasonable, if not perfect) translation of my videos, too:

PlanetJune crochet video tutorials on YouTube - auto-translate captions into any language
‘anneau magique’ = ‘magic ring’ in French! (Note: as far as I can see, auto-translate only works on the non-mobile version of YouTube at time of writing.)

I think adding these captions is a valuable addition to my video tutorials, and I’ll be creating transcripts for all my new videos in future, too. But doing this wasn’t something I’d planned…

Auto-Captions: a Cautionary Tale

Did you know that YouTube now adds automatic closed captioning to most videos? That sounds like a great feature, but it turns out it’s appallingly (and hilariously) inaccurate.

Yesterday, I looked at the auto-captions for my videos for the first time and was truly horrified. They made no sense at all; almost every word was wrong (e.g. it’s ‘loop stitch’, not ‘lipstick’). But, worst of all, they also included some adult words and phrases that often made it sound like I was describing something very different from crochet..!

After working so hard to produce clear, comprehensible video tutorials, to find YouTube had added this comedy subtitling was a big disappointment – anyone who’s tried to watch my videos with the closed captioning turned on must think I’m a complete idiot. (But, this was also an opportunity for me to enhance my videos by adding this feature properly, so it’s not all bad.)

As I was replacing the auto-captions on each video with my new transcripts, I kept a list of the old captions for one phrase that I always say at the start of every video: “this is June from PlanetJune”. It’s a good indication of how poor (and inconsistent) the auto-captioning is. For my 30 video tutorials, YouTube mis-interpreted that same phrase in 15 different ways:

  • this is Jin from panicking
  • this is came from panicking
  • this is Jim component you
  • this is Kim from time to time
  • this is Kim from from gene
  • this is Kim from pumpkin
  • this scheme complaint came
  • this is Jen from Panaji
  • this is Kim from Planet game
  • this is Jim component to
  • this is Jim from Planet came
  • this is Kim from planet King
  • this is Jin from panicking
  • this is June from panicking
  • this is Kim from panicking

…so I’m sure you can imagine how bad the captions for the remainder of the videos were (although “this is June from panicking” was a pretty accurate description of me when I first discovered the extent of this problem!)

I don’t know if my English accent caused extra problems for the auto-captioning, but, given the results I got with my fairly common/neutral accent I don’t have high hopes that auto-captioning is ever accurate enough to be useful.

Check your Video Captions

If you make YouTube videos, I’d recommend that you check the results of your auto-captions as soon as possible, and see if yours are any better than mine were!

  • If there are only a few mistakes, it’s easy to edit the captions to fix them.
  • If they’re as bad as mine were but you don’t have time to create proper transcripts at the moment, you can at least turn the auto-captions off for each video, so people won’t laugh at you!
  • Or, you can do what I did and replace the auto-captioning on each video with a text file containing a complete and accurate transcript. (This takes time, but it’ll help people to find you in search as well as being useful to your viewers, so I’d say it’s well worth doing.)

How do you do these things? Here are some helpful links from YouTube to get you started:


Closed captioning my videos wasn’t something I’d ever thought to do, but yet again (as with my mobile-friendly site redesign last year) Google has forced my hand in a way that’s made me improve my offerings. So, um, thanks, Google?

If you’d like to see my tutorials, I have playlists for them in my YouTube channel:

I’m very happy to have accurate and helpful subtitles on all my video tutorials now, and I hope they’ll make my videos an even more useful resource for crocheters. ๐Ÿ™‚

Comments (8)

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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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