PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

As always, I was not compensated for this review, and the following is based on my honest opinions!

Overview

Making Pipe Cleaner Pets by Takashi Morito was originally published in Japanese, and has now been translated into English.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I’ve previously reviewed another translated-from-Japanese craft book (Crafting with Cat Hair) and, like that book, this is another book of adorable crafts you’d probably never think of making until you see the book!

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

Throughout, this book has a very Japanese aesthetic. On the photo pages, the dogs are posed in cute tableaus with a variety of unrelated props – books, craft supplies, crackers – and a haiku-esque poem to introduce each dog, for example:

The morning air feels good
Now, we’ll all play ball
And bathe in the morning sun

The overall effect is charming in that bizarre Japanese craft book kind of way.

(I should mention that ‘Making Pipe Cleaner Pets‘ is a bit of a misnomer if you’re looking for a variety of pets – this is a book of dogs. It has designs for 23 different dog breeds, plus puppy-sized miniature versions of several of the breeds.)

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets
A few more of the included dog breeds.

After the cute photo gallery of all the dogs, we get to the tutorials for how to make them. The first three dogs (Toy Poodle, Pug, Boston Terrier) have detailed step-by-step instructions, including both a diagram of each step and a photo of the result.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

Those three designs teach you the basic techniques you’ll need to make all the dogs. The other 20 dog breeds have text and diagrams only, but the basic idea is the same for all the dogs, so you’ll rarely need to look back once you’ve tackled a couple of the easier dogs.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

My Experience

I found the perfect pack of pipe cleaner colours (two browns, grey, white and black) and got started! I planned to make 2 or 3 dogs, to give myself a chance to get the hang of the technique.

First up, I tried the Toy Poodle, the first and apparently easiest dog in the book:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

My completed effort definitely looked like a dog, but nothing like a poodle! The legs were too short, so I decided to embrace that: I shortened them further by folding over the ends, and reshaped the face a bit (by squashing it around), and now it’s a dachshund puppy. 🙂

For my next attempt, I thought I’d try the actual Dachshund model:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I felt like the proportions in the instructions weren’t quite right, so I lengthened the body and shortened the legs as I made my initial bends in the pipe cleaner, and I think it looks pretty good!

Okay, I’m getting the hang of this now; time to step it up a notch with a multi-colored dog. I tried the Jack Russell Terrier:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I like the result – the head colours are good – but I somehow made it all a bit skinny (my fault, not the book’s). I think mine has a bit of greyhound in him 😉

And then the Pug:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I learnt from my mistakes and used the basic method from the book, but tweaked all the proportions to be more suited to how I think a pug should look. I ended up with lots of the dark brown showing on the back of the head, so I wove a bit more of the light-coloured pipe cleaner over to hide that. What a cute pug face!

After making a few dogs, you get a feel for what you’re doing, as the basic concept is very similar for all the dogs. I decided to make some modifications for my last two dogs…

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

The Miniature Schnauzer model seemed like a bit of a cheat to me – the white beard and eyebrows were formed separately and glued into place! Instead, I used what I’d learned from the Pug and built the beard into the face.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

And finally, the Corgi. I used the book for the face colours, but built the body myself, plumping it up and omitting the tail completely.

The advantage of this book is that, as all the dogs are constructed along the same principles, once you’ve made a few, you should be able to get a bit more creative and extend the same principles to different animals. I thought I’d test my theory by trying – what else – a grey cat!

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I basically made another dog, but tweaked all the proportions as I went (shorter muzzle and ears, wider face, longer neck, etc) to make it more feline. The great thing about pipe cleaner models is they are completely poseable, so it’s easy to adjust the leg positions, add a curve to the back, or reposition the tail, if you decide it doesn’t look quite right.

The book suggests some finishing touches – glued-on plastic eyes and noses, trimming some of the pipe cleaner fuzz to make e.g. pointier ears, and an occasional glued-on mouth or tongue. Even my smallest (4.5mm) animal eyes are too large for my dogs, so I decided to keep my dogs (and cat) as pure pipe cleaners. I’m sure they’d look even cuter with faces, but I like them as they are, and I like that there aren’t any glued-on parts this way – they are simply twisted pipe cleaners and nothing more.

Top Tips

  • The first stumbling block is that all the designs in this book use 1m (40 inch) long pipe cleaners, which may be common in Japan, but I’ve never seen in all my years and countries of craft shopping! The book instructs that you can instead twist multiple regular-length pipe cleaners together to make a long one, but I’d recommend you use one at a time, and twist on a new one as you reach the end of the old one – it’s a lot more manageable that way. I used 3 or 4 pipe cleaners for the main colour of each dog (and 1 or 2 of any secondary colour).
  • All the dogs’ muzzles are made by coiling the pipe cleaner and then feeding the remaining end through the middle of the coil. I found this to be impossibly difficult to do neatly, until I coiled the pipe cleaner around a narrow tube (I used a small knitting needle), which gave perfectly round coils, and a nice space in the middle for feeding the end through.

Verdict

I found the concept of pipe cleaner dog models to be fun, but it was more challenging than I’d expected. Although it looks like a kid’s craft, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for young children – it’s not easy to make a dog that looks like the photos! Teens with good dexterity and patience may enjoy making dogs, and it’s great for crafty adults like me.

The dogs are very cute and fun to pose, but there’s a bit of a learning curve, and every dog will end up with its own personality, no matter how closely you follow the directions. But that variation is part of the enjoyment of making things by hand: I feel it adds to the charm – just like a litter of real puppies, you never know exactly how each one will look until you see it!

If you persevere through a couple of practice runs, you’ll be able to make cute pipe cleaner pups too, and, once you’ve made a few dogs, you’ll see how the general idea works, and be able to try designing your own animals, if you want.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

If you’re looking for an unusual craft to try, I can recommend Making Pipe Cleaner Pets as a fun diversion, and a great introduction to sculpting pipe cleaner animals!

Comments (8)

free pattern: Crochet Plant Hanger

Today I have a new fast and lovely donationware pattern for you: it’s my Crochet Plant Hanger!

The free version of this pattern is sized to match the small plant pots from my Cactus and Succulent Collection patterns, and you can use this pattern to make hangers for both your small crocheted potted plants and for real (approx 2″ diameter) plant pots.

crochet plant hanger by planetjune

But I didn’t stop with just one size of plant hanger…

crochet plant hanger crochet pattern

The PDF version, available for any size donation, includes additional tips, three options for the hanging loop, and any-size modifications for this pattern, so you can make a plant hanger to fit any diameter and height of round pot, using any yarn and any hook. 

You don’t need to take any measurements in advance – just hold your work up to the pot as you go, and you can custom-fit it as you crochet (much easier than it sounds!)

I really appreciate those of you who choose to donate for my donationware patterns (whether it’s a $2 or $20+ donation – every dollar counts). I’d have stopped creating ‘free’ patterns many years ago if not for your generous donations that support the creation of future donationware patterns and make it worth my while to keep creating them!

So, to show my appreciation, I give added value to the PDF version wherever I can, and in this case, it means you get a versatile pattern that you can use with any size and height of round plant pot, for real and crocheted plants!

crochet plant hanger by planetjune

Just look at how pretty that star-shaped base is on the larger sizes! That’s my favourite part of my design… 🙂

Links to the Pattern(s):

Go to the free small Crochet Plant Hanger pattern >>

Or jump straight to donate:

Pay what you want for the any-size Crochet Plant Hanger pattern >>

And if you need some crocheted plants to display in your hangers, I have you covered:

Check out the PlanetJune Potted Plant crochet patterns >>

(The plants pictured above are my Pansies, String of Pearls (from Succulent Collection 2) and Christmas Cactus.)

Not ready to make a plant hanger yet? Add it to your Ravelry queue:

PS – Don’t forget to share your plant hangers – for crocheted or real potted plants! – in the PlanetJune BotaniCAL on Ravelry 🙂

Comments (2)

New Crochet Tutorial Videos

Thanks to a long-lasting thumb injury and a intercontinental move, it’s been a frustratingly long time since I’ve been able to make any new crochet tutorial videos. But all that’s about to change!

To commemorate my return to YouTube, I’ve updated my video template with a fresh new look and animated logo, and, to ease myself back into the video-making saddle, I’ve re-edited my last-published video to add some additional info (as well as the new look). Want to see?

Better Back Loop Only Details for Amigurumi (right-handed)

Better Back Loop Only Details for Amigurumi (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 🙂

You can also find more detailed information on this topic, including a discussion of when to use it in my accompanying tutorial post.

And here’s a topical bonus: if you’re taking part in our BotaniCAL crochet-along, the technique I demonstrate here is perfect for the edge around the bottom of your crocheted plant pots!

New Tutorials Coming Soon!

Now I’m back up to speed with editing with my new software and I have my new template set up, you can expect regular new crochet videos from me again! All my tutorials are clear, concise and in close-up, and come in right- and left-handed versions, with full closed captions (in case you find it easier to read my words than listen to them).

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here and you’ll never miss a new PlanetJune video. 🙂

PlanetJune Crochet Video Tutorials on YouTube

Your Video Requests?

I already have a long list of tutorials I’d like to make, but I’d also like to hear your video requests. Are there any crochet techniques I use in my patterns that I haven’t explained on video yet and you’d like to see? Let me know by email, or in the comments below, and I’ll make note of all your requests.

I hope you’ll enjoy my crochet videos – both the library of existing tutorials, and the new videos to come!

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review: Dutch Label Shop custom labels

Dutch Label Shop thought I might be interested in trying their custom woven labels, and they were right! What better way to brand my crochet art and knitwear than with unique PlanetJune labels?

Dutch Label Shop provided me with store credit so I could test out their labels, but, as always, I was not compensated for this review, and the following is based on my honest opinions!

examples of labels from Dutch Label Shop

Dutch Label Shop offer a wide variety of labels for creative artisans to brand their handmade goods. They offer care and size labels for garments, as well as custom brand labels, with low minimum quantities. All the labels are woven (not embroidered), washable, and available in iron-on or sew-on versions.

I decided to try designing two completely different PlanetJune labels, so I could test many of the different label options: a long black label with end folds that I can sew into my handmade knitwear, and a square white double-sided (folded) label that I can stitch to handmade toys and crochet art pieces.

Here’s a sneak peek of my labels:

PlanetJune custom woven labels from Dutch Label Shop
Don’t they look good?!

My Experience

Note: If you don’t have your own custom logo, it’s easy to create a Basic Label by typing in your text, choosing a font you like, (and, optionally, adding one of their built-in symbols, e.g. I’d have used one of their cute yarn balls if I didn’t have my PlanetJune yarn planet). The colour choices and sizes are more limited, and they don’t offer folded labels, but the prices are much lower for smaller quantities than for the Logo Label, so I’d recommend you look at this option if you don’t have a brand logo. The rest of my review applies to just the Logo labels, as those are what I tested.

The pricing for Logo labels starts high, at several dollars per label, but quickly drops to very reasonable prices when you buy in bulk. As I wanted to test multiple options, I didn’t take advantage of the best bulk buy pricing. I ordered 50 of my black labels and 16 of my white labels for just under $100. (If I was selling my handiwork I’d probably have bought 300 or more labels of each type, to bring the price down to under 1/3 of my cost per label – they’ll last forever, so it’s a good investment.)

As these labels are completely woven, you can choose any colour for the background and one or more colours for your design. If you’d like to match your logo shade, the listed colours give their Pantone codes after the name. You can use an online converter (like this one) to find the closest match to your brand colours.

You can set up your label to be any size and shape you want. One thing that isn’t immediately clear from the setup page is that the label size you select is the complete size of the label that they create, before any folds. (The size of the end folds isn’t mentioned anywhere, from what I can see, but you can get your questions answered quickly using their Live Chat box – as I found out, you need to allow 1/4″ per end fold, if you choose a label with those.)

I created the graphics for my labels based on my logo, and uploaded them as PDF files:

PlanetJune custom woven labels from Dutch Label Shop

Then I submitted my order and waited. With a Logo label, their designers make sure the label is going to look good before they print it, and they contact you if you’ve done anything wrong. (You can also pay extra to have a photo proof of a finished label emailed to you for approval before they create the entire batch. I didn’t choose that option, but it’s a good idea, especially if you wanted to lower the label cost by ordering in bulk – you don’t want to end up with 300 wrong labels!)

I was surprised when my labels arrived – I thought I’d have been contacted by their designer before the labels were printed, but apparently I provided all the information they needed without querying me on anything (yay, me!)

I was impressed to see that I was sent a few labels more than I ordered, presumably to insure against the possibility of a couple of them being flawed. (As they are individually woven, there is a little more variability between labels than you may expect.)

My PlanetJune Labels

PlanetJune custom woven labels from Dutch Label Shop

I think these black labels will make my handmade clothing look so professional! My yarn planet is slightly squashed due to the limitations of the weaving process at such a small scale, but overall I’m very happy with the label.

(The predominantly red side is the back, in case you haven’t seen woven labels before! The unused colour is carried on the back while the other is being woven on the front.)

One thing I hadn’t realised is that, no matter which colours you choose for background and foreground, there are white warp threads running throughout the label. You can just see them as a slight amount of grey speckling in the black around my yarn planet. As my logo is so detailed, if I need to order more of these labels, I’ll choose a white background instead of black, to avoid that speckling, and make the label a bit taller, so I could make my yarn planet slightly larger.

PlanetJune custom woven labels from Dutch Label Shop

As you can see, with the white background and a slightly larger size, my yarn planet looks really good! I think these little square labels are adorable, and perfect for stitching onto crocheted toys.

I chose the ‘double white’ option for a small additional fee, which helps the colours to not show through the white background – as you can see from the back of my label (back right in the above photo), all the white areas are covered with red on the back, but that doesn’t show through at all from the front, so I’m very happy I chose this option.

For the label at the front right of my photo, I’ve folded in the label ends, and finger-pressed them to make a crease. This is how I plan to attach these labels neatly to amigurumi, by sewing the crease lines down to the ami. For sewn pieces, I could leave the ends unfolded and trap them in a seam as I stitch it.

Specifications

For reference, if you like the look of my labels and want to make similarly-sized ones, I made Logo Labels with the following options:

  • My black labels are 2.55″ by 0.5″ end fold labels
  • My white labels are 2″ by 0.75″ center fold labels with double white

Labels in Action!

And now for the moment of truth – how do they look and function in use?

It only took a couple of hidden stitches on each side to stitch labels into my handknit sweaters, and they look so good:

PlanetJune custom woven labels from Dutch Label Shop

I conducted an important test by wearing one of these sweaters after I’d stitched the label in. It wasn’t at all itchy or irritating next to my skin, which was a potential concern for me – I couldn’t even feel that the label was there, so it passed my test with flying colours.

And do you see what Mega Bun is now sporting near her tail?

PlanetJune custom woven labels from Dutch Label Shop

No? Look more closely:

PlanetJune custom woven labels from Dutch Label Shop

How cool is that?! A perfect way to brand a one-of-a-kind creation.

Verdict

I’m very happy with my order from Dutch Label Shop. Woven labels look so professional compared with printed labels. They make a great finishing touch to handmade pieces, and I’ll be sewing mine into all my handknits and crochet art pieces from now on, to prove they are PlanetJune originals. 😉

Although I found the wealth of options available when designing my labels a bit overwhelming, the online Live Chat service was very helpful for answering all my questions. And, when my labels arrived and I found a problem with some of my long labels (the weave had somehow been stretched and my logo was almost falling off the end of the label), Dutch Label Shop’s customer support was excellent and they re-sent the incorrectly woven labels with no problems, so I’m happy to recommend them for both their products and service!

Based on my experience, I have a few recommendations to give you the best chance of being delighted with your labels:

  1. Choose a white background if you have a very detailed logo, to avoid tiny dots of white showing in the areas with the finest detail.
  2. For the most versatile option, choose a label shape without end folds, but choose a long enough label size to add folds yourself beyond the edges of your design – you can fold and iron or finger-press them yourself to make sure your logo ends up centred on the finished label.
  3. If you want to reduce the cost, unless you have a graphical logo or want to order hundreds of labels, you could use their Basic option and design a text label with a nice font (and a generic icon from their selection, if you want) to make high quality woven labels at a lower price.

UPDATE: Dutch Label Shop have kindly offered PlanetJune readers a 15% discount for the next 60 days! To order, go to Dutch Label Shop and enter the code planetjune15 at checkout.

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new Succulent Collections 3 & 4 crochet patterns

I’m so excited to share my latest designs with you – I’ve been working on them for months and they’re finally ready. Announcing: Succulent Collections 3 & 4!

Succulent Collections 3 and 4 crochet patterns by PlanetJune

Since I published my Cactus Collections 1 & 2 (in 2010) and Succulent Collections 1 & 2 (in 2012) they’ve never dropped out of my bestseller lists. My potted plants are unique and popular – they’ve been featured in home decor magazines as well as crochet publications – and make a wonderful gift or desk decoration because they’re lifesize and realistic, plus they never need watering, never stop blooming, and never die!

I’ve had the idea for a few years now to develop more succulent patterns and, at the start of 2018, while I was living in an empty house waiting for my furniture (and yarn) to rejoin me from Africa, I took the opportunity to delve into succulent research.

I searched through over 500 succulent species to find different, interesting, and crochetable ideas. Once I had my crochet supplies back, I developed prototypes for 15 species, which I finally narrowed down to these two gorgeous new collections of four:

Succulent Collection 3 crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Succulent Collection 3, L-R: Conophytum Burgeri ‘Burger’s Onion’; Peperomia ‘Trailing Jade’; Crassula Capitella ‘Red Pagoda’; Aloe Vera ‘Medicine Plant’

Succulent Collection 4 crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Succulent Collection 4, L-R: Monilaria Moniliformis ‘Bunny Succulent’; Callisia Navicularis ‘Chain Plant’; Sedum Burrito ‘Burro’s Tail’; Echeveria ‘Mauna Loa’

I’ve developed some clever new techniques for you to enjoy with these patterns, and I’ve come up with some easy construction methods to minimise the sewing and finishing. I think you’ll have fun making these!

Here’s a gallery so you can click in and see each of the new succulents in more detail:

One of my challenges, now I have so many potted plant patterns, is to come up with an original design for the pot each time, and I’m delighted with the new pot for these collections. I made it to resemble stoneware pottery, with a striking textured zigzag decoration that you crochet as you go (it’s easier than it looks, and I’ve included bonus right- and left-handed step-by-step tutorials for it as appendices to both the new patterns) and I think it’s one of my favourite pots to date. I hope you’ll love it too.

zig-zag pot decoration detail from Succulent Collections 3 & 4 crochet patterns by PlanetJune

Mix and Match

And here’s the best part: all the new designs are completely interchangeable with all my other Cactus and Succulent Collection patterns!

Cactus Collections 1 & 2, and Succulent Collections 1-4 crochet patterns by PlanetJune

Now you can choose between 24 different plants for your next cactus/succulent garden, and you know they’ll all look good together! Just grab a few shades of green (or red, orange, purple, grey… google ‘succulents’ to look for colour inspiration!) and a hook and you’ll be ready to get started.

Crochet-Along (and Save!)

As with my other plant collections, you can save several dollars when you buy both collections in the set together. But you can save even more if you join the BotaniCAL crochet-along (CAL) in my PlanetJune group on Ravelry: just leave a message in the BotaniCAL thread saying you’d like to join the CAL, and I’ll private message you with an exclusive discount code that you can use against either or both of the new Succulent Collection patterns!

Find out more about the BotaniCAL here. I hope you’ll join us in crocheting PlanetJune plant, flower and fruit patterns over the next couple of months 🙂

Handy Links to the Patterns

Don’t forget to join the CAL and get your discount for the new patterns!

Heart and queue them on Ravelry:

  • Succulent Collection 3:
  • Succulent Collection 4:

And you can find all my other cactus and succulent patterns here!

Cactus Collections 1 & 2, and Succulent Collections 1-4 crochet patterns by PlanetJune
Back, L-R: Cactus Collection 2, Cactus Collection 1, Succulent Collection 1
Front, L-R: Succulent Collection 3, Succulent Collection 4, Succulent Collection 2

It’s been a long process to get to this point, but I’m so happy with the new additions to my collection of crocheted cacti and succulents, and I hope you will be too!

Please leave me a comment if you love them, and I hope to see you in the BotaniCAL soon 🙂

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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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