PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

knit camel vest

This is sweater #12 of my ‘learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters’ project. (Here are links to #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 #8, #9, #10, and #11, if you’d like to see my progress.)

What could I do for my 12th sweater project that I haven’t already done?! I started thinking this would have to be a spectacular finale to the project, and that put so much pressure on me, I couldn’t get started! So I decided to step back and just make something I wanted to make, as I did for all the others.

camel vest

Now, you could argue that a vest is not really a sweater, but all it’s missing is the sleeves (and I definitely know how to knit sleeves by now) so I don’t think this is cheating – I could have added sleeves if I had more yarn, and I had plenty to learn from designing and knitting this vest, which was really the point of my whole project.

I had about 500m of deliciously soft baby camel yarn left over from my amigurumi Camel (I’d bought 5 hanks to take advantage of a wholesale discount price – it was far too expensive to justify buying 100% baby camel yarn for a toy at retail price). I’d hoped to think of some way to use this extremely warm yarn to make something useful, but the low yardage was going to be a challenge, so I decided it’d have to be a fairly close-fitting vest, and I’d do some calculations on the fly to make sure I could use as much of the yarn as possible without running out.

To keep it interesting and build my skills, I chose an all-over textured stitch pattern instead of plain stockinette.

camel vest

Instead of joining a new ball of yarn at the end of a row, I used the Russian join to minimise wasted yarn (and had to consult my own book for the instructions – it’s been a long time since I’ve used this join and I couldn’t quite remember how to do it!)

And my plan worked, eventually! It took some re-knitting: I started my textured stitch pattern in a way that caused the whole bottom border to flip up (a fact that didn’t reveal itself in my swatch or until I was way past the point of wanting to unravel it all and restart). I kept going and then unravelled from the bottom cast-on edge up until the point where I could fix the problem (and also to recover some yarn to use for a more substantial neckband than I’d budgeted for – I didn’t like the look of the narrow one I tried first), then I reknitted the bottom border and added the neckband.

camel vest

I added a new tool to my knitting toolkit: an interchangeable crochet hook (size E/3.5mm) for picking up stitches. Being a left-hander, but a right-handed knitter, I’ve found that picking up stitches along an edge (as a way to start e.g. a button band or armhole edging) with a needle is too challenging for me. Until now, I’d been picking up a few stitches at a time with a normal crochet hook, then dropping them off the hook and picking them up on the needle, but this was slow and fiddly.

Now, I can just unscrew the needle tip from the cable, screw on the hook, pick up all the stitches with ease and slide them onto the cable as I go, and then switch back to the needle tip to begin knitting! The interchangeable hook has been a brilliant addition to my interchangeable needle collection.

In the end, I used 99% of my yarn (woohoo!) to complete the vest, and I’m happy with the result – it’s extremely soft and very warm without being bulky. It isn’t the sort of thing I’d usually wear – either in style or colour – but this extra-warm layer is turning out to be very useful, and it’s the natural colour of the baby camels who donated their yarn so that I could knit this vest, so that’s pretty cool!

camel vest

Skills I learnt in this project:

  • Working an all-over texture throughout a piece (I really like the result of the stitch pattern I used – I think it looks like a yummy waffle).
  • Garter stitch… I know, it’s the most basic stitch, and yet I’ve actually never knitted anything in garter stitch until I decided to use garter edgings on this vest. I haven’t been a big fan of the look of garter, although I’m willing to change my mind on that point, because I love how flat my edgings are compared with stockinette! There are definite benefits to not being an anti-garter stitch snob.
  • Decreasing in pattern for the V-neck (note to self: if I was doing it again, I’d have left two stitches of stockinette at the edge instead of one: one for the selvedge and one to make a neat border at the base of the edging).
  • Weighing the work so far and adapting the design on the fly to account for the lack of yarn.
  • Picking up stitches around an armhole.
  • Making an armhole edging.
  • Making a buttonhole in garter stitch.

camel vest

I was hoping to find some colourful buttons (maybe turquoise or dark purple) to contrast with the yarn colour, but there wasn’t anything in the right size and colour in the button shop, so I went with this dusty pink. I think it looks okay, although I may make some polymer clay buttons and swap them at some point. But, for now, it’s finished.

camel vest

And, with that, my 12 sweater project is complete. Isn’t that amazing?!

I have a lot to say about the experience of the project and where I’ll go from here, but I’ll save those thoughts for a wrap-up post…

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Lion Cub and Family crochet patterns

After having the privilege of watching packs of lions in the wild at Kruger Park, I thought my Lion and Lioness pattern would be adorable with a little Lion Cub pattern to complete the family. And after making the cubs, I think I was right…

Lion Family crochet patterns by PlanetJune

What do you think?

My new Lion Cub pattern complements my existing Lion & Lioness pattern perfectly, and is also a sweet standalone pattern in its own right.

Lion Cub crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Lion Cub is very fast to crochet, at only 5″ long, so you can whip up a few realistic baby lions in no time! They’re sure to charm with their big cub paws and cute little faces.

You can buy the adorable Lion Cub pattern alone, or get a great deal when you buy the whole Lion Family multipack together!

Note: If you’ve already bought the Lion and Lioness pattern, you don’t have to miss out on this deal! Just buy the Lion Cub, then email me with 1) your Lion Cub order number and 2) the order number (or date) from when you bought Lion & Lioness, and I’ll send you a coupon for $2 off your next order of $5 or more. (The coupon will remain valid for a whole year, so don’t worry if there’s nothing else you want to buy right now!)

Lion Family crochet patterns by PlanetJune

Handy Links:

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2017: year in review

2017 has been very far from the year I was expecting; when I started another year in South Africa, I didn’t dare to dream that I’d be back home in Canada by the end of the year. And yet, here I am – yay! ♥

An Unexpected Turn of Events

Things seem to have a habit of going in different directions than I’d anticipated, but at least the advantage of keeping my business small is that, without anyone else on the PlanetJune team, I can easily change plans and switch directions on the fly, to adapt to circumstances.

  • I invested a big chunk of time towards the end of 2016 in updating my Commissions system, but then decided that it was time for it to be retired (and, a few months later, I don’t regret that decision at all).
  • With a goal to concentrate on my YouTube channel in 2017, I invested financially in new video recording equipment and editing software, but a minor-but-ugly thumb injury that’s only just healing now has meant I haven’t been able to make even one new crochet video all year. (I’ve managed to keep making patterns through a combination of careful hand positioning and photoshopping, but neither of those are practical for videos!)
  • And, of course, the big one: I didn’t start the year expecting I’d be planning and coordinating another move halfway around the world, and have to simultaneously plan how to bolster my business to weather the storm of having no office/studio or equipment for 3 months, so no way to produce new patterns…

2017 Achievements

Wearing my web developer hat, I’ve completed some dull-but-necessary tech projects:

  • Added a privacy policy page to comply with privacy and disclosure requirements.
  • Converted PlanetJune to HTTPS (so you can tell I’m 100% trustworthy by the green padlock in your browser’s address bar).
  • Added credit card processing in my shop (finally!) so you aren’t required to use PayPal any more.
  • Updated my shop to also allow payment in Canadian dollars, and to prepare for the sales taxes I’m going to need to start collecting from Canadians from today onwards.

Wearing my designer hat, I’ve been splitting myself in two this year, and squirrelling away half my new designs so I’ll have some new releases to get PlanetJune through the lean winter months while I can’t create new patterns! Despite that, I’ve had some strong pattern releases this year and made some good decisions that have helped PlanetJune to keep growing.

2017 PlanetJune crochet patterns

I’ve always said that quality is more important than quantity, so I’m not disappointed in my 10 new patterns (plus one re-release) this year – especially as so many of my latest patterns include multiple designs. Count up all the different options here and you’ll see I actually have 25 new pieces you can crochet – that’s not a bad number at all!

And, despite my thumb injury, I added a few new helpful crochet tutorials:

2017 PlanetJune tutorials

Planning for the move hasn’t left much time for creative pursuits this year, but I always try to keep some time free for crafting and personal development:

2017 PlanetJune crafting

I’m still knitting sweaters, I’ve played around a bit with needlefelting, and I’ve also started to teach myself Japanese (although I’ve let that slide a bit over the last couple of months – my brain has been fully occupied with more pressing matters!)

Lessons Learnt

Although this year has been anything but easy, I got through it and now I’m at the point where I’ve accomplished the move, and have the next 3 months of PlanetJune designs ready to publish! All this has proved to me that I can still be strong when I need to be, and that simplifying things is the key to dealing with major challenges. I’ll try to remember these lessons when things get overwhelming in future:

  • Don’t be afraid to make big decisions if they’ll bring you closer to your dream job/life/situation.
  • Know that even the best plans need to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Keep moving forwards, even if you’re sometimes moving at a crawl.

I think these wise words can apply to anything you’re trying to do – especially a goal that feels like it may be a bit too ambitious or unattainable.

Looking Forward

It’s tempting to think that, now my move home is complete, I should be able to plunge right back into working hard for PlanetJune, to make up for lost time and get business booming, but the reality of a sustainable one-person business is that you have to balance building the business with caring for the person behind the business.

Although I haven’t talked much about this since it happened, I’ve struggled with my health for the past 3.5 years since the trauma of my home invasion experience. It profoundly affected me, and the PTSD hasn’t gone away.

I hope that now I’m back in Canada, my life will start to stabilise and I can concentrate on rebuilding myself. I think the distance will help me to finally recover from the mental trauma and give me enough energy to also start to rebuild my physical strength after being a virtual prisoner in my own home for years. It’s only been a few weeks and I’m already feeling much better, so I’m confident I can achieve this in the coming year.

You may have also noticed the absence of local wildlife posts since my bad experience – I couldn’t even find the courage to go into my garden alone without bringing on panic attacks, so sitting peacefully in nature with my camera is something I’ve sorely missed, apart from on our occasional holidays to safer places. But now (and especially once winter is over) I’ll be able to get back outside and enjoy nature again!

As for PlanetJune, I still absolutely love what I do here – designing new patterns, developing new techniques, and teaching people how to make beautiful things. I’m very motivated to keep doing all that, and I don’t need to set any specific goals to know that’s how I want to spend my time and earn my living.

I don’t know what the coming year will hold and how much time and energy I’ll have available for all the ideas I have for PlanetJune. As I can’t predict the shape of my life this year, I’m going to keep my business plans very simple and free from anything even remotely resembling a deadline. My overall goal is to work to the best of my ability with the time available to me, to explore, design and create new patterns and supporting tutorials.

For 2018, I want to dial way back on the excitement and build a strong foundation for the future, both personally and professionally. My wishes for this year are for peace, calm, and quiet strength. I wish those things for you too, and a very Happy New Year!

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South Africa wildlife XI: last Kruger Safari

Last year we had our first safari trip to Kruger, and it was as amazing as you’d expect. We took two tours with experienced safari guides, and spent a day with friends who had a car. This year, for our second Kruger trip and as a finale to our African experience, we hired a car for a whole week so we could slow down and explore by ourselves.

With 7 days of venturing into the park with my rental car and camera, I ended up with about 6000 photos and some amazing memories. Hunting for wildlife ourselves was completely different from being driven around. Just stopping and sitting (safely inside the car!), you can wait and observe behaviours as the animals relax and accept you as a part of the scenery – it’s a much more intimate experience.

As this was my second safari trip, I tried to get some more candid shots this time around, and share some more unusual special moments. I’ve split them into 4 short galleries below – please click into any to see the full-size photos and read my captions.

Note: For the more typical safari experience and an introduction to Kruger, please check out my post from last year – I’ve tried not to replicate too much from there with this year’s photo selection!

Scenic shots

With this set, I’ve tried to give you some of the feeling of being out in the endless wild spaces of Kruger.

Behaviour

Animals going about the business of their daily lives – eating, greeting, fighting, playing…

Birds

A small selection of my favourite bird portraits from this trip (this section could have been many times longer!)

Animals

And we’ll finish with some of my favourite animal moments…

I wanted to select these photos for you while the experience was still fresh in my mind – it’s already starting to fade, but looking through all my photos has brought it right back again! I’m so thankful to have had these amazing wildlife experiences that are worlds away from anything I’ll see in Canada, and I’m glad I have my photos as a record of our adventures.

I hope these photos have given you a little taste of the magic of the wilds of Africa! Please leave me a comment if you’ve enjoyed them…

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pink cabled cardigan

This is sweater #11 of my ‘learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters’ project. (Here are links to #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 #8, #9, and #10, if you’d like to see my progress.)

pink cabled cardigan

With only 2 sweaters left to go, I didn’t think I could really claim to have conquered knitting if I’d never tried to cable, and I couldn’t put that off any longer!

I used Ysolda’s instructions for cabling without a cable needle – I’ve done all my knitting so far with just my interchangeable circular needles, and I like the idea of not needing any extra equipment where possible. Cabling is kind of fun – I don’t know why I waited so long to try it!

pink cabled cardigan

Aside from the cables, I tested out a few more new (to me) techniques with this design:

  • I read that, when making a turned hem after a provisional cast-on, using one size larger needles for the joining row gives a less visible result, so I tried that. Verdict: I’m not sure it made much difference….
  • I didn’t know how to tackle joining the part of the facing that sits behind the cable, so I left those stitches on some waste yarn and then sewed them to the back of the cable later.
    pink cabled cardigan
    pink cabled cardigan
    Verdict: I’m really happy with how neat it looks!
  • I worked the cardigan as one piece up to the armholes, but I tried using a ‘basting’ stitch at each side – one extra column of purl stitches, to be ‘seamed’ later to add stability where the side seams would normally be. pink cabled cardigan
    ‘basting’ column (L: right side, before seaming it invisibly away, R: wrong side)

    Verdict: It worked, but I think I prefer working in pieces and seaming. Call me weird, but I love mattress stitch!

Apart from that, I used techniques I’ve used before: waist shaping, and an attached icord edging all the way around (including the bottom edge and sleeve cuffs), leaving the icord detached to form buttonholes – a throwback to my very first sweater! In this case though, I think the icord echoes the width of the cables and gives a nice finish.

pink cabled cardigan

I really like the finished sweater, but keeping track of the 20 rows of the cable proved a bit frustrating at times – I’m not fully able to read the cable stitches yet to see where I am, as the shaping of the cable only really becomes apparent in later rows. I tried dropping down to fix mistakes, but because cabling takes a different amount of yarn than regular stitches, I wasn’t happy with the results and ended up having to frog 4 rows a couple of times when I’d made the open circle in the cable pattern too long or too short, and only realised much later.

I also found the cabling took too much time away from the meditative action of knitting, so I don’t think I’ll be designing many heavily-cabled pieces in the future (although, a simpler cable with an easier repeat may be an option).

pink cabled cardigan

But I’m happy with the end result, and the yarn (a cotton/acrylic blend) will make this a nice lightweight piece for warmer weather (although completely inappropriate for the current Canadian winter – I’ll look forward to wearing it next spring!)


So that was 11 of my 12 sweaters for this ‘learn-to-knit’ project completed, and at this point I was in a quandary as to what to design for the final piece in the collection. Was I still missing any essential knitting skills? (Colourwork is the obvious one, but I want these to all be wardrobe staples I’ll wear all the time, and I really don’t wear multi-coloured sweaters.)

I’ll reveal what I chose to make for the last piece in my next knitting update…

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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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