PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Adventures in Machine Knitting

Well yes, I seem to have picked up another new fibre-crafting hobby!

A few weeks ago, I somehow ended up on Facebook Marketplace, and noticed someone in my neighbourhood was selling something called the Ultimate Sweater Machine

knitting machine
It’s the ultimate!

I mean, how could I pass that up?! It even has the prestigious “As Seen on TV” award ūüėČ

I knew nothing about machine knitting, but I love crafting tools and learning new skills, so I couldn’t resist.

The machine was complete but for the instruction manual and – oh! the tragedy! – the patterns for the ’90s-chic designs pictured on the box. It did come with some instructions, but I have no way to view them…

knitting machine
Yep, this is old!

I began to question the sanity of my purchase, but thank goodness for YouTube – there were plenty of tutorials there to get me started. I clamped the machine to the front of a desk and I was ready to go:

knitting machine
I got lucky – the machine matches the length of my desk perfectly

My machine is about as simple as it gets. It only knits stockinette, and there’s no motor or electronics or automation – you operate it by pushing the carriage back and forth across the row of latch hooks. One pass equals one row of stockinette.

knitting machine
Pretty latch hooks, all in a row

In case you’re like me and wondering how on earth this works, here’s a 10-second explanation: inside the purple carriage, the angled bars on the green plate direct the raised peg near the back of each hook, which pushes each hook in and out as you move the carriage along. The hook is moved forwards to grab the yarn in the open latch, and then moved backwards, which closes the latch, draws the new yarn through the existing stitch, and drops the old stitch off the hook.

knitting machine
It’s a simple but clever mechanism

It’s possible to make increases, decreases, lace and cables with the machine, but you have to move each stitch in turn into its new position (which takes ages) before you knit each row – it’s a completely manual process.

(If you wanted to do ribbing, or any other stitch pattern consisting of both knits and purls, there’s no way to do that except to drop every stitch that should be a purl, and hook it back up in the other direction with a crochet hook or latch hook – I’m not sure if you’d save much time at all after all that faffing around!)

After a few stitch-dropping fiascos, I got the hang of the machine and knitted a rag hem (a reusable provisional weighted hem). The machine is incredibly fast when you’re just knitting back and forth – it just takes a couple of seconds to knit a full row!

knitting machine
Woohoo! I knitted something on the machine!

I made two more rag hems, both for practice using the machine and as gauge swatches for my first ‘proper’ project (blog post coming soon…)

And here’s the rag hem in action as I start swatching for another project:

  • The weighted rod slides inside the bottom edge of the hem to weigh down the project
  • The pink thread temporarily attaches the project to the hem
  • The yellowish-green yarn is the first row of my project

knitting machine
Rag hem in action

Here’s the finished swatch before I bound it off. It looks pretty strange, because the stitches are hugely stretched out across the machine, and the front of the fabric faces away from you as you knit:

knitting machine
Knitting in progress (with the rag hem at the bottom)

After removing the project from the machine, the stretched stitches retract back into regular knitted fabric. Flip it over, and you have rows and rows of stockinette:

knitting machine
Looks like knitting!

I have big plans for this machine – in theory, I should be able to design a handknit sweater and knit my design much more quickly than on manual needles. You may consider it cheating, but I’ll still have to form every increase and decrease myself at the right places, and do all the assembly and knit the ribbing by hand. It’s just a different way to knit, and I think I’m going to enjoy it!


Have you ever tried machine knitting? Or do you think it’s cheating to use a machine?!

I’d love to hear about your experiences, or if you have any resources or tips to share. Let me know in the comments below!

Comments (4)

2019: year in review

My long-established ritual in the last weeks of each year is to pull back from the day-to-day and look back over the entire year so I can put together my Year in Review post.

Writing these posts helps me to see what I’ve accomplished, think about what I’ve learnt, and decide what I’d like to do differently in the following year.

2019 Achievements

In 2019 I published 14 new crochet patterns plus 2 re-releases (I added an extra cactus design to the Heart Cactus Collection and the Canadian flag pattern to the Maple Leaf Collection):

2019 PlanetJune crochet patterns

(Can you guess what the surprise pattern hit of the year was? My Bearded Dragon! It must have taken a little while for word to spread, because, after a slow start, it’s become one of my top sellers!)

I self-published my first crochet ebook, The Complete Guide to Giant Amigurumi, in right- and left-handed versions:

The Complete Guide to Giant Amigurumi ebook by June Gilbank - available in right-handed and left-handed versions

I’ve added to my tutorial library with nine new tutorials:

2019 PlanetJune tutorials

And I’ve knitted, crocheted, sewn, woven and needlefelted projects in my downtime, plus a few more fun projects that I haven’t had a chance to blog about yet (time spent writing is time spent not crafting!)

2019 PlanetJune craft projects

Last summer, I decided to stop logging customer support requests for my business. I’d been tracking them every day for over 5 years, and, at this point, the value of the time I’m saving is much higher than the value of the data I’m losing. I’ve used the data to assemble an arsenal of template responses to the questions I most commonly receive, so it’s served its purpose.

And, in the autumn, I opened my pop-up crochet tool shop for the first time, and it worked well. Opening the online pop-up shop occasionally to offer a limited run of my stuffing tools is a way to let me balance my time and commitments without having to let people down by discontinuing my tools completely. I also successfully introduced some new tools to the pop-up shop, so I think this will be a good model going forward.

To further my own learning this year, I attended an inspiring photography workshop and completed a very useful voice artist course.

I also collaborated with my Mum to publish her book of original Scottish music and, now I’m an Amazon publisher, I’ll be able to use what I’ve learnt to produce and publish more books in future.

Musings on Blogging

I’ve been battling with the ‘shoulds’ when it comes to my blog for the past few years: as my blog supports my business, I should mostly publish things that relate to my business; I should publish posts on a regular schedule; I should use my blog to make more money by adding annoying adverts all over the place, etc…

But, it’s my blog! Sharing what I’ve been making and hopefully inspiring you to add more creativity to your life in the process is one of the reasons why I started blogging in the first place, and I want to make more time to document and share all my creative pursuits here, not just my crochet designs and tutorials.

It makes good business sense to only share product-related posts: blogging about my hobby projects takes time and doesn’t make me any money (the only downside of sticking to my guns and not allowing ads to interrupt my website…) – craft blogging without ads is not paid work, and it’s not exactly play either.

Even so, this year I’ve tried several new hobbies that I haven’t found the time to blog about yet, and I want that to change next year. It’s strange to get to the end of the year and look back for the photos of my craft projects and discover that many of the things I’ve made aren’t posted here, but I’ve still been making the time for creative play – it’s one of the things I enjoy best in the world – and I want to share all of that with you again!

I hope you’ll enjoy it too when I do. I find social media to be mentally exhausting, so I love the thought of being more present in my own quiet little corner of the internet, and hopefully re-engaging with you all about the joy of making via chat in the comments below each of my posts.

Managing my Energy

I’ve been working to improve my sleep quality and reduce my anxiety levels this year. My mental and physical health are both much better than they have been for a long time (yay!) but I still have an ongoing unexplained fatigue problem that makes my daily life much more challenging than it used to be.

It’s very frustrating to have so many ideas for things I want to do, but not enough energy to make them all happen, especially if I need to reserve enough energy for making dinner and other daily commitments. These days, I can’t manage more than an hour or two of anything – work or play – without getting completely worn out.

But I’ve recently started experimenting with a new way to manage my energy: if I have two or three sessions per day, separated by long rests or naps, I’m more productive overall than trying to push through when I get exhausted.

It feels like I’m being lazy and wasting time, but when I do rest for an hour or two it often gives me the energy for another creative burst (or to go grocery shopping, exercise, or do whatever else needs to be done). It’s not ideal, but I think this will be better than a constant struggle to keep going, and hopefully this fatigue won’t last forever.

Looking Forward

This year my priorities are to continue to develop innovative new crochet patterns, to do enough tech upgrades to keep my website running smoothly, and to share more of my crafting here on the blog.

And, above all that, to keep self-care at the top of the list – my design breakthroughs don’t happen unless I have enough time and rest to get my brain working at full capacity.

Last year, I wished for focus, determination and acceptance. My focus has been compromised by my lack of energy these days, and my determination to push through that has only led to more exhaustion, so acceptance – trying to make peace with my situation – has become even more important in making the most of my life.

My wishes for 2020 are for:

  • acceptance of the things I can’t control, like my fatigue problem, and the bigger problems in the world
  • appreciation for all the good stuff in my life – I’m so fortunate in many ways
  • inspiration – a new decade is a perfect time to try new things, and I have a feeling I have some great ideas coming!

I hope you’ll continue to accompany me on my creative journey into this next decade, and I hope 2020 brings you fresh creative energy too! Happy New Year ūüôā

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Needlefelted Poinsettia

Every December from 2006 to 2015 (with only one year off) I designed and made a PlanetJune Poinsettia. As a multi-crafter, it was a fun challenge to keep making the same thing using different tools and materials and slightly different styles, but I’ve let the project drop for the past few years.

But, after designing a new crocheted poinsettia for my Christmas Decor pattern collection this year, I was inspired to revisit my poinsettia collection this holiday and add another craft to the collection: needlefelting!

needlefelted poinsettia by planetjune

This Poinsettia is made from Lion Brand Spinnables roving, sent to me by a kind friend many years ago, and it’s been sitting in my craft stash since then, just waiting for inspiration to strike! The most interesting part about Spinnables is that it’s 100% acrylic roving. It’s very soft and fine and has some very pretty and muted variegated colours.

Although Spinnables has the benefit of being completely non-itchy for my wool-sensitive fingers, I found it more challenging to felt than natural fibre roving, so I kept my poinsettia very simple and didn’t worry about making it too perfect – after all, real plants aren’t perfect either.

I’m not going to write up a tutorial for this poinsettia:

  • If you know how to needlefelt, it should be fairly obvious how to assemble it by making 12 individual leaves and 3 balls, and felting them together.
  • If you’re new to needlefelting, I recommend you find a book or YouTube tutorial to cover the basics, then look for a tutorial on how to felt animal ears – the leaf shape is very similar to an ear, so that should give you the idea of how to form a leaf shape.

And now let’s take a look at my entire collection to date…

The Poinsettia Collection

11 poinsettia designs – it’s a real collection, spanning 14 years!

tsumami kanzashi poinsettia by planetjunecrocheted poinsettia by planetjune
polymer clay poinsettia by planetjunepunchneedle poinsettia by planetjune
felt poinsettia by planetjunebeaded poinsettia by planetjune
thread crochet poinsettia by planetjuneknitted poinsettia by planetjune
origami poinsettia by planetjunecrochet poinsettia by planetjune
needlefelted poinsettia by planetjune

Top (L-R): 2006 kanzashi poinsettia (no tutorial); 2007 crocheted poinsettia
2nd Row (L-R): 2008 polymer clay poinsettia; 2009 punchneedle poinsettia
3rd Row (L-R): 2010 felt poinsettia; 2011 beaded poinsettia
4th Row (L-R): 2012 thread crochet poinsettia; 2013 knitted poinsettia
5th Row (L-R): 2015 origami poinsettia; 2019 crochet poinsettia (paid pattern)
Bottom Row: 2019 needlefelted poinsettia (no tutorial) – this post!

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

Which is your favourite?

I don’t know if I’ll continue adding to this collection, but I suspect I’ll be drawn back to it again and again in future – I’ll leave it flexible and just add a new poinsettia whenever the inspiration strikes.

I love seeing how similar and yet different these all look together, and how it’s a tangible record of many different crafts I’ve played with over the years. I wonder what else I could make a poinsettia from..?

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my collection, and maybe it’ll inspire you to try (or re-try) a different type of crafting this holiday! ūüôā

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free pattern: Crocheted Wreath Base

Use this stuffed crocheted ring as a base for a crocheted wreath, candle ring, or other round decoration (e.g. a centrepiece). You can make the ring in any size depending on the desired size of your decorative piece, and choose yarn colours to match your decor and the theme of the components you’ll be covering it with.

crocheted wreath base crochet pattern by planetjune

Yes, this is the base pattern I used to make my Christmas Decor Collection wreath and candle ring!

The basic online version of the pattern is available free for you to view online. As I like to reward people who chose to donate for my donationware patterns, the PDF version of this pattern also includes special bonus content:

  • Tips on choosing yarn colours for your wreath base
  • The exact recipes and layout diagrams for my Christmas wreath and candle ring, if you’d like to copy mine exactly!

As always though, the basic pattern is free for you to use, and you need only donate if you’d like to thank me for my time in creating it, or if you’d like the easy-to-print PDF version.

Have fun with this pattern throughout the year – it’s not just for Christmas if you make it in a different colour and adorn it with different crocheted pieces!

Please don’t forget to share photos of the wreaths/centrepieces you make with this pattern, and tag me @planetjune so I’ll get to enjoy them too ūüôā

Go to the Crocheted Wreath Base pattern >>

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Christmas Decor Collection crochet patterns

I can’t believe there are only 2 weeks left until Christmas! So now’s the perfect time to crochet up some fast and beautiful realistic ornaments and decorations, or go all out with a fabulous seasonal wreath – and my new collection has you covered, whichever you prefer…

Christmas Decor Collection crochet patterns by June Gilbank (made into a seasonal wreath)

I hope you’re as excited by this as I am?! It’s my new Christmas Decor crochet pattern collection!

Christmas Decor Sets 1-4 crochet patterns by June Gilbank

This collection includes four new seasonal pattern sets (although I’d advise you to consider picking up the complete collection!) Each Christmas Decor set includes one leafy nature pattern and one decorative pattern. The nature patterns are all realistic life-sized designs, worked in as few pieces as possible to minimise finishing. The coordinating decorative patterns will finish your arrangements with pops of fun and stylish seasonal colour.

You’ll get so much value from these patterns – each one can be used in multiple ways and you’ll be using them in your holiday¬†decor for years to come!

  • Use individual components as Christmas tree ornaments, a pin/brooch/accessory, place settings, a personal touch on a wrapped gift, etc.
  • The components from each of the 4 pattern sets can be mixed-and-matched¬†to assemble into a garland/swag, wreath, candle ring, etc.

Now, let’s take a look at each of the designs…

Set 1

Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Holly Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Candles

Holly: You can use this pattern to make a single holly leaf, or a triple leaf cluster (all worked continuously, as a single piece). The finishing touch is the cluster of red berries, which are, again, all worked as a single piece

Candles: This candle design includes two widths so you can make a narrow taper candle or a chunky pillar candle. Both patterns include instructions for adapting the height.

Set 2

Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Mistletoe Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Mini Baubles

Mistletoe: You can use this pattern to make a small four-leaf sprig of mistletoe, or a multi-leaf bunch (all worked continuously, as a single piece). The finishing touch is the cluster of white berries, which are, again, all worked as a single piece.

Mini Baubles: A trio of tiny baubles (small, smaller and smallest!) Рmake them in any colour to match your decor. You can use these mini baubles individually, or use the included instructions to assemble them in groups as a cluster or hanging ornament.

Set 3

Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Ivy Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Bow

Ivy: You can use this pattern to make a single realistic ivy leaf, or a strand of ivy (all worked continuously, as a single piece). You can hang your ivy strands horizontally or vertically, or lay them out flat. Making two strands in two shades of green and twining them together looks even more realistic.

Bow:¬†A beautifully-shaped realistic ribbon bow. It’s made from only 3 pieces and you’ll love the clever assembly process!

Set 4

Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Poinsettia Christmas Decor Set 1 crochet pattern by June Gilbank: Bells

Poinsettia: This pattern includes instructions for making a double-layer poinsettia in red or cream, or adding a third layer in dark green (each layer is worked continuously, as a single piece, to minimise assembly).

Bells:¬†A beautifully-shaped bell with an innovative design that’s all worked in one piece – including a tiny crocheted clapper! A pair of bells makes a beautiful ornament.

About the Patterns

  • All techniques used include tips, step-by-step photos, and/or links to my online tutorials.
  • All the flat pieces¬†include charted stitch diagrams in addition to full written instructions, so you can follow the patterns in the way you find easiest.
  • Mix and match the pieces to make your own unique decorations!

Christmas Decor Collection crochet patterns by June Gilbank (several elements made into a candle ring)

If you’d like to make a wreath or candle ring like mine, I’ll also be releasing the pattern and instructions for the crocheted bases for my wreath/ring as a free/donationware pattern next week!

(You can buy a base if you don’t want to crochet one, but if you’d like to, why don’t you get a head start on your wreath/ring by crocheting some of the decor pieces now – you can use my photos as a guide for what to crochet or mix-and-match your own favourite pieces from the Christmas Decor Collection!)

Links & Launch Discount

Ready to get started? You can pick up each set individually from my shop:

But you’ll probably want to take advantage of the special price on the entire collection:

And for this week only, you can take an extra $1 off the collection and get crocheting right away: add the Christmas Decor Collection to your shopping cart, and enter the discount code HOLIDAYS at checkout! (Offer ends Sunday 15 December, 2019.)

I hope you’ll enjoy these seasonal decorations as much as I’ve enjoyed designing them for you! Happy Holidays ūüôā

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    June Gilbank

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