PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

WIN a copy of Mandalas to Embroider!

Search Press, the publisher of Mandalas to Embroider: Kaleidoscope Stitching in a Hoop by Carina Envoldsen-Harris (the beautiful embroidery pattern book I reviewed last week) have kindly offered one PlanetJune reader the chance to win a free copy of this lovely book!

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris

If you’ve already picked up your copy, enter to win a copy to give to a friend – it’d make a lovely gift for anyone crafty 🙂

I’m delighted with the embroidery that I made using the Sakura Clusters pattern from the book (and it was my first time doing a proper embroidery, so you can definitely do this too):

sakura mandala emboidery

If you haven’t read my review yet, click here to see what I thought of this book – then come back here and enter to win your own copy!

How To Enter

  • Simply leave a comment on this blog post (below) this week, i.e. before end of day EST on March 25th, 2018. You can say anything in your comment: why you’d like to win this book, your past experience (if any) with embroidery, or even just ‘Yes please!’
  • Make sure you enter a valid email address in the email box, as I’ll need that to contact you if you’re the winner!
  • This is open to everyone, worldwide 🙂
  • I’ll randomly draw a winner and contact them by email after the closing date to get their address. (I’ll update this post with their name once they’ve replied.) If I get no reply after a week, I’ll draw a new name.

Good luck!

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris

And, if you can’t wait, you can buy Mandalas to Embroider here on Amazon, or from your local bookshop 🙂

Comments (33)

book review: Mandalas to Embroider

Let’s get this out of the way first: I received a copy of this book to review. But I’m not being compensated for this review in any other way, and the following is based on my honest opinions!

Carina and I have been friends since we first met (online) in our early days of craft blogging, over a decade ago! She’s well-known for her distinctive cheerful and colourful embroidery designs and has authored 3 books as well as a shopful of self-published designs (you can find them all at Polka & Bloom).

Ever since Carina mentioned that she was designing a book of mandalas, I’ve been waiting to see what she came up with, and I wasn’t disappointed! Embroidery, like other slow crafts, can be a calm relaxing hobby, and combining that with repeating mandala patterns sounds like a perfect recipe for slowing down and enjoying some crafting time.

Read on for my review, and to see the gorgeous embroidery I’ve made from one of the book patterns…


Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris

Mandalas to Embroider: Kaleidoscope Stitching in a Hoop by Carina Envoldsen-Harris is a book of circular embroidery patterns. As Carina says in her introduction:

Mandala is the Sanskrit word for ‘circle’. These days, it is often used as a generic term for a particular motif, especially in arts and crafts, usually with a concentric design or one which radiates from the centre.

Mandalas to Embroider includes 12 large and 12 small delicate repeating patterns. Nature-based, geometric, or more abstract, the designs are all bold, happy, and – of course! – colourful. The circular nature of the patterns means they fit perfectly in an embroidery hoop, making the finished pieces easy to display.

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris
Such pretty and colourful designs!

The book is split into two halves: the first half includes clearly-illustrated stitch tutorials, instructions for preparing and finishing your work, and all the patterns, with colour palettes and stitching suggestions.

The pages of the second half are actually iron-on transfers for each of the patterns. Each page is perforated so it can be removed neatly, and there’s a handy pocket inside the back cover to store any transfers you’ve already used. I thought this was a really nice touch, as each transfer can be used up to ten times, so you’ll be able to keep the transfer pages together with the book, so they’re ready for the next time you want to use them.

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris
Left: stitch tutorials; Right: iron-on transfer

This book is beautifully styled and photographed, and I couldn’t stop paging through again and again to admire the variety of mandala-inspired patterns.

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris
A couple of the lovely photos

My Experience

Although Mandalas to Embroider includes 12 mini designs, I decided to jump right into one of the 12 full-sized designs. Sakura Clusters was an obvious choice for me, as I love cherry blossoms (I even designed a cherry blossom garland for my first book, Paper Chains and Garlands!) and this design was the first that really caught my eye as I flipped through the book:

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris

I decided to see how the design would look in a colour scheme inspired by real-life cherry blossom instead of Carina’s cheerful bright palette. That’s one of the advantages of embroidery (or crochet!) patterns – it’s so easy to make them your own by simply changing the colours. I shopped for floss colours using the pinks, reds and blue from this beautiful reference photo:

photo of cherry blossoms
I was unable to find anyone to credit this stunning photo to – if you’re the photographer, let me know!

I raided my fabric stash and the only off-white fabric I could find looked a bit thin, so I used two layers to stop the threads on the back of the piece from showing through on the front. (I wasn’t sure if that was going to work, but my stitches didn’t show through the fabric, so I suppose it did!)

sakura mandala emboidery

I wanted to make my embroidery a little smaller than the original, so I copied and reduced the pattern page, then traced the design onto my fabric with a pencil. If you use the iron-on transfers, you can skip all that and be ready to start embroidering right away!

I must admit to being a little nervous about starting stitching; although I’ve been cross-stitching for decades, and of course enjoy my punchneedle embroidery, I haven’t actually done any regular embroidery since I learnt the basic stitches in primary school.

sakura mandala emboidery

I needn’t have worried – the patterns in this book all use fairly simple stitches, which are clearly explained at the start of the book. Although I started slowly, I quickly picked up speed. By the end of the project, I felt very confident with the stitches used in this pattern, and I’m ready to learn some of the other stitches for my next embroidery project!

Look, even the back of the embroidery is quite pretty…

sakura mandala emboidery

And now for the big reveal:

sakura mandala emboidery

Isn’t it lovely? In my colour palette, the pattern takes on a more serene look, but Carina’s pretty design still shines through. I’m thrilled with my embroidery, and I’ll be very happy to display this finished piece on the wall of my craft room.

Final Thoughts

Carina’s designs always have a hand-drawn quality to them, and I was impressed to see that she’s managed to maintain that even with the repeating patterns in Mandalas to Embroider. There’s still a free, natural quality to the designs. I noticed while I was stitching the flowers that the petals of each flower aren’t perfectly identical. This is a good thing – the relaxed nature of the design felt like permission to be relaxed in the execution – there’s no need to make every stitch exactly even and perfect to get a beautiful result.

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris

If you’ve never tried embroidery, I’d definitely encourage you to give it a try – I found it very relaxing and satisfying to watch the design come together. And I think Mandalas to Embroider is a perfect introduction to embroidery, as you can build your confidence by practicing your stitching on the smaller patterns, or do as I did and jump right into a large one!

Comments (2)

Simple-Shell Sea Turtle crochet pattern

A few months ago, I had a very clever request from a customer, to design a large adult version of the turtle from my Baby Sea Turtle Collection pattern. It was such a good idea – my AquaAmi Sea Turtle pattern is an epic amigurumi showstopper, but all those shell pieces take forever to crochet – wouldn’t you like to make a simpler large sea turtle?

So here it is, a Simple-Shell Sea Turtle expansion pack (below, right) for my AquaAmi Sea Turtle (below, left):

AquaAmi and Simple-Shell Sea Turtle crochet patterns by PlanetJune

Note about size: The turtles in the above photo are different sizes because the original Sea Turtle is crocheted with bulky yarn and a G7 hook; the expansion pack is crocheted with worsted weight yarn and an E hook. You can crochet either turtle in either size (details in the patterns); if you use the same yarn and hook for both, the finished turtles will be the same size!

As you can see, both turtles have the same realistic shaping and flippers, but the new pattern gives you a simple but cleverly-shaped shell instead of the beautifully-patterned but time-consuming original shell. With only two shell pieces to crochet instead of twenty, you’ll save a lot of time!

About the Pattern

This Expansion Pack gives a simplified shell for my large AquaAmi Sea Turtle. The result gives an ‘adult’ sized turtle (about 9.5″/24cm long when made in worsted weight yarn) that matches my Baby Sea Turtle pattern (sold separately).

Simple-Shell Sea Turtle crochet pattern by PlanetJune

It includes all the modifications required to crochet a Sea Turtle much more quickly than the original AquaAmi Sea Turtle, with simple but well-shaped one-piece top and bottom shells.

Simple-Shell Sea Turtle crochet pattern by PlanetJune

And, if you’re making a turtle blanket as a gift, now you can add a larger matching cuddly turtle toy to go with it!

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.

AquaAmi and Simple-Shell Sea Turtle crochet patterns by PlanetJune

You can buy the Simple-Shell Sea Turtle Expansion Pack for only $3.50 individually from the shop, or, if you haven’t yet bought the original AquaAmi Sea Turtle pattern, you can buy the multipack of both turtles, and save 50c on the pair.

Launch Discount

If you’ve already bought the original turtle pattern, you won’t be able to save that 50c. But, for 7 days only, add the Simple-Shell Sea Turtle Expansion Pack pattern to your shopping cart, together with anything else (totalling $5 or more), then use the code MORETURTLES at checkout and you’ll still get your discount! (Valid until next Tuesday: 13th March 2018.)

Note: If you don’t need anything else right now, this also applies to Gift Certificate purchases, so you can pick up a $5 gift certificate now, get your discount, and have $5 in your PlanetJune account ready for your next purchase, or to send to a crocheting friend!

PlanetJune Sea Turtle Patterns

Baby Sea Turtle Collection, AquaAmi Sea Turtle and Simple-Shell Sea Turtle crochet patterns by PlanetJune

This new addition means I now have three different sea turtle patterns, letting you make all the different options above (and even more if you resize all the patterns) – but they all match nicely, so you can build a sea turtle family with as many of the different pattern options as you wish!

In case you’re confused about which pattern makes which turtle, here’s the rundown of all the PlanetJune sea turtle patterns – and yes, it’s turtles all the way down…

Baby Sea Turtle Collection, AquaAmi Sea Turtle and Simple-Shell Sea Turtle crochet patterns by PlanetJune

A note about sizes: The top two pictured turtles were both made with worsted weight yarn. If you use only worsted weight yarn, these are the two turtle sizes you’ll make with my patterns: approx 4.5-5″ long for the babies, and 9.5″ long for any of my adult turtle patterns.

But you can choose to make a variety of turtle sizes: the third turtle down is made with bulky weight yarn, increasing the adult turtle length to 11″, and the giant 18″ long turtle at the bottom was crocheted with the same pattern, but two strands of bulky weight. The difference in size between the green turtle and the giant turtle is caused solely by the yarn and hook choices!

Read more about how to resize amigurumi by changing the hook and yarn sizes here.

If you’re not ready to make – or add to – your Turtle family just yet, don’t forget to heart and queue them on Ravelry so you don’t forget about them:

AquaAmi Sea Turtle (original): 

Simple-Shell Sea Turtle (new):

Baby Sea Turtle Collection:

I’m so happy with this new addition to my sea turtle collection – I feel like I have a turtle for every occasion now! 

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easy fleece and crochet cushion cover

Sometimes a project is so simple that it seems like cheating! I’d planned to sew a cover for this new body pillow once I had time to buy fabric and set up my sewing machine, but then I spotted a fleece blanket in the dollar store with a convenient blanket-stitched border…

fleece body pillowcase with crocheted trim by planetjune

I draped it around my pillow, and it was almost exactly the right size to make a soft and snuggly cover (surely a sign that this project was meant to be).

fleece body pillowcase with crocheted trim by planetjune

In case you don’t know, adding a border of blanket stitches around the edge of any fabric project makes the perfect set-up row for a crocheted trim – you can just insert your hook under the edge of each blanket stitch to begin each stitch of the first row:

fleece body pillowcase with crocheted trim by planetjune

Top tip: If you’d like to add a crocheted trim to any fabric item, just use a sharp needle and crochet thread, embroidery floss or fine yarn to blanket stitch around the edges of the fabric first, and then you can add any crochet border you want, by crocheting into the blanket stitches.

(And if you need some ideas for border stitch patterns, I can recommend Edie Eckman’s two books on just that topic!)

I’d loved this Red Heart Soft yarn in shade Watercolors in the ball, but soon realised when I tried to crochet with it that every stitch turned out as a different colour, which made the result way too busy for anything I’d wear. But this project has just a single row of crochet, so the different colours can shine without being buried by the next row. I did try out a few more interesting stitch patterns for my edging, but the constantly-changing colour is interesting enough – why over-complicate things?!

fleece body pillowcase with crocheted trim by planetjune

I tested a variety of hooks with my yarn and the blanket stitches, and determined that anything larger than a G (4mm) was too big to fit easily under the blanket stitches, so I went with the G. I folded the blanket in half and, starting at one end of the fold, began to single crochet around, inserting my hook under the blanket stitch at the edge of both layers of fabric to begin each stitch.

fleece body pillowcase with crocheted trim by planetjune

Top tip: I was worried that the two halves may not stay aligned as I continued to crochet around, so I grabbed my Wonder Clips (highly recommended for any crafters, especially to replace pins when you sew – and if you crochet or knit you can also buy them in an extra-large size to keep your pieces together when seaming). I matched the corners and clipped them together, added a clip halfway between them, and then kept adding more clips halfway between the previous ones until I had a clip every few inches.

fleece body pillowcase with crocheted trim by planetjune

As I crocheted around the edge, I added a few extra stitches around the curved corners, and anywhere the blanket stitches seemed spaced a little too far apart for one single crochet stitch to be large enough to get to the next stitch without being stretched too far.

Once I got to the second open corner, I inserted the pillow, and then crocheted along the last open short edge to close the remaining gap. I fastened off, leaving an extra-long yarn end which I ran underneath all the stitches on the short edge, so I can easily retrieve the end and unravel some stitches if I need to remove the pillow to wash the cover, and then crochet it back up afterwards.

And here’s the end result – simple, but effective:

fleece body pillowcase with crocheted trim by planetjune

I think this project was a perfect use for my yarn and adds a touch of colour to a basic cushion cover (especially in a variegated yarn which does all the work for you).

If I’d started making the cover from scratch instead of using a pre-made blanket, I’d have done 2 things differently:

  • Cut 2 rectangles of fleece instead of one large piece, so I’d have a crocheted border around all 4 sides of the cushion
  • Made the blanket stitches in a different colour, to either blend in with the fleece, or co-ordinate with the yarn

But, overall, I’m very happy with this project – definitely half an hour well spent!

How about you? Have you ever considered adding a crocheted border to a fabric project?

I’ve always liked the idea of crocheting a trim around the bottom edge of a skirt – maybe this will inspire me to make it happen next summer 🙂

Comments (6)

12 Knit Sweaters Project wrap-up

When I decided to learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters, I didn’t really think I’d ever reach this point – surely I’d lose interest in knitting such time-consuming pieces before I’d completed 12 sweaters?

12 knit sweaters project

Apparently not! Shall we take a look at them all properly?

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 1-3

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 4-6

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 7-9

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 10-12

(Find details of each sweater project in its own post, here.)

Project Stats

I started my first sweater in June 2012, and knitted the final stitch on my 12th sweater in June 2017. So that’s 12 sweaters in 60 months, or an average completion time of 5 months per sweater.

I was very surprised to discover I’ve been working on this project for 5 whole years, but then, I’m busy with work a lot of the time, and summers in Africa aren’t very conducive to knitting sweaters, so maybe it’s not so surprising!

Techniques I’ve Learnt

This project has helped me learn a huge number of knitting techniques. And, while there’s still much, much more I can learn, I’m almost comfortable calling myself a knitter now without feeling like a fraud.

  • I’ve made sweaters from the top down and bottom up, seamed and seamless, flat and in the round, with raglan and set-in sleeves, and sleeveless.
  • I’ve made cardigans and pullovers and a vest.
  • I’ve tried lace and cabling, ribbing and all-over texture.
  • I’ve used provisional and cable cast-ons, directional increases and decreases, mattress stitch, kitchener stitch and 3-needle bind-offs.
  • I’ve used short rows and turned hems, attached i-cord and picked-up stitches.
  • I’ve made buttonholes and inserted a zip.
  • I’ve learnt how to reliably make a sweater that will fit me, in a range of yarn weights and fibres.

Final Thoughts

12 knit sweaters project

I feel quite proud, seeing the whole dozen together like this. Although they almost all have features I’d change, with hindsight, were I to knit them again, I enjoy wearing all of them. (And I have my notes, so I can always reknit them with a few tweaks once the originals wear out!)

All in all, I’d say I’ve met my original goal:

I’m teaching myself to knit by making myself a dozen self-designed sweaters, and learning new techniques with each one I make. I’m hoping that, by the end of this journey, I’ll be a real knitter and not have to survive on guesswork!

It’s time to own it: I am a real knitter.

What’s Next?

Now I’ve completed my mission, I don’t have any plans to stop knitting sweaters for myself – it’s become a long-term hobby, and I can’t imagine buying a sweater at this point! I’ve already bought the yarn to make another half dozen – I think we can safely say I’m addicted… 😉

(You might also be wondering if I’m considering selling patterns for my knitwear designs… and I’ll save that topic for another post!)

Comments (4)

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    June Gilbank

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