PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

11 Free Last-Minute Christmas Crochet Patterns

Still wondering what to give your family, friends and co-workers for Christmas? I have you covered with lots of quick and easy seasonal donationware patterns!

From Christmas decorations to stocking stuffer gifts to snuggly scarves and cowls, here are my suggestions of 11 free PlanetJune patterns for you. (You can use the online version of each pattern for free, or pay-what-you-want to download the handy easy-to-print PDF version.)

free PlanetJune last-minute Christmas crochet patterns

Links to pictured patterns (clockwise from top left):

I hope you’ll find some perfect gift ideas here – enjoy 🙂

And check out the complete list of my free/donationware patterns for even more options!

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back home in Canada!

I’ve been back in Canada for just over a week now and I’ve just about finished organising the most critical things, so now I can take a breath and start to enjoy myself!

Ontario landscape
Ahh, this is the beautiful Ontario that I’ve been missing 🙂

Although winter hasn’t set in properly yet here, this is already the coldest weather I’ve experienced for over 6 years, but I’m enjoying the crisp, cold air and the opportunity to wear warm coats and snuggly sweaters. And, more than anything, I’m enjoying feeling safe and welcome here.

When we arrived last Thursday, after 24 hours of flights, it took another 4 hours to get all the customs and immigration paperwork sorted out before we could finally collect Maui, and then he had to stay locked in his crate for another hour while I drove us from the airport to our temporary accommodation. But, just like our move in the other direction 6 years earlier, he bounced back very quickly from his ordeal and has settled nicely into our condo.

Maui relaxing in our condo
Maui loves dozing in this chair (with a green pillow that matches his eyes – he’s so stylish!)

We (unintentionally) arrived back here just in time for Black Friday, which was quite a culture shock after years of buying practically nothing in South Africa, where the things I’d want either weren’t available or were too expensive to justify buying. I enjoyed flipping through many dozens of sale flyers, and we picked up a few home electricals that were on sale – we’ll need to re-buy everything electrical because of the different voltage here.

I couldn’t convert my South African driving license back to an Ontario license, so I knew I’d have to take written and road tests before I could buy a car here again. Apparently the local driving test centre has a 4-5 hour wait just to be seen, so I drove out to Stratford instead (no queues!) and, after an extremely stressful day – there were no test appointments available until January, but I managed to snag a cancellation – I passed both my written and road tests, so I’m now an Ontario license holder again! I’m just waiting for my new car to arrive, and then we’ll be ready to get on the road and start to explore Canada’s vast natural beauty.

beaver toothmarks
I’ve set myself a challenge to photograph a wild beaver – these toothmarks are as close as I’ve got so far!

We’ve also found a house to rent from January. It’s a brand new house in a new development in Waterloo and it’s very clean and modern inside. It’s lovely, although I’m not quite sure why anyone would need more bathrooms (four) than bedrooms (three)…. But I can’t wait to move in and turn it into our home 🙂

I’m hoping to snag the massive master bedroom as my office/studio – PlanetJune needs a lot of room to house my photo studio, design and making space, computer/office suite, and supply storage! I hope that splitting one large room into separate spaces for each area of my business will help me to be more organised and stop everything from getting hopelessly muddled. I’ll let you know next year how that’s working out…


And now I’m going on a semi-sabbatical for the next few months. I’ll still be around to help with any PlanetJune problems, but I need to sort out the technicalities of moving my business to another country before the new year hits.

I’d also like to have a good break after that – the past year has been full of upheaval, and, once I’ve got everything set up here, I could really do with some time off to relax before jumping into any more big projects.

Don’t worry, my blog won’t be going silent while I’m getting settled into my new life! I’ve been stockpiling new patterns and blog posts for months now, so I have lots ready to share with you while I’m on sabbatical.

Ahhh, I’m so happy to be home! 🙂

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Diamond Lattice Neckwarmer crochet pattern

In preparation for my move back to the Great White North later this week, I decided to crochet myself a new neckwarmer. I used my Diamond Lattice Neckwarmer pattern and a cosy merino-silk blend yarn, and look what I ended up with…

diamond lattice neckwarmer crochet pattern by planetjune

Don’t you just love it? I do!

I was a bit worried about the wool content in my yarn, especially around my neck where I’m extra sensitive, but I gave it a long soak in my favourite Soak Wash (just in case) and, after blocking and drying, I can report that the yarn is soft and not at all scratchy on my neck. (It’s KnitPicks Gloss DK Yarn in Velveteen, in case you were wondering…)

As the finishing touch, I discovered I had two adorable hazelnut buttons in my button box:

diamond lattice neckwarmer crochet pattern by planetjune

(I have no idea when/where I bought the buttons, but aren’t they amazing? So realistic!)

And now I can demonstrate that this is truly a unisex pattern. It works so well for men or women…

diamond lattice neckwarmer crochet pattern by planetjune

I can attest that it works up really quickly, and it was fascinating watching my cable design taking shape – I designed it so long ago, it felt completely new to me, even though I was following my own pattern.

If you’ve already bought the Diamond Lattice Neckwarmer pattern, I’ve updated it with the new photos and yarn details, so feel free to download it again from your PlanetJune account! If you haven’t picked it up yet, now’s a great time 🙂

And don’t forget that you can also buy it as part of the value-priced Custom Set of any three PlanetJune Accessories – a bargain if you’re looking for crochet patterns for Christmas gifts (or just for yourself)! Here are all the other pattern choices:

PlanetJune Accessories crochet patterns

Treat yourself to a Custom Set of your favourite three PJ Accessories patterns here 🙂

And – bonus for me! – now I have a new headshot of myself wearing my new neckwarmer, to replace the photo I’ve been using as my profile photo for over 7 years:

June Gilbank - PlanetJune

Hi there!

It’s so nerve-wracking changing my photo everywhere, but I really don’t look or feel like the me in the old photo any more, so it’s time to be brave and freshen things up with a photo of the 40-year-old me 🙂

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tool review: Yarn Ball Winder

I love my yarn ball winder! Not everyone already has (or even knows about) this useful tool, so I thought I’d share today why I find it so useful in my crocheting life, and whether getting one may help you too.

How to Use a Ball Winder

A yarn ball winder is a simple mechanical tool for quickly winding yarn into a neat ball.

To use, it, load one end of your yarn through the metal guide arm and across the slots at the top of the cone, then turn the handle and the yarn will wind onto the cone (see my photos near the end of this post for examples). When you’ve finished, tie the final end of the yarn around a couple of strands on the outside of the yarn ball so it doesn’t come undone, then pull the ‘cake’ of yarn off the cone.

yarn wound on a ball winder by planetjune

The finished ‘cake’ isn’t shaped like a hand-wound ball, but has a flat top and bottom (which makes it easy to stack and store). And the starting end of the ball (that ran across the slots at the top of the cone) is ready to be used. Pulling the yarn from the centre of the ball instead of the outside means the ball won’t roll around while you work.

My ball winder is like this one (amazon link) but there are other similar models also available on amazon and at yarn/craft shops (e.g. the KnitPicks ball winder is a less expensive option). I’d recommend you check reviews before you buy one, but, for what it’s worth, I’ve never had any problems with mine – it runs smoothly and quietly.

Why I Use It

A yarn ball winder is invaluable for turning a hank of yarn into a beautiful centre-pull ball. (This is especially easy if you have a yarn swift to hold the yarn for you while you wind it, but, if you don’t have one you can ask a helper to hold the loop of yarn from the hank taut between their hands while you wind it.) When I used to buy a big hank of laceweight yarn to make a shawl, it’d take me literally hours (and many tangles) to wind all the yarn by hand. Now it takes me mere minutes to wind 400m of yarn ready for use.

yarn hank and centre-pull yarn ball by planetjune
A hank of yarn (front) and a centre-pull ball (back)

But that’s not the only use I have for my winder; it’s really useful for my amigurumi yarn too! Once I’ve used over half a skein of worsted weight yarn, the remainder doesn’t hold together well any more. If you store it in that state it can tangle easily, and if you store lots of partial skeins together, you could end up with a giant yarn mess that takes hours to untangle. (I’m speaking from personal experience, here…)

Since getting my ball winder, I re-wind all my partially-used skeins of yarn into tidy small balls. They stack more neatly in my drawers, and don’t get tangled any more! In case you’re wondering, I need all these leftovers for my amigurumi projects – you never know when you might need just a few metres of an unusual colour to make a specific thing, so I never throw away any yarn over a couple of metres long (and btw I even save the shorter lengths too, to make pom-poms – nothing goes to waste in my studio).

small yarn balls by planetjune
Partial skeins wound into neat balls

My Special Trick

I do something extra when I wind yarn balls that makes a huge difference to my crocheting experience. I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere else, so I thought I should share it with you: I like to wind each ball twice.

As soon as the ball is complete, I remove it from the winder and sit it on the table next to the winder, then reattach the end from the centre of the wound ball to the winder and re-wind it into a new ball, letting the yarn flow through my fingers with a light tension as I wind it.

As you can see, the first winding looks fine, until you compare it with the result of the second winding:

first and second yarn windings
The same hank of yarn, wound twice: the first winding is tiny compared with the second!

Why does this happen?
Let’s compare what happens during the first and second windings:
With the first winding, the tension on the yarn can be uneven as the yarn tugs on the swift to move it, or the skein flips about on the floor as it unwinds, or the fibres of two strands of yarn are slightly stuck together and it takes more force from the winder to pull them apart.
first yarn winding
First winding: partial shop-bought skein to centre-pull ball

With the second winding, the yarn comes from a centre-pull ball, so it winds very regularly, as nothing is moving apart from the strand being wound. As the yarn has only just been wound into the first ball, any loose fibre ends haven’t had a chance to snarl together, so the tension on the yarn is low and steady as you wind it.
second yarn winding
Second winding: centre-pull ball to lower tension centre-pull ball

Why does it matter?
If you keep your balled yarn wound tightly:

  • The yarn is kept in a stretched state, which will affect your gauge when you crochet or knit with it.
  • There’s more chance of the yarn strands sticking together into a clump – this is especially likely to happen with a yarn like mohair or alpaca, where the loose fibre ends along the yarn (visible as a fluffy halo) can grab onto each other. When you pull on the centre yarn end, a clump of yarn strands can come out together from the ball instead of one single strand, or, even worse, the yarn may not come out at all!
  • The longer you keep the ball wound like this, the worse the stretching and tangling can become.

The second winding is actually much more fun to do as it winds so smoothly, so it adds very little time to the process. And what’s a couple of extra minutes of winding time compared with the many hours you’ll spend using the yarn?

In my opinion, it’s definitely worth winding your yarn twice: the result is an ideal yarn ball with neat low-tension wraps that put no stress on the yarn. You can keep your yarn wound in this ball for a long time without having to worry that it will become stretched out or will be snarled up when you try to use it.


Verdict

If you crochet or knit and don’t already own a ball winder, I’d highly recommend you pick one up, or at least put it on your wishlist. It’s time-saving, and fun to use. Even if you don’t buy yarn in hanks, it makes a huge difference in keeping the partial balls of any type of yarn in your stash tidy and organised.

If you already have a ball winder, please feel free to add your experience and tips in the comments below 🙂

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Christmas Cactus crochet pattern

I have a gorgeous new addition to my Potted Plants range for you – a Christmas Cactus!

Christmas Cactus crochet pattern by PlanetJune

The Christmas Cactus is a popular houseplant also known as Zygocactus, Schlumbergera, and Thanksgiving Cactus. It has flat, segmented stems that resemble leaves, and beautiful bright flowers.

Christmas Cactus crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Christmas (or Thanksgiving) cacti are so named because they usually flower from November to February, but the crocheted variety can stay in bloom all year round! Choose pink, red, white, yellow, orange, or purple yarn for the flowers and buds.

A crocheted Christmas cactus would be perfect as a Thanksgiving or Christmas decoration or gift, or just to brighten the coming winter months…

Christmas Cactus crochet pattern by PlanetJune

My pattern includes detailed instructions so you can replicate my plant and pot exactly, or choose the number and length of stems and the number and arrangement of buds and flowers to make your own customized cactus!

Links to Buy & Launch Discount

Although I always offer discounts for shopping directly from PlanetJune, as it’s my birthday today, I’m offering an additional 10% discount until the end of October. Just enter code BIRTHDAY at checkout by Tuesday, 31st October 2017, and the extra discount will be applied.

Buy the Christmas Cactus pattern here in my shop. Or, if you’re not ready to buy just yet, please heart or queue it on Ravelry so you don’t forget about it:

I hope you’ll enjoy making this lovely plant for yourself, or as a stunning no-maintenance gift that’s sure to be appreciated for its never-ending blooms 🙂

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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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