PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for July, 2008

AfricAmi: Elephant, Hippo, Rhino

AfricAmi logo by PlanetJune

The first set of AfricAmi crochet patterns are now available to purchase from the brand new PlanetJune store! Buy yourself an elephant, hippopotamus or rhinoceros pattern, or treat yourself to all three and save 🙂

AfricAmi Elephant logo by PlanetJune

AfricAmi Hippo by PlanetJune

AfricAmi Rhino by PlanetJune

All three animals are about 6″ long when worked in bulky weight yarn with a G/4.5mm hook, or you can use worsted weight yarn and an E hook to end up with miniature versions like the baby elephants below:

AfricAmi Elephants by PlanetJune

Don’t forget there is still time to save 10% on your next PlanetJune order – which can include the new AfricAmi patterns. Just sign up for my new mailing list before the end of July end of day Monday 4th August and I will send you a discount code to use in the new shop (if you have already signed up you should receive the code in the next hour or so). Please remember to wait for the discount code to arrive by e-mail before you place your order, as your discount will be applied automatically when you enter the code.

And if you notice anything strange in the new shop, please let me know so I can fix it – thanks!

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10% discount and new mailing list

Exciting changes are afoot at PlanetJune…

New Shop
As of next week, there will be an all-new PlanetJune crochet pattern store. It will be fully automated, so as soon as your PayPal payment has been completed, you’ll be able to log into your PlanetJune account and download all your patterns. That means no more waiting for me to process your order and e-mail your patterns to you! This change has been in the works for a few months, and should free up more of my time to come up with new designs 🙂

New Mailing List
My old mailing list can’t cope any more with the number of subscribers I have, so I’ve just set up an all-new mailing list. I am starting the list over from scratch, as a significant number of e-mail addresses on my old list aren’t valid any more. Even if you were signed up for the old mailing list, you will have to sign up again for the new list to continue to receive the updates.

New Navigation
I’ve added a new navigation menu to the very top of the page, to help you get around the main sections of PlanetJune – craft blog, crochet pattern store and mailing list. Hopefully it will all make sense – if you do encounter anything strange or unexpected, please let me know immediately so I can fix it up as soon as possible.

10% off your next order!
To celebrate the launch of the new shop and new mailing list, anyone who subscribes to the new list by the end of July 2008 will receive a discount code, valid in the new store, worth 10% off your next order from the new PlanetJune store! The 10% code will be valid for one single order, but you may purchase as many patterns as you wish within that order, including the upcoming AfricAmi patterns (Elephant, Hippo and Rhino)!

AfricAmi by PlanetJune

Please remember to sign up for the new mailing list, and look out for your 10% discount coupon to use in the new PlanetJune crochet pattern store!

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light tent for better product photography

One of the biggest frustrations with craft blogging can be to take decent photographs, as photography is so light-dependent. Using the camera flash is too harsh, and using your interior room lighting will give you dimly-lit, orange-tinted photos. The best solution is good natural light (out of direct sunlight, otherwise you will see dark shadows behind your object), but if you’re in the middle of one of those weeks where the sun never shows its face, what can you do?

The professional solution is to use a light tent (aka light box) for product photography. They are available to purchase commercially, but cost hundreds of dollars. If you google ‘light box’ or ‘light tent’ you will find people who have made their own light tents, including Bill Huber’s popular tutorial at PBase, made from PVC plumbing parts and a white bedsheet! In the comments following his tutorial, I noticed that someone had bought an IKEA Antonius laundry bag stand to save them from building their own frame for the light box, and woohoo, the frame is still available and only costs $7!

If you’d like to make your own light tent, the simplest form I have seen only requires a large cardboard box and some fabric, so don’t be put off by the idea of making a frame or finding a convenient IKEA!

Here is my prototype; I just draped the frame with a $1 white plastic tablecloth, and it works! I have attached a clamp lamp to each side of the frame so that the lights shine through the fabric and into the tent. I also used a desk lamp to add additional lighting through the top of the tent.

prototype light tent

I was a bit worried that the plastic might melt under the lights, and the draped tablecloth didn’t look very tidy, so I bought some cheap white fabric, sewed 4 panels (two sides, a back and the top), and then sewed them together to form a fitted cover. I purposely left the final seams on the outside to leave a snug fit around the corners of the frame. You can also probably see a little silver blob on the left of this photo – I had some rare earth magnets lying around, so I used a few to keep the front edge of the fabric stretched out nicely over the metal frame:

fabric cover for light tent

I used a white bristol board inside the light tent to give a seamless backdrop, but of course I can easily swap in another backdrop to add more colour. And here’s the finished tent:

finished light tent

Now for a photo comparison. Firstly, some piggies in nice natural lighting. This is about as good as it gets under normal conditions. Looks pretty good; there is a little shadow in the middle between the pigs, but the picture is fine, really:

piggies in daylight

And now for the light box photo:

piggies in light tent

Huh? There’s not really any difference, you say? That’s the whole point… because I could take the exact same picture in the middle of a thunderstorm, or in the middle of the night! No sunlight required. And that is the beauty of the light tent.

A few notes:

  • You can use any directional lamps for a light tent, but make sure you use the same light bulbs in each light source, otherwise your colour balance will change across the photo
  • Unless you have very special bulbs (mine are GE Reveal – they are supposed to be natural daylight coloured, but for the purpose of photography they are nowhere near!), you will have to set the white balance on your camera if you have that option, or adjust the colour balance of your photos in your image editing software. But it’s a 1-click fix in most software, so it’s really not a big deal.
  • You can easily adjust the amount of lighting coming from each direction by moving each lamp closer to, or further away from, the light tent. I find that using the side lights brightly and the top light a little further away works nicely.

UPDATED 18/11/09: I have since added a fourth light, pointing into the front of the box. It’s not filtered by the tent, so I keep it further away (behind the camera). As zabacorporation mentioned in the comments, my example pig picture would have been better with a light source illuminating them from the direction the camera sees (i.e. the front). The light tent then serves to reduce the shadows caused by that direct light. I’m still tweaking the exact configuration!

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paper models

This weekend, I made these paper models. They are made from PDF files that you print, cut, fold and glue together. The models are very well designed; cutting out all the parts is time-consuming, but it’s amazing that you can make something so realistic from a couple of sheets of paper!

completed paper models

You can now see my tutorial below with tips on how to cut and assemble models like these – as the instructions are all written in Japanese it helps to know them before you get started!


Tutorial: Cut & Fold Paper Models

This tutorial was originally published on my old papercraft site, Folding Trees.

If you look around on the internet, there are a multitude of printable cut-out-and-fold paper models available to download. They look amazing, but how easy are they to actually put together? How accurate do you have to be for them to look good? And, as a lot of them have instructions in Japanese, how easy is it to follow the instructions without understanding the text? In this tutorial, I’ll give you some hints and tips to make the process a bit easier!

My sample paper models are the Cape Penguin and Japanese Leaf Turtle models from the Konica Minolta Environmental Papercraft site. I like these models because they only use 2 sheets of paper each, and the animals are realistically designed. (For reference, the penguin is 6″ tall, and the turtle is 6″ long.) Check the end of this post for other paper model resources.

Printing the patterns

The instructions on my models say to use paper of between 0.20 and 0.24mm thickness (that’s about twice the thickness of regular copy paper). I think thin cardstock would be the best choice, if you have it available, but I used the thickest copy paper I could find (marked 28lb) and it was fine. Also, please note that these Japanese PDF files are designed to print on A4 size paper. North Americans with letter-size paper: remember to set the PDF Page Scaling to Shrink to Printable Area. If you forget this, the top and bottom of each page will be missing from your printouts. Not that I would ever make a mistake like that (ahem).

Understanding the line markings

Before you start cutting, you should make sure you understand where to cut! Below, I have annotated the legend for the cutting lines on the patterns I used – the line markings may vary on different diagrams, but the Japanese text should be the same for each type of cut or fold, so you should be able to match them up using my legend:

legend for cut and fold paper models

The fine dotted lines are positioning lines for attaching the pieces later – do not fold or cut along these lines.

Cutting the pieces

Use a sharp craft/xacto knife and a self-healing mat (or some thick scrap cardboard to rest your work on) to cut along all the ‘cut’ lines for each piece. You do have to cut accurately for the piece to come together properly, so cut slowly and carefully. If you haven’t tried papercutting before, you can use a metal ruler along the line you want to cut to guide you. I did this for my first model, then braved freehand cutting, which is much faster. The easiest way I have found to control the knife is to rotate the work so you make all your cuts in the same direction – from left to right (right-handers) or right to left (left-handers).

cutting out the paper model pieces

Folding

Refer back to the instructions to see where you need to fold the pieces. I recommend you score each line first – this makes it much easier to make your fold in the right place. To do this, use a blunt pointed tool (e.g. a bone folder or a darning needle) and a ruler to ‘draw’ along each line. You don’t need to press hard – you don’t want to cut into the paper, just dent it so it will naturally crease along that line when you fold the paper. I scored all the lines on the front side of the paper, and then mountain- or valley- folded each line as shown in the instructions.

Assembly

Once everything is cut and folded, it’s time for the fun part: assembling the model! The tabs are all numbered in the order you need to stick them down. Refer back to the diagrams in the instructions if you aren’t sure where to stick the tabs – it is not always obvious, but the instructions have diagrams with arrows showing where each tab should be stuck.

A note on adhesives: Don’t use a glue stick! It doesn’t grab the paper tightly enough, and your model won’t stay together. A general purpose white glue (I used Tacky Glue), applied sparingly to each tab, works very well. Apply glue to the first tab and position it. Hold the two layers of paper in place for a few seconds until the glue ‘grabs’ the paper and it stays in position when you release your pressure. Then apply glue to the next numbered tab, and repeat the process until all the tabs are glued down and the model is complete!

completed paper models

Conclusion

Making paper models is time-consuming and precise, but the end results can be quite amazing. Seeing your model come together at the end is worth all the effort of painstakingly cutting out all those pieces. Just take your time and enjoy the process 🙂

Here are some of my favourite sites where you can find paper models to print and assemble:

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an elephant tale

Baby Elephant was bored. He wanted to play with his family, but he didn’t know where they were.

He walked through the jungle until he spotted someone. “Aha! Here’s one of my family!” he thought…

But it wasn’t an elephant at all! “I’ll help you find your family,” said Hippo, and they walked on through the jungle.

Soon, they spotted something. “I think I see my family,” called Baby Elephant…

But it wasn’t an elephant, either! Rhino had a big scary horn, but he was friendly and offered to help look for the elephant family.

They walked on until they spotted two more animals. “Are they your family?” asked Hippo and Rhino. But Baby Elephant wasn’t sure…

But, this time, it was his family! The elephants and their new friends celebrated together for the rest of the day.

THE END

In case you hadn’t guessed from the above, I’ve been working hard on some new designs, and now I can finally unveil big brother Elephant and pals, the Hippo and White Rhino:

AfricAmi by PlanetJune
Click for larger picture

The Elephant, Hippopotamus and Rhinoceros are all made with bulky weight yarn (like the AquaAmi), and are each about 6″ long. The three will form Set 1 of a new range, once I have written up the patterns. I’m going to call them AfricAmi, which gives me plenty of scope for future animal designs – there is a lot of interesting wildlife in Africa! Do you like the name?

I also painted a new backdrop to stage these guys. It took a lot of painting to get the background to stop looking like a big green board and starting to look a little bit like foliage, but I think the end result was worth it.

I hope you enjoyed the story! And look out for the AfricAmi patterns… coming soon to the PlanetJune store 🙂

UPDATE: Looking for the patterns? You can find the AfricAmi Set 1 crochet patterns in my shop.

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displaying finished work

Do you ever have the problem of figuring out what to do with things after you make them? Unless a handmade item is a gift or something wearable, I usually don’t know what to do with it, and it ends up buried in a pile of ‘stuff’ or hidden in a box and very rarely gets seen – such a waste!

My craft room really needs some decorative interest; it is still completely unaccessorized apart from my glass toy shelves and some origami in the window. So, I’ve decided that I should try to display some more of the things I’ve made, without making the room look too busy and cluttered. This is going to be a long-term project, and I’ll show you my progress as I come up with ideas.

felt sea creatures on display
Click for larger image

My supercute felt sea creatures have been homeless for months, so my first task was to find a way to show them off. I sewed up a quick pennant yesterday using the leftover lining fabric from my laptop sleeve, reinforced with some fusible interfacing on the inside back so it won’t stretch under the weight of the animals. I hung each animal on a simple loop of embroidery floss through the topmost blanket stitch, brought the floss ends through to the back of the pennant, and knotted the ends together. The long tall design means it fits perfectly down the side of my bookcase, so it looks good AND fills a space I hadn’t previously considered as useable.

I think having more of my work visible like this will add a lot more personality to the room. Stay tuned for more craft room progress posts 🙂

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AquaAmi Polar Bear is here

Just a quick post to notify you that the AquaAmi Polar Bear crochet pattern is now available for purchase in the PlanetJune shop. Go on, treat yourself and make your own amigurumi polar bear!

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simple a-line skirt

I’ve been very busy crafting this week, but most of it isn’t quite ready to show off yet. But I’m feeling proud of myself, because I made a new skirt from scratch in an evening, and without a pattern:

A-line skirt with elasticated waist

It was really easy – I just traced around an existing skirt, added seam allowance, cut the fabric (I used 100% cotton) on the bias, sewed the sides together, and then sewed a loop of elastic in at the top and hemmed the bottom. The elastic waist gathers the fabric around the top, and you can just pull the skirt on and off.

I decided that I wanted the gathers around the waist to be perfectly even, so I stretched the elastic to the same width as the fabric and then sewed them together. Then I had to stretch it all out again so I could sew down the waistband to hide the elastic. With hindsight, I’ve thought of a much simpler method that will look just about the same and take a fraction of the time.

I’m going to make another skirt with my simpler method – it’s a really cute simple summery skirt and it would work with pretty much any kind of fabric. Would anyone be interested in a tutorial?

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