PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for March, 2009

Help me choose my card designs

I’ve been thinking about what kind of promotional items I can give away at next month’s Creativ Festival. I was debating buying some Moo cards, but they are so small I’m not sure that my photos would be clear enough. So, I thought I would get my own business card-sized Moo-type cards printed. I hope that they will be cute enough for people to want to keep them and not throw them away as soon as they get home!

I’ve made 5 designs and I’d like to get 3 of them printed. Could you help me choose between the 5 designs below? I’ll draw a random entrant from my survey who will win a set of the 3 winning choices! (One entry per person, please, and I’ll draw the winner on Sunday April 5th at 6pm EST)

card designs

Thank you! Click through to the one-question survey

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catching up

Hi guys, I’m back from the UK – did you miss me? If you want to keep up with more of my day-to-day life (both crafty and more personal), you can follow me on Twitter. Send me a direct message if you do, so I know who you are and can follow you back!

Now I’m back home, I can show you the little presents I made for my parents. For Mum (a pianist) a music-inspired needlebook with blue (her favourite colour) felt pages:

needlebook

And for Dad (always hard to buy for), a set of marble magnets featuring pics of his dog (they look better in person; the glass was tricky to photograph without reflections):

doggy marble magnets

While I was sorting through all my old stuff at my Dad’s house, I found a bag containing 4 skeins of beautifully soft kid mohair yarn, in this pretty purple shade. I’m absolutely at a loss as to how I acquired this – I didn’t even crochet while I lived in the UK! Anyway, I’m not complaining – free yarn is always a good thing, especially when it’s quality yarn like this:

purple kid mohair yarn

I whiled away my hours on the plane by crocheting fuzzy orange tubes to be the legs for my orang utan. Just the body and feet to go now…

I managed to bring back my mammoth Animal reference book in my carry-on backpack (and I have a bruise on my tailbone to prove it – the book is seriously large and weighs over 5kg!) – no worries that I will run out of animal inspiration now I have over 600 beautifully-photographed pages to pore through!

Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife

I also brought back some gardening books, as inspiration for some new plant designs. I have a lovely idea for a new plant-themed series of patterns, but I don’t want to jinx it by revealing it just yet…

And I’m expecting to see the initial layouts for my papercraft book this week – so exciting! I’ll post some pics when it’s all been finalised.

Now, time to get back to work! I’ll post again when I have something new to show you, and in the meantime you can see me on Twitter, or check out my latest tweets in the little widget in the right sidebar –>

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creativity can’t be forced

I thought I’d try writing a different kind of post today: an insight into my design process, and what happens when things don’t work out as planned.

crocheted orang utan hand by planetjune

Remember this picture? This is the orang utan I started crocheting at last spring’s Creativ Festival. My goal was to make a life-sized, realistic baby orang. After the show, I finished both arms and then moved onto the head, and that’s where things started to go wrong…

My first attempt looked like a silly smiling cartoon monkey. My second attempt was much more realistic, but hideously ugly. The more I tried to fix them, the less confidence I had that I would ever be able to complete my orang. Maybe it’s because it was so important to me – I love all the animals that inspire my designs, but the orang utan is one of my all-time favourites. When I conceived this project, I wanted to make something really special just for me – not a simple replicable design, but a real one-of-a-kind art piece.

There didn’t seem to be any point in making the body or legs for my orang project when it didn’t seem like there would ever be a head to go with it, so the pieces have sat in a zip-lock bag in my ‘in progress’ drawer for months, untouched. I often thought about the project, but couldn’t see any way forward.

Yesterday, I went back to basics. I sat down with a sketch book and a dozen reference photos of baby orangs, and spent an hour drawing, redrawing, refining. Looking for the ‘essence of orang utan’ that I had failed to capture to date, instead of thinking of it as a crochet problem. I think I have it: my final sketch crystallized what I needed to do, and then it was almost an afterthought to crochet and sculpt the head. (I won’t share any pics yet… I want it to have a big reveal, after all the work that has gone into this!)

At the Creativ Festival this spring (April 24-26, in Mississauga Ontario), I’ll be giving a talk about my work, called Who’s Who in the Crochet Zoo. Now I’m confident that I will be able to bring my orang utan along – nicely circular when you consider where the project was ‘born’, exactly one year earlier.

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Alpaca & Easter PocketAmi patterns

Thank you all for the book congratulations! I’m sorry I didn’t have any real photos of it to share – the book is still in layout, so there’s nothing finished to show you yet. But soon, I promise!

Now, back to the crochet patterns. To make up (I hope) for my absence, I have two new patterns to release today: the Alpaca, and a fun new set of PocketAmi for Easter. I don’t have a name for the new ‘natural fibre’ range of patterns yet (ideas, anyone?), but I didn’t want to make you wait, so for now you’ll be able to find the Alpaca pattern filed under Misc Patterns in the shop. Or just click through from this post to make your life easier!

new planetjune designs

A little info about the new designs:

Alpaca

alpaca crochet pattern by planetjune

If you’d like to make an alpaca or llama of your own, you don’t have to find 100% alpaca yarn to do so! I designed this pattern to work with any worsted weight yarn, but, like all my patterns, it’s pretty flexible. The larger alpaca above uses Bernat Satin, which is 100% acrylic – it doesn’t get less natural than that.

In fact, the alpaca yarn I bought was so fine (2-ply – I think that’s fingering weight?) that even after doubling the yarn, it was still significantly finer than the Bernat Satin – I’d say a sport-weight equivalent. But, as you can see, the pattern looks just as good in either size. If you substitute a different yarn weight, be sure to choose an appropriate hook size so you can form your stitches easily, but the stuffing doesn’t show through the finished piece. (Just ask if you have any questions about yarn choices.)

PocketAmi Easter

PocketAmi Easter crochet patterns by planetjune

PocketAmi Easter is another seasonal set, comprising a baby duckling, bunny and chick. They provide all the sweetness you could want from an Easter gift, with none of the calories! If you don’t celebrate Easter, these would be a great way to herald the coming spring (I’m sure it’ll be here soon, won’t it?) or would make a really sweet baby mobile for any time of year. And they work up in no time too, which is always a bonus!

PocketAmi Easter crochet patterns by planetjune

Both patterns are now available to purchase from the PlanetJune store (look at the New Products for March box on the homepage for easy access to my latest designs).

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the big reveal

You may have noticed that 2009 began with my announcement that I am taking the leap into self-employment, and then… well, not a lot else. Two patterns in two months is hardly impressive, especially when I should have all this extra time available. But I haven’t just been lazing about; now I can (finally) reveal what’s been going on…

Are you ready for my huge, exciting news?

paper prototypes
Early prototypes

I have been writing a book! But wait – it’s probably not the book you’d guess I’d write… It’s a papercraft book about paper chains and garlands, and it all came about through my work on Folding Trees. I’ve been working really hard for the past couple of months designing the projects, creating the samples, writing the instructions and drawing the illustrations, and now it’s finally coming together!

paper prototypes
Pretty papers

My book should be out in the US through Barnes & Noble in late summer 2009. The process has been a lot of fun, a phenomenal amount of work, and a big eye-opener into the world of print publishing. I’ll share more details as the publication date approaches…

Now I am returning to my crochet designs, and I should have two new patterns for you by the end of the week!


ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell HandmadeAnd one more thing: If you sell your crafts and you’re still undecided about signing up for an ArtFire membership, I strongly suggest you give it some more thought. Since I wrote my last ArtFire post, the $7 advance memberships have been going very quickly – half of the remaining memberships have been snapped up in the past 10 days! If you miss out on one, you’d have to pay $20 per month if you want to enjoy the full benefits of selling on ArtFire.

Looking at my March sales to date, my ArtFire sales are at 22% of my Etsy total, which tells me that the monthly fee has already been worth it! I would guess that the last $7 memberships will be gone in about a week, so please do consider grabbing one before it’s too late. And if you do, please list me (planetjune) as your referrer – thank you! Here’s my direct link: Register on ArtFire.com.

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natural fibre amigurumi

Did you know that 2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibres? Natural fibres include plants (cotton, flax, hemp, bamboo, etc) and animals (sheep, goat, alpaca, camel, angora rabbit, etc).

This is perfect timing for me – I’ve been thinking for months of making a series of animals out of yarn made from their own fibres. To kick start the series, I’ve made an alpaca, using the wonderful yarn I picked up from Alpaca Acres last year. I was saving it for something special, but then I realised: this is what I do. What could be more special for me than to design a mini replica of Harvey, the alpaca who donated some of his fleece to make my yarn?

me at Alpaca Acres
Me with Harvey at Alpaca Acres

And I turned some of his gorgeous yarn into this:

amigurumi alpaca by planetjune
Harvey’s mini-me

amigurumi alpaca by planetjune
See his fluffy topknot and tail?

And before you ask, yes, there will be a pattern, and no, you won’t need to find some obscure type or thickness of yarn to make it. Look out for the Alpaca pattern some time next week, or sign up for my mailing list if you’d like immediate notification when it’s ready!

If this pattern is successful, I’d like to make some more animals in this series, like a cashmere or mohair goat, an angora bunny, and a silkworm.* What do you think?

*okay, maybe not that last one

 

UPDATE: You can find the Alpaca crochet pattern in my shop!

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Artfire: an alternative to Etsy?

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell HandmadeIf you buy or sell handmade goods, you may have already heard of Artfire.com, a new online marketplace. Artfire is similar to Etsy in many ways, but also has some interesting differences, especially in their fee structure. I’ve been investigating for a while, so I thought it might be useful if I summarised some of the things I’ve discovered, in case you’re also wondering if you should try selling your wares on Artfire…
This post is a review based on my own opinions – I’m not affiliated with Artfire in any way other than as a user!

Google Running a few test searches on Google to try to find some of my crochet patterns, I found that my Artfire page comes up much higher in the rankings than my Etsy page. This gives you an immediate advantage over your Etsy-selling competition if buyers are googling for a certain type of item.

No Account Checkout Unlike Etsy, your customers don’t have to have an Artfire account in order to buy, so if you link from your blog to your Artfire, that’s a good way to get sales from non-Etsians who may be unwilling to create an Etsy account.

No Fees! You can sign up for free and list up to 10 items at any one time with absolutely no strings, no listing fees, and no commission fee when you sell an item (vs 20c listing fee and 3.5% commission on Etsy). This would be a great way to get your feet wet with Artfire – you have nothing to lose.

Did I mention it’s free to sell?! So important I think it deserves a second mention: NO listing fees! NO selling fees! That’s an amazing deal.

Monthly Fee Upgrade The free account limits you to selling 10 items at any one time. To sell as many items as you want, there is a flat fee of $20 per month. But for the first 5000 sellers the fee is only $7 per month – and that’s guaranteed never to increase.

Those 5000 places are going pretty fast – I’ve been thinking about it for the past few weeks, and in that time the number of $7 memberships left has gone down from 2600 to 1400… I decided I wanted to get in at the $7 level while I still have the chance. If I don’t like it, I can go back to the free 10-item membership, and I haven’t lost anything. But I’m prepared to pay for a few months at least and give it a chance to succeed.

As I’m currently paying over $30 in Etsy fees each month, knowing that I could sell a thousand patterns and would still only be paying $7/month in Artfire fees makes this deal very tempting! Just listing my 44 items would cost me $8.80 at Etsy, so I’ll already be saving money by the time I’ve finished setting up all my listings.

PlanetJune store on Artfire.com
My Artfire storefront

Artfire is still small and new, but it’s growing fast, and I really think it has the potential to be big. I’ve only had 1 sale so far, but it all went very smoothly. If you are thinking of expanding your sales venues, I suggest you consider Artfire among your options. At least sign up for a free account – you can upgrade to the $7 monthly account later if you don’t feel like committing today (but remember that those memberships are going fast, so don’t leave it too long!)

Please list me (planetjune) as the referrer if you do decide to sign up. Here’s my direct link: Register on ArtFire.com.

I’ll report back in the coming months with how sales in my Artfire shop compare with sales in my Etsy shop and, of course, my main PlanetJune shop. I’m thinking of writing some more posts about things I’ve found out about while running my business, so please let me know if you’d like to hear more on my perspective of running a craft business…

Comments (15)

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    June Gilbank

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