PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for April, 2010

lucky bamboo crochet pattern

I’ve had this one in the works for a while, so I’m really happy to finally be able to show you my latest design: Lucky Bamboo. A crocheted Lucky Bamboo arrangement never needs watering, never dies, and is always fresh and green. It’s the perfect thing to brighten up your office desk, or to give as an unusual and thoughtful gift. Add a little Zen tranquillity to your life with a Lucky Bamboo!

crocheted lucky bamboo by planetjune

Did you know that Lucky Bamboo isn’t really bamboo at all? It’s actually a tropical plant called Dracaena sanderiana (Ribbon Dracaena) that just happens to have a bamboo-like appearance. Lucky Bamboo is often associated with Feng Shui, and the number of stalks in an arrangement have significance in Chinese tradition: three stalks (as in my design) for happiness, five stalks for wealth, seven for health…

I really stretched myself with this design: I wanted to make a Chinese-style pot with sloped squares sides, but, as you probably know, working amigurumi-style in the round really doesn’t lend itself to making corners. After much trial and error, I’ve managed to develop a technique that produces real square corners, even while working in the round in spirals! The shaping is built right into the crochet, and even when you stuff it, the square corners remain right up the sides. It’s a little tricky to see with my black pot, but it may be more obvious when you see the pot at an angle:

crocheted lucky bamboo by planetjune

The Lucky Bamboo pattern also features a few bonus modifications you can use to make the pattern your own:

  • Full patterns for three stalk sizes, and instructions to create different stalk lengths
  • Three different leaf styles so you can mix and match to create a larger arrangement, if desired
  • Alternative colour scheme, so that if you can only find one suitable shade of green, you can still achieve the full lucky bamboo effect

If you’d like to make a Lucky Bamboo of your own, or to give as a special gift, the pattern is now available in the PlanetJune shop.

I hope you like my design! I’ve been getting requests for more plant designs for a long time now, so I hope this will satisfy the plant-lovers out there 🙂 Any other design requests? Keep ’em coming – I’m always on the lookout for new, original, ideas.

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writing my first craft book

Last week, I got a big box in the mail. It contained all the sample projects I made for my book, Paper Chains & Garlands, and shipped off to New York over a year ago to be photographed. It’s so strange to see them again after all this time!

paperchain projects

It brought me right back to early 2009, when I was writing the book – it was my first experience of print publishing, after years of self-publishing patterns and writing web-based tutorials. I thought some of you may be interested in hearing a bit more about my experience of writing my first craft book…

paper chains and garlands

The timeline was very tight. I spent my days writing, designing, shopping for paper and tools, and learning more about how to use Adobe Illustrator for the book’s illustrations. Evenings were spent cutting, scoring, folding, gluing. I re-started every time my scissors slipped, because I was not going to have an imperfect sample in my book. I cried in frustration when my hands were too painful to hold the scissors any more, and I had to stop for the evening. I gritted my teeth and went paper shopping yet again when my editor told me that one of my colour schemes wasn’t going to work (when I’d already cut and folded over 100 pieces for the original sample!).

And then, after killing myself making 16 perfect sample garlands (of at least 5 ft long, and some much longer), the photographs in the book are all close-ups (at least my perfectionism paid off there!) and show no more than 1 ft of the garland in most cases, so most of my work was wasted… Although, now I finally have them back, I have ready-made paper decorations for every possible occasion 🙂

paperchain projects

All this had faded in my memory, but seeing all the paper projects brought it all back. Please don’t think I’m complaining: it was great experience and an eye-opening introduction to print publishing. The book is a Barnes & Noble exclusive (the big US bookstore chain), so it’s hard for me to gauge how successful it is, when it’s not even available to purchase here in Canada! But I see that its status at bn.com is ‘sold out’, so I assume that’s a good sign! I’ll let you know if/when it’s reprinted and available again.

paper chains and garlands

Don’t get me wrong; I’m very proud of my first craft book and happy to have been given the chance to write it. But let me just say this: if anyone tells you that writing craft books is easy and fun, they may not be telling you the whole truth…

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mega whale

PlanetJune Spring Crochet-Along

Have you joined the PlanetJune Spring CAL on Ravelry yet? I’m so excited to see the Whales and Daffodils starting to be posted into the group! The Crochet-Along runs until the end of May, so you have plenty of time to join in and crochet along with us 🙂

I wanted to join in the Crochet-Along too. Of course, I’ve already made Daffodils and Tiny Whales before, so I wanted to do something a bit different, but still crochet along with everyone else. So here’s what I came up with: Mega Whale!

mega whale by planetjune
One of these whales is not like the others…

Mega Whale is made following the Tiny Whale pattern exactly, but instead of using worsted weight yarn and an E hook, I used two strands of a bulky weight yarn and an L (8mm!) hook. And I had to upgrade the eyes from the standard 8mm size to my largest 15mm size!

 amigurumi size differences by planetjune

A regular Tiny Whale is 3.5″ long. Compare that with Mega Whale at 7″ long – it’s amazing the scale difference you can make to an amigurumi pattern by sizing up (or down) the yarn, and choosing a correspondingly larger (or smaller) hook! Despite the same number of stitches, Mega Whale took considerably longer to crochet than a regular Tiny Whale: it’s more difficult to keep the tension amigurumi-tight when you’re handling two strands of yarn, and the squeaky plastic hook was so much more difficult to work with than my preferred aluminium hooks, which easily glide through the tightest stitches without the slightest squeak or resistance.

The invisible decreases, in particular, were a real challenge: trying to get the big plastic hook into the front loops of both strands of yarn required a bit of coaxing! But when you size up in this way, everything is increased – it’s just like blowing up a photograph on a photocopier – and so as the stitches increase in size, the holes between your stitches also become larger. So the invisible decrease was absolutely invaluable for preventing a giant sized gap or bump at every decrease point, and well worth the extra second it took to begin each stitch!

I have to say, I still love this pattern. I designed it to be really basic – and, with no sewing involved and the whole whale worked in one piece, it doesn’t get much more basic than this! It’s amazing that something so simple can have so much character. Even though they don’t have mouths (although you could certainly embroider one if you wanted!) you can just tell that these whales are happy and smiling. 🙂

mega whale by planetjune

Mega Whale has happily joined the Tiny Whales and, as you can see, they have welcomed their oversized brother into the pod!

PlanetJune Spring Crochet-Along

Do join us at the PlanetJune crochet designs Ravelry group and be a part of the Spring CAL! As I said at the start of this post, the Crochet-Along runs until the end of May, so you have plenty of time to join in and crochet along with us 🙂

If you don’t use Ravelry, you can still play along – just upload your pics to the PlanetJune Crochet flickr group! (Or if you don’t use Flickr either… um, just email your pics to me 🙂

PS – My giveaway ends on Monday at 6am 12 noon EST. Don’t forget to enter the contest if you’d like to win a copy of ‘Crochet for Bears to Wear’!

Comments (8)

Spring Crochet-Along

I thought it would be good to kick-start my new Ravelry group with a fun crochet-along (CAL) – will you join us? The Spring CAL gives you a choice of a couple of my free patterns:

PlanetJune Spring Crochet-Along

Daffodils are a perfect way to celebrate spring. Make one daffodil, or a whole bunch! You can use a single flower as a pin or to accessorize a bag, or make an everlasting vase of daffodils that will never fade away.

Daffodils crochet pattern by planetjune

Or, if you don’t have enough time to make a Daffodil, try my Tiny Whale pattern – I guarantee you’ll be able to find the time to make one! I can whip one up in 10 mins, so even a novice crocheter should be able to make one in under an hour.

Tiny Whale is a great introduction to amigurumi because it’s so quick and cute. If you don’t need a whale for yourself, or know any kids who’d like one, how about adding a little catnip to the stuffing and you’ll have an adorable cat toy!

Tiny Whale crochet pattern by planetjune

The Spring CAL will run in the PlanetJune Ravelry group until the end of May, to give everyone plenty of time to make one or both patterns. As with the Groundhog-along, I’ll do a roundup of all the projects here on my blog at the end! If you don’t already have a Ravelry account, I highly recommend that you join – it’s free, and a great resource for all crocheters and knitters 🙂

A CAL is most fun when lots of people join in, so if you’re participating, please feel free to blog, tweet, etc about it, and tell all your friends who crochet! And feel free to grab a copy of the Spring CAL button for your blog:

PlanetJune Spring Crochet-Along

I’ll be joining in too – I plan to make a Tiny Whale with a twist…

Will you join us in the PlanetJune Spring Crochet-Along? It’ll be fun!

PS – Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Crochet for Bears to Wear in my contest!

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review & giveaway: Crochet for Bears to Wear

Let’s get this out of the way first: I was given 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!

crochet for bears to wear

Crochet for Bears to Wear: More Than 20 Perfect Projects for Your Favorite Teddies and Friends is the new book by Amy O’Neill Houck. A totally original concept, this is a book of crochet clothing patterns in teddy bear sizes. Amy has previously written the companion book Knits for Bears to Wear, so it was about time we saw a crochet version!

In this review, I’ll cover an overview of the book, my experience in making one of the garments for my Fuzzy Bear, and keep reading to the end, because I’ll be giving away a copy to one of my readers!

Overview

Coincidentally, the first crocheted garment I ever attempted was one of Amy’s designs! (I still wear my Sweet Sweater around the house during the winter, although I added a few extra rounds to the bottom and sleeves since taking that photo, to make it extra snuggly.) I was impressed that the pattern was written so that, using a swatch, your own measurements, and some basic calculations, you can easily tailor the pattern to fit you perfectly. Although the patterns in this book are designed for standard 18″ tall bears and dolls, Amy uses the same approach here so that you can customize the garments to fit any favourite teddy, or even a small child.

What I like most about this book is that it uses the same crochet techniques and garment constructions that are used for real clothing, so it’s a great way to learn the basics without making the commitment of a full-sized sweater. If the thought of crocheting clothing intimidates you, seeing how a small, quick bear outfit comes together will hopefully give you the confidence to try crocheting something similar in a larger size for yourself!

It’s hard to be very critical of this book! My one comment would be that I had assumed that the ‘more than 20’ projects would mean there are over 20 outfits included. In fact, each item counts as a project, so, for example, the baseball jersey, cap, mitt and ball count as 4 projects. There are actually 13 individual outfits in the book, although contributions from guest designers Robin Chachula and Drew Emborsky and a real variety of styles and techniques ensure that there’s very little repetition, and every outfit your teddy bear could possibly need is represented.

Making a Garment: My Experience

Although it’s assumed that you’ll be making garments for purchased teddy bears and dolls, crocheting clothing for your own crocheted toys makes it extra special. My Fuzzy Bear, at only 11″ tall (standing), is far smaller than a standard 18″ teddy bear, so I thought that making a garment for him would really put the custom-sizing instructions in the book to the test! I chose the Gone Fishing Vest, although I used a silky acrylic yarn in a rich colour to give it a different look – Fuzzy Bear isn’t really the outdoorsy type 😉

choosing a pattern
Fuzzy Bear says “This one please, but in plum!”

As the book explains, before starting to crochet a garment, you always need to make a gauge swatch using your yarn and the recommended hook size. Everybody crochets differently, and if you don’t check that your measurements match the gauge in the book, you could end up with a piece that’s far too large or small. My first gauge swatch, using the recommended ‘light’ weight yarn (Bernat Satin Sport, in my case) and the recommended G hook, was far too small. I actually made 3 swatches (with G, H, I hooks) before I met the required gauge, so it’s a good job I checked!

Next, to take Fuzzy Bear’s measurements using the handy panel in the book, so I could calculate my starting chain length. Here I hit my first little problem: in the front of the book, it explains all the measurements you may need for all the patterns, including the Chest Circumference and Chest Width. But the sidebar for my pattern just told me to “Measure your bear’s chest at the widest point” – hmm, is that the circumference or width? At first I assumed width. The pattern doesn’t explicitly mention that you start crocheting from the bottom and work up, which would have made it easier for me to figure out that it actually means the chest circumference (as the vest is worked in one piece, and the starting chain runs all around the bottom). Note: most of the other pattern customization boxes don’t have this ambiguity, saying e.g. “Measure the circumference of your toy’s chest” instead.

Calculations complete, I started crocheting. I loved the granite stitch used in this pattern – it really adds visual interest while still giving a non-lacy fabric and being easy to crochet. I made the back and then started on the decreases for the first armhole and neck. Here I hit my second problem: as Fuzzy Bear is so much smaller than standard, I had far fewer stitches than the standard pattern. By the time I’d decreased for the armhole AND neck, I had no stitches left to make the top of the shoulder, even after I tried to tweak the pattern!

first attempt
That shoulder (top left) looks horrible – time to frog this attempt

Now, here’s where the customization panel gets even more useful. It takes different gauges into account: I could have stuck with my first swatch instead of trying to meet the gauge, and then used the customization panel to give me the size I wanted! This is a really useful feature if you want to make one of the patterns using a different thickness of yarn – even if your bear is exactly 18″ tall you can still customize the pattern to fit your yarn!

So I returned to my initial G hook (which, as an added bonus, actually gave me a far more even, less floppy fabric) and started over, using my own gauge and Fuzzy Bear’s measurements. I had no problem this time – the numbers all worked out perfectly and the piece came together easily. The instructions were all clear and easy to follow, and the main part of the vest worked up in no time!

main piece completed
A diagram showing that this is the shape you should end up with would have been nice

From there it was just a simple matter of sewing up the seams, and crocheting the patch pockets. The customization panel didn’t mention that I’d have to resize the pockets too, to match the scale of the vest (although that should have been obvious – silly me!) so I made one supersized pocket before I realised my mistake 🙂

I’m really impressed with the result. Considering that Fuzzy Bear is less than 2/3 of the size of bear the pattern was intended for, you can see that the customization panel really does work! And doesn’t he look adorable in his new vest?

Fuzzy Bear in his new vest
A perfect fit!

Fuzzy Bear in his new vest
I love this stitch pattern

Win a Copy!

Now for the fun part! I have a bonus copy of Crochet for Bears to Wear to give away to one of you! To be entered, simply leave a comment on this post before 6am 12 noon EST on Monday April 26, 2010. Make sure you give your real email address in the ’email’ box (only I will be able to see it) so that I can contact you if you win! The contest is open worldwide. Good luck!

Comments (85)

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    June Gilbank

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