PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for May, 2011

PlanetJune Stories: Melissa Frelo

Today’s PlanetJune Story is from Melissa Frelo of Aurora, IL, and it’s a case of perfect timing: it’s a guinea pig story, and I also have a guinea pig photo to share with you today. We found a wonderful Wildlife Sanctuary in Hout Bay called World of Birds. I joined as a member so I can go back often – it’s the largest bird park in Africa so it’ll be a while before I’ve explored all the amazing free-flying walk-through cages and aviaries. They rescue animals as well as birds, and for some reason (abandoned pets, maybe?) they have a huge cage full of guinea pigs:

PlanetJune stories
Guinea pigs galore!

Unexpected, but very cute! The guinea pigs all seemed very contented, running free in their giant outdoor area and then going back inside for food and water – I think they have a good life there.

And now a segue from real guinea pigs to crocheted guinea pigs!
Melissa writes:

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed making the fuzzy guinea pigs. I ordered the pattern from your website and made the piggies for my childrens’ Easter baskets. Although I have experience crocheting, this was my first attempt at amigurumi. Your instructions were very detailed and easy to follow and the results were great. I attached a few photos of the real piggies and their crocheted friends. Thanks for the wonderful pattern!

And thank you, Melissa, for sharing your story with us. Here are Melissa’s guinea pigs, Roxie and Gracie, and their crocheted counterparts – it’s hard to tell which are real and which are crocheted!

PlanetJune stories

Melissa did a great job with matching the markings to her piggies’ markings.

PlanetJune stories

Just look at those sweet guinea piggy faces – so adorable! My guinea pig pattern has been a bestseller for years now, but if you haven’t jumped on the guinea pig train yet, you can get on board and pick up the pattern in my shop ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you have a PlanetJune Story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! Please email your story to, together with one or more high quality photos showing what you’ve made from PlanetJune patterns. If I choose your story to feature here on the blog, I’ll send you your choice of pattern from my shop to say thank you!

Comments (3)

PlanetJune Affiliate Program

Wow, I’m blown away by the response to my bird photos post! Not only that you like my photos (yay!) and my sharing my nature-related experiences here (double yay!) but also to hear from some previously-silent readers. Hello new commenters! Thanks for speaking up – it’s really nice to hear from you ๐Ÿ™‚

* * *

Over the last couple of months, my business has obviously suffered: firstly having to (temporarily) close some sections of my shop as I can’t ship physical products at the moment; secondly not having any time to work on new designs for my pattern range; and thirdly not being available much to converse/share/help in my usual way, which has also led to a drop in my pattern sales.

I was on the brink of putting out a call for help and asking you to recommend me to your crocheting friends, when I came up with a perfect plan: we can help each other! I’ve created the PlanetJune Affiliate program so you can earn a commission when you refer your friends and readers to my shop.

If you’re familiar with the Amazon affiliate program, mine is very similar: you link to me using your unique ID code, my shop tracks everyone who visits using that code, and you get 5% commission on any orders that are made using your code. Every quarter, I’ll pay out your affiliate earnings as PlanetJune gift certificates.

I’m really excited about this program, but because it’s brand new (I pre-launched it on Twitter and my Facebook page last week) I’m open to modifying things to make it work better for you…


For example, you can choose any of the banners pictured above to post on your blog etc, but if none of them is a convenient size to fit your sidebar, or you run a website full of pug fans (for example), and a pug banner would be the best way to grab their attention, just let me know and I’d be happy to add custom banners to fit your site and audience ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope you’re as excited about this opportunity as I am! If you are, please sign up as a PlanetJune Affiliate today, help me to spread the word about my patterns to other crocheters, and we’ll both win as a result!

Comments (2)

Cape Town wildlife I

I have the amazing opportunity now I live in South Africa to experience a different side of nature; one that most of you will probably only see in wildlife documentaries, if at all. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I occasionally deviate from the crafty nature of my blog to share some photos of the plants, birds and animals I see! As these will probably be inspiration for my future crochet designs, I don’t think it’s totally off-topic, and I hope you’ll enjoy a few glimpses into the nature of South Africa. (Please just skip these posts if they don’t interest you – I promise they won’t take over the blog!)

In this first post, I’ll show you some of our garden birds…

Wild Guineafowl roam freely everywhere – these are part of a group of about a dozen that patrol the grounds of our flats and the surrounding streets. They look a bit like small turkeys and they bob their heads quickly as they walk (as captured by the motion blur in my photo). Their loud call sounds like a squeaky bike wheel, and when several start up, it gets pretty raucous…

cape sugarbird (female)
The Cape Sugarbird feeds on the nectar in protea flowers, as shown here (this type of protea is called a Sugarbush and produces copious nectar which can be used as a natural sweetener). The female (above) is nice-looking, but the male is the real stunner…

cape sugarbird (male)
…his tail feathers are twice as long as his entire body! Very impressive when he’s sitting like this, but it looks like hard work to fly dragging those feathers behind him…

hadeda ibis
There’s nothing in this picture for scale, but ibis are very large! I’ve only seen them in zoos before, so having them as a common garden visitor is pretty amazing – we see them from our window, pulling worms out of the lawn with those long beaks. This type of ibis is called Hadeda (rhymes with la-di-la!) and is named for its loud call of “ha-ha-haadada”. When a group fly over or sit in a tree shouting that in unison, you really know about it!

Larger than the common starling you’re probably familiar with, the Red-Winged Starling looks fairly unexciting, until it takes flight… Do you see that edge of rusty red-brown on its wing? Their entire wings are that colour when in flight, so they look much more interesting as they fly by than they do when they land. I haven’t been able to capture that in a photo though ๐Ÿ™‚

I know doves aren’t exactly unusual, but they are so sweet I thought you might like to see one anyway. There are two common types of dove here: the Cape Turtle Dove and the little colourful one pictured here, the Laughing Dove.

I first saw White-Eyes on holiday in Hawaii, so they feel like a very tropical bird to me. Very small and shy, the Cape White-Eyes are very hard to photograph because they don’t stay in plain sight for long. This is the best photo I’ve been able to capture so far, but I’ll keep trying ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s so much more amazing wildlife here. I’d love to write more posts like this and share what I see with you, but only if I have an interested audience: I don’t want to bore you! If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment so I know you’d like to see more…

Comments (45)

catching up

Will I ever get caught up with everything?! I’ve just drawn Aprilโ€™s Review and Win contest winnerโ€ฆ Taking the bonus entries for ‘first’ reviews into account, this monthโ€™s lucky winner is Rebecca P, with her review of my ever-popular AquaAmi Sea Turtle pattern:

sea turtle crochet pattern by planetjune

I love this pattern, it is easy to follow and allows the crocheter to create a beautiful turtle. It is also the cutest and most realistic turtle I have been able to find.

Congratulations, Rebecca, Iโ€™ll email you to find out which pattern youโ€™d like as your prize!

While I’m here, I thought I’d share a couple more Cape Town photos with you. Remember the ugly round tower block I’m living in at the moment? It was only when we visited Signal Hill and looked across the city towards Table Mountain that we fully appreciated what an eyesore the 3 towers really are: here’s a pic of them rising above the city and spoiling the view of the mountain:

cape town from signal hill

We’re staying in the middle one. At least it won’t be for too long, and we have the spectacular views to enjoy while we’re up here ๐Ÿ™‚

And one more point of interest: the currency (South African Rands, ZAR) has pictures of the Big 5 animals on it – isn’t that cool?! (Apart from the hunting connotations, but I’ll choose to ignore that.) It’s much easier to remember that R10 is a rhino instead of some random historical figure I’ve never heard of, like on most banknotes ๐Ÿ™‚

south African currency

FYI, the banknote animals are:
R10 Rhinoceros
R20 Elephant
R50 Lion
R100 Cape Buffalo
R200 Leopard

Just don’t ask me why they are in that order – I have no idea!

Comments (16)

Kingfisher crochet pattern

Today I get to restart working full-time at PlanetJune – I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed it!

I wasn’t sure what to do first – I feel like I’m months behind on everything – but then yesterday, we were lucky enough to glimpse a very special bird: a kingfisher. Please excuse the quality of these pics; it’s a tiny bird and we couldn’t get close without it flying away… I snapped these at full 18x zoom:

malachite kingfisher

malachite kingfisher

It seemed like a sign that my first order of business should be to publish my kingfisher pattern, don’t you agree? You may notice that the colours and markings in the photos above don’t quite match my design below: was saw a Malachite Kingfisher (common here in southern Africa) but the breed I designed is the Common Kingfisher (the UK variety) who’s more teal coloured than blue, and doesn’t have a red beak. And now onto my design…

inside crochet issue 10 - kingfisher by june gilbank

I designed this Kingfisher pattern last year. It was first published in Inside Crochet magazine, but written in UK crochet terminology and missing all my step-by-step assembly photos. Now I’m publishing it in standard terms and PlanetJune format!

kingfisher crochet pattern by planetjune kingfisher crochet pattern by planetjune

This bird can stand all by himself, without using any wires or internal armatures to strengthen him, so, if you omit the safety eyes, he’d be a kid-friendly toy as well as a decorative piece.

I’m particularly proud of this design because I incorporated a clever new method I developed to make the orange/blue stripe on the body match on both sides (as amigurumi-style stitches donโ€™t stack on top of each other, if you crocheted both sides the same way, one side would slope up and the other would slope down).

The Kingfisher crochet pattern is now available to purchase in my shop. I hope it’ll be the first of many PlanetJune bird designs…

Comments (13)

cutting down and cutting up

This is the first post I’ve written using my new BlackBerry (although the photos were taken back in Canada a few weeks ago)! I hope this works, as I won’t have internet access for my laptop until our furniture arrives in a couple of months and we can move out of this temporary accommodation. Here goes…

Cutting Down (aka downsizing my wardrobe)

As part of our move preparations, I sorted through all my clothes and donated any that didn’t fit or suit me any more. We gave away over 8 garbage bags full of clothing (mostly mine) and I reduced my wardrobe by about half! In case this makes me sound like a clothes junkie, I should probably clarify that most of these clothes had UK labels, which makes them at least 8 years old(!) – I really don’t like to get rid of anything that I may find a use for some day…

I do feel the occasional twinge of regret about all the stuff I’ve donated, but, on the whole, it’s liberating to have reduced my wardrobe by so much. If you have the time, I recommend you refresh your wardrobe too. This is how I did it:

How to refresh your wardrobe

  1. Try on every single item of clothing you own
  2. Look at yourself in a mirror (full-length if possible) and pretend you’re in a shop fitting room
  3. Ask yourself ‘Would I pay to buy this right now?’

If the answer is ‘no’, it’s time to repair/refashion/donate/toss it, and reclaim some space in your closet!

Cutting Up (aka mending and refashioning)

My plan was to pack only wearable clothes for the move, so I donated the larger ‘project’ items (like sweaters I’d had vague plans to felt and make into something at some point – i.e. I’d probably never actually do anything with), and concentrated on the simpler alterations I needed to bring everything else into wearable condition:

Exhibit A: Mending. New buttons attached, belt loop stitched back on, strap stitched back down. Quick and easy when you actually sit down and do it, and now I’ve rescued 3 pairs of pants and a top from the mending pile.

mending: new buttons, fixed belt loop, fixed strap
Mending: new buttons, fixed belt loop, fixed strap

Exhibit B: Extra-long pants. Oh look! I’ve been Americanised! I used to say ‘trousers’ – I wonder when that changed… It’s ridiculously easy to take up pants neatly, although I can never remember how to do it. Luckily, I wrote a really good tutorial for it in 2007 – it saves me from having to figure the method out each time! How embarrassing that I had 2 pairs I’ve never worn because they’ve been sitting, with the tags still attached, waiting for me to take up the excess length. 2 brand-new pairs of pants to add to my wardrobe – very nice.

alteration: shortened pants
Shortening: I cut 3″ off the bottom of these pants and re-hemmed them

Exhibit C: Too-short pants. As I’m 5’2″, I’ve made the mistake of buying “short” length trousers in the past, and worn them for far too long before I realised they were that awkward ankle length. I’ve donated almost all of these faux pas pairs, but I have these linen-mix jeans that I really love (apart from the length). What to do with them? I’ve seen tutorials for adding a decorative ribbon or strip of fabric at the bottom, but that’s really not a look I’d like to wear. So, I used my handy taking up trousers tutorial again, and converted them into capris! Same method, different result.

alteration: too-short pants to capris
New capris: cropped pants from embarrassing ankle-length jeans

Exhibit D: Too-long skirt. I’m not going to subject you to a ‘before’ photo – let’s just say that this ankle-length skirt, circa early 90s, was not at all flattering on my short pear-shaped frame. But it fits nicely, I like the print, and you’d never guess how old it is (apart from the dated style). It’s a stretch fabric – always a challenge to work with – but I got brave with my scissors and cut it off at knee length, zig-zag stitched around the raw edge to stop it from fraying (I don’t have a serger), then turned up the bottom edge and stitched a new hem. I only folded the hem over once in this case to reduce bulk and weight. I skeptically tried the straight stretch stitch on my sewing machine for the first time – it really works! I now have a really cute knee-length skirt, and, added bonus, I have a sizeable piece of leftover fabric (which I packed with my fabric stash).

alteration: ankle-length to knee-length skirt
Swishy knee-length skirt from ankle-length horror (it was too cold to model it for you but, trust me, it looks good)

That’s the last I’ll see of my trusty sewing machine for a couple of months; it’s packed in our shipping container and (I hope) on its way to us! My efforts rescued 8 items of clothing – not bad for a couple of hours’ work. I’m particularly happy with Exhibits C and D: my new capri pants and knee-length skirt will be perfect for the warmer climate here in South Africa!

Mend, refashion, donate and/or toss – wouldn’t your wardrobe benefit from a little spring cleaning too?

Comments (5)

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