Do you find that reading a review for an online product really helps you to make a buying decision? I know I do, and I always wonder if there’s something terribly wrong with a product that has zero reviews: maybe it’s so bad that nobody has ever even bought it..?!
Lots of people find me through a google search for, e.g. “corgi crochet pattern”, and may have no idea who PlanetJune is, or know about the quality and detail I put into all my patterns. I think that seeing a review from a fellow crocheter would help reassure them far more than a sales pitch from me could, so, to help these people, I’d really like to have at least one review available for every pattern in my shop.
I’m getting close – there are now an amazing 273 reviews posted in my shop, covering almost all of my patterns and products, which is fantastic! I really do appreciate every review, and that’s why I host my monthly ‘Review and Win’ contest to reward you for taking the time to write them.
If you can help me reach my goal, I’d be ever so grateful. I’ll also give you a double entry into this month’s ‘Review and Win’ contest for every first review for a pattern you write. To make this less of a treasure hunt, here’s a list of all the patterns that (at time of writing) have zero reviews:
I usually keep my designs a secret while I work on them, in case I fail to create what I can see in my head (it happens!), but last week, I was crocheting away on my new design and I spontaneously decided to host a contest on my Facebook page, to guess what the design would be. I released one text clue every hour, and people could guess again after each clue was released. It took 5 hours and almost 100 comments before we had a winning guess of Aardvark, by which time my design was well on the way to completion. It was so much fun to have people keeping me company with their guesses as I worked, I think I might do it again some time 🙂
I don’t know why the idea to crochet an aardvark popped into my head, but, once it did, I had to drop all my other projects immediately and get to work – that’s the way my crazy brain works. The aardvark is just so cute and funny and distinctive looking, I thought it would be the perfect subject for a one-colour design, where all the magic is in the shaping.
It was easy enough to draw my aardvark sketch, but turning that 2D shape into the 3D reality involved a lot of trial and error to get it smooth and perfect and in proportion. I think I succeeded though!
I also went for a change of scale with this design: I think Aardvark is one of my largest worsted weight amigurumi, at 13.5″ long from snout to tail.
Aardvark Fun Facts
Aardvarks are found all over Africa.
The name “aardvark” means “earth pig” in Afrikaans.
Aardvarks live in burrows and eat ants and termites.
They weigh over 100lbs and their tail alone is 2 ft long.
Aardvarks independently evolved similar features to the unrelated Anteaters (who come from South America) – isn’t nature amazing?!
I hope you like my funny little ‘earth pig’. I’m hoping he’ll be a talisman to keep the ants out of my house; he doesn’t seem to be making much difference so far, but I love him anyway 🙂
Before our inter-continental move, I pared down my wardrobe by about half, getting rid of anything worn out, badly fitting, or no longer my style. That’s left me with a very minimal wardrobe, and now I really need to replace some of the items I purged.
I went clothes shopping for the first time last weekend and it was an absolute disaster… Everything is far more expensive here than in Canada. I have a gut feeling about how much I’d be willing to pay for something that’s okay (not bad looking, functional, plain, fits well enough or can be easily modified, a good basic piece) vs something that’s perfect (I love it and know I’ll enjoy wearing for years, great style and/or detailing, the perfect fit) and these prices were far, far higher than my range. There’s no way I’m ever going to be able to justify paying more than my perfect piece price for a merely okay item.
I spent 2 hours browsing and getting more and more despondent. The only thing I even liked enough to consider was a t-shirt in a sale rack, but then I saw the price tag: reduced from $45 equivalent to $30 equivalent! I’ve paid $30 for a t-shirt once, but it’s my favourite top and has loads of detailing (fitted bodice, lace, pleats, gathered neckline) that, for me, justified the price. This was just a plain striped t-shirt… Um, no.
I left the shirt on the rack and gave up on the whole clothes shopping idea. On my way out, I stopped at the craft store and bought some beads, and then I went home to cheer myself up by making something…
Making is fun
(Please excuse my translucently pale skin – being sick for 6 months does takes a toll on a girl’s complexion…)
Two bracelets and a necklace for under $2 – now that’s my kind of shopping! And because I chose all the supplies myself, I could make sure that the necklace is subtle and will go with all my pink and purple tops, and that the bracelets are bolder and will look perfect next to indigo denim. Being crafty is so much more fun than buying mass-produced, over-priced stuff.
When life gives you lemons…
And that gave me the idea to try turning this disappointment into an opportunity: maybe I can make my own clothes in future..? I can take the time that I used to spend wandering malls looking for the elusive piece that has a June-approved style, colour, fit, and price, and use it to learn to stitch garments that I’m guaranteed to like. And so the idea for the Handmade Clothing Project was born.
This will be a huge challenge for me: I’m by no means an expert at sewing, and very inexperienced at making garments from scratch – shortening or modifying existing clothes to fit is more my level at the moment. But I have designed and stitched up bags, a skirt and a t-shirt from scratch in the past, so I think I should be able to do this, if I start with very simple items.
I made this simple skirt in 2008 and it’s still one of my favourites – plus I get the bonus “yay, I made this!” feeling every time I put it on.
I can begin the Handmade Clothing Project with almost no costs: I already have a moderate fabric stash (acquired over the years from remnant bins – I can’t resist a bargain), a wonderful sewing machine, and a small library of books to help me on my way:
Now all I need is to buy a voltage converter so I can plug my 110V sewing machine into a 240V socket, and I’ll be ready to go! This will obviously be a time-consuming process for me, and I’m still busy trying to get my business back up to speed, so don’t expect new clothing posts every week. But I will share my Handmade Clothing Project successes (and failures) here as they occur – maybe it’ll inspire you to try making clothing too.
Do you make any of your own clothes, or have you ever considered trying it? If so, feel free to join in with the Handmade Clothing Project. (You can still buy clothes too – this isn’t a hardcore “I will never buy clothing again” pledge!) There are no time limits or deadlines, and the only Clothing Project rules are to make stuff you can wear and have fun with it. Crocheting and knitting clothes counts too – you don’t have to sew. Just think how good it’ll feel every time you put on a handmade item – I’m pretty sure you won’t ever get that feeling from anything you bought at the mall…
This is the third post in my monthly series on the fascinating nature I encounter here in South Africa.
It turns out that our new house is just a few minutes’ walk from the Liesbeeck River, which is full of waterbirds. This is where I saw the kingfisher you may remember from a few months back. Look how lovely it is!
I think the rest of these pictures will speak for themselves, so I’ll keep my commentary short and sweet. Just remember that it’s the middle of winter here at the moment and, while it’s not sunny like this every day, you can see (above) how beautiful it is here when the sun does come out! Enjoy…
A family of Egyptian Geese – these are the common geese that you see everywhere here (makes a change from Canada Geese!) They have distinctive red patches around their eyes and honk very loudly.
Here’s a pair of Blacksmith Plovers (or Lapwings) – I took more photos, but they all involved, ahem, mating… so you get the boring family-safe photo here 🙂
I love this photo of a Hadeda Ibis – look at the iridescence on the wing.
These are a different type of ibis: the African Sacred Ibis.
We see two common types of gull; this cute little Hartlaub’s Gull, and…
… the much larger Kelp Gulls.
And two types of egret! Here’s a Little Egret (note the yellow feet)…
…and a Cattle Egret. See the buff-coloured plumes? That’s breeding plumage; the feathers are all white the rest of the year.
At first I thought this bird was a cormorant, but it’s actually an African Darter drying its wings after swimming (it swims with its entire body underwater).
Here’s a real cormorant (a Whitebreasted Cormorant). Now I see them together, they don’t look very similar at all…
And a gratuitously scenic shot to end with: Table Mountain (taken from the riverbank).
I hope you enjoyed this month’s African interlude! Are you bored yet, or shall I keep going with these wildlife posts? I have lots more I can show you, but only if you’re interested…
My recent post inspiration/influence vs copying: drawing the line started quite a discussion! I’ve been answering questions in the comments of that post, but copyright is a huge and many-sided issue, and I’m not an expert by any means – I just know what I personally want in regard to my copyright from three different angles:
My designs: don’t copy them
My patterns: don’t share them
Items made from my patterns: yes, you may sell them, provided you give me credit as the designer
Another interesting topic has emerged from the comments, and I thought I’d address that today: the process of designing. Although I shared my research process in the previous post to demonstrate how much ‘behind the scenes’ work goes into my designs, I also hoped it would be of interest to other designers, and it seems that it was. Owein commented:
This post has another very helpful purpose for me. It is a rare treat to see a talented artist’s design process. I would never try to illegally copy any of your designs, but I hope you don’t mind if I emulate your process of producing a design. In fact, I’m sure there are a few blanks that you could fill in if you were to produce a post that outlines your entire design process. I know that was not your original intention, but it is a help to those of us who would like to design unique products of our own.
Now, I can’t share my actual design process – the part that takes you from all the information and pictures I showed in the previous post to my design sketch, because it all happens inside my brain, and so it must work differently for each person. But what I can share is the factors that I balance to produce my designs. These tips don’t apply to only amigurumi designers: this basic process applies to whatever you’re designing, be it patterns, handmade products, or inventions/designs to be commercially manufactured.
Tip 1: Research, research, research
You can never have too much information in the back of your mind when you design. Unless your design is purely fantastical, knowing as much as you can about whatever you’re basing it on can’t hurt, even if your design style is miles away from realistic. Do a Google image search, check Wikipedia, visit some official or fan websites about the subject matter for your design, and maybe even consult a book or two – your local library can hold some amazing reference sources.
Example: Before I started work on my Cactus Collections (right), I visited several cactus websites to get a feel for different types of cacti, and I checked out half a dozen books on growing cacti from the library. After identifying some basic cactus types, I used the books and more websites to do more detailed research on each type.
The research stage also includes checking up on what’s already out there, not with the intent of copying it, but more to make sure that your amazingly original design doesn’t already exist. If someone else has independently come up with the same idea, you can still go ahead and make your own version, but wouldn’t it be better for you as a designer to tweak yours a bit so it’s more distinctive? Not only will this avoid any possible future accusations about copying etc, but you don’t want somebody to confuse your work with the pre-existing one and maybe buy from that person instead of you!
Example: Before starting my Pteranodon design, I looked for existing knit and crochet Pterosaur patterns (above), so I could make sure my design would be original.
Doing this step before you get too deep into your own design gives you a chance to avoid the similarities before they occur.
Tip 2: Find and follow your design aesthetic
The aim isn’t to make your design photo-realistic (unless photo-realism is your trademark style), but to convey the idea in your own style – this is where your inner artist gets to play.
You may not want all your designs to reflect exactly the same style, and of course your style will change with time, experience, and new inspirations, but however many ‘looks’ you develop, they should all be part of your overall style. It’ll help you to find recognition if your designs aren’t too eclectic and have some common stylistic elements between them. Ideally, you’d like people to be able to look at a photo of your work and say “oh, that must be a XXX design – I love his/her stuff!”.
If you’re just getting started in designing, you may not have figured out your own distinct style yet – it takes time.
Example: Here are some of my first designs. It’s pretty clear when I decided to do my research (below) instead of designing purely from images in my head (above) – that’s when my style began to evolve beyond cute (but generic) toys.
You can work on developing your style with research too: try looking at photos of your favourite stuff (Pinterest is a great way to keep track!) , and figure out what it is about each that especially draws you to it. I get inspiration from other handmade work, photos of nature, products I see in shops… there’s inspiration all around if you look for it. Then look for common elements or links between the things you like, such as colour palettes, scale, level of detail and embellishment, etc etc.
The more you know about what you like, the easier it is to reflect that in your work.
Tip 3: Consider the finished product and its purpose
Is it a pattern for others to follow? Then you need to balance the detail of the design with the ease for other people to follow it. The most wonderfully detailed design is no good if your customers give up halfway through in frustration.
Is it a toy for young children? Then you need to consider what is attractive to a child (bright colours, simple shapes) and avoid dangers (delicate parts, choking hazards)
Is it going to be mass-produced? Consider simple designs that can be produced with few pieces, or designs with pieces that can be created as multiples and then assembled separately, to save time.
The list could go on, but I hope you can see that there’s a delicate balance between what makes a good design in a vacuum and what makes a good design in the real world. If you actually want to sell your pattern/product (whatever it may be), it has to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. That’s why my art pieces (for example orang utan, Reepicheep) are far more detailed and complex than my patterns: a pattern for something like that would be hugely difficult and frustrating to follow.
Example: Designing for function: my art pieces (above) would make terrible patterns! My pattern designs (below) are intentionally far simpler.
Just because you can create something complex doesn’t mean you should (unless you’re designing art and it has no purpose other than to look good and/or convey your artistic message). I made the design decision to be minimalistic with my Dinosaurs (only one colour, simple stylised shapes) and yet they have become some of my bestsellers, partly because the simple design makes them a pleasure to crochet.
That’s not to say that all designs should be minimal – it’d be a boring world if they were! – just that what you leave out of your design can be as important as what you put into it. The trick is to figure out what to leave out, and why, by thinking about both form (appearance) and function (intended use).
Go Forth and Design!
If you’ve read through to this point and think you’re ready to make designs that look just like mine, then you’ve missed the point. If you’re serious about designing, you need to be original – the goal here is to create and develop your own distinctive style so that people will begin to recognise you by your work. I hope that following my tips above will help you along that path 🙂
Add your viewpoint! Join the conversation in the comments below…
I thought it was time for a little change of pace. My PocketAmi range is simpler than my usual designs, but they have that instant gratification factor – at only 3″ tall, they are super-fast to crochet and make excellent gifts for kids, or cute little ornaments.
I’ve already made 3 seasonal PocketAmi sets (Halloween, Christmas, and Easter) and I’ve seen how much you enjoy crocheting and modifying them from the Crochet-Alongs I’ve hosted with them! My new PocketAmi Set 6: Pets designs are along the same lines, but fun at any time of year. PocketAmi Pets includes a tiny but adorable puppy, kitten and parrot, all for one price.
PocketAmi Puppy is cute little mixed-breed, with a brown patch over one eye. The pattern also includes a simpler version that omits the eye patch, for novice crocheters who aren’t comfortable with colour changes.
PocketAmi Kitten has calico markings (but of course you can crochet her in any cat colours if you’d prefer!) and the tiniest little kitty nose.
PocketAmi Parrot is surprisingly detailed for an amigurumi only 3″ tall – just look at his parrot eyes and beak shape.
This is my favorite dinosaur pattern, simple, quick and Very well made! I have made several of them already, as well as other PlanetJune dinos! June makes her patterns very user friendly. I recommend PlanetJune to family!
Congratulations, Monica – I’ll email you to find out which pattern you’d like as your prize!
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Today I visited the South Africa Post Office for the first time, to mail out my first batch of orders since reopening for shipping. I was totally surprised to be handed a sheet of stamps – the old gummed type – I haven’t seen them for years! And there wasn’t even one of those wet sponge thingys, so I had to actually lick 26 stamps so I could mail out my orders while I was at the post office. Yuck! I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the day. The things I do for my customers… 😉
I bought extra stamps so I hopefully won’t have to go through that experience again, and they are so pretty I thought I’d share them with you. They seem to have two stamp ranges going at the moment. The first is called “The Luminous Beauty of South African Beadwork” and it shows beaded handcrafts:
And the second is called “South African Sea and Coastal Birds” and each stamp shows a different sea bird, including the African Penguin:
Crafting and wildlife – it’s like they knew I was coming 😉