PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for September, 2011

new PlanetJune Accessories… almost…

One year ago today, I launched my first PlanetJune Accessories collection. I designed my patterns to showcase what I consider to be the beauty and variety of crochet, and also as teaching tools, with full written instructions, technique explanations and tips, photos, illustrations, and charted stitch diagrams.

PlanetJune Accessories Fall 2010 Collection of crochet patterns

The customer feedback I’ve had has been so positive (check the reviews in my shop to see!) that I’ve been eager to find time to create another set of designs. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working hard so that I’d be able to launch my second collection today, on the anniversary of the original launch. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been Accessories-obsessed, stressed to the eyeballs, with no time or energy to spend on anyone or anything else, just to try to get this collection ready to launch by the end of September.

Um, does that seem stupid to you too? Why am I torturing myself by working myself into the ground, just to meet an arbitrary deadline?!

You may not appreciate this (I didn’t, and I’ve been through it before, so I really should have remembered), but there’s a ridiculously large amount of work that goes into creating a collection of patterns when you do it all yourself. Designing, crocheting, pattern writing, testing, stitch diagram drawing, phototography, modelling, editing and layout – the list goes on, and every stage is time-consuming if you want to do it right and produce a high quality product. Then multiply it all by 5 or 6 and try to work on them all simultaneously without losing your mind….

This process has made me think seriously about the way I’m running my business. I have a lot of ideas, and a lot of things I want to create and accomplish. But there’s only one June, and only so many hours in the day. I set myself big goals and push myself far too hard to reach them – I don’t want to get sick again, or burn out.

So that’s why today’s post is to announce that I will not be releasing a new PJ Accessories collection today: I’m going to take a few more days and make sure I do justice to my new designs. I’m really excited about them, and I hope you’ll love them too!

Here’s a little taster of what you can expect:

PlanetJune Accessories collection 2 (teaser)

Look out for the new PlanetJune Accessories collection, coming soon, with launch week discounts! If you want to make sure you don’t miss them, sign up for my newsletter – I’m going to hold back my September update so I’ll send out the newsletter, including the discount codes, as soon as the collection is ready.

And now, I think I’m going to stop working (for a few minutes, at least) πŸ™‚

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the Amigurumi Accessory Kit is back!

The one thing that really upset me about not selling eyes for amigurumi any more was not being able to offer my bestselling Amigurumi Accessory Kit – it was so popular with amigurumi makers, and made such a nice gift for a crocheter or as a starter kit for someone who’d like to try making amigurumi.

So, I’ve decided to try a test run of a new and improved Amigurumi Accessory Kit.

Amigurumi Accessory Kit (eyes, stitch markers, stuffing tool) by PlanetJune
It’s back – with a huge selection of goodies for amigurumi-making!

As before, it includes the bestselling PlanetJune exclusive amigurumi tools (check out the reviews on their product pages – linked below – and you’ll see why they are absolute essentials), and a selection of commonly-used eyes.

The new kit includes a selection of larger clear eyes than the original kit. As clear eyes have a smaller black pupil, you usually need to use a slightly bigger eye than you would with an all-black eye to get a cute look. Now, instead of only three sizes, you’ll be able to experiment with eyes in every size between 6mm and 15mm, and get a better idea of which sizes to buy in future. (By the way, if you’re looking for more eyes, I won’t be selling them again except in this kit, so I recommend you visit Suncatcher Eyes when you need to stock up.)

My new Amigurumi Accessory Kit includes:

  • 1 Detail Stuffing Tool
  • 5 Stitch Markers
  • 2 pairs black 6mm safety eyes with washers
  • 2 pairs clear 8mm safety eyes with washers
  • 2 pairs black 9mm safety eyes with washers
  • 2 pairs clear 10mm safety eyes with washers
  • 2 pairs black 12mm safety eyes with washers
  • 2 pairs clear 15mm safety eyes with washers

Whether you’re just getting started with amigurumi, or want a selection of the best accessories conveniently to hand, the Amigurumi Accessory Kit is a great deal at only $12 (the separate components would cost $15 if bought alone, plus you’d need to pay for two shipping charges – for the exclusive tools from my shop and for the eyes from somewhere else).

As I said at the start of this post, this is a test run to see how popular the new kit will be, and I currently have limited stocks, so please don’t wait too long if you’d like one (or more). Also, tell your crocheting friends! If the kit sells well, I’ll add it to my permanent product list.

You’ll find the new and improved Amigurumi Accessory Kit exclusively in the PlanetJune shop.

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Cape Town wildlife IV

This is the fourth post in my monthly series on the fascinating nature I encounter here in South Africa.

I’ve seen so much wildlife that it’s hard to keep this to one post per month – I still have photos from months ago that I haven’t had a chance to show you yet! I’ll try to come up with some kind of theme for each post, to help me select which photos to include. My theme this month is giants – and I have a very varied selection that fits into this category! I’ll show them by size…

I’ve been hearing something large that buzzes as loudly as a hummingbird flying around my garden, but I couldn’t figure out what it was until I finally saw one on the ground. This is one big beetle (about an inch long):
garden fruit chafer
It’s a garden fruit chafer (pachnoda sinuata), from the same family as scarabs and dung beetles. Apparently, it’s a pest because it feeds on fruit and flowers. All I know is it gives me a fright when one zooms right past my head!

cape lappet moth caterpillar
This is the caterpillar of the Cape Lappet Moth. Although they are about 4″ long, seeing one by itself like this isn’t too scary – it’s actually quite pretty, with a purple patch on its head and soft coppery hairs on each side. But you’ll commonly see dozens swarming together on a tree trunk, and that’s a far creepier sight…

cape porcupine
The porcupine is the largest rodent in Africa, sometimes reaching over 2 feet long! We saw these Cape Porcupines at World of Birds – although they are common here, they’re also nocturnal, so there’s not much chance of me getting a photo of one in the wild. Just look at those quills!

Imagine going for a walk along the river by your house and seeing this giant coming in to land (there’s a pigeon there too, for scale – it has a 9ft wingspan)…

It is, of course, a Great White Pelican. At 160cm long, it’s as long as I am tall! We watched it waddling around on the river bank, preening, and then swimming around for ages with its big feet visible behind it in the water as it slowly paddled. Then a second one flew down to join it, looking more like a giant pterosaur than a bird in flight. It’s just amazing to see this kind of thing!

rondevlei nature reserve
We visited Rondevlei Nature Reserve, only a short drive from our house and home to around 230 species of birds. We saw over 35 species on our visit, but this vlei (lake) is actually also home to a family of hippos! We spent a while looking for them, but hippos usually stay underwater during the day, and only emerge to graze in the evening.

hippo tracks
We didn’t see any sign of a hippo except these tracks they have trampled (unfortunately, it’s not that obvious from my photo, but the grass in the middle, between the bushes, is the hippo trail). Maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of an actual hippo next time we visit…

At this time of year, Southern Right Whales come close to shore, to breed and give birth. We were just on our way back from Rondevlei, when we saw what was unmistakeably a whale tail, sticking up out of the water. Our first whale! I assumed it would be about the size of a beluga whale; it was only later when I got home that I discovered that this whale is 50ft (15m) long, and the tail alone is around 5m wide – no wonder it was so easy to spot (hence the poor photo quality; we were actually a very long way away). The whale kept its tail pointed up out of the water for ages – this is apparently a known behaviour called ‘sailing’.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my latest wildlife update. Life is certainly very different for me here, and not without its challenges and frustrations, but, as a nature lover, it’s wonderful for me to see all these animals and birds that I imagined I’d only ever see in zoos or on wildlife documentaries, and I’m not taking that for granted!

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YarnCraft contest results

Wow, what a contest! I so enjoyed reading all your comments on my interview with Liz and Zontee from YarnCraft, and seeing which yarn colours are your favourites.

I had an overwhelming 170 comments to go through, so I did it the technical way so I wouldn’t be working on it all night:

  • downloaded all the comments
  • stripped out any duplicates
  • stripped out any entries that arrived after the end of the contest
  • used to choose the winner from the remaining 164 entries
YarnCraft podcast

And the winner is:

#15, Chrisie Merriman! Congratulations, Chrisie! I’ll email your Fruit Bat pattern to you, and pass on your details to Zontee at Lion Brand, and she’ll hook you up with your Vanna’s Choice yarn (in your choices of Espresso, Toffee and Scarlet).

crocheted fruit bat by planetjune

No losers at PlanetJune…
Now, I know this means I’ve left 163 people disappointed, and that makes me feel bad, so I’m going to send you all a little something to make you feel better. Check your email πŸ˜‰

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behind the scenes: my new photo studio

Have you entered my contest to win your choice of Vanna’s Choice yarns and a PlanetJune pattern? It’s open until Thursday – don’t forget to get your entry in!

I thought you might like to see my new photo studio and a glimpse behind the magic (ha!) that goes into my crochet pattern photos. Things have changed for the better since I last showed you my light tent setup and tutorial photography setup. My photo setup in Canada included 2 swing lamps and 2 goose-neck lamps (all with daylight bulbs) and my light tent:

craft room
Light tent in the good old days

It worked well, and I was happy with it. The only problem was when I made something too large to photograph in the light tent (e.g. Reepicheep, dinosaur group shots): then I had to fall back on the (thankfully) good natural light in my craft room and wait for a bright, overcast afternoon to give me the right conditions to shoot in daylight.

My new craft room has no natural light to speak of – our house is on one level, the windows are small, and there are trees right outside my window, so it’s dim inside on even the sunniest day. (I’m sure this will be a blessing in the heat of the South African summer!)

craft room window
Pretty view, but dark interior

As I couldn’t bring my old lamps with me (wrong voltage), I had to sell them all before I left and buy everything again at this end. There’s no IKEA or equivalent here, and 4 lamps and 4 bulbs at South African prices was not an appealing prospect. I also couldn’t find those daylight-coloured bulbs anywhere…

All these factors made a perfect excuse to upgrade my setup and invest in some professional lighting. I found an excellent local photographic shop, Studio22, who helped me to find a pro lighting solution that was within my budget. I bought 2 light stands, 2 fluorescent lamp heads (each with 2 sockets), 4x38W daylight bulbs (expensive, but they should last for years), and 2 translucent white umbrellas.

planetjune photo studio for product photography
The new setup

And oh, what a difference!

  • I can light my static scenes with an even light without having to fiddle with 4 lamps to get them all into position.
  • The bulbs are cool, so I can shoot for hours without raising the temperature in my room.
  • Without the confines of my light tent, I can light anything that fits on my desk, at any time of day or night.
  • I can set up to shoot a tutorial or video and light the scene much more easily and evenly (and without roasting under the hot lights!)

Of course, nothing is perfect: my craft room isn’t huge, and those umbrellas take up a lot of room! When I have it all assembled, I have to pick my way around them to reach the computer. And this desk is also my sewing table, so I have to get everything out of the way if I want to set up my sewing machine. It’s really not a big deal, though: to dismantle, I just furl the umbrellas and move the light stands (still set up and plugged in) and camera tripod to the corner of the room. When I next need a photo, it only takes a minute to set it all up again.

planetjune photo studio for product photography
Setting the scene (that’s my camera in the foreground)

On the desk, I create my scene. In this case, I have:

  • My handpainted ‘dappled forest’ backdrop, stuck to the wall with sticky tack. (I painted this backdrop for my AfricAmi set in 2008, and I’m so relieved it survived the move without the paint cracking.)
  • A fabric ‘ground’
  • Fake foliage courtesy of the dollar store (I really miss dollar stores for buying props!)
  • And, of course, the star of the show – my Aardvark in this case πŸ™‚

I complete the setup with my camera on a tripod in front of the desk. I use the remote control (toe-operated!) when I’m making tutorials or videos, sat behind the camera with my hands in view, and otherwise take photos the regular way.

Hopefully my pattern photos will now be so irresistible that the business will repay my equipment investment in no time!

Comments (12)

YarnCraft interview and contest

YarnCraft podcast

Note: Don’t miss the giveaway at the end of this post!

YarnCraft, Lion Brand’s knitting and crocheting podcast, will air its 100th episode on September 13th! You can catch up on any episodes you’ve missed at the YarnCraft blog, or listen directly through iTunes.

The YarnCraft hosts, Liz and Zontee, are on a celebration blog tour, and today they’ve stopped at PlanetJune for a chat…

June: When you’re not podcasting, what are your roles at Lion Brand?

Liz: I do the product development at Lion Brand, which means I am in the lucky position of getting to work directly with mills to produce our new yarns!

Zontee: I work in marketing on content and outreach. I edit our various email newsletters like The Weekly Stitch and YarnPlay, oversee our blog (The Lion Brand Notebook), produce the podcast, and develop content for our website. I also work on our programs at yarn conventions and festivals and work with artists and designers who use our yarns, which means I get to spend a lot of time getting out in the yarncrafting community.

June: You’re both very knowledgeable! Has working on the show broadened your knowledge? And what’s your favourite yarncraft?

Liz: Working on the show has definitely encouraged me to learn a lot more about yarncrafting. We have such great guests that all specialize in different areas, so we get a lot of great information from them. And our listeners always challenge us with unique questions, so we have to do our research to bring them the right answers!

Zontee: One thing I’ve learned about teaching others is that it makes you more aware of the skills you already possess and just how difficult it can sometimes be to explain them. Working on the show has made me more appreciative of people who teach crafts and teach in general, because it really is a skill. I don’t think either Liz or I can really pick a favorite yarncraft, since we’re both multi-craftual. I’m just going to say that I think every craft has its strengths and its place in the world.

June: What’s your favorite YarnCraft episode?

Liz: I love all the episodes with Lily Chin because I always learn something new whenever she’s on the show. My all-time favorite tip is taping your swatch to the wall to measure gauge to get more accurate numbers!

Zontee: I like the episodes when we answer listener questions, because I think that they’re the episodes that cover the most varied, and in the end, probably the most useful advice for our listeners’ daily crafting lives.

June: Liz, I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I was having trouble finding good yellow shades for my amigurumi and there was a lot of agreement. Is there a particular reason for the lack of yellow/orange shades of yarn?

Liz: Generally if it’s hard to find a certain color, yarn weight, or fiber, it’s because that type of product has not sold well for retailers in the past. Yellow and Oranges have typically not been strong sellers in yarn. Even though these have been trendy colors in fashion the last few years, a lot of customers are hesitant to wear yellow and orange, or use it in home dΓ©cor. We have a great article on our website about Natural Dyeing with food and spices that produced some nice yellows if you want to experiment and make your own.

June: That makes sense; I wouldn’t want to wear yellow/orange shades either – I’d only use them to make flowers and animals! I’d love to try natural dyeing; unfortunately I’m sensitive to wool and acrylic won’t accept dye – it’d be a great solution for people who can work with wool though.

Thank you, Liz and Zontee, for taking the time to chat with me!

Win Vanna’s Choice yarn and a PlanetJune pattern!

Lion Brand Vanna's Choice yarn

I love to design amigurumi patterns using Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice yarn. It has more substance than many other worsted weight yarns, which makes for really nice shaping on my amigurumi, and there’s a huge range of lovely muted colours to choose from.

PlanetJune crocheted amigurumi designs made using Vanna's Choice yarn
All these PlanetJune crochet patterns use Vanna’s Choice yarn

Liz and Zontee are giving one lucky reader three balls of Vanna’s Choice in the colour(s) of your choice, and I’ll kick in a free PlanetJune pattern of your choice too, to give you a project for your new yarn!

To enter: just leave a comment on this post, letting me know which shade(s) you’d choose for your 3 balls of Vanna’s Choice if you win (and as you can make at least two amigurumi from one ball, I’d recommend you choose a selection of colours!) and which pattern of mine you’d like!

The contest is not US only (yay!) – you can enter if you have a shipping address in the US or any of the countries Lion Brand can ship to. (If you’re from outside the US you’ll be responsible for any duty and/or import taxes on the prize.)

You may enter until 6pm (EST) on Thursday September 15th 2011. I’ll draw a random winner from all the entries after that time.

Good luck!

Comments (171)

fall seasonal crochet patterns

At a loss with the kids back in school?* Feeling the end-of-summer blues?* Let me recommend a crochet solution to lift your spirits, with a roundup of my Autumn, Harvest, Thanksgiving and Halloween-related patterns.

*Even if neither of those apply, crochet is always a wise choice, in my experience.

realistic crocheted pumpkin by planetjune

cute crocheted pumpkin by planetjunespooky crocheted pumpkin by planetjune

The free (donationware) Pumpkin pattern includes 3 flavours, so you can make a realistic pumpkin, a smiley kawaii version, or a scary Jack-o-Lantern for Halloween.

PlanetJune Accessories Animal Ears crochet pattern
Animal Ears includes options for Mouse/Bear, Bunny, and Cat ears, and would be perfect for an inexpensive Halloween costume.

crocheted fruit bat by planetjune
Fruit Bat amigurumi crochet pattern – cute at any time of year.

amigurumi halloween ghost black cat witch crochet by planetjune
Halloween PocketAmi pattern set includes a tiny Black Cat, Ghost and Witch.

Fruit-Along CAL at PlanetJune: amigurumi apples and pears

And, of course, you can join in with the Fruit-Along crochet-along running throughout September at the PlanetJune group on Ravelry. My Amigurumi Apples and Amigurumi Pears work up so quickly that people have started posting pics of their yummy-looking fruit already – fun! I’ll do a roundup of all the projects here once the CAL is over πŸ™‚

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Fruit-Along! (amigurumi apples and pears)


We’re having a little fruity crochet-along at the PlanetJune ravelry group, just for fun. Would you like to join in? It’s easy: just crochet one or more Amigurumi Apples or Amigurumi Pears from my free (donationware) patterns and post a photo in the Fruity CAL thread! Thanks to Judy for suggesting ‘Fruit-Along’ name πŸ™‚

Fruit-Along CAL at PlanetJune: amigurumi apples and pears

Why would you want to crochet fruit? Here are some suggestions:

  • Make a mixed fruit bowl – perfect for Fall decor
  • Give your favourite teacher (or student) a back-to-school gift
  • Add safety eyes and embroider a smile for a kawaii toy or ornament
  • Use them as stress balls (I’ve tried this – it works!)
  • Add a squeaker or rattle for an interactive toy
  • Make a mini version (finer yarn and smaller hook) filled with catnip for your cat
  • Crochet a full-sized version from hard-wearing cotton as a dog toy
  • …or share your alternative uses in the Fruit-Along thread!
Fruit-Along CAL at PlanetJune: amigurumi apples and pears

Feel free to grab the image above if you’d like to post about the CAL on your blog, or, if it’s too big, I’ve made this mini button you can save for your blog or anywhere else you’d like to promote the CAL!

Amigurumi Galore!

In order to take the Fruit-Along photo, I had to unpack one box of my amigurumi so I could find my Amigurumi Apples. I thought you might like to see the state of my floor afterwards:

lots of amigurumi! all by planetjune
No, this is not all of my amigurumi!

It would have been faster to make a couple of new apples than it was to take all those out and then pack them carefully away again… (I really need to find the time to get some new toy shelves!)

Review and Win contest

Thanks to those of you who’ve already helped me to fill the blanks in my shop by reviewing my patterns, there are now only 10 patterns in my shop that don’t have a single review – wow! I’m carrying over the bonus entry promotion for those patterns forward to September’s Review and Win contest. (It’s mostly AmiDogs sets that are missing reviews now, and I’d really appreciate it if those blanks were filled by someone who has made those patterns…)

We had 25 reviews in August, and 9 of those were ‘firsts’ with bonus entries, so that’s a total of 34 contest entries. And the lucky winner is Guinevere M, with her review of PocketAmi Set 6: Pets:

These patterns are very detailed and easy to make. I love how they can be customized as well so that you make them to look like your favorite pet. The instructions are clear and concise, and the pictures really help when it comes to assembly. Also, I personally think that this is one of the best cat patterns that I have seen as far as the overall finished product. A fantastic set of patterns, as always.

PocketAmi Set 6: Pets (Kittern, Puppy Parrot) by PlanetJune

Thank you so much to everyone who writes reviews, and congrats to Guinevere (I’ll email you to find out which pattern you’d like as your prize…)

Comments (2)

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    June Gilbank

    Hi, I'm June. Welcome to my world of nature-inspired crochet and crafting. I hope you enjoy your visit!

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