PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for February, 2012

Plant-Along CAL roundup

As there were 2 simultaneous Crochet-Alongs running for the first half of this month, and the Valentine’s CAL was so popular, I wasn’t sure we’d get many entries in the Plant-Along. I’m happy to have been proved wrong! Here’s the spectacular roundup for February’s Plant-Along CAL – and keep reading to the end to find the March theme…

Plant-Along CAL at PlanetJune

(For speed, I just give credit with participants’ Ravelry usernames.)

Get ready for a floral explosion – you’re about to enter a virtual nursery or garden centre! Here we go…

Single cacti and succulents:

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
Fatals-attraction & CrochetChrisie

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
Veggie & CrochtColorJunkie (yet to be ‘planted’ in a pot!)

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CrochetChrisie & Fatals-attraction

Other singles:

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
rastakt (water lily) and klopferli (plumeria)

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
Plumeria and roses by ChefTerror

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
Daffodil and rose hair clip by CranberryAmi

African Violets:

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
Fatals-attraction & PixyKayte

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Fatals-attraction & saudistitcher

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both by CrochetChrisie (those are 2 separate, but matching, plants)

Lucky Bamboo

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CrochetChrisie & rchlsrsly (still to be potted)

Cactus and Succulent groups

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Fatals-attraction & CrochetChrisie

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esmerelda62 & CrochetChrisie

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rawrjaimee & Soprefon

Some clever modifications:

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
Teeny tiny miniature succulents by Luna1130

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Water Lily coaster set by petrOlly (such a clever idea!) – with a Poison Dart Frog made in green to make him into a regular frog!

And some mega-groups to finish with!

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
jukatca fitted all 8 succulents into a giant pot (ingeniously made from the large Gift Box pattern)

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
Luna1130 made both pot sizes for her succulent collections…

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
… and did the same for her cacti too!

PlanetJune Plant-Along CAL
And theMarkofSMB made almost everything on offer – wow!

Looking at all these beautiful plants just makes me smile – I hope it’s done the same for you! (If you’d like to make any of the patterns featured in this CAL, you’ll find them all under Flowers & Plants in my shop.)

Are you tempted to join in the March CAL? The theme is spring/Easter, and we have a lovely selection of patterns for you to choose from (including the new Baby Bunnies – which is still on special for the rest of today if you haven’t picked up a copy yet):

Easter CAL at PlanetJune

Because of the Easter theme, this CAL will run March 1st – April 8th (Easter Sunday). If you’d like to join in, you can find all the patterns in the Holiday & Seasonal section of my shop, and you’ll find the Easter CAL thread in the PlanetJune Ravelry group – I hope you’ll join us there! 🙂

Comments (6)

PlanetJune Stories: Rita Elenius

Today’s PlanetJune Story is from Rita Elenius from Finland. I’ve heard from several people who’ve used my Basic Rose pattern to crochet the flowers for their wedding bouquets and boutonnieres, but Rita chose something a little less traditional for her own wedding…

Rita writes:

I just wanted to send a small thank you for the mop top mascot pattern you have made and shared with us all. In Finland we don’t yet have that much of amigurumi-culture, so your patterns are a great source of ideas! I first found your lemmings pattern a year ago through a friend, and was ever so delighted, having played the Lemmings-game for hours and hours when I was little.

PlanetJune stories

My wedding was on its way, and we had been trying to think of something to give as wedding favors. When I made a set of Lemmings (pictured above) as a birthday present for my stepfather, the idea of a bunch of little people with all the colors of the rainbow started to grow, and soon I announced to my groom that I would make 80 little mascots for our wedding. At first he was a bit doubtful because of all the work and time it would take, but also excited because he loved the little guys as well.

PlanetJune stories

In the end, the last little person was finished at 6:00 in the morning on the eve of our wedding, after a night of laboring not only by me, but also by my two sisters and my groom. 😀

But it paid off, since the guys were a HUGE hit! Everybody loved them, children played with them, not one was left behind when the night was over. Many of the men put theirs in the breast pocket of their suits, which lifted the spirit even higher!

So, thank you again for your wonderful work and help to us, who want to do, but don’t know what or how. 😀

I’m so happy that my design could play a small part in Rita’s special day! Imagine the dedication she needed to get 80+ mop-tops finished in time for the big day, at the same time as managing all the other wedding preparations! Rita kindly shared a few of her stunning wedding photos (below) and you can clearly see that it was worth all the effort:

PlanetJune stories

PlanetJune stories

PlanetJune stories

PlanetJune stories

PlanetJune stories

Isn’t that just wonderful?! Thank you, Rita, for sharing your story and beautiful photos with us.

(By the way, if you haven’t seen my Mop Top Mascots pattern, you might want to take a look – it’s a perennial favourite among my donationware designs.)

Do you have a PlanetJune Story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! Please email your story to june@planetjune.com, 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 (6)

amigurumi faces: secure stitching

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/amifaces or www.planetjune.com/stitching

I have a little trick that I use when I’m embroidering noses etc onto amigurumi faces, to easily hide the starting and ending tails of my thread and to keep my stitches secure. I thought you might like to see it in action in a new video tutorial.

It’s easy to hide the ends in the exposed stuffing if you’re stitching onto an open-ended piece, but not as obvious when you have to embroider onto a piece that’s already closed up, leaving you with no hidden place to start from. It’s especially important to fasten the ends securely if your amigurumi will be played with – you don’t want that cute face to get snagged on something and unravel!

secure stitching for amigurumi faces and embellishments, by planetjune

If you’re using non-safety eyes, this is also how you can stitch them on after you finish crocheting and stuffing the piece, so you can make sure they’ll be in the right place and give the cutest expression. (Crocheted 3D pieces change their shape when you stuff them: they stretch widthwise as the stitches expand into position, but not lengthwise. That’s why I recommend stuffing the head before placing the eyes, nose, and any other features – even if that then means pulling out the stuffing so you can attach the backs of safety eyes before re-stuffing!)

You can also use my secure stitching technique for attaching other embellishments onto your amigurumi – buttons, beads, sequins, felt patches, etc – it’s perfect for hiding thread ends of any type, whether you’re using worsted weight yarn with a large yarn needle, embroidery thread with an embroidery/tapestry needle, or even fine sewing thread or invisible nylon thread with a hand-sewing needle.

And now to the video tutorial (in right- and left-handed versions, of course):

Amigurumi Faces: Secure Stitching (right-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Amigurumi Faces: Secure Stitching (left-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Note: The videos may look a little small embedded in the blog: if so, you can fullscreen them or click through to YouTube to watch them full-sized 🙂

If you enjoy my crochet tutorial videos, please help to spread the word about them, and/or subscribe to the PlanetJune YouTube channel.

Baby Bunnies crochet pattern by PlanetJune

FYI, I’m demonstrating the technique in this video using one of my Baby Bunnies designs – the crochet pattern is now available in my shop and includes the patterns for 3 varieties of realistically adorable baby rabbits: Dwarf, Angora and Lop. 🙂

Comments (17)

Baby Bunnies crochet pattern

Bunnies are one of the most commonly-designed toys – maybe second only to the ubiquitous teddy bear. I’ve even designed 3 different bunnies myself, previously. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a realistically-shaped amigurumi rabbit, which is strange when you think about it, because real bunnies (especially babies) are one of the cutest things you’ll ever see!

We could all use a little more cuteness in our lives, so I decided to do something about that, in the form of my new Baby Bunnies crochet pattern:

Baby Bunnies crochet pattern by PlanetJune

My Dwarf, Angora and Lop bunnies are so adorably tiny – about 4.5″ (12cm) long – that they can sit in the palm of your hand – just like real baby bunnies!

Meet the Bunnies

1. Dwarf
There was a time when I was desperate for a grey Netherland Dwarf rabbit. With their short ears and big eyes, I thought they were absolutely irresistible. My dream of a bunny of my own didn’t work out (although I ended up with the world’s most intelligent guinea pig instead, so that was okay!) but now, 20+ years(!) later, I finally have my little grey dwarf bunny:

Baby Dwarf Bunny crochet pattern by PlanetJune

FYI, while researching this breed, I discovered that this solid grey colouring is actually called ‘blue self’ in the rabbit breed standard – just like with cats!

2. Angora
Ever since I made my alpaca from alpaca yarn, I’ve been planning a series of natural fibre amigurumi, of fibre-producing animals made from their own yarn. With that in mind, I bought one precious 22g skein of locally-produced angora a couple of years ago – it was the only one I could find in my budget, and was unfortunately a 2-ply laceweight yarn: not exactly ideal for amigurumi! Here’s how to turn laceweight into worsted with a minimum of effort (a ball winder is essential though!):

  1. Wind the skein into a ball.
  2. Hold both the outside and centre ends together, and wind them together into another ball.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the doubled yarn, to make a ball with 4 thicknesses of yarn wound together.

Now, this isn’t exactly ideal; the new ‘plies’ aren’t twisted together, so you have to be careful to pick up all 4 strands of yarn with your hook as you form every stitch. But it was sooooo worth it to get to work with this angora yarn: although it took concentration to make sure I was grabbing all 4 strands with my hook, the yarn was deliciously soft and a real pleasure to work with. A little part of me did worry that I was ‘wasting’ this high-quality fibre, but, now I see the end result, I don’t regret it at all:

Baby Angora Bunny crochet pattern by PlanetJune

I wish you could reach out and touch her through your screen; words don’t do justice to how amazingly soft and fluffy she is!

3. Lop
Rounding out the party, I just had to add a baby lop to the collection. I couldn’t stop saying “awwww!” while I was looking up reference photos for this one; do a Google image search for baby lop bunny and you’ll see what I mean. Go on, do it now so you can see what I mean; I’ll wait… Right? Ahhh, the cuteness!

Baby Lop Bunny crochet pattern by PlanetJune

* * *

I’d love to take the credit for my clever timing with this design, but when I started it in January, it didn’t even occur to me that this would be a perfect design for Easter and the upcoming spring season. (I put that down to southern hemisphere confusion – it’s hard to think about Easter when you’re in the middle of summer.) But now, serendipitously, Easter is 6 weeks away, so it’s the perfect time to start making bunnies galore. The March PlanetJune CAL (more details nearer the time) will be Easter-themed, so I’m hoping to see a lot of adorable bunnies in amongst the crocheted Easter Eggs this year 😀

Baby Bunnies crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Tempted to make an armful of bunnies of your own? You can pick up the pattern right now from the shop – it even has a special price until the end of February! If you’re not quite ready to buy though, how about queuing Baby Bunnies on ravelry so you don’t forget about it?

Comments (29)

book review: Simply Crochet

I won the eBook version of this book through its blog tour, so I decided to review it for you. The following, as always, is based on my honest opinions!

Overview

Simply Crochet: 22 Stylish Designs for Every Day by Robyn Chachula is a crochet project book built around an unusual but useful premise: stash-busting! The 22 projects are split by the number of balls of yarn each uses: eight 1 ball projects, seven 2-3 ball projects, and seven 4-5 ball projects.

Simply Crochet review by PlanetJune

Partly because it includes patterns contributed by 15 crochet designers, there’s a real variety of projects in this book, including garments for women and children, and wearable and home accessories. This means that, while you probably won’t want to make all the included designs, there’s something for everyone here, and you’re bound to find some projects that you’d like to make. And you’ll also find a variety of techniques: thread crochet, tapestry crochet, tunisian crochet, motif-based designs, felting.

Here’s a selection of the designs that most appealed to me:

Simply Crochet review by PlanetJune
L-R: Tunisian Neck Lattice by Vashti Braha; Annabel Shawl by Kristin Omdahl; Linked Jacket by Robyn Chachula

And, as I clearly gravitate towards a certain style, here are some of the other designs, to give you a more complete picture of the variety of patterns:

Simply Crochet review by PlanetJune
L-R: Tallula Baby Top by Marlaina Bird; Dots and Dashes Baby Blanket by Ellen Gormley; Flapper Hat by Margaret Hubert

As with all Interweave books, it looks elegant and is clearly laid out. The patterns are easy to follow and all include Robyn’s excellent stitch diagrams and schematics. Tips from each of the featured designers on making the most of your yarn stash and crocheting on a budget are also scattered throughout the book.

As the book is intended to be used for stash-busting, the yarn requirements for each project give the weight of the yarn used in the design e.g. ‘Sportweight (#3 Light)’ as well as the specific yarn used for the sample. (I think this is a very useful addition that should be included in all crochet books, to make it easier for you to substitute yarns.)

Although there is a short section at the back of the book with descriptions of the stitches used, I wouldn’t choose this as a learn-to-crochet book. But, as a project-based book for crocheters, I think it works very well.

My Experience

Being short on time and looking for something I’m not too familiar with, I decided to test out Robyn Chachula’s Mystic Cuff (p27). I don’t dabble in thread crochet often, as gripping the work tightly enough to force my hook into the tiny spaces plays havoc with my hands, so I’ve never made anything doily-like before.

Simply Crochet review by PlanetJune
Mystic Cuff by Robyn Chachula (large text added by me to obscure the pattern!)

I have tiny wrists so I figured I’d need to adapt the pattern so the cuff wouldn’t fall off my hand. Here, I ran into a little problem: the gauge section only gives the finished cuff measurement, which means I’d have to complete the entire cuff to find out if my gauge matched Robyn’s, and then adjust the pattern (or my hook) and restart accordingly. It would have been helpful to have a gauge measurement as the size after Rnd 1, or even a guide as to what wrist size it fits (the cuff overlaps itself, so the finished measurement is larger than the wrist size) so I’d know much earlier if I needed to start over to match the gauge.

As my hands wouldn’t tolerate crocheting two cuffs in thread, I decided to assume my gauge was close enough and make my cuff smaller by dropping one repeat. My only other change was to substitute a larger crochet hook (2.25mm) for the foundation chain, as I knew I’d have problems working back into those chains if I made them with the recommended 1.5mm hook. And then I got to crocheting…

I found Robyn’s stitch diagram to be so clear that you could easily complete the cuff without reading a word (apart from how and when to attach the beads). I always prefer to check the written instructions too as I go, to make sure I haven’t misunderstood anything in the diagram, and I did find a couple of errors here in the way the repeats were structured (an extra dc2tog at the end of Rnd 3, and a missing ch 2 at the end of Rnd 4). However, the stitch diagram was correct in both cases, and is clear enough that I doubt many people would use the written instructions anyway. (I notified Interweave about the errors, so I expect Simply Crochet will be added to their Crochet Book Corrections page shortly.)

Aside from those minor glitches, which were easy to fix with a glance at the stitch diagram, the cuff came together very smoothly. I’d never seen beads attached in this way before – it was a very elegant method (although a bit tricky to guess how many chains were covered by each bead, so I made my starting chain too long, just in case, and unravelled the extra chains later). I finished the cuff easily. It took me 4 days because I didn’t want to risk giving myself longer-term hand pain, but it would be a very fast project if you don’t have hand problems like mine!

Simply Crochet review by PlanetJune
Isn’t it lovely?

Now for the bad news. It turns out that my gauge was way off: 20% smaller! That means that I could have made the cuff with no modifications, and it probably would have been only slightly too large for me… As it is, my modified cuff barely meets around my wrist, let alone has the overlap needed for the clasp. This is the only pattern in the book that doesn’t give a gauge swatch measurement, probably because the finished project is smaller than a typical swatch size, but it would have been helpful to know sooner that my gauge was so much tighter than Robyn’s. Even after blocking, it was still far too small, so I had to come up with a different method to affix the cuff around my wrist (I bent an eye pin into a tiny hook shape and stitched it to one end of the cuff):

Simply Crochet review by PlanetJune
I think my bent-pin solution for my too-small cuff is quite elegant!

The Mystic Cuff is a very pretty design. For most people, it’d be a quick enough project to whip up another one if your gauge was off – and you could give the original ‘gauge swatch’ (i.e. finished cuff) to a friend with a smaller or larger wrist. My complaint with the gauge is really only because of my own difficulties with thread crochet and hand pain, so making it once was enough for me, but now I have a solution for my sizing error, I’m very happy with my modified version:

Simply Crochet review by PlanetJune
My finished Mystic Cuff

Peeves

There’s not much to criticise here! Aside from the small errors I noted above (which I’m sure will be fixed with errata shortly) I only noted a couple of things:

  • The Billows of Baubles scarf (p19) is worked in stainless steel yarn, which isn’t something that’s commonly available, so I doubt it figures in many people’s stashes. As this is supposed to be a ‘use up your stash’ book, it would have been nice if there was a note about how the scarf might look if crocheted with a non-steel yarn of the same weight – it obviously wouldn’t be “an elegant sculptural accessory” as described.
  • The Linked Jacket (p129) mentions 2 hooks and eyes in the materials list. In one photo, it shows each side of the hooks and eyes attached to some sort of backing fabric or ribbon, however there’s no mention in the instructions of attaching the hooks and eyes. A little guidance as to placement of the fastenings, and whether that backing fabric is required (and if so what to use for it) would have been helpful.

Final Thoughts

Simply Crochet is a stylish book of crochet patterns featuring a nice variety of modern designs. The instructions are all clearly written and charted, the photos are clear and elegant, and the yarn weight and yardage info make it much easier to substitute yarns than in many other crochet books.

Sometimes pattern books can be very focused: all hats; all afghans; all one weight of yarn; all using one technique. If you’re looking for a project-based book featuring many different options for size, style, technique, and yarn weight, Simply Crochet will definitely fit the bill. Although it’s unlikely that every project in the book will appeal to you, there’s plenty of variety here to keep any crocheter interested!

Comments (6)

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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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