PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for March, 2012

knitted wristwarmers

Yes, you read it right, this is a post about knitting – who’d have guessed!

I’ve tried, and failed, to enjoy knitting before. I bought straight needles and hated them. I bought dpns and hated them. It always seemed like such a struggle to wrangle the yarn without a handy hook with which to grab it. But, thanks to my practice with knooking, I now understand the shape of knitted (and purled) stitches, and how they fit together. I’ve done a lot of theoretical learning – reading books, watching videos – and I finally hit on a way to make it all work for me! Here’s the June magic formula:

Circular needles: so much easier to keep hold of than those long pointy sticks. I took a chance and ordered some from KnitPicks before I moved out of shipping range, but didn’t have a chance to play with them for many months after that.

circular knitting needle

Knitting right-handed: I’m left-handed, and I crochet left-handed. But you knit with both your hands, so why shouldn’t I learn the ‘standard’ right-handed way and save having to reverse instructions later so they work for a leftie?

English (throwing) style: this is the magic part for me, as a crocheter. Because I’m left-handed, I hold my crochet hook in my left hand, and tension my yarn with my right hand. By knitting right-handed, English style, I can still tension my yarn with my right hand – something I have years of experience with!

Magic loop: This technique makes so much sense to me. Working on one circular needle with a flexible cable instead of constantly switching between DPNs: yes. This is good.

So, with my strategy in place, I tried putting the theory into practice. I don’t like making test pieces, so I decided to make my knitting practice piece into something useful: wristwarmers. Even if they looked awful, they’d come in handy in my unheated house once summer ends.

I made up my own pattern, because that’s just how I like to work. Long tail CO 34, knit in the round with magic loop until the thumb, bind off 6 for the thumbhole, next round backwards loop CO 6 to go over the top of the thumb, continue working until long enough, stretchy bind-off. Easy.

(Don’t I sound like I’ve been doing this for years?! Never underestimate the power of research.)

knitted wristwarmers by planetjune

I love how they turned out! My tension is pretty even for a first attempt, and that’s thanks to using the same hand I always use for tensioning. There are slight ladders at the bottom of the first wristwarmer, before I figured out how to keep the tension even when switching the needles for the magic loop, but I love that too – every time I wear these wristwarmers it’ll show me ‘this is when I learnt to knit’.

knitted wristwarmers by planetjune

I used 4.5mm KnitPicks nickel needle tips with a 32″ cable. The yarn is Bernat Satin in the gorgeous Plum Mist Heather colourway – a very dark purple tinged with red, and pretty much impossible to photograph – if my skin tone looks off here, that’s why! (Indoors, they photographed as almost black.)

I can already tell I’m going to get a lot of use out of these. There’s no central heating in our house and my hands get very cold when I’m working. These will be perfect to wear while I work – I’m wearing them as I type this and they aren’t impeding me at all: success!

knitted wristwarmers by planetjune

I was all fired up after finishing these, and decided to order some larger needle tips so I could try something a little more ambitious. My LYS actually carries the same brand of needles (although outside N America they are known as KnitPro, not KnitPicks – isn’t that strange?!), and told me he could probably get them within 1-3 weeks. That was in November, and they just came in last week; I can confirm that the concept of ‘Africa time’ is no myth – it’s taken 3.5 months for my needle tips to arrive!

I haven’t picked up the needles in the meantime, so I expect I’ve now forgotten everything I briefly knew about knitting and will have to re-learn it all again before I attempt progressing to anything more complicated. It may be a while before you see another knitted project from me…

Comments (16)

PlanetJune Stories: Monica Ballinger

Today’s PlanetJune Story is from Monica Ballinger of Greencastle, IN, whose work you’ll probably recognise if you follow my crochetalong roundups (and maybe more so if I mention her ravelry username, theMarkofSMB). Here’s a little sampling of some of Monica’s PlanetJune-designed creations:

PlanetJune stories
How many PlanetJune designs can you spot? (The scarecrow is based on the ‘Boy’ pattern from my book!)

Monica writes:

I first learned about PlanetJune when I received The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi as a gift. After reading it a couple times, I started my first amigurumi, the Hamster. The first one was a bit off, due to my own fault in miscounting (he’s much fatter than the others but still cute); however, the second one was much better! I made several for my children to play with and they loved them; they even ask me to make more whenever I get a new shade of brown yarn. Having June’s book has broadened my knowledge in amigurumi and crochet techniques that I use for any project I start. I am always going back thru her book to refresh my memory and find new ideas for specific items; it’s a great book to have for any crochet toy or project!

A few months later I started searching for dinosaur patterns because my children thought they didn’t have enough dinosaur toys. As I only crochet and don’t knit, I was starting to feel sad at not being able to find a crochet dinosaur pattern, but I finally found the perfect one, PlanetJune’s Stegosaurus. I bought all 6 patterns (at that time) and started working right away, and I fell in love with June’s patterns instantly! June’s clearly written, easy to follow instructions with detailed tips and pictures make her patterns worth every cent. June even offers assistance for any part of the pattern that may be confusing, by email or with her Ravelry group. The finished products turned out amazing; the dinosaurs were all so very realistic that I was HOOKED on PlanetJune. I plan to have all of June’s patterns one day, but at the moment my sons get to pick their favorites, which become my favorites as well! My three favorite patterns are Yeti/Bigfoot, Sea Turtle and Stegosaurus, but I love them all.

I’m an artist: drawings, photography, crafts, crochet accessories (hats, scarves, blankets) and amigurumi. I have participated in a few craft fairs over the years, and my husband suggested that I sell some of my amigurumi toys as well. After reading June’s policy on selling finished objects from her patterns, I fell in love with her work all over again: extremely wonderful patterns, beautiful finished items and I could sell them! I even made some business cards to attach to the toys giving June credit as the designer. While making a few extra amigurumi of June’s designs I opened up an Etsy shop, Magical Amigurumi, in the hopes of sharing the joy of the toys and making a little extra pattern funding 🙂

I enjoy crocheting because it’s relaxing and I love the joy it brings to children (including my own) when they get their new toy! I have even seen adults thrilled to have their very own toy (or collectible): I made a Realistic Pig for one of my uncles, as he and his daughters raise pigs for 4H, and he loved it so much; my other uncle received a Fruit Bat because he goes caving a lot and has been helping researchers with the white-nose syndrome that the bats have contracted; and I made a Bigfoot and added a bag for a wookie for my Father-in-law and it stands on his computer! I’ve made Apples and Tiny Whales for my son’s preschool class, and the teacher enjoyed receiving them as much as the children enjoyed playing with them.

Thank you June for designing such wonderful realistic amigurumi. They have brought a ton of joy to my house!

And thank you for sharing your story, Monica! I often wonder what happens to amigurumi that have been crocheted from my patterns, so it’s lovely to hear this story of patterns thoughtfully selected to be meaningful to each recipient, and to know the finished amigurumi are appreciated and treasured by their new owners. Monica has kindly shared photos of all the amigurumi she mentioned:

PlanetJune stories
The first amigurumi Hamsters (from my book)

PlanetJune stories PlanetJune stories
Monica’s favourites: Stegosaurus and Sea Turtle

PlanetJune stories PlanetJune stories
Gifts for uncles: Farmyard Pig and Fruit Bat

PlanetJune stories PlanetJune stories
Apples and a set of Tiny Whales for preschoolers

PlanetJune stories PlanetJune stories
Yeti and Bigfoot (aka Wookie!)

Aren’t they all wonderful? Please leave Monica a comment if you’ve enjoyed this post, or visit Magical Amigurumi if you’re tempted to pick up an amigurumi for a special gift, or as a treat for yourself!

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 (8)

how to make a magic ring in crochet [video]

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/magicring

My magic ring tutorial seems to have become pretty much the definitive photo guide that people link to in their crochet patterns, but it’s not enough for everyone. It’s taken a while, but the much-requested magic ring video tutorial is finally ready.

Now, I know that 99% of my regular readers probably already know how to make a magic ring, but it may be worth your time to watch my video anyway – I have a special little tip that makes the technique much easier!

magic ring for crochet video tutorial, by planetjune

If you’re new to crochet, let me explain that the magic ring (also known as an adjustable ring) is an essential technique for crocheting in the round when you want to avoid the hole in the middle that you see when you start with a slip knot and chain and work into the chain. If you make, or want to make, amigurumi, you need this technique!

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

Magic Ring for Crochet (right-handed)

Magic Ring for Crochet (left-handed)

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

Magic Ring Tips

  • You can use magic ring in any amigurumi pattern – if it starts with a chain, just replace the starting ‘Ch 2, X sc in 2nd chain from hook’ with ‘Make a magic ring, ch 1, X sc in magic ring’.
  • To work in joined rounds instead of the spiral I demonstrate, simply sl st into the first st at the end of Rnd 1, then ch 1 to begin the next round.
  • Magic ring is also pretty handy for other crochet patterns worked in the round, too. For taller stitches, instead of the ch 1, you would ch 2 (for hdc), 3 (for dc), or more for even taller stitches, then work Rnd 1 of your stitches into the magic ring. Note that, with taller stitches, the turning (or non-turning, if you’re working without turning) chain typically does count as a stitch, so where I say to ignore the ch 1 in the video, you’d instead count that chain as the first stitch of Rnd 1, and sl st into the top of the chain before beginning Rnd 2.

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

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Cape Town wildlife X

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

Today I’m going to show you a very special type of bird, and one with a crafty connection! Weaver birds are found throughout Africa, and what makes them special is that the males weave an intricate nest to impress the females. Each species of weaver has different colouring and also builds a differently-shaped nest – isn’t that cool? In my area, we can see two types of weaver (Cape and Southern Masked).

This is a male Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis). He’s in breeding plumage, with a reddish cast around his face:
weaver bird

The male weaver picks grasses and begins to weave them together around a hanging tree branch, usually over water:
weaver bird

He continues until he completes a beautifully-woven nest, with the opening at the bottom for security:
weaver bird

If a female is impressed with his nest-building skills, she moves in and lines the nest with softer grasses and feathers:
weaver bird

After a couple of days, the grasses turn brown and, if the nest is still empty, the poor male has to start building another nest to try again. But don’t feel too sorry for him – he’ll build more nests either way, and can have several breeding females in his flock!

These Cape Weaver nests were high in a tree, and not over water, so I could get a shot from below. From this angle, you can see the beautiful shape of the nest, with a short off-centre entrance tunnel:
weaver bird

This is a male Southern Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus):
weaver bird

Their nest shape is different – more pointed at the top and with just a hole at the bottom (no entrance tunnel):
weaver bird

Here’s a fallen nest so you can see the inside and the beautiful craftsmanship!
weaver bird

As the weavers usually like to nest over water, we see them by the river near our house, and near ponds and lakes when we’re out adventuring. But I didn’t realise that weavers eat seed, so, when I put up a seed feeder at Christmas (in the hope of seeing a canary or other type of wild finch), we got a lovely surprise – weavers in our own garden!

Male Cape weaver:
weaver bird

I thought this was a pair of Southern Masked Weavers, but, looking closely, I see the female is actually a Cape Weaver. (The females look quite similar, but the Cape has a longer, pointier beak and the Masked has a whiter tummy and red eyes):
weaver bird

And, best of all, fledged babies in our garden! I’m reasonably sure these are a pair of baby Southern Masked Weavers:
weaver bird

(By the way, I’ve just discovered that the tree with the wicked-looking thorns the babies are sitting on here is a Bougainvillea. I’ll have to remember to take a photo when it’s in full bloom – it’s stunning!)

Aren’t the weavers amazing? It was hard narrowing down my pics to just these few – weavers are so interesting, I seem to have taken a couple of hundred photos of them, but I think these selections have captured the essence of weaver-ness for you 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s photos – I know I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you! Please leave me a comment if you liked them.

Comments (13)

interview with June, part 1

As I’m a 99% self-published designer, I don’t often get profiled in crochet magazines etc, so my Ravelry group decided to interview me to find out a little more about who I am and what I do – my own PlanetJune Story, if you like! I’ll be posting the answers to some of their questions every now and again, and grouping them by theme if they fit together nicely. Here are the first three:

How did you learn to crochet? (from Sandy G, via the blog)
Who taught you to crochet? (from Monica, theMarkofSMB)
What was the first thing you ever crocheted? (from Linda, Fatals-attraction)

In 2003, my husband and I moved from the UK to Canada, and I had time on my hands while I looked for a job. I’d always liked making things and I’d dabbled in various crafts in the past: polymer clay, cross stitch, candlemaking, sewing, and others. At the time, there was a big craft shop in the middle of Toronto (Lewiscraft – the chain closed years ago, sadly) and I spent a lot of time in there, looking for things to try out that wouldn’t cost much money. I tried teaching myself to knit, but didn’t really enjoy it. Then I picked up a crochet hook and a ‘learn to crochet’ book, and fell in love.

Did you notice I avoided the obvious “I was hooked!” pun there? I hope you’re proud of me!

(I’ve just remembered, this wasn’t actually my very first experience with crochet: my aunt apparently taught me the basics when I was tiny, but I don’t remember that at all, although I do still have my old hook – I always wondered why I had a crochet hook in my childhood sewing box!)

I’ve never been much of a pattern follower – I like to make up my own things (a precursor of things to come…). I also don’t like to start with really basic projects. So I decided I’d learn as I go by making an afghan to use against the cold Canadian winter, using squares of single crochet, and that’s what I did.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t really know how to crochet at the time, and this was an ambitiously large project for a total beginner! I made that basic rookie mistake of thinking you should insert your hook into the back loop (instead of both) to begin each single crochet stitch. I’d never heard of gauge, or blocking. I slip stitched my pile of squares together, but sadly didn’t know about leaving a long tail to weave in securely when you finish off, so my poor yarn tails are only about an inch long. I’d also never heard of edging, which would have given my afghan a nicer finish…


My first afghan (made in 2003-2004, photo from 2006). One of these squares is the first thing I ever crocheted!

It’s not perfect, but that’s okay. I still use it all the time; I keep it draped over a folding chair in my office so I can sit comfortably when I’m making videos and tutorials. The BLO single crochet doesn’t look like a mistake, unless you know it’s not what I intended! And I love being able to see the first thing I ever crocheted and know how far I’ve come.

After that, I decided to learn all the crochet stitches by making a sampler afghan – and yes, I did need a pattern for that! I used the 63 Easy-to-Crochet Pattern Stitches booklet (highly recommended if you’d like to crochet a stunning heirloom afghan, or to practice a large variety of crochet techniques and stitches).

Puzzling through the instructions for the trickier squares was what made me finally realise my mistake with the back loops, and ending up with squares of vastly different sizes is how I learnt about the importance of gauge. It took almost 3 years, but I finished it (with a sneaky extra round of sc around the edges of the tinier squares to even the sizes up a bit!) and it looks pretty impressive, even if it’s not quite perfect:


My second afghan (started Feb 2004, finished Nov 2006, photo from 2006)

The moral of the story is that, clearly, nobody starts out as an expert! These two afghans show my crochet learning experience in every stitch, and I love them both for that. It was a self-taught struggle – especially with no Ravelry or YouTube videos to consult as you can now – but, by the time I’d finished the sampler afghan, I really understood crochet. I could have made a 2nd, perfect, sampler afghan, but it was time for me to try something different…

I think this post is long enough now – I’ll save the story of how I got into amigurumi, and the rest of the interview questions, for another day. 😉

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a bit about my crochet background. If you have any questions you’d like to add to the interview pool, please submit them on Ravelry or in the comments of this post – I’ll do another interview post in a little while!

Comments (15)

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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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