PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for July, 2012

vacation crochet

In the UK, there’s a TV ad campaign for an energy company featuring a character called Zingy. It’s a hugely popular series of commercials, but there’s no official Zingy merchandise available (yet).

Zingy from EDF Energy commercial
Zingy character and photo copyright Beatbots LLC, for EDF Energy commercials.

My sister is a big fan so I told her I’d make her a Zingy. Of course, I had no craft supplies with me, so I had to buy everything I needed locally – quite a challenge on the tiny island of Jersey! The best I could manage was DK weight yarn, a 3mm tapered hook (as far as I could tell, there are no in-line hooks available in the UK…), fibrefill, and some black and white felt. Here’s what I came up with:

zingy fan art by planetjune
My crocheted Zingy fan art. I’m not licensed to produce a pattern for the Zingy character, so please don’t ask me for one!

Considering the constraints, I think he turned out well, and the recipient is happy, so that’s the main thing πŸ™‚

I also had a chance to solve a problem using crochet: my sister had a dress with plastic rings connecting the bodice to the straps, but one of the rings had broken. The only way to replace the ring would be to unpick the stiching on the bodice loop and the strap, and re-stitch them around a new ring. And then I had the idea to crochet a ring directly, with no need to unpick any stitching. I bought some embroidery floss in a complementary colour, made a magic ring that passed through both strap loops, and crocheted over it, rotating it as I crocheted so the straps didn’t get in the way.

Of course, I had to replace both rings so both sides of the dress would match, but it only took a few minutes to crochet each replacement ring, and it ended up looking prettier than with the original plastic rings:

crocheted dress strap rings by planetjune
Close-up of new rings attaching the adjustable straps to the dress bodice, crocheted from embroidery thread.

I had packed yarn and hook to create my next crochet lace shawl design while I was away, but I didn’t even get halfway through it as I only worked on it during my flights and on one evening. But that’s okay – I can still look forward to finishing the shawl (I’m planning to do a beaded edging), and I’m glad I could do a little helpful crochet while I was visiting my family!

Comments (1)

Ravellenic Games training

I’m back from visiting my family! It was lovely to see them, but, wanting to make the most of my rare time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law, I didn’t slow down when I got first a sore throat and then a cold, and as a result I’ve ended up with full-blown bronchitis (not much fun). Now I have to try to recover while trying to catch up on everything from the last week, but it was worth it to have some special family time πŸ™‚

Ravellenic Games 2012: Team PlanetJune

I haven’t had a chance yet to remind you about the Ravellenic Games, which start tomorrow! If you’d like to challenge yourself to crochet anything from any of my patterns, there’s still time to join Team PlanetJune and compete along with us to complete crochet projects and earn medals during the timeframe of the Olympic Games.

Prizes!

If you complete one or more events for Team PlanetJune, you’ll be entered into the draw to win special prizes from PlanetJune and Suncatcher Eyes.

There are a total of six prizes on offer:

  • $10 gift certificate for the PlanetJune shop (1 winner)
  • A free pattern of your choice from PlanetJune (2 winners)
  • 10 pairs of eyes (your choice of colours and sizes) from Suncatcher Eyes (1 winner)
  • 5 pairs of eyes (your choice of colours and sizes) from Suncatcher Eyes (2 winners)

And all other medalling (not meddling!) Team PJ members will receive the runner-up prize of a PlanetJune discount coupon – there are no losers here πŸ˜€

Events

There are lots of Events you can participate in (and we have a handy events’ list for the ones that are applicable for Team PlanetJune), but I thought I’d give you a couple of examples with the projects I’m hoping to medal in:

WIPs Wrestling
RULE: not touched since May 15 2012; projects can’t cross compete in other events

As my original amigurumi kingfisher unfortunately went MIA after being photographed for a certain magazine, I’ve been wanting to crochet a replacement. I started last year, but I’ve been so busy since then that I haven’t had a chance to work on it for months, so the Ravellenic Games will be the perfect opportunity (and incentive) to get him finished.

wip: amigurumi kingfisher by planetjune, in progress
I don’t think I’ve touched this kingfisher project bag since 2011!

Toy Toss
I won’t be crocheting any other existing PlanetJune patterns for the games, but this is the event category you can use for all my amigurumi! There is no design event, so I’ll be entering my next commissioned design, the Sea Otter, in the Toy Toss event too. To medal in this event, my challenge to myself will be to complete the actual design and sample otter, and not necessarily to publish the pattern by the end of the games (there’s no point in including the pattern writing in the challenge, as I need the instructions to be clear and perfect, and I can’t rush that).

Synchronized Stash Busting
RULE: use only stash yarn that is over a year old

You can qualify for the stashbusting event with a project that’s already entered in another event, so my Sea Otter design will also qualify here, as I originally bought yarn with a sea otter design in mind in 2008 (as part of an AquaAmi Set 2 that I never finished). I just never got around to actually designing it until it was commissioned – one of the reasons I love my new commissions process! But the yarn is still sitting in my stash, ready to go.

wip: amigurumi sea otter by planetjune, in progress
Some, but not all, of these yarn colours will be turned into a cute sea otter…

Training
We’re not allowed to start our projects until the Olympic opening ceremony (9pm tomorrow, UK time, i.e. 3PM Eastern, noon Pacific), but training (i.e. research, swatching, choosing yarns, etc) is allowed! So I’ll be relaxing on the sofa with my laptop and trying to get this bronchitis under control while training for the Toy Toss by doing lots of sea otter research. It’ll be fun – sea otters are totally adorable and I’m looking forward to learning more about them, to make sure my design will be perfect.

I’ll also be hunting through my big yarn stash bags to see if I can locate the cream colour I had bought for my otter’s face. Otherwise I’ll just give him a light taupe face instead, which is fine – sea otters’ faces lighten with age, so mine can just be a younger one πŸ˜‰

Join us?

Team PlanetJune - Ravellenic Games 2012

We’ll all be cheering each other on with our projects, so if you’d like some added motivation to help you crochet something special over the next couple of weeks, please join Team PlanetJune – we’d love to have you, and you may win a prize too! You can join at any time during the games, which end on August 12th, so don’t worry if you miss the opening ceremonies tomorrow.

It’ll be fun to see how many medals we can amass between us by the end of the games. Go Team PlanetJune!

Comments (1)

crochet seat cover

This post comes to you from beautiful Jersey, where I’m visiting my parents at the moment. My chair and I are actually on different continents right now, but I finished making this cover and took the photos before I left on my travels…

You may remember that the only way I was able to fix my badly-ripped office chair seat was with ugly frankenstitches:

mending my chair
I fixed the rip, but it’s certainly not pretty…

I decided to crochet a quick seat cover to hide the unsightliness. I picked a stitch pattern from a Japanese stitch pattern book and looked through my stash for some suitable yarn. I decided on Loops & Threads Impeccable – it feels hard and tough compared with the soft acrylics I usually use, so I’m hoping that means it’ll be hard-wearing too. I picked black to match the chair, with a dark red accent to match my fireplace, and started crocheting…

crocheted seat cover by planetjune
This stitch pattern was really fun to crochet!

(These really aren’t my colours, but working from stash means making compromises, and at least it matches the chair. Anyway, I won’t really see the finished cover much as I’ll be sitting on it almost all the time, so it doesn’t matter too much what it looks like – I just don’t want to see the ugly ‘scar’ from the giant rip any more!)

My one skein of black Impeccable just covered the seat top, with no yardage left over to crochet the side edges to keep it in place. I thought I’d use up some dark grey Impeccable for those, but at the first fitting I realised that wasn’t going to work:

crocheted seat cover by planetjune
Yuck!

So I sacrificed some of my precious Vanna’s Choice so I could redo the sides in black, and I ended up with this:

crocheted seat cover by planetjune
Much better!

A few details:

crocheted seat cover by planetjune
A custom-curved side at the front helps the top piece fit over the curved front of the cushion and stay in place.

crocheted seat cover by planetjune
I crocheted extra tabs at the back to tuck into the very tight space between the back and seat cushions (left: untucked tab; right: wedged into place). The tabs hold it all very firmly in place without visible ties.

And the end result is a nicely fitted cover:

crocheted seat cover by planetjune
It fits like a glove!

This was a satisfyingly fast project to complete, and it’s really nice to be able to use my crochet powers for good (I mean, to solve a problem by making something I actually need). The finished seat cover is a big improvement over the frankenstitches, and now I’m saved from buying an expensive new chair – mission accomplished! πŸ™‚

Comments (22)

Free-For-All CAL roundup

This extended 6-week CAL was a Free-For-All, so participants had free choice to make any PlanetJune patterns they wanted (amigurumi, accessories, free patterns, patterns from my book). It’s interesting that with 120 patterns to choose from, you can see some definite trends in what people chose to crochet, but also loads of variety.

Team PlanetJune - Ravellenic Games 2012

Now it’s time for me to take a short break while I visit my parents.

The next CAL will be the Ravellenic Games, from July 27th to August 12th. I’d like to invite you to join Team PlanetJune! (See the end of this post for more details.)

Okay, now back to the CAL roundup! I think you’ll be amazed by the number of submissions this month – I certainly was! Now let’s dive into this epic roundup…

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

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review: Mend It Better

I won 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

Mend It Better: Creative Patching, Darning, and Stitching by Kristin M Roach, who you may know from her blog Craft Leftovers, is a combination book consisting of basic mending advice and project tutorials for creative mending.

'mend it better' review

The tutorials, mostly contributed by other crafters, show a variety of mending options to cover tears, holes and stains by crafting embellishments or making a feature of the damaged area, and upcycling projects to improve badly-fitting clothing or thrift store finds. Kristen also provides a tutorial for making a cute zippered mending kit.

'mend it better' review
Colourful creative mending projects (e.g. this page is from the Mola Applique Patch tutorial by Carina Envoldsen-Harris)

The bulk of the book is reference material: it includes a lot of excellent mending information: repairing various fabrics; fixing damaged seams and buttonholes; repairing or replacing damaged zips and pockets, and much more. But calling it just a ‘mending book’ doesn’t really do it justice (and I haven’t seen this mentioned in any other reviews) – it also includes instructions for alterations you can make to your clothing: taking in a seam, adding hidden pockets, taking up a hem, adding bead or stitched embellishments, etc.

'mend it better' review
Detailed information, e.g. how to mend pile (left) and stretch (right) fabrics

The information starts from absolute basics – no prior knowledge of sewing equipment or techniques is assumed. The written instructions and accompanying photos are clear and comprehensive. Although I’m not in love with the narrow 3-column page layout, it’s efficient – there’s lots of information on each page but it doesn’t feel cramped. All project steps are clearly numbered, so it’s easy to follow the instructions.

'mend it better' review
Mending information starting from the basics

My Experience

I skimmed through the whole book to give me a basic idea of techniques I could use at the moment and then decided to fix a backpack where the fabric had frayed along the seam allowance and left a big hole along the seam. I used my sewing machine and sewed a patch onto the back of the frayed fabric, then unpicked the original seam and re-sewed it to include the patch. I didn’t think to take a ‘before’ picture, but, as you can see, the result is pretty much invisible:

mended backpack
The fabric had frayed along the seam, leaving a big hole between the arrows.

Next I consulted the section on fixing leather. I had assumed my office chair was real leather until it started to wear through and rip, and I could see the sad pleathery truth. Months ago, I tried to mend it with Speed Sew fabric repair glue, but it didn’t hold, and the rip worsened every time I sat down until it reached this sorry situation:

mending my chair

The rest of the chair is fine, though, so I really needed to fix it somehow before the exposed foam started to disintegrate and made the chair unusable.

As my ‘fabric’ is cheap faux leather, I wasn’t sure if the leather-mending instructions would work, so I started with this tiny hole on the other side of the chair front, to test the method. I tried the ‘mending a tear in leather’ instructions but, although the instructions were fine, it quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t work in my case – the pleather tore with any stress on it, so I ended up having to make large whipstitches over the top of the hole to keep it together. Result: a mended hole, but not a pretty one.

mending my chair
Tiny hole, before and after stitching

By this point, I could tell that fixing the giant rip neatly was not an option, so I decided to go for a functionally creative mend, using patching and gluing techniques from the book in addition to trying to sew the hole so it would stay closed.

mending my chair

I cut some black webbing to fit inside the gaps, and then slowly glued a section of the seat cover to the webbing, and stitched the hole closed. The rip was so large that pulling the sides together was extremely difficult, especially as the seat fabric ripped if the stitches were too close to the ripped edge. I found that making large stitches through the fabric and into the webbing was the best bet – the stitches kept the fabric in place against the webbing while the glue dried, and added support for the glue.

mending my chair

It was a long, hard job – stitching through thick webbing with a thin curved upholstery needle is hard work, but a thicker needle would have damaged the pleather even more, so I persevered. And here’s the result:

mending my chair

No, it’s certainly not pretty, but it all holds together: my frankenstitches feel very stable with the glued webbing to back them up, and I think I’ve succeeded in saving the chair – the foam shouldn’t degrade any more now it’s safely hidden away. Now I just need to crochet a seat cover to hide the frankenstitches, and my chair will be as good as new πŸ™‚

I’d ignored these problem for months, but having a book of mending techniques at my disposal makes me feel like I can tackle these things. Next I’m going to try fixing a too-loose zip that keeps falling down!

Peeves

  • There’s a lot of information contained in the 200+ pages of this book, and some of the chapter headings are a bit broad and unclear (e.g. the Surface Fixes chapter includes fixes for snags and pulls, how to fix a patch pocket, 2 different project examples of adding new patch pockets, and instructions for re-pleating a skirt, while the Getting Fancy chapter includes lace, leather and stretch fabric repair). A one-sentence summary of each chapter on the Contents page would have been very helpful – I’d never have thought to look in ‘Getting Fancy’ to find the leather repair instructions! – so I definitely recommend consulting the index if you’re looking for something in particular.
  • I have a very understated taste in clothing and I can’t imagine using any of the project ideas on my own clothes. They’d definitely be a fun way to extend the life of children’s clothing – which are much more likely to need mending anyway – or if you have a less conservative dress sense than me. Having said that, if I look at the projects as embellishment tutorials instead of mending tutorials, I could adapt them for decorating cushions, bags, etc, so they still have some value to me.

Final Thoughts

Mend It Better: Creative Patching, Darning, and Stitching has plenty of eye candy and project ideas for creative mending, upcycling and embellishing. For me, though, the real value of this book is in the well-explained techniques that will let you fix and mend common problems and make alterations to get more mileage out of your clothing (and also luggage and even upholstered furniture: although the book focuses on clothing, the techniques can obviously apply to any repairs of fabric, zips, buttons etc).

The techniques explained here are absolutely worth the purchase price, even if none of the projects appeal to you, so I recommend Mend It Better as a solid reference for a variety of sewing and mending techniques. I’ll be keeping my copy in my reference library, so I’ll have more confidence in attempting fixes and alterations for my clothes, and I’ll be well prepared next time I have a mending emergency!

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    June Gilbank

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