PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for January, 2013

Pet-Along CAL roundup

It’s been a fun month of making and sharing crocheted pet animals in the Ravelry group, using all my pet patterns:

PlanetJune Pet-Along crochet-along patterns

And now it’s roundup time! (Don’t forget to keep reading to the end to see what CAL themes we have in store for February.)

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

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Perfect your invisible decreases

The invisible decrease (invdec) is one of the two absolutely essential techniques for making beautifully neat amigurumi (the other being, of course, the magic ring). But invdec is a little tricky to get the hang of, and there are 2 points during the decrease where you can accidentally lengthen your stitch so it isn’t neat and tight, and the resulting decrease will be far more obvious.

Today I’d like to demonstrate these invdec problem points, so you know where the pitfalls are, and how to avoid them. You’ll find this tutorial useful if:

  • You’re new to the invisible decrease technique (watch my video tutorial before you continue reading this!)
  • You’ve tried invdec but been disappointed by your results
  • Your invdecs look inconsistent, gappy, or too prominent
  • You want your amigurumi to look as good as possible!

A Note about Tension

Although maintaining consistent tension on your yarn is a skill you need to master in order to crochet anything beautifully, it’s vitally important for amigurumi, as you need your stitches to be tight and even to produce the regular, firm amigurumi fabric that allows us to create complex ami shaping, and hides your stuffing. I’ve seen some people recommend that you tug on your yarn after every stitch to tighten it up, but that isn’t necessary if you maintain consistent tension.

crochet tension
Tensioning your yarn is a balance between the hook pulling forward and your other hand pulling backward.

How do you do that? Well, while your hook is pulling the yarn forward, your non-hook hand is simultaneously pulling back on the yarn, so you use a controlled amount of yarn to form each stitch. (You probably do this without even realising you’re doing it; if the yarn could just slide freely through your fingers with no tension, your hook would pull up large, inconsistent loops, and your crochet would look sloppy.)

When I talk below about pulling back on the yarn so the working loop is tight around your hook, the goal is to bring the tension back to your standard level, so the working loop should be the same size and tightness as it is for all your other stitches. If you go too far and pull it extra-tight, you’ll just make it more difficult to work back into that stitch in the following round.

Perfecting the invdec

If you look at the top of an invdec stitch, you’ll see there’s a ‘V’ at either side of the decrease. (As invisible decreases are practically indistinguishable from the surrounding stitches, I’ve crocheted my samples with the invdecs and the surrounding top loops in a different colour, so you can see what I’m talking about!)

perfect your crochet invisible decreases
Left: The source of the problems is these extra-long Vs at the top of the stitches surrounding the invdec.
Right: Invdec done right, with the Vs the same length as in the surrounding stitches.

These two Vs (A and B) are the culprits – if either or both of these is lengthened, there’ll be extra space around the invdec and it can look gappy or sloppy.

perfect your crochet invisible decreases
Left: The lengthened Vs have left a larger gap at either side of the invdec.
Right: Invdec is indistinguishable from the surrounding stitches (except for my helpful colour change!)

Loop A

Checkpoint: When you begin an invdec stitch, as you’re swinging the hook around to get the tip through both front loops, the working loop (the one that was already on your hook before you started the stitch) tends to loosen up.

Fix this: Once you’ve inserted your hook under the 2 front loops, and before you yarn over, tug the yarn to make sure the working loop is still tight on your hook and hasn’t lengthened.

perfect your crochet invisible decreases
Left: Lengthened working loop on hook will cause a loose stitch.
Right: Tightened loop – perfect!

Loop B

Checkpoint: After you complete the invdec, you’ve just turned 2 stitches into 1 stitch, and your hook is now further back than it usually would be for starting a new stitch. So this is another point where your yarn can make an extra-long loop, as you bring your hook forward over that extra distance to begin the next stitch.

perfect your crochet invisible decreases
Left: The position of the hook after a sc stitch.
Right: After an invdec, the hook is further back (dotted line marks the usual position), so there’s a greater distance to reach the next stitch.

Fix this: Make sure you keep tension on your yarn, so the loop on your hook doesn’t stretch out as you insert your hook into the stitch after the invdec. (If, after inserting your hook to begin the next stitch, you see the working loop has lengthened, just pull the yarn so the working loop is tight around your hook again, before you yarn over and continue with the stitch.)

perfect your crochet invisible decreases
Left: Lengthened working loop after inserting hook into next stitch.
Right: Tightened loop – perfect!

Multiple Decreases

The potential problem is doubled when you’re working 2 invdecs in a row, as you have the ‘too far back’ effect (Checkpoint B) and the ‘swinging the hook’ effect (Checkpoint A) both acting on the same loop, so you should make a little extra effort to be conscious of the size of the loop on your hook, and make sure it stays tight and doesn’t lengthen.

* * *

With a little extra effort to make sure you’re maintaining consistent tension, even while you decrease, your stitches will all stay the same size, and your invdecs will be as invisible as advertised!

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Baby Cephalopods crochet patterns

Make your own aquatic nursery with my new Baby Cephalopod collections: Octopus & Squid, and Cuttlefish & Nautilus. A perfect use for yarn scraps, these mini amigurumi take only 25-30m of yarn apiece, and work perfectly in any colour.

baby cephalopods crochet patterns by planetjune: octopus, squid, cuttlefish, nautilus

Cephalopod Fun Facts:

  • Cephalopods are a type of mollusc, which means they have no skeleton and are related to snails.
  • Cephalopod means ‘head-foot’, referring to the fact that their arms and tentacles are attached to their heads, not their bodies.
  • There are only 4 types of cephalopod, so you can crochet a complete collection if you buy my patterns!
  • Only the nautilus has a visible shell; squids and cuttlefish have an internal shell, and octopuses have no shell at all.
  • In real life, each cephalopod has a different pupil shape: Nautilus (tiny pinhole), Squid (large and round), Cuttlefish (‘W’ shape), Octopus (horizontal slit). In amigurumi world, big black eyes are just fine though 😉

Meet the Cephalopods:

Baby Octopus has long curling arms and a realistic body shape:
baby octopus amigurumi crochet pattern by planetjune
Fun Fact: Octopuses are completely soft, with no bones or shell, so they can squeeze themselves through tiny gaps barely larger than their eye!

Baby Squid has two long tentacles and swimming fins at the back:
baby squid amigurumi crochet pattern by planetjune
Fun Fact: There are about 300 species of squid, ranging in size from a only few centimetres to over 10m long!

Baby Cuttlefish has an undulating fin all the way around its body.
baby cuttlefish amigurumi crochet pattern by planetjune
Fun Fact: Cuttlefish squirt a brown ink called sepia – this is the source of the name of the colour sepia!

Baby Nautilus has a mass of tentacles and a shell with a hood.
baby nautilus amigurumi crochet pattern by planetjune
Fun Fact: Nautiluses are ancient cephalopods known as ‘living fossils’ because they’ve remained virtually unchanged for 500 million years!

About the Patterns:

Baby Cephalopods are between 5 and 6.5″ long, including tentacles. Each design is crocheted in only 2 or 3 pieces, so there’s minimal finishing to do when you’ve finished crocheting. And, although each has different arms/tentacles, they all use the same basic method, so, once you’ve made your first cephalopod, you’ll be able to fly through crocheting the tentacles for the others.

I think the few pieces and fast assembly would make these designs perfect candidates for those of you who enjoy selling your crocheted items

All the designs are very simple to crochet, except the Nautilus, which is slightly more advanced as the body and shell look like two separate pieces, but they are actually one piece – the hood is the only separate part. (I think you’ll enjoy my special technique though – it’s very clever! I’ve included lots of extra photos with it to make sure everyone will able to create the clever two-piece shell/body effect.)

As well as my usual step-by-step photos, any pieces that are crocheted in non-amigurumi style include crochet stitch diagrams in addition to full written instructions, so you can follow whichever method you prefer. (I’m hoping you’ll find the stitch diagrams to be a useful addition to my patterns; one diagram is clearer than a whole series of round-by-round photos.)

These designs are available as two sets of 2 patterns:
baby cephalopods crochet patterns by planetjune: octopus, squid, cuttlefish, nautilus
Left: Baby Cephalopods 1: Octopus & Squid
Right: Baby Cephalopods 2: Cuttlefish & Nautilus

But, because these baby best friends can’t bear to be apart, I’ve put together a multipack deal for you when you buy both sets: Baby Cephalopods 1 & 2 includes all four patterns for a bargain price.

Not ready to buy yet? Queue/heart them on Ravelry!
Set 1: Set 2:

I first sketched out these designs and picked out the yarn colours two years ago, before I left Canada. It’s taken all this time to simplify and perfect them. I think I’ll make a second set in more realistic colours, because, now I’ve finally finished the patterns, they’re irresistibly quick and fun to crochet! I hope you’ll enjoy making them as much as I do…

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deals and offers

This post isn’t PlanetJune-related but I do love a bargain and I’ve found some crafty deals you might like too, so I wanted to share them! If you’re waiting for a crochet post, I’ll have a brand new pattern collection to reveal, next week…

MOO card winners and discount codes

Thanks to everyone who entered my MOO giveaway! I wish you could all win – it was great to hear about your small businesses, crafty ventures and good ideas that could benefit from some MOO cards.

PlanetJune MOO order

But there can only be 3 winners, and random.org tells me they are Kati, Diana Mullins-Atkinson, and Katie. Congratulations to you all!

I’ll email you to notify you of this too, but I’ll be passing your names and email addresses along to Dan at MOO and he’ll contact you to arrange your prize – your choice of 50 Classic Business Cards or 100 MiniCards 🙂

PlanetJune MOO order

Now, if you didn’t win, but thinking about what you’d do with your MOO cards has got you all excited, I have another offer for you! With my order, I received 5 discount codes each worth 15% off your first order at MOO, and I’d like to share them with people who can make use of them. Here’s what I have:

  • 3x 15% off your entire order
  • 1x 15% off any 1 product (the cheapest, if you order more than one item)
  • 1x 15% off 1 pack of MiniCards

As I don’t know how many people may want them, and people read my blog at different times of day, I think the fairest thing would be to give you a 24-hour window to let me know if you want a code.

  • If you haven’t ordered from MOO before and would like to now, please leave a comment below to let me know. (If you could also say if you’d be happy with any of the codes or you need one in particular, I’ll try to match the winners with their requests so the codes will do the most good!)
  • If there are more than 5 requests, 24 hours from now, I’ll randomly draw 5 to get the codes.
  • If there are less than 5 requests in 24 hours, I’ll keep this offer going until I’ve received 5 requests and given out all the codes!

UPDATE 27 Jan: All the codes have now been claimed! I’m glad they’ve found good homes. Chrisie, Aimee, Amanda W, milla1222, Karina – I’ll email your codes to you tomorrow. Hope you enjoy your discounted MOO orders 🙂

Try Zinio for free


Zinio - Be Well Read
I must confess I’m quite addicted to Zinio now – it’s made buying magazines so easy that I’ve bought digital subscriptions to crochet magazines, and also to some knitting titles (for clothing inspiration and techniques), and Ideas magazine (for some local South African crafty flavour). It also makes it really easy to pick up a one-off back issue of a magazine that has a pattern or article you want, which is very handy!

Anyway, I found an amazing offer to try $50 of Zinio managzines for free – you have to activate it by January 31st, so hurry and get on it if you’d like to take advantage of this deal too! There’s a wide selection of magazines to choose from and, although there aren’t any crochet mags included, there are two knitting titles and a nice selection of other crafty magazines, as well as food, home, lifestyle, computers, photography, music, sports, etc etc.

zinio e-magazines, nexus 7, crochet

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Click here and then click ‘Claim Coupon’ to get started.
  2. Once you get your code, copy and paste it somewhere safe (so you can log back in again later and choose more magazines).
  3. Login here to redeem your voucher.
  4. Don’t worry if nothing happens when you’ve selected your magazines – you’ll be emailed the links in a couple of days. I’ve tried it and it does work; it just takes a while!

Now, here’s how I made the deal even better for myself. You don’t have to order all 18 magazines at once, and you have 90 days to redeem them. So:

  1. Keep a note of your voucher code – you’ll need it to log back in later.
  2. Select single issues, not subscription, to get the latest issue and be able to choose 18 different magazines.
  3. Some magazines only have a 1-issue subscription available, but if you log back into the redemption page in a month (or whenever the next issue comes out), you’ll be able to get the next issue of the same magazine free too! A handy tip: you’ll receive whichever issue has its cover pictured on the page at the time you redeem your voucher.

I hope you enjoy these deals. Don’t forget to leave a comment requesting a MOO code, if you’d like one!

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crochet bamboo cardigan

Last July, I posted about my plan to design one knitted and one crocheted cardigan for myself, just for fun:

WIP cardigans - knit and crocheted - by planetjune

Although the crocheted cardigan took a fraction of the time of the knitted one to make, I actually completed the knitted one first – probably because it was Southern hemisphere winter, so knitting a warm cardigan was more appealing than weaving in lots of fiddly ends on a lacey crocheted cardigan! But now, finally, here’s my finished crocheted cardigan:

crocheted bamboo cardigan by planetjune

You may be thinking that the stitch pattern looks familiar, and you’d be right: I knew I wouldn’t be publishing a pattern for this cardigan, but I liked this stitch pattern so much after I came up with it that I used the same stitch pattern in my Frosty Windows Scarf too – no point in keeping a good stitch pattern to myself when you can enjoy it too, in another format!

The story of this cardigan…

I had 3 skeins of deliciously smooth and soft LB Collection Cotton Bamboo yarn in my yarn stash since I chose it as my prize for winning the Instructables/Lion Brand Critter Contest in 2010. I intended to make a PlanetJune Accessories pattern of some sort from it and came up with a stitch pattern, but I hadn’t come up with the perfect project idea.

I picked it up again a few months ago and decided to do something with it. I still liked the stitch pattern I’d designed and thought I’d try turning it into a light summery cardigan. I used a slightly larger hook than recommended so I’d have a nice drapey fabric. I didn’t work out a formal pattern – I just measured some of my existing cardigans and crocheted pieces (two fronts and a back) in my stitch pattern that approximated those sizes. Knowing I didn’t have to keep notes for a pattern to publish made it easy to fly through the crocheting!

crocheted bamboo cardigan by planetjune

My first problem came when I realised I wouldn’t have enough yarn to complete both sleeves and finish the garment – and obviously no way to get more from the US without great expense – so I had to rethink the design for 3/4 length sleeves. I’d worked the sleeves from the cuff up, and I was working both at once (crocheting one round of one sleeve, and repeating the same round on the other sleeve with a separate ball of yarn) so I’d make sure I’d end up with two sleeves that matched. Changing my design to 3/4 length sleeves meant frogging both sleeves entirely and starting again, as they were too fitted at the wrist to wear the original cuff higher up my arm.

And then my second problem: as I’d made the sleeves fairly close-fitting, the armholes I’d left in the body were far too large. That was easily fixed; I just crocheted an edging around both the sleeve tops and the armholes, decreasing as I went around the armholes until I had the same number of stitches in each piece. (An added bonus of this was that the seaming was ridiculously easy and tidy, as I had the same number of stitches on each side to begin with.)

crocheted bamboo cardigan by planetjune
Shoulder seam

To tie it together, I used the same stitch for the body/sleeve linking stitches that I planned to use for the cardigan’s edging. And then it was just a matter of edging the entire garment, adding space for buttons on one side and buttonholes on the other. I edged the cardigan using linked stitches (which I love – I’ll make a video tutorial for them at some time!) to add some structure without stiffness, and I used foundation stitches to leave vertical buttonholes – easy and neat.

All that remained was to weave the ends in securely, block the cardigan, and sew on the buttons. I found the perfect buttons in a craft shop in Jersey while visiting my parents last July, but then I lost my momentum as it was winter here and not the right weather for this type of light cover-up. But now it’s summer and this cardigan is just what I need! So weave, wash, block, sew, photograph, and here we are 🙂

crocheted bamboo cardigan by planetjune
I flipped the corner up to show you one of the wooden button (left) and one of the hidden anchor buttons on the inside (right)

I used my favourite technique of stitching each button with an unobtrusive anchor button on the inside, to avoid putting strain on the yarn. The finished cardigan is light, comfortable, and silky-soft – I’m already enjoying wearing it:

crocheted bamboo cardigan by planetjune

What’s Next?

This project has convinced me that I really can make non-embarrassing wearable clothes for myself, so I really want to make more, but, with my hand problems, I need to save most of my crochet time for designs I can publish. For that reason, I’ll probably be knitting more clothes than I crochet in future: knitting uses different motions, so I can knit and crochet for far longer than I could just crochet.

I’m really glad to have made a crocheted garment that isn’t stiff, boxy or unflattering – I love crochet and I want to make it clear that, although you’ll be seeing me make more knitted sweaters in future, I’ll never abandon crochet in favour of knitting. If any knitting snobs think I’m knitting clothes because knitting is superior to crochet, I’ll be able to point to this cardigan as evidence to the contrary!

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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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