PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for May, 2013

May Flowers CAL roundup

The May Flowers CAL included all my botanical patterns: flowers, plants and fruit. As you’ll see below, the clear winner for ‘most popular pattern’ this month was my African Violets – the first potted plant I ever designed!

Now, roundup time! (And don’t forget to keep reading to the end for the June CAL details…)

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

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pattern re-releases: AquaAmi

I’m updating my entire back catalogue of patterns with extra information and tips and a new space-saving layout, and re-releasing them in batches as they are ready. Please see the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information.

Continuing with my pattern re-release project, all the old-style AquaAmi crochet patterns have been reformatted, and any of these patterns you’ve previously purchased are now ready for you to download in the new format!

Log back into your PlanetJune account at any time in the next 2 weeks and you’ll see the download buttons for all your past AquaAmi pattern purchases have been re-enabled, so you can click and download the new versions.

AquaAmi amigurumi crochet patterns by PlanetJune

Here are the patterns and sets included in this batch:

  • Dolphin
  • Sea Lion
  • Beluga Whales
  • Sea Turtle
  • Polar Bear
  • Emperor Penguin
  • Baby Emperor Penguin

and the multipacks AquaAmi Set 1 and Emperor Penguin Family.

N.B. The 2013 AquaAmi releases (Baby Cephalopods 1 & 2 and Orca/Killer Whale) were published in the new style, so those patterns haven’t been re-enabled in your PJ account as they are unchanged.

If you have any questions about the pattern reformat project, or you received the patterns through a different mechanism (and so don’t have an order for them in the PlanetJune shop) but you’d still like the new versions, check the Pattern Re-Release FAQ for more information. I’ll keep the FAQ updated throughout this project and add any further questions that arise.

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Chains and Slip Stitches in Amigurumi

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

With all crochet, to keep your stitches even, you keep the yarn under tension, so a controlled amount of yarn forms each stitch and all the resulting stitches will be the same size. This is particularly true for amigurumi; if your stitches aren’t consistently tight, it’s very obvious.

tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
Tension is created by balancing the forward pull on the yarn from the hook (right) with the backward pull of your other hand on the yarn (left). Consistent tension keeps all your stitches the same size (middle).

Chains and slip stitches are different, though, because each stitch consists of only one loop. If you maintain the same tension as you use for single crocheting amigurumi, as well as tightening the stitch you’re forming, you’ll pull on the previous stitch and make that stitch much smaller and very difficult to work back into.

If you learnt to crochet the traditional way (working in rows to make scarves, afghans, etc) and then progressed to amigurumi, you’ll be familiar with making your starting chain loosely so you can easily work back into it (you can also achieve this by using a larger crochet hook, just for the foundation). But if you began your crocheting adventures with amigurumi, you may never have even made a starting chain foundation!

Problem: Too-Tight Stitches

In the examples of chains and slip stitches below, the ‘too tight’ photos show the results of using the same tension I use for single crocheting amigurumi, while the ‘just right’ photos show how your chains and slip stitches should look:

Chains:
tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
Each example has 6 chains. The difference may not be clear for each stitch individually, but notice how short the overall length of the tight chain (left) is compared with the correct chain (right).

Slip stitches:
tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
Each example has 4 slip stitches. In the tight example (top), the sideways Vs along the top of each stitch are noticeably smaller and stretched more tightly than in the surrounding sc stitches. In the correct example (bottom), the Vs of the 4 sl sts are indistinguishable from those of the surrounding sc stitches.

Not only do these stitches not match the rest of my work visually, but they are very difficult, or even impossible, to work back into: the loops are smaller than the head of my hook and there’s no slack in the yarn. Here I’ll try to work back into the slip stitched examples:

tension on yarn when crocheting amigurumi
I can’t work back into the left slip stitches without a serious struggle! The right slip stitches are almost as easy to work into as a normal sc stitch.

Solution: Reduce Tension

The goal with chains and slip stitches is to have the sideways V shape of each stitch be exactly the same size as the sideways V along the top of a single crochet stitch (see the ‘just right’ examples above). That requires relaxing your tension considerably and may feel strange and wrong if you’re only used to tight amigurumi control. Here are some tips to practice:

  • Slow down and pay attention to your stitches when you make a chain or slip stitch.
  • As you form each stitch, don’t tug on the yarn with your hook; draw it through smoothly.
  • Check the size of your stitch by comparing it with the Vs at the top of your sc stitches.
  • Only draw the yarn back with your non-hook hand if the working loop looks too large; it should sit loosely on the throat of the hook so the hook can move freely within the loop.

Once you get used to it, chaining with low tension should become easy – it just takes a little practice to make your chains evenly sized. Slip stitching with low tension is slightly trickier when you’re used to amigurumi: the stitches are so similar to single crochet stitches that I still have to remind myself with every slip stitch to keep it loose, so my stitches don’t shrink and tighten.

If you’d like to practice these stitches, here are a couple of examples from my amigurumi pattern collection that make great use of chains and slip stitches:

examples of chains and slip stitches in crocheted amigurumi
These patterns use chains (Baby Cephalopods, left) and slip stitches (Magic Lamp, right).

With this low tension technique, you’ll no longer have to battle to work back into chains and slip stitches, and your work will look smoother, tidier, and more even. It’s one more step along the road to becoming an amigurumi expert!

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May update

A Personal Note

I’ve been trying to put on a brave face, but I’m really struggling at the moment: my life, especially this immigration-related stuff, has got insanely stressful. I’m still doing what I can for PlanetJune, but stress and creativity don’t mix well, and my progress is frustratingly slow.

This situation won’t last forever (and I have lots of ideas waiting in the wings for when my mojo returns!) – I just wanted to explain why I’ll be unusually quiet for a while, especially on Twitter and Facebook.

Okay, enough about that!

Review and Win contest

April’s ‘Review and Win’ winner is Kim W, with her review of my Orca (Killer Whale):

Orca (Killer Whale) amigurumi crochet pattern by PlanetJune

This pattern is very detailed. The many color changes were very time consuming, but not difficult and the finished product was worth the effort. I appreciated the the tips on exactly where to sew on the flippers. I was able to get them to look right the fist time.

I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kim! Congrats – I’ll email you to find out which pattern you’d like as your prize đŸ™‚

May Flowers CAL

Which of my botanical patterns (flowers, plants and fruit) do you like best? Why not make it for the May Flowers CAL this month? You’ll find all the details in the PlanetJune Ravelry group.

May Flowers CAL at PlanetJune

NB: All the patterns are available in the Flowers & Plants section of my shop, except the Mushroom and Toadstool, which are exclusively available in my book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi. And if you’re short on cash, 10 of the patterns are donationware, so you can use them for free (or pay what you can)!

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knitted shawl collar pullover

Now I understand how knit and purl stitches look and work, I’ve started examining all the knitted items in my wardrobe to see how the various elements fit together. I decided it’d be interesting to see if I could re-make a store-bought sweater by using it as my ‘pattern’ for my next piece of knitwear (although not for the collar – the original was a zip-up cardigan). I won’t keep you in suspense – here’s the result:

shawl collared knit sweater by planetjune

I used the store-bought sweater to get the basic measurements, but I did make a few modifications so it would fit me better. I decided to create a pattern as I went – well, more of a recipe than a pattern – so I’ll be able to create knitwear for myself more easily in future.

(For example: Make paired decreases at each side, every other row for 24 rows would be a specific pattern instruction, but Decrease by 6″ width over 3″ height means I just need to plug in my gauge and I’ll be able to make the same shape and size of sweater next time, even if I’m using different needles, yarn, stitch pattern, etc – it just takes a quick calculation to work out how many decrease rows I’ll need over how many total rows.)

I know I’m making this sound like it was all easy for me, but it wasn’t! I don’t want to give the impression that I have an amazing natural talent for knitting or knitwear design; as I’m still an (adventurous) beginner, I had to reknit almost every stage of this sweater due to stupid errors on my part. But I actually don’t mind that – I’ve learnt a lot from those mistakes, and really, the knitting is about keeping my hands busy so I can relax in front of the TV instead of being tempted to work on a new crochet design. The finished sweater is just an added bonus.

shawl collared knit sweater by planetjune

Techniques I learnt for this sweater:

  • Cable cast-on
  • 2×2 rib for the collar and cuffs
  • Transitioning from rib to stockinette
  • Basic shaping (paired increases/decreases) at either side of the body
  • 3-needle bind-off for the underarms and at the back of the neck
  • A more subtle raglan decrease for creating the yoke and shoulders
  • Shadow-wrapped short rows to create the shawl collar
  • Stretchy bind-off for the sides of the collar
  • Horizontal-to-vertical grafting to attach the sides of the collar

Confession time: the end result isn’t quite how I envisioned this sweater; I made a slight blip in my yoke calculations, and ended up losing a bit of length in my planned armhole depth and neckline depth as a result. It still fits pretty well though, so I decided it wasn’t worth reknitting everything from the armpits up. But I’ve learnt that lesson now, so I won’t make the same mistake next time.

shawl collared knit sweater by planetjune

I’m pretty pleased with myself for working all this out though; this sweater doesn’t look like I made it up as I went along, and I feel like it actually has some design to it! I love how the collar turned out – I wanted it to be narrow at the front so it wouldn’t overpower my frame, but wide at the back to make a snuggly warm collar. I’d hoped my first attempt at short rows might work to create the shape I needed, and the collar actually ended up working perfectly on my first try. This sweater is definitely going to get a lot of wear (I’m actually wearing it right now!)

I also intentionally made the sleeves extra long, for cosiness. I can wear them uncuffed and keep my hands warm – built in wristwarmers! – or turn the ribbing back to normal sleeve length for a slightly smarter look.

shawl collared knit sweater by planetjune

(Oh, and I didn’t bother to block it, so it may look even better after I wash and block it!)

What’s Next?

Now I have a basic template for a sweater that fits me, I’m definitely going to knit more of them, and learn some new techniques with each, so I don’t make the same design over and over again and I can keep advancing my knowledge bit by bit. I’m already working on my next design, with interior shaping and a subtler, less bulky ribbing.

After making it all up as I go along for my first two knitted garments, I’ve decided it’s time to find out how you’re really meant to go about designing garments that fit. I’ve bought a couple of Craftsy online classes (Custom Cabled Pullovers with Carla Scott, and Handknit Garment Design with Shirley Paden) that should help me understand some of the slightly more advanced elements of knitwear design, e.g. set-in sleeves, and I’m trying to figure out how I can get my hands on a copy of Amy Herzog’s new book, Fit to Flatter. (I’ll keep you posted with reviews once I’ve finished taking the classes, and if I can get the book!)

I love, love, love being able to make clothes I can actually wear and that fit me, and not having to worry about making patterns for them. Having a relaxing and useful hobby that’s completely unrelated to my work is so refreshing!

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  • Welcome to PlanetJune!

    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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