PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for January, 2014

South Africa wildlife III

This post is part of my occasional series of photoblog posts about the wildlife and nature I see while living in South Africa.

I’m very happy to be able to resume these wildlife posts! One of the hardest parts of the last year was having no free time to enjoy the amazing opportunity I have here to get relatively close to animals you’d normally only see in zoos, if at all, in their natural habitat. But that’s all ended, and now I can experience natural wonders again, and share them with you… As I’m always driving, I don’t usually get to share scenic views with you – it’s hard to take photos with both hands on the wheel! – so I’ve conscripted Dave to take a few landscape shots on his phone en route so you can get a better feel for our future adventures.

After Christmas, we made our annual cherry-picking pilgrimage to Ceres. You just can’t beat sweet, juicy cherries, straight from the tree, and it’s well worth the 5-hour round trip during the short cherry season, not only for the cherries, but it’s also a lovely drive, through farmland…


…and mountains…


…and then more farmland. This was our third trip to Ceres, but the wonderful (and frustrating) thing about wildlife is its unpredictability – you rarely see the same animals twice along the same route. In this case it worked in our favour – I saw my first Blue Cranes!

blue crane

The Blue Crane is the national bird of South Africa. It’s large and unmistakable, with its bulbous head, thin neck, and long wing plumes, and I’ve been hoping to see one ever since we moved here. Just look at that strange head shape!

blue crane

The first one we saw was flying, but luckily, I spotted this one in a field from far enough away that I could pull over to the shoulder and stop right next to it to take some photos – perfect!

It always irks me when I see these ‘do not feed the baboons’ signs, because I’ve only seen baboons once or twice in my almost 3 years here, and I’ve never been able to take a decent photo when I have seen them – only shots of rapidly-disappearing baboon backsides (not the ideal angle for a photo…)

feeding of baboons prohibited
Yes, the Afrikaans word for baboons is bobbejane – teehee!

Half an hour or so after seeing these signs, when I’d long given up on actually seeing any baboons on this trip, we scored another wildlife victory – and this one was really special…

Sorry the photo looks wobbly – it’s due to heat haze

A whole troop of baboons, in the middle of the road! They were completely unconcerned about the passing cars:


In fact, the big male sat himself down right in the middle of the road for a few minutes – I’m not sure what would have happened if a car had appeared in his lane…


It wasn’t until I looked at my photos that I noticed that almost all the baboons (except the big male) had babies clinging to their backs or tummies!


You do have to take care around baboons, hence all those ‘do not feed the baboons’ signs; they can be dangerous, and the males in particular are very large and can get fiercely territorial. The dominant male was very impressive, and got within a few metres of my car – luckily he was feeling laid back and didn’t try to charge us while I had the window down to take these photos!


What an amazing sight, to see them all out in the open, in the middle of nowhere, like this – don’t you think?

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this wildlife post! Please leave me a comment if so – I do love to hear from you…

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Commissions: rebooted

I had to take a break from my crochet pattern commissions towards the end of last year, to keep up with my book deadlines. Now it’s time for me to start them up again, and this is a good opportunity for me to re-examine the process and see how I can improve it to make it more sustainable…

The Good

I love accepting commissions for new amigurumi patterns – I’ve come up with some very special designs that I’d probably never have got around to making, had they not been commissioned. Knowing that people believe and trust in my ability to create a certain animal makes me even more determined to get it right!

PlanetJune Commissions: the first 18 months

The Bad

The idea of the commissions is great, but the reality of fulfilling them has contributed to my stress in the past year; my skin condition makes me essentially allergic to deadlines because it’s triggered by stress. The more pressure I feel, the more that manifests physically, and that only adds to my stress (as well as stopping me from taking any in-progress photos until my hands heal – a big problem when I’m trying to get a new pattern finished!)

Moving Forward

I’ve thought long and hard about this, and here’s my solution: the new commissions model will have no hard deadlines. Expected time to completion will be 1-3 months, depending on when inspiration strikes. If the stars align and I’m not working on anything else, I may be able to complete a commission in 2 weeks! But if the design isn’t working out as planned, being able to set it aside for a while and let my subconscious mull it over while I work on a different project will be much healthier for me than the nerve-wracking running-out-of-time feeling.

You still end up with the same end result – no PlanetJune pattern is ever released until I’m satisfied it’s as good as I can possibly make it – but without the time pressure of the deadline, the process should run more smoothly and help keep me healthy enough to keep designing for many years to come. There’s a lot more that I want to accomplish, and physical or mental breakdowns aren’t part of that plan!

Dropouts and Top-Up Pledges

If you’re not happy about this change, I do understand, and I’m happy for you to cancel any pledges you’ve made towards future commissions. I’ll be emailing everyone who has outstanding pledges to confirm that they’ll still be happy to honour their pledges when the time comes for me to collect them. Please check your email if you’ve made any pledges!

If there are dropouts, some of the designs already in the fully-pledged waiting list may no longer be fully pledged, so I’ve come up with a plan – I think this is the fairest way to tackle it:

  • I’ll offer top-up pledge spots to replace any dropouts, so you can pledge to keep a design in its place in the waiting list.
  • Any design that receives enough top-up pledges to make up for the dropouts will keep its place in the waiting list (currently: Meerkat, Camel, Armadillo, Macaque [monkey], Bernese Mountain Dog, Miniature Schnauzer).
  • Any design that is no longer fully pledged by Feb 1st (when I will begin the next commission) will lose its place and have to wait until I complete everything else in the queue before it has another chance to be commissioned.

So, if you particularly want any of the currently-commissioned designs, keep checking the Commissions thread in the PJ ravelry group over the next week for my updates (I’ve asked for all dropout requests to be submitted by Tuesday), to see if it needs your top-up pledge to keep its place.

I’m looking forward to picking up the commissions reins again! I wonder how many lovely animals I’ll have the chance to crochet this year, thanks to this scheme… 🙂

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announcing my new Crochet book!

I’m very excited to announce that my new book will be released on August 5th, 2014, and it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon! With my last book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi, I created the ultimate reference book on amigurumi, and now I’ve turned my attention to all of crochet for my new book, Idiot’s Guide: Crochet

Idiot's Guides: Crochet by June Gilbank

Amazon doesn’t have much info up yet, and what they do have makes it sound like this is just a beginner’s book, but it’s actually much, much more…

Let me tell you about my vision for Crochet: I had three goals for this book, because I wanted to make an ambitious 3 books in 1 volume:

  • The complete beginner’s guide: To create the clearest, most comprehensive learn-to-crochet tutorials, with ultra close-up photos of every single step, so people really can learn to crochet from my book.
  • The crochet tips guide: To distill all the knowledge and tips I’ve picked up over my crocheting life into clear, easy to follow instructions.
  • The beautiful pattern book: To create a collection of stylish original accessories and home decor patterns that would make perfect gifts, so you’ll want to make everything in the book! The patterns need to be simple to work (but not boring for experienced crocheters) and show some of the variety possible in crochet, so you’ll learn more as you make each pattern.

I was fortunate that my editors were happy to accommodate my vision, and I’ve crammed all of these goals into the 272 pages of this book! The Idiot’s Guides series has had a complete makeover and you’ll be very pleasantly surprised when you see the lovely design and hundreds of full-colour photos.

This book is different from every other crochet book on the market and excellent value for money, whatever your crochet skill, as it’s perfect for both beginners and more experienced crocheters. I hope you’ll find it a valuable resource, whether your goal is to learn to crochet, to improve your crochet skills and knowledge, to find a selection of clean, timeless designs to crochet, or all of the above 🙂

The tutorials have all the detail and clear step-by-step photos you’d expect from me, and the patterns include stitch diagrams and all the added tips and extras you find in my PlanetJune Accessories patterns. I’m so excited about this book, and I hope you will be too!

I’ll be revealing more details about the book and the patterns over the coming months, but if you’re already chomping at the bit, here are the Amazon pre-order links (US, CA, UK and DE):

And for Kindle (and other ebook readers and Kindle apps):

Comments (21)

January update

I’m still technically on holiday for another week, but in this age of smartphones and wifi it’s hard to ever take a complete break – there are always more questions to answer and people to help! I’m trying to keep work to a minimum, though, and enjoying some relaxing crafting time.

My Craft WIPs

It’s such a treat to have time to make things again! I’ve really missed this…

cross stitch wip by planetjune

I’m making progress on my secret long term cross stitch project, which I started well over a year ago (and its companion piece over 2 years ago)! I don’t think I’ll be finishing it any time soon, but that’s fine by me – it’s a nice relaxing project to pick up whenever I have time.

fimo chameleon wip by planetjune

I’ve been playing with my polymer clay for the first time in a couple of years. My FIMO is getting pretty old now, and took a long time to condition so it didn’t crack when I worked it. My hands were hurting after that, so I only got partway through sculpting the basic body shape of a chameleon before I had to stop. It was going well, but I don’t expect the clay to stay workable; I’ll probably have to ball up my efforts and start again from scratch for my next claying session (boo). At least I have a good chameleon colour mixed now, so I can get straight into sculpting next time!

mystery amigurumi wip by planetjune

I’ve also started crocheting a very cute new design – all will be revealed in the next few weeks… It’s lovely to have time to think about amigurumi again, and, yes, I count my designing as play, not work! Writing, editing, photographing and publishing patterns is definitely (hard) work, but the design and crocheting part is exactly what I’d be doing even if it didn’t pay – I love this part 🙂

2013 Designs CAL

The January CAL includes all 18 of the crochet patterns I released last year – a nice mix of free and paid, amigurumi and accessories, and (hopefully!) something to appeal to everyone:

2013 PlanetJune crochet patterns

If you’d like to join in, you’ll find the CAL thread in the PlanetJune ravelry group – I hope to see you there 🙂

Review and Win contest

I apparently completely forgot to do the monthly update in December (I can’t imagine why…), so I have 2 ‘Review and Win’ winners to announce today!

November’s winner is Aimee N, with her review of my Cascading Clusters Shawl:

Cascading Clusters Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

I bought this pattern as soon as I saw it and put another shawl aside so that I could work on it. I like to work from charts, and the chart for this pattern was very clear and easy to follow. It’s a quick project too. I used an alpaca sport-weight yarn which drapes beautifully. I am so pleased with this shawl that I will probably make it again — and I rarely make the same pattern more than once!

And December’s winner is Jeanne S, with her review of my Christmas Trees:

crocheted Christmas trees by planetjune

Another great pattern from June. Very easy to follow directions, and the tiny star is adorable! I used white worsted weight yarn, red heart shimmer, worked really well. Then I had some finer weight pale blue glittery yarn. Made the small tree again. Stands on its own without being stuffed, and very quick to make up. Thanks again

Congrats to both of the winners – I’ll email you to find out which pattern you’d like as your prize 🙂

And now I’m heading back to a lazy afternoon of watching TV and crafting. My 2014 is going pretty well so far – I hope yours is too.

Comments (5)

2013: year in review

2013 has been one crazy non-stop year! I love making these annual reports – it’s a way to take a step back and really see what I’ve achieved in the year. Until I started this post, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much this year apart from the new book (which will unfairly count as next year’s accomplishment even though 95% of the work was completed in 2013). It turns out that’s not true at all:

2013 PlanetJune crochet patterns
PlanetJune 2013 crochet patterns – if you’d like to make any of them this month, the 2013 Designs CAL starts today in the PJ rav group

I was surprised to discover that I’ve actually published 18 new crochet patterns – that’s about 3/4 of my typical annual average! If I add all the patterns I’ve designed for the book (which I can’t show you yet, but there are lots!), I’ve actually designed many more patterns this year than in previous years.

And I managed to squeeze in 9 craft projects – 6 crocheted, 2 knitted, and 1 sewn:

2013 PlanetJune craft projects
My 2013 craft projects

The rest of this post is long, personal, and introspective, but my life and my business are so closely tied that talking only about PlanetJune without explaining the changes I’m making for myself wouldn’t paint the real picture. I don’t like to overshare, but honesty is important – I want to explain the reasons for my big decisions. Feel free to skip it if you’re not interested!

Personal Report

2013 has been probably been the most challenging year of my life. For the past 3 years, since discovering we’d be leaving Canada for South Africa, I’ve been struggling against sickness, moving halfway around the world, culture shock, dealing with a growing business that takes more and more time, and constant other challenges that never let me take a breath. Every time one crisis was over, something else came up, but I felt like I just had to keep going, as there was no other option – things have to get done, and there’s nobody else who can do them.

Well, now, I feel like I have to not keep going – there really is no other option. I’d like PlanetJune to be around for many years to come and that won’t happen if I don’t start looking after myself. I’ve struggled for 3 long years and that’s enough: it’s time to take care of myself.

I’m absolutely worn out. I’m spread far too thin – the challenges of my life take a lot of time away from my business hours, and I’ve been forced to work longer hours than I’d like while achieving less than I want to. It’s frustrating when there’s so much more I want to do, but that’s just the reality of my life.

Taking on another book when I was already feeling very fragile (after a very tense few months of jumping through ridiculous hoops to try to get my visa renewed before it expired) wasn’t a healthy move, but you have to make sacrifices for things you really want. This was a book I really wanted to write, and an opportunity that wouldn’t come again. I’m very happy to have written it – I think it’s an amazing book! – but now it’s finished, I’m drawing the line. I can’t take on anything else, no matter how tempting. I’m not healthy and I need to change that, and I need to make time to enjoy the advantages of living in South Africa – good food, natural beauty, and wildlife galore!

Christmas dinner, SA style

We’ve already made a start on that over Christmas: a simple relaxed braai (barbecue) in our garden for Christmas, a trip to the Cape Winelands to go cherry picking; watching a sea turtle and rays being hand-fed at the aquarium; and an amazing encounter with a large troop of wild baboons (don’t worry, we were safely in the car at the time). I’ll be resurrecting my SA wildlife photoblog post series so you can share some of my nature encounters, starting with those baboons, coming soon 🙂

Business Report

Despite the fact that I’ve been pulled in multiple directions this year and haven’t been able to devote anywhere near as much time to PlanetJune as I’d like, my business income has stayed on par with 2012. That’s actually a huge achievement when you consider I’ve probably spent less than half the time on it than I have in previous years.

Looking back
In 2012’s review, I said:

This past year, I’ve worked harder than I ever have in my life… But the big goal here is worth it: to transition my business from a very hands-on one-person business to an automated one-person business, so I can spend the majority of my work time creating new designs and tutorials. I’m trying to… grow past the one-person level without expanding or outsourcing. I’m hoping that all my automation strategies will pay off in 2013, and I’ll have a virtual assistant (in the form of my own website and systems reducing my workload) instead of having to hire an actual assistant.

Although I anticipate another year of very hard work behind the scenes of PlanetJune, I’m giving this plan one more year to succeed. If it doesn’t, I’d have to either find a way to scale back my business, or take on minions (unless I can come up with another alternative, as neither of those options appeal to me).

I still think my plan was good, but unfortunately, all the unforeseen non-PlanetJune time-grabbers that came up in 2013 mean that I’ve barely had a chance to progress with it. It looks like I’d have another year of hard work ahead to get all my ducks in a row and see if I can really make my business sustainable for the long term without overloading myself or outsourcing. But I can’t keep forcing myself to maintain the pace I have been for the past few years, so scaling back some of my ambitions is the only way I can keep going.

What’s next?

These are the absolute requirements for 2014:

  • Get healthy
  • Make time to get out and see more of South Africa
  • Enjoy myself creating new designs with no time pressure

And, if nothing else comes up, I hope I can manage these too:

  • Complete the behind-the-scenes tech upgrades and pattern updates
  • Continue with my pattern commissions with less-pressuring deadlines
  • (Possibly) get the homepage and shop redesign completed

That list encompasses so much less than I’d like to do, but, realistically, even that sounds like a lot to take on, and I can’t push myself hard any more. There are dozens, or possibly hundreds, of exciting design ideas floating around inside my head, and some of them are desperate to get out! I need to look after myself so I can make that happen, and start enjoying my life again.

I’ve realised some things while working on this book: I don’t do well with deadlines. I don’t like working under pressure. I want my work to be right, not the best I can manage in the time available. While I’m very proud of the book, getting it to meet my standards in such a limited time pushed me almost to breaking point, and I don’t think I’ll repeat this process again.

I’m fortunate that I’m not motivated by competitiveness or money – I want the things I do to count; to hopefully make a difference to people, or at least to give me the satisfaction of having done the best I can. Of course, I’d like to make a good living too, but that’s really secondary to living a fulfilling life.

So, I will be true to myself. I will only take on projects I really want to do. I will let go of projects that aren’t working out. I will love what I do, and if you love it too, that’s even better, but being genuine comes before anything else.

This feels right: looking over all my designs, I feel that my work has a calm, tranquil aspect to it, and I’d like that to be a reflection of the real me too, not just the PlanetJune style.

Here’s to a positive and relaxed 2014 – let’s make it a great one!

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