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Archive for March, 2014

Meerkat Design Report #3

I’ll be sharing my process as I design my amigurumi Meerkat crochet pattern – hope you find this behind-the-scenes journey through what goes into a PlanetJune design interesting! To catch up, see:
Part 1: Research, Shape, Colour and Sketch
Part 2: Construction Decisions

Last time, I’d decided how to approach my design, and was finally ready to start crocheting my Meerkat!

Part 3: Making the Head

Looking at the shape of a Meerkat, I know I shouldn’t try to work the head, muzzle and body as one continuous piece. As the nose is so long and pointy, the all-important nose shape would be compromised if I tried to build it with increases and decreases in a top-down shape, especially with the added complication of the facial markings. So my options are to:

  • Crochet the head from the nose to the back of the head, and crochet the body from the bottom up, as a separate piece, to meet at the neck.
  • Crochet the head and body as one piece, with the muzzle added separately.

I decided that the most elegant result will be from the latter, as it won’t introduce an artificial break at the neck, so I’m planning to build my Meerkat with a one-piece head and body.

It’s not easy to design an animal head: it always looks strange and wrong until the additional pieces (eyes, ears, muzzle) are attached. You’ll know this if you’ve made any of my animal designs! You just have to follow the pattern and trust that all the strange-looking pieces will magically come together in the end – they always do, I promise 🙂

But designing from scratch means I need to have test ears, muzzles, and heads all on the go at once, so I can hold them up to each other and see if they work together, or if/where the shape or colour patterning need to be modified. In my prototyping, I changed the shape of the head, and played with the shape, size and positioning of the markings:

planetjune meerkat head prototypes

Now, don’t be alarmed – I know that none of these prototypes looks anything like a meerkat! You’ll have to trust me on this; it’ll all make sense when the other pieces are attached…

To save time, I try to test a few changes at once, and then pick and choose aspects from all the prototypes and refine them to get the perfect result. I’m particularly happy that my innovations in amigurumi colourwork now let me create symmetrical patterning with smooth edges, although it takes some extra work to even things up once I’ve decided on the final shape and size of the markings. Below, you can see some of the undesirable features (asymmetry and jagged edges) in the early prototypes:

planetjune meerkat face prototypes
These ‘features’ won’t be a part of the final version!

After these 3 complete prototype attempts, and some more minor tweaks as I crocheted, I’m satisfied with the head shape and markings, and the 4th prototype will go on to become the final head. You can see how it turned out when the design is finished – you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the full effect if I showed it to you now, without the muzzle, eyes and ears 🙂

An aside, for a moment – this is a great example of how my failed prototypes can lead to inspiration for future designs! I can see the basis of an alien in the prototype on the right…

planetjune meerkat head prototypes

…do you see it too? I think a cute PlanetJune alien with big built-in colourwork eyes would make a good addition to my Mythical pattern collection!

Although I’m tempted to jump right into researching aliens, I don’t want to get distracted. I’ve added ‘Alien’ to my Ideas List (with a few construction notes so I don’t forget my plan for the colourwork eyes), and now I have to put those tempting aliens completely out of my mind and get back to thinking about Meerkats….

Next for the Meerkat, I have to design the final muzzle and ears, and then I can move onto the body, limbs and tail. Now I’ve completed the main head piece, the rest of the design should flow from there, as I can build each piece to match the scale of the head, following my original sketch for the general shapes, proportions and colours, and referring back to photos of real meerkats as I go.

Stay tuned for Part 4: Making the Body

UPDATED: Continue to Meerkat Design Report #4 >>

Comments (4)

pattern re-releases: African animals

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.

With my Meerkat design in progress, it seemed fitting to select all my other African animal patterns for the next batch of re-releases. These include the AfricAmi trio (Elephant, Hippopotamus, and Rhinoceros), and my Ring-Tailed Lemur, Aardvark, and Lion & Lioness patterns.

african animals amigurumi patterns by planetjune

If you’ve previously purchased any of these pattern(s) (individually, or in the AfricAmi Set 1 multipack), the update(s) 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 these pattern purchases have been re-enabled, so you can click and download the new versions.

If you have lots of past orders in your PlanetJune account, you don’t have to hunt for the right ones; just follow these simple steps:

  1. In your PlanetJune account, click Show All Orders.
  2. At the top of that page, click to the list of all your past purchases.
  3. Find the pattern name in the alphabetical list.
  4. Click the order number to go directly to that order.
  5. Re-save your pattern 🙂

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.

(There’ll be more pattern re-releases coming soon – if you’d like to get an email notification each time a new batch is ready, sign up for the Crochet Pattern Updates mailing list.)

Comments (1)

Meerkat Design Report #2

I’ll be sharing my process as I design my amigurumi Meerkat crochet pattern – hope you find this behind-the-scenes journey through what goes into a PlanetJune design interesting!
To catch up, see Part 1: Research, Shape, Colour and Sketch

Last time, I’d completed my sketch and chosen my yarns, and was ready to start thinking about how to create a 3D crocheted Meerkat from these little rough sketches:

planetjune meerkat design: sketch

Part 2: Construction Decisions

There are several ways to achieve a specific 3D shape in crochet:

  1. Build it up by stitching together smaller, simpler shapes
  2. Create shape in a single piece through strategic placement of increases and decreases
  3. Create shape in a single piece by varying the type and size of stitch used

The right solution for me depends on what I’m trying to achieve in a specific design; I may use some or all of these techniques within a single pattern to achieve the best result. For the Meerkat, I have to decide:

  • Will the head, muzzle, ears, body, arms, legs, feet, tail, all be separate pieces, or should some (or all) of those be built in with shaping?
  • Should I start from the bottom and work up, from the top and work down, or from the front and work back?

Making these decisions involves more trade-offs: what gives the cleanest look; what produces the best shape; what makes the pattern easy to follow; what makes the pieces easy to assemble.

At this stage, I often develop several partial prototypes using different techniques and see which looks best. It’s never wasted time, as even the terrible results help to point me towards the solution, and sometimes I come up with a technique that doesn’t work for the design I’m working on but gives me a great idea for something else!

In this case, I’ve been playing around with a new idea for leg shaping, using scrap yarn and just testing the principle. I wasn’t trying to create the exact shape I’d need for the Meerkat, so don’t be concerned that it doesn’t look like anything in particular:

planetjune meerkat shaping technique prototype
Trying out a new shaping technique

To achieve more defined shaping than this, I’d need to either use multiple increases/decreases, or change the stitch – those are both techniques I try to avoid in my designs, as they spoil the smooth, regular look of the single crochet stitches. I think, though, that this approach I’ve been testing could work for my Meerkat’s legs, so that’s the direction I’m going to aim for (although it’s all subject to change if it doesn’t work out the way I hope…)

Next up, prototyping the head. I almost always start my real design with the head, as the head and face can make or break an amigurumi. The head is typically the most complex and detailed part of my designs, and I can build and shape the other pieces based on the size of the finished head. Working the other way and leaving the head until last, I may find that my Meerkat is so small I can’t make the eye patches look good, or I’d need a partial number of stitches or rounds to make the features the right size.

planetjune red panda head prototypes
Red Panda head prototypes

So the next step will be trial and error prototyping until I create a good-looking Meerkat head. I still have most of my Red Panda prototype heads (although some are partially unravelled to reclaim the amber yarn), and, as you can see from the above photo, it took me at least 5 attempts to perfect the combination of shape and markings! This isn’t unusual, and it was worth every step to get to the final result. ‘Quick’ and ‘good’ aren’t words that work together in my design process 😉

My design is already further along than this post – I planned to post this last week, but my new Baby Bunnies pattern took precedence, so you’ll get 2 Meerkat updates this week instead! Stay tuned for Part 3: Making The Head.

UPDATED: Continue to Meerkat Design Report #3 >>

Comments (5)

Baby Bunnies 2 pattern

Once of my most popular crochet patterns is my Baby Bunnies set – they seem to have really captured my customers’ imaginations, and I’ve seen dozens of people who’ve each made dozens of baby bunnies – they’re multiplying like, um, rabbits! And now you can get even more value from this pattern, by buying my new Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack, which will let you create baby bunnies with Pointed, Blazed and Dutch markings.

Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack crochet pattern by PlanetJune
New Bunnies! L-R: Pointed Bunny, Dutch Bunny, Blazed Bunny

What is an Expansion Pack?

Expansion Packs by PlanetJune

  • An Expansion Pack is an add-on to an existing PlanetJune pattern.
  • The Expansion Pack lets you modify or add to the original pattern to create something else.
  • You cannot use the Expansion Pack alone – you must also purchase the original pattern in order to be able to complete the pictured items in the Expansion Pack pattern.

I’ve only made one sample for each marking type, but, by swapping upright or lop ears with each type, you can make a total of 6 different new bunnies. (Then add the original bunnies, and all the different colourways, and you have dozens of different bunny options!)

Baby Bunnies and Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack crochet patterns by PlanetJune
Baby Bunnies 1 & 2 playing together – swap the ears and colours for even more options

Build your Colour-Changing Confidence

The original Baby Bunnies is a good pattern for fairly new crocheters, as there’s only one colour to deal with, the small size means you can finish it pretty quickly, and you get lots of practice with counting your stitches to achieve that perfect bunny shape! So I’m continuing that beginner’s crochet education with Baby Bunnies 2, as the 3 marking types are graded by difficulty:

  1. Test the waters by making your first simple colour changes for the Pointed Bunny.
  2. Get your feet wet with a few more colour changes in the Blazed Bunny markings.
  3. Wade into multiple changes per round with the more complex Dutch Bunny markings.

Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack crochet pattern by PlanetJune
Increasing difficulty, from top to bottom: Pointed, Blazed, Dutch markings

By the time you’ve completed all three of these bunnies, you’ll be a colour-changing expert, and ready to tackle one of my larger patterns with complex colours, such as the Emperor Penguin, the Kingfisher, or the Orca:

PlanetJune patterns with complex colour changes

Ready to Buy?

You can buy the Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack for only $3.50 individually from the shop, or, if you haven’t already bought the Baby Bunnies pattern, you can select it as an add-on to that pattern before you add it to your shopping cart, and save 50c on the pair.

Or, if you’re not quite ready to start bunny-making, why not favourite or queue the new set on Ravelry, so you don’t forget about them?

Launch Discount

If you’ve already bought the original Baby Bunnies, you won’t be able to save that 50c. But, for 7 days only, add the Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack pattern to your shopping cart, together with anything else (totalling $5 or more), then use the code BUNNIES at checkout and you’ll still get your discount! (Valid until next Thursday: 27th March 2014.)

Note: If you don’t need anything else right now, this also applies to Gift Certificate purchases, so you can pick up a $5 gift certificate now, get your discount, and have $5 in your PlanetJune account ready for your next purchase, or to send to a crocheting friend!

Baby Bunnies 2 Expansion Pack crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Watch out world, I believe bunny season just started!

PS – Don’t forget to share photos of your Baby Bunnies in the Spring/Easter CAL thread on Ravelry too – you have until the end of April to post them…

Comments (7)

Meerkat Design Report #1

I’ll be sharing my process as I design my amigurumi Meerkat crochet pattern – hope you find this behind-the-scenes journey through what goes into a PlanetJune design interesting!

I originally intended to design my meerkat during the Ravellenic Games, and this (below) is the first and only post I managed to complete before I realised I was too busy with book edits to continue with the design at that time. Now I’m resuming the design, so let’s go back to the start and get you caught up…


Part 1: Research, Shape, Colour and Sketch

Stage 1 of the meerkat design is complete 🙂 This stage goes through from researching the animal to drawing my sketch, and there’s a lot of work involved!

Research: To get an idea of my process, take a look at my blog post showing how I designed my Pteranodon:

amigurumi pteranodon: from sketch to design

In this case, as I want a realistic meerkat, I didn’t really look at other amigurumi designs beyond a quick glance to see what’s out there, as I don’t want to accidentally be influenced by them – only by real meerkats. I spent a long time studying meerkat shape, posture and colouring, via google, and from my own photos like this one:

Meerkats at Durrell (photo by June Gilbank)

Once I’ve finished the research, I have a few more decisions to make:

Shape: proportions, positions. I decide on the best position based on what I like best, what I think will be most recognisable, and what will translate into a good pattern (i.e. stable so it won’t fall over, and easy to crochet).

Colour, part 1 – How many colours to use: It’s a trade-off between more colours (more realistic) and fewer colours (easy for you to follow the pattern). Critical details must be included, but others can be simplified so it still ‘reads’ as the animal but with my clean, simple style. For instance, I originally considered 6 shades for my Red Panda design (light red, dark red, dark brown, black, white, cream), but managed to simplify it down to 3 (aren’t you glad I did?!) and it still clearly says Red Panda:

red panda amigurumi crochet pattern by planetjune

Colour, part 2 – Amount of colourwork: This is a trade-off between simplicity and recognisability: a pattern with a colour change in every stitch may have a beautiful result, but be too frustrating for you to want to crochet. So, again, I limit the colourwork to what I decide is essential to make the animal unmistakable, and simplify the rest.

Colour, part 3 – Which specific shades: This is a decision that only really affects my sample, as very few of you will use the exact same yarns I did. But a good picture really sells the design, so I need my sample to look as amazing as possible! The shades I choose are a compromise between the colours I’d most like to see and the closest colours in my stash; the closest suppliers of my amigurumi yarns are thousands of miles away, so I don’t have the luxury of shopping for missing shades.

I only ever mix yarns if they have comparable weight and sheen (see my worsted weight yarn comparison) as otherwise the pattern would be yarn dependent, having different gauge and appearance for different parts. I always use only one type of yarn in any one design, so, whatever yarn you have available, all you need to do is pick the closest shades in the yarn you prefer (or have access to) and the pattern will work out for you. I originally intended to use Vanna’s Choice for the meerkat, but my supplies are perilously low, so, in the end, these are the colours I decided on (Red Heart Soft in Wheat and Chocolate):

planetjune meerkat design: yarn choices

Sketch: After making all these decisions, I finally reach the point where I can draw my sketch. Now don’t worry: the sketch isn’t supposed to look exactly like the final meerkat – it’s just a reference for the basic shape (sitting up, not on all four paws or standing balancing on those spindly legs and tail!) and the colours I plan to use. Especially when there’s colourwork involved, getting the shape and colours to all work together and look symmetrical means the finished animal will never look exactly like my sketch, so there’s not much point in me trying to draw a work of art! This is just to remind me of the decisions I’ve made up to this point and to give me a starting point when I pick up my hook:

planetjune meerkat design: sketch

And yes, I do draw in pink (or aqua, or purple) pen – it makes my notes more fun, and gives me permission to not try to make my sketch perfect, as I can’t erase pen 🙂

Next up, stay tuned for stage 2: deciding how to best reproduce this sketch in crochet!

UPDATED: Continue to Meerkat Design Report #2 >>

Comments (2)

pattern re-releases: Alpaca & Baby Bunnies

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.

I finally have time to resume my crochet pattern re-release project! I’m starting back in gently, by re-releasing a small set of 2 patterns: my Natural Fibres collection. These patterns both get very popular at this time of year, so I wanted to re-release them as soon as possible.

natural fibres amigurumi patterns by planetjune
Both these patterns are personal favourites of mine, and my real-angora-yarn bunny and real-alpaca-yarn alpaca are extra-lovely and snuggly.

If you’ve previously purchased the Alpaca and/or Baby Bunnies pattern(s), the update(s) 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 these pattern purchases have been re-enabled, so you can click and download the new versions.

If you have lots of past orders in your PlanetJune account, you don’t have to hunt for the right ones; just follow these simple steps:

  1. In your PlanetJune account, click Show All Orders.
  2. At the top of that page, click to the list of all your past purchases.
  3. Find the pattern name in the alphabetical list.
  4. Click the order number to go directly to that order.
  5. Re-save your pattern 🙂

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.

(There’ll be more pattern re-releases coming soon – if you’d like to get an email notification each time a new batch is ready, sign up for the Crochet Pattern Updates mailing list.)

Comments

Primroses crochet pattern

Nothing says Spring quite like the sight of a primrose. One of the earliest-blossoming spring flowers (the name ‘primrose’ is actually from the Latin for ‘first rose’, although it’s not a rose!) you may also know these pretty plants as primulas, and the closely-related and similar-looking polyanthus.

But why wait for Spring? Bring a taste of spring into your home, whatever the season – a pot of crocheted primroses will brighten your day in a glorious riot of colour!

Primroses crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Primrose plants look so pretty with their crinkled leaves and heart-shaped petals, and I made sure to include those details in my design.

Primroses includes the patterns for two primrose arrangements: a large planter filled to bursting with multi-coloured blooms for maximum impact; and a small round pot containing a single plant perfect to brighten small spaces or as a gift in a hurry!

I’ve used some neat tricks to keep the construction as simple as possible, with surprisingly little sewing. I’ve included full details for assembling and arranging the plants so your primroses will look healthy and full with the least amount of pieces possible (no point wasting hours making hundreds of leaves when you don’t need to!)

Primroses crochet pattern by PlanetJune

I try to come up with different and interesting pot constructions for each of my plant designs – that way, you won’t be buying the same pot pattern twice. My primroses come with a matching set of a small round pot and a long planter; both of which have a shaped lip around the top edge. The lip looks good – just like a real plant pot! – but it also provides a sturdy support to keep the pot in shape.

You can also mix and match different PlanetJune plants with different pots for added value – for example, the primrose pots would look great filled with crocheted cacti or succulents, just as you could make a large round bowl of primroses by using either of the large pots from those patterns.

My colourful Primroses make me smile whenever I see them, and I hope they’ll have the same effect on you! If you’d like to crochet up the joy of springtime, you’ll find the Primroses crochet pattern in my shop right now.

Or, if you’re not quite ready to make your Primroses, why not favourite or queue them on Ravelry, so you don’t forget about them?

Comments (11)

crocheted yoga mat strap

crocheted yoga mat strap

A link on Twitter led me to the pattern for this ingenious crocheted yoga mat strap, designed by Sara at My Merry Messy Life. Instead of just saying ‘that’s clever’ and posting it to Pinterest, I decided it could be just what I need for my own yoga mat!

Sara designed the strap to go over a crocheted yoga mat bag, but I don’t want or need a bag – just a strap to keep my mat rolled up neatly and to make it easier to transport. I don’t usually like to follow patterns without at least putting my own spin on them, but with a pattern this basic, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel.

It’s the concept that’s genius: it’s simply a crocheted rope with a small loop at each end. You pull the rope through each loop to form an adjustable noose at each end, then pull the nooses tight around the ends of the mat to hold it together securely – clever and very effective.

I used Knit Picks Dishie worsted weight cotton yarn (left over from one of my book projects!) held double. The original pattern uses acrylic yarn, and unmercerized cotton is much stiffer and harder to work, so I used a K hook (6.5mm) instead of the recommended I hook (5.5mm).

I worked into the back bumps of the starting chain to give a neat finish. It only took 35m of yarn and I was finished in no time. The hardest part was weaving in the ends – with such a narrow project, there’s really nowhere to hide them!

crocheted yoga mat strap

The end result is really useful, both for holding the mat together neatly when it’s not in use and carrying it to and from classes. The cotton yarn I used makes it very strong and sturdy, and crochet is the perfect medium for projects like this – I love being able to quickly create something that’s so functional!

The noose construction works perfectly to keep the mat rolled neatly (below, left), and, in conjunction with the grippy mat, it even allows me to carry the mat in the much more convenient but less stable vertical position (below, right) without it slipping out of the strap.

crocheted yoga mat strap

Why am I not wearing yoga gear here? Well, ironically, as soon as I made the strap my knee started playing up (it’s never been quite the same since I was hit by a car 13 years ago; my knee took the full force of the impact) and it’s quite painful at the moment, so I may not be able to take my newly-strapped mat to a yoga class for a while. But at least my mat is ready to go as soon as my knee has recovered – it’s added incentive to get myself better 🙂

I highly recommend this yoga mat strap if you do yoga. You should also keep it in mind as a quick-to-crochet gift for a yoga-loving friend, although without the mat in place it just looks like a strange loopy rope, so you’ll have to give your friend a demo before they’ll fully appreciate what you’ve made for them!

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