PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Archive for April, 2015

South Africa wildlife VI: the magic of water

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit comfortably at my computer and edit wildlife photos, so I’m easing back into things with an update of some of the everyday (but still special!) wildlife in my own garden here in Cape Town.

Today I’d like to show you the power of water for attracting and photographing wildlife. Giving garden birds a supply of fresh water for drinking and bathing is obviously very important during the hot dry summer months, but keeping the bird bath full year-round helps attract a wide variety of birds to my garden:

The local meeting place: laughing doves, a common starling and a Cape sparrow enjoying a drink and a bathe together.

Photo op! Olive thrushes, like most birds (except doves) have to raise their heads to swallow water, so it’s the perfect moment to snap a photo.

And sometimes things get slightly ridiculous – this hadeda ibis is a) not a garden bird and b) far too large to bathe in my birdbath… but he didn’t care!

I also have a nectar (sugar water) feeder to attract sunbirds – the African equivalent of hummingbirds, and just as pretty.

The female southern double-collared sunbird has brown plumage, but she’s still tiny, fast, and gorgeous!

The male looks very similar to a male hummingbird, in stunning jewel tones.

But it’s not just sunbirds who appreciate the nectar (and fight over it)…

Cape weaver enjoying a sweet treat.

Male sunbird (left) and Cape white-eye (right) having a shouting contest.

Southern masked weaver has a drink while Cape bulbul demands his turn.

And water doesn’t just attract birds to the garden – by happy accident, I discovered a few weeks ago that if you put a wet branch or leaf in front of a Cape Dwarf Chameleon, it’ll lick the water off it:


So now, every time I find a chameleon, I offer him a drop of water on a leaf…

Ooh, a wet leaf… 


So much fun! (And much easier than trying to catch grasshoppers to feed to them…)

I had another happy discovery this weekend. I’m trying to make a wildlife area at the bottom of the garden, but my new indigenous plants need some extra water to help them get settled in, so I turned on the sprinkler and sat outside for a while….

wildlife enjoying water in my garden
Just sprinkling the garden…

Almost immediately, over a dozen Cape White-Eyes flew in and started hopping from branch to branch under the spray of the sprinkler, fluffing up their feathers, preening, shaking, and enjoying a good shower:

Fluffy white-eyes!

Luckily I have a good zoom on my new camera, as white-eyes are tiny and these were down at the very bottom of the garden, but I managed to get a little video for you to enjoy:

For the best experience, play the video at Full 1080p HD quality and fullscreen it.

Aren’t they sweet?

I hope you enjoyed another glimpse into my local wildlife – I’ll have more to share with you once I’ve had a chance to go through the past few months of photos. 🙂

And if you’d like to encourage more wildlife into your own garden, I suggest adding a bird bath, a pond, or a water feature – it really works!

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new mobile-friendly website

It was only 9 months ago that I launched my new updated website, and I’d never have imagined that I’d be changing things so soon after all the work I put into developing a single unified look and feel for my entire site. But Google had other plans, and I’ve been back in web developer mode again for the past 6 weeks so I could learn how to meet the new Google requirements for a mobile-friendly website by their deadline of April 21st.

Here’s how Google saw PlanetJune before today:

Old site: not mobile friendly 🙁

It’s been a huge task but I’ve finished with 5 whole days to spare(!) and I’ve just launched the new, responsive, PlanetJune website. (If you’re reading this by email or in a feed reader, please do click through to see the site!)

If you’re using a desktop, laptop, or large-screened tablet, you may not notice any difference in the site – I’ve tried to keep everything as consistent as possible while making it easier to use for those of you using smaller screens. If you previously had to zoom into the pages to read and navigate my site, you should now find that everything loads in a clean, clear format so you can read everything without needing to zoom.

Here’s how Google sees PlanetJune now:

New site: I’m mobile friendly!

The screenshots above are from Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page – as you can see, is now Google-approved for phone and tablet users! (If you need help finding out how to make your site mobile-friendly too, I recommend you check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Websites guide as a starting point.)

Although I wasn’t delighted to have to to take on such a steep learning curve and large project with only 6 weeks notice, I’m pleased to have done it. Acquiring new skills is always fun and useful, and the more new pages I tested on my phone, the more I appreciated the simplified design for smaller screens. It’s hard to show this in a screenshot, but in case you’d like to get a better idea for how it works, here (below) are 3 side-by-side snapshots of the new homepage at 3 different screen widths (separated by black bars for clarity).

This is called responsive design – instead of you deciding between seeing a full ‘desktop’ version and a pared-down ‘mobile’ version, my page will detect how wide your screen is, and modify the page layout to fit your screen, so the text is always large enough for you to read without zooming in. If you rotate your phone or tablet from portrait to landscape, you may notice that the layout changes as your screen becomes wider!

new PlanetJune responsive website
L-R: instead of shrinking the page to fit the full site onto a narrower screen, now the elements automatically move around to fit your screen at a readable size.

Of course, you don’t need to worry about how it works – the end result for you should just be a seamless and enjoyable browsing experience, whether you use a desktop or laptop computer or any size of smartphone or tablet.

I’d like to thank the many helpful volunteers in the PlanetJune Ravelry group who’ve spent the past few weeks helping me test the functionality and layout of the new site on every device, operating system and browser we could find, to try to ensure it’ll work smoothly for everyone! This rigorous testing hopefully means that I’ve ironed out all the bugs before launching this new site. However, there’s always a chance that something won’t work for you, and I’d be very grateful if you could email me immediately if you find anything that looks strange, wrong, broken or unusable, so I can fix it.

I do hope you enjoy the new PlanetJune mobile-device experience – please let me know if you like it!

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How to make ‘baby’ amigurumi animals

With the Baby Animals CAL in full swing in the PlanetJune Ravelry group, I thought I’d demonstrate a couple of simple methods to convert almost* any amigurumi animal pattern into a ‘baby’ with very little effort and no pattern modifications.

Method 1: Use Bigger Eyes

This couldn’t be simpler: to make an individual animal automatically look cuter and more babyish, all you need to do is use proportionally larger eyes than those recommended in the pattern. This works because baby animals (and humans!) are born with very large eyes in proportion to the rest of their bodies.

There are, of course, other differences (larger head, shorter limbs, larger paws, shorter muzzle, etc), but just making this one change can instantly turn an amigurumi dog into a puppy, for example:

how to make 'baby' amigurumi animals, by planetjune
Don’t you want a Beagle puppy now?

Method 2: Make a Mother & Baby

The other easy and effective way to make a ‘baby’ amigurumi is to crochet two of the same animal, and make one much larger or smaller than the other. You can do this with no changes at all to the pattern, simply by using a heavier yarn (and correspondingly larger hook) to make a larger adult, or a finer yarn (and correspondingly smaller hook) to make a smaller baby (see my Resizing Amigurumi tutorial for more details).

elephant crochet pattern by planetjune
The blue Elephant is definitely an older sibling to the tiny baby grey ones! 

aquaami polar bears crochet pattern by planetjune
Mama and baby Polar Bears

And here’s a gorgeous example from Amanda from Australia (via my Ravelry group), who made a Tuxedo AmiCat with her own little AmiKitten:

mama and baby planetjune tuxedo amicats by amanda
Awww! Amanda’s absolutely adorable AmiCat and kitten

Method 3: Do Both!

You can combine Methods 1 and 2: try using the same size eyes in both sizes of your amigurumi animal, and they’ll look even more realistically like a mama and baby! Just look at my little brown Alpaca and see how cute he looks with his smaller body and relatively big eyes:

alpaca crochet pattern by planetjune
Same size eyes in a smaller body: definitely a baby!


I said you can use these tips with almost any amigurumi animal pattern for a reason: these techniques only work for animals where the baby is essentially a miniature version of the adult. Some animals have very different looking young: most obviously, any that go through a metamorphosis (for example, a baby butterfly is a caterpillar, not a tiny butterfly, and a baby frog is a tadpole, not a miniature frog).

This also applies to birds, who turn from a bundle of fluff into a sleek-feathered adult. For example, using bigger eyes or a smaller hook/yarn combo with my (adult) Emperor Penguin pattern would definitely not give you a Baby Emperor Penguin!

adult and baby emperor penguin crochet patterns by planetjune
Remember, baby birds look nothing like their parents…

Aside from those few exceptions, these simple techniques are the easiest way to make a ‘baby’ animal without needing a whole new pattern. Give it a try and breathe new life into your animal patterns by making cute baby versions of them, or an adorable mama-and-baby pair!

(And, if you’re tempted to give it a go in the next couple of weeks, don’t forget to show off the resulting amigurumi by entering them in the PlanetJune Baby Animals crochet-along on Ravelry!)

Do you find my tutorials helpful? If so, please consider making a contribution towards my time so I can continue to create clear and concise tutorials for you:

Thank you so much for your support! Now click below for loads more crochet video and photo tutorials (and do let me know what else you’d like me to cover in future tutorials…)

See more helpful PlanetJune crochet tips and technique tutorials

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April update

Knee update

It’s almost 7 weeks since my knee surgery and things are definitely improving week by week. My rehab is both time-consuming and exhausting, and my knee still feels very uncomfortable at times, but I’m supplementing the rehab sessions with yoga-based stretches and massage therapy which are making a big difference to my range of motion. I still have a long way to go, but I think I’ll get there. 🙂

PlanetJune update

You may have heard that Google is changing its algorithm on April 21st to penalise non-mobile-friendly sites. A large fraction of PlanetJune sales comes from Google searches, so non-compliance is not a choice I can afford to make. That means I have to redesign my entire website – not a task I’d have undertaken at the moment, given the choice, but it’ll be worth the effort: soon you won’t need to zoom in if you’re viewing PlanetJune on a tablet or phone.

So, in between my knee rehab sessions, I’ve spent most of the past month learning about responsive web design (thank goodness for online courses!) and I’m starting to convert my site. I could hire someone to do this upgrade for me, but keeping on top of the technology means I’ll be able to make more tweaks and improvements in future; that’d be very difficult to do if I hadn’t built the site myself and didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. And I’m enjoying having an excuse to update my tech skills, plus it’s really an investment in my business, so it’s a win-win!

Raining AmiCats & Dogs CAL Report

We had so many adorable kitties and pups made during the March CAL! Here’s a sampling of the CAL entries (click the pic to see them all on Ravelry):

PlanetJune Raining AmiCats & Dogs CAL 2015 - sample of entries

Baby Animals CAL

Just a reminder that, if you’d like to join us for the Baby Animals crochet-along this month and haven’t yet bought my new Baby Guinea Pigs pattern, today is the last day to take advantage of the CAL discount on the pattern – although you have the rest of the month to make all kinds of cute amigurumi animal babies, such as the ones pictured below:

PlanetJune Baby Animals CAL crochet pattern options

Won’t you join us? You can find all the details in the first post of the CAL thread in the PlanetJune Ravelry group 🙂

Review and Win contest

You’re automatically entered in the next monthly draw every time you write a review for a PlanetJune pattern you’ve enjoyed – and you’ll also be helping future customers make an informed decision about patterns they are considering buying.

Baby Bunnies crochet pattern by PlanetJune

March’s winner is Rachel G‘s review of my Baby Bunnies:

This is a great pattern! The instructions were clear and thorough, and my finished bunny is adorable. The shaping is great and it has the sweetest expression. I’ll definitely make more bunnies and also try more Planet June patterns (this was my first one). While I was making my bunny, I kept referring to June’s crochet tutorials, and they guided me through everything I needed help with. I don’t have a ton of crochet experience but this pattern presented no problems (well, except for me misreading a line and adding an extra round. But that was entirely my fault and the bunny looks great regardless.). Fellow rabbit lovers-this is the pattern for you!

Congratulations, Rachel – I’ve emailed you to find out which pattern you’d like as your prize!

What’s Next?

The new is still very much a work in progress, but thanks to Google I have that firm deadline, so it has to be ready in the next two weeks – wish me luck! I’ll let you know when it’s ready to launch…

Comments (3)

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