PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for January, 2016

Failure: Part of Success

I’ve been thinking about the ‘perfect’ craft world that we usually see online – endless photos of beautiful finished projects – and how they rarely, if ever, show the whole story. I’m as guilty as anyone else: unless I’m planning a tutorial, I almost never take photos until I finish a project, so you never get to see how many times I re-knit and adjust until I end up with the sweater I had in mind (or something close to it, at least).

And yet, with everything I make, whether that’s a new crochet design or a personal craft project, nothing ever goes entirely to plan! I enjoy the process of making at least as much as I enjoy the finished item, so I don’t see spending some extra time with each project as a problem. But it’s important to remember that failure is a part of learning and growing, and you shouldn’t be upset when something creative doesn’t go as expected – just learn from it and move on.

Burnt Buttons

I thought I’d share a pretty hilarious example of one of my failures with you – remember this purple cardigan I finished knitting a few months ago?

purple cardigan

The handmade polymer clay buttons were supposed to be the finishing touch, and I spent ages perfecting a set of 8 lovely 4-hole buttons. Then I put them in the toaster oven and waited. I have no idea what happened – I’ve baked polymer clay dozens of times before, I use an oven thermometer, and I monitor the temperature regularly, so I don’t know what could have gone so badly wrong. And yet, my poor buttons grew and swelled and darkened and turned into…

burnt polymer clay buttons that look like chocolate brownies!

Chocolate brownies?! With their bubbled glossy surface and rich brown colouring, I seem to have accidentally discovered the formula for perfect replica brownies – but definitely not the formula for perfect buttons for my cardigan!

After this disaster, I almost gave up and abandoned polymer clay forever, but I thought I’d have one quick last try before making such a drastic decision. I quickly cut a new set of buttons, simplified to thinner circles (one sheet of clay, straight out of the pasta machine) with just 2 holes per button, and popped them in the toaster oven. And, this time, they baked exactly as expected:

replacement polymer clay button with burnt first attempt

It’s hard to believe that these two buttons were made from exactly the same materials – the only differences before going in the oven were the thickness (although the ‘brownie’ buttons were much thinner before they were baked/burnt!) and the number of holes. I still don’t know what I did to make such a difference between the two batches of buttons (although I have several theories as to what may have gone wrong the first time), but, luckily, the new buttons are fine, so I just quit while I was ahead and sewed them onto my cardigan!

Unexpected Inspiration

Failure can even be a good thing, provided you don’t let it defeat you. When it comes to my crochet designs, interesting discoveries often come from my failures in the form of techniques or shapes I can adapt for a future design…

planetjune meerkat head prototypes

One of my failed prototypes for my Meerkat‘s head (above, right) gave me the inspiration for what became my Aliens pattern (below)! I love my cute little alien, but that design would never have happened if I hadn’t seen the potential in the meerkat failure.

Aliens amigurumi crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Fear of Failure

The fear of failure can be even worse when you’re trying something new. I’ve been wanting to take up painting again for a long time, and I’ve stocked up on paints, brushes, and canvases, but I’ve been too afraid of messing up to even make a start!

I think it’s time to take my own advice: it’s okay to fail. I know I won’t be any good at first – or maybe ever – but I should just paint something and see what happens, shouldn’t I?

Final Thoughts

It’s rare for anyone to show their failures, but we all have them. There’s no chance of success if you don’t even try – and then keep trying, and learning, and improving, until you end up with something you’re happy with.

Nobody is perfect, and (despite what you may think from viewing craft blogs, Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds) many projects don’t go as planned! Some things are beyond our control, but you should never let a crafting mishap stop you from having another go. 🙂

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South Africa wildlife IX: Ceres and Sutherland

Just before Christmas, Dave spent a week working at one of the big telescopes at Sutherland, 400km from Cape Town. I decided to take a road trip to meet him out there and bring him home for Christmas. I thought you might like to see more of the South African landscape and wildlife, so I documented what I could for you to enjoy too!

The drive was lovely and I saw some amazing animals along the way – baboons, pelicans, blue cranes, lizards, and various birds of prey and brightly-coloured songbirds – but it’s not easy to take photos of moving targets while driving! By the time I’d stopped the car (when I could), the wildlife had run or flown away. In fact, the only animal I managed to photograph en route was a slow-moving baby tortoise…  But the scenery is pretty spectacular too, and I did get some nice wildlife pics once I reached the observatory.

Sutherland, Ceres and Cape Town

This doesn’t look like a massive road trip on the scale of the size of the whole country, but it goes through farmland, mountains, and semi-desert, and both the scenery and weather change completely as you go.

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

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2015: year in review

Writing this review post each year gives me perspective on my year in business – and life – and helps me to appreciate my accomplishments. My main goal for 2015 was to get healthy so I can enjoy life, nature, and creating new designs. At the time I wrote that I had no idea that I’d be getting serious knee surgery in February and be spending the majority of the year working on rehabilitating my knee and getting my strength back – still a work in progress – so ‘getting healthy’ was a much more difficult and time-consuming goal than I’d imagined it would be!

Although this meant I haven’t exactly been prolific, I’m very happy with the range and quality of my new crochet designs: the AmiCats (of course!), 5 new commissioned animal patterns, a new baby animal set, a donationware pattern, an expansion pack, two shawls, and an innovative Christmas design:

2015 crochet pattern designs by PlanetJune
PlanetJune 2015 crochet patterns

(Wow, seeing them all together like this, I must have subconsciously followed a strong colour palette with my designs this year – isn’t that interesting to see?!)

I didn’t waste my time while I was stuck on the sofa resting my knee; it turns out that knitting is a great distraction from pain, and my wardrobe has benefitted from 4 new sweaters (the final one isn’t photographed yet – I can’t face the thought of modelling alpaca in summer…):

2015 knitting projects by PlanetJune
(Most of) my 2015 knitting projects

And I made quite a few other craft projects, in punchneedle embroidery, papercraft, cross stitch, and block printing:

2015 craft projects by PlanetJune
My 2015 craft projects

Personal Report

‘Wasting’ the whole year convalescing has been extremely frustrating, but I like to look for the silver lining in any situation, and the fact that I’ve only been able to work part-time hours for the entire year and not only keep my business afloat but actually increase my sales proves that all the systems I’ve been building in previous years are working! My business, to an extent, runs itself, which leaves me with more time to do more interesting things.

In 2015, ‘more interesting things’ turned out to be going to knee rehab, being too exhausted to work, and dealing with ongoing criminal activity. Obviously, that’s not the ideal situation and didn’t leave much time or energy for new designs, tutorials, etc, but it proves that I can keep my business going without working myself into the ground. That means, once I don’t have as much other stuff to deal with, I really should have time to enjoy life and enjoy creating again!

It’s been a long, hard struggle to reach this point, and I still have months of rehab ahead, but I feel more positive, going forward. I’ve learnt to accept that my life – at the moment, at least – is full of unexpected twists and delays, and setting time-based business goals is a surefire way to make myself miserable when I’m unable to meet them.

No matter how much buffer time I build in, I still constantly fail to meet any deadline I set. But, you know what? That’s okay. I don’t need to set deadlines as motivation to get things done – completing a project and putting it out into the world is its own reward.

I’m finding that keeping my plans fluid and accepting that sometimes I’ll lose working time to factors beyond my control leads to a much less stressful life. Thankfully, my business can still function this way, and supports me well enough to give me the time I need to make things the way I want them to be made.

It’s still frustrating to be able to accomplish so much less than I want to, but I’ve realised that if there’s something you don’t like about your situation, you have a choice: find a way to change it, or accept it. I choose to accept it: it may mean less quantity of new work, but I’ll never ever sacrifice quality. I feel like this is a healthier mental outlook: it helps me to be at peace with my situation and concentrate on enjoying my successes.

Business Report

In 2014’s review, I said:

I’ve been working ridiculously hard on [building self-sustaining systems] for the past three years, to get the ever-expanding PlanetJune to the point where I can run the business instead of it running me. And, fingers crossed, I may now be at that point!

I think I can now call that a resounding success – as I said above, 2015 has actually been my most profitable year to date, by a significant margin, despite my only being able to work part-time hours. That’s an amazing feeling, and it owes a lot to the fact that I published my unique AmiCats designs in January. They have proven to be as popular as I’d hoped they would during the 3-year journey it took to bring them to reality.

(That’s the nature of a business like mine – you put in the work on faith and have to hope the financial rewards will eventually repay you! It’s taken me 9 years of constant pattern-designing and lots of system-building to reach this place of relative financial security – although, even now, there are no guarantees…)

This relative financial freedom has also allowed me to accomplish several big projects that haven’t contributed significantly to my income, but have contributed to improving the PlanetJune experience for my customers:

  • I scrambled in the first half of the year when Google announced it would be penalising sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, and taught myself responsive web design so I could redesign my entire website.
  • I figured out a mechanism to process my Etsy/ArtFire orders through PlanetJune, so all my customers get the same service, experience, and permanent access to their patterns, and repeat customers will be more likely to shop directly in future.
  • I reacquired the rights to my out-of-print papercraft book, Paper Chains & Garlands, and edited and self-published it as an e-book.
  • I finally closed down my old papercraft website, Folding Trees, and re-launched my best paper tutorials as PlanetJune Papercraft.
  • I’ve upgraded my newsletter software and redesigned my monthly newsletter (first new issue coming later this month!) to look more professional and in line with my brand.

Constantly improving and streamlining operations is definitely paying off, and, with hindsight, I’m delighted that Google forced my hand into dropping everything and making PlanetJune mobile-friendly – that was definitely a blessing in disguise, as my website is now so much more functional and enjoyable to use.

What’s next?

My overall goal for 2016 is to live by David Allen‘s quote “You can do anything, but not everything”: to make the most of the time I have by choosing projects wisely, to not overwork, and to continue to strive for innovative, unique designs so I can be proud of what I accomplish – no matter how much (or little) that proves to be.

For the third year in a row, my personal goals are to enjoy life and nature and to get healthy. I now have a new knee specialist and my new rehab/exercise program seems to be making a real difference already, so I’m feeling positive that 2016 will be the year to finally realise those goals!

As for the business, I’ll follow the same plan as last year: leaving my goals flexible and seeing where life takes me. Broadly:

  • I have one more big technical project to complete to bring PlanetJune fully up-to-date and easier to maintain, going forward.
  • There’s also just one more commissioned design to complete, and then I plan to revise the commissions system to make it more stable and sustainable.
  • And I aim to give myself time to explore and experiment with my craft so I can create exciting new crochet designs and technique tutorials.

My wish for 2016 is to have a peaceful, satisfying year, full of inspiration and creativity, with minimal stress and guilt. I hope 2016 will be positive and peaceful for you too. Thank you so much for your support on my continuing journey with PlanetJune, and I wish you a very Happy New Year!

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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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