This year has been a struggle for everyone, so let’s try to end it on a high note, and celebrate our love of crochet together, with prizes for everyone!
The annual PlanetJune Christmas Crochet-Along (CAL) is back, but it’s even more inclusive this time around. You can enter the End-of-Year 2020 CAL any time from now until the end of the year by:
Crocheting any PlanetJune Xmas/winter-themed patterns you’re making for your holiday decorating
Crocheting any PlanetJune pattern you’re giving as a holiday gift or as a donation to a good cause (or selling to someone who’s buying it as a gift)
Crocheting any PlanetJune pattern you’re making for yourself – remember, you deserve treats too!
Basically, you can make any PlanetJune patterns you want – the more the merrier! Share what you’re making and join our crochet party as we approach 2021.
Come to the PlanetJune group on Ravelry and join the fun! Share your crochet plans, post photos of your projects in progress, let everyone else know you like their projects, and (of course) post pics of your finished projects so we can all appreciate them.
If you don’t use Ravelry, or can’t at the moment due to their accessibility problems, see the ‘How to Enter’ section below for how to participate via social media instead.
Thanks to a generous anonymous benefactor, we have extra prizes this year:
First prize: $20 PlanetJune Gift Certificate
Second prize(2 winners): $10 PlanetJune Gift Certificate
Participation prize(2 winners): $5 PlanetJune Gift Certificate
Runner-up prize(everyone else!): 10% PlanetJune discount code to spend in 2021
While you aren’t limited to my seasonal patterns with this CAL, I thought I’d whet your appetite for project ideas with a collage of all my Christmas patterns:
Isn’t that amazing? There are soooo many to choose from! You can find all these patterns at www.planetjune.com/xmas – including plenty of free/donationware options if funds are short 🙂
How to Enter
Ravelry Users Post a pic of your PlanetJune projects to the CAL thread in the PlanetJune Ravelry group, and tag your projects with PJCAL2020 in order for them to appear as part of the CAL.
New to Ravelry or PlanetJune CALs? See my Crochet-Along FAQ for all you need to know!
If you are unable to use Ravelry, you can still enter the contest by:
Posting a photo of your finished PlanetJune project on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter
Tagging me (@PlanetJune) in the post so I’ll see it
Using the hashtag #PJCAL2020 in the post so I know it’s an official entry (only use the hashtag once per entry please, even if you post multiple photos or in multiple places!)
Example message“Here’s my entry into the @PlanetJune End-of-Year CAL! #PJCAL2020” (and add your photo, too!)
Prizes will be drawn from all eligible entries, starting from first prize and working down the list, with a maximum of one prize per person.
You’ll receive one entry per PlanetJune pattern used in a completed project and tagged PJCAL2020 (if you make e.g. a Christmas wreath using 5 different patterns, you’ll get 5 entries).
Entries will be capped at 8 per person, to give everyone a chance of winning.
Bonus entry option (for the participation and runner-up prizes only): even if you don’t manage to complete a project, you can still be entered into the contest – all you need is to have posted at least 5 posts in the CAL thread. So do join in the conversation – you’ll be guaranteed at least a runner-up prize!
I do hope you’ll join us for this PlanetJune end-of-year crochet party – I’m really looking forward to seeing what you’re making from my patterns, as holiday gifts or for yourself! See you in the ravelry group or on social 🙂
I’m so happy with the reception my Tortoise patterns have had already! Thank you so much to everyone who’s already bought them or shared them on social – I’m so glad you love them too!
It’s been a very long journey to get to this point, so I thought I’d put together a visual diary of creating my most complex, detailed and challenging pattern to date.
For anyone who looks at the pictures of my finished tortoises and thinks that doesn’t look so hard to design, this post should be an eye-opener! Although my style is to create designs that look smooth and simple, the process is anything but.
So here goes: a decade to get properly started, and then 10 months to get finished!
I came up with the idea to make a tortoise along the same lines as my AquaAmi Sea Turtle, with a segmented shell and amigurumi-style head and limbs.
There were a couple of other cute tortoise patterns out there, but they all had circular shells and that’s just not right: tortoises have very oval-shaped shells. I sketched out a design for the shell segments that would make an oval shell using simple geometric shapes, and started crocheting.
The initial concept for the shell
Once I started to assemble my pieces, I quickly realised the problem with my design: it was going to produce a flattish shell top. That’s fine for a sea turtle, with its streamlined shape for swimming, but completely wrong for a land tortoise with its domed shell.
I was a fairly new designer back then, with only a few years of experience, and the challenge of creating a very specific asymmetrical 3D shape from simple geometric segments was beyond me – I just didn’t know where to go from there – so I set it aside, and the notes and prototypes were filed for later…
You can see a couple of the original shell segments (with some dinosaur parts!) in this work-in-progress photo from 2011 – before I realised my idea wasn’t going to work…
Moving from Canada to South Africa in 2011 brought an unexpected benefit. Although I knew that tortoises must live wild somewhere in the world, I only specifically knew about giant Galapagos tortoises, until I made the delightful discovery that ‘normal’ tortoises are pretty common in conservation areas and empty wild spaces in the Cape!
Throughout my years in Africa, I had endless opportunities to meet and study tortoises, from spotting wild tortoises while I was out in nature…
… to hanging out with rescued tortoises at my local wildlife sanctuary, World of Birds (tortoises live for a very long time, and keep growing throughout their lives, so ‘cute’ pet tortoises are often abandoned when they get too large)…
… to braking for wild tortoises crossing the road in undeveloped areas (and ‘awwww’ing whenever I spotted an adorable baby tort!)…
… to getting to hold those baby torts and learn more about them at an education and conservation centre…
In all that time, I learnt to appreciate these fascinating reptiles more than ever, and study their shells and markings up close.
After my Christmas break, I was ready to jump into new designs for 2020! With an extra decade of design experience under my belt, I had a new idea for how to tackle that tortoise shell shape.
After all my research time, I knew exactly what I was aiming to create: a life-sized realistically-shaped tortoise with correct (if simplified) shell structure:
The carapace (upper shell) has 13 main scutes (segments) with 5 vertebral scutes down the middle, 4 costal scutes around each side, plus a rim of marginal scutes.
The plastron (lower shell) is shaped to give the legs room to emerge, and has a gular (throat) scute at the front.
You don’t need to know all those details, but when you look at the tortoise, it should just look right to you, from all angles.
An early prototype: the general idea is good, but it’s too boxy and the scute shapes are all just a bit wrong
Completely reworked in shape and size, this is almost the final shell design, minus the edging
It’s beginning to look like a tortoise!
The basic design was finished – and check, check, check, I’d included all the features I wanted in the shell, the shape was lifelike, the size was great, and the shell fit around the body beautifully.
You probably think great, I was 90% done and it’d all be smooth sailing from there? If only that were true – the fun designing part was now basically finished, but a lot of hard work was still to come…
To take my mind off the lockdown etc, I decided to test my prototype instructions by making a giant tortoise (using the techniques from my Complete Guide to Giant Amigurumi)…
My biggest (and certainly heaviest) giant amigurumi to date!
It was so much fun to make, but it highlighted a lot of things I’d need to explain in the pattern, and that I’d need to refine the design to simplify the assembly process. It turns out that coming up with the design, although it was a long time in the making, was just a small step in the process of producing this pattern – being able to clearly explain something that’s so unique was a whole new challenge.
I started prototyping expansion pack ideas while trying to figure out how on earth to make a useable and enjoyable pattern from my well over 150 step-by-step photos and 16 pages of handwritten notes…
Maggie looks a little perturbed by the shell-less tortoises!
I felt like the pattern was starting to get into shape, but I still had parts I hadn’t figured out how to explain clearly when I had my accident and temporarily broke my brain. Concussion meant no chance of making progress on such a high-level task – I couldn’t concentrate on anything, let alone something so demanding.
My giant tortoise was now part of the family and a fixture in my living room, but I wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to have any crocheted relatives around the world…
Yes, my giant tortoise is bulkier than Maui and Maggie combined!
With the post-concussion symptoms finally fading, I could get back to whipping this pattern into shape. But – disaster – I couldn’t remember anything I’d been planning to include, or where I’d left off! I had to make another complete tortoise from my notes so I could re-learn the design well enough to explain it clearly.
My 16 pages of handwritten notes – there’s a pattern hidden in there somewhere…
I started to regret thinking this could even be possible – the shell was so complicated, and there were no precedents to consult for any of the techniques I’d come up with to make this design work with 18 pieces and no sewing at all (except the back legs).
I threw out pages and pages of explanation I’d put into the pattern that were either too technical or relied on too much expertise – I didn’t want to drown you in irrelevant info, or for this to be a pattern that only a few advanced amigurumists would be able to tackle!
I kept tweaking the techniques and the instructions to make things clearer and cleaner and easier to follow, but it felt like I’d never reach the end of this marathon.
Success! With 18 pages, over step-by-step 70 photos with lots of annotations to make things even clearer, and separate right- and left-handed versions, I finally had a pattern that I could be proud of. I’d tried to include solutions to everything that could possibly trip you up, so your questions are answered before you even think to ask them.
This pattern is unlike anything you’ve seen before. If you follow it carefully and add stitch markers at all the specified places to make sure everything will line up, it’ll guide you step-by-step through the whole process to make a fantastic tortoise!
It’s very fitting that this design is a tortoise: it took a lot of small slow steps to go from a vague concept to a great idea to a satisfying design to a solid finished pattern, but, as in the Tortoise and the Hare fable, slow and steady wins the race.
I always try to give every design the time it needs to become the best pattern it can be. (But I do hope that my ideas won’t all take 10 years to come to fruition from now on!)
I think I was a bit optimistic in my last health update: post-concussion syndrome can take weeks or months to abate, and I definitely haven’t fully recovered yet. I still get incapacitating headaches on some days, and I sometimes struggle to find the right word when I’m talking. Plus fatigue, sleep problems and a severe lack of concentration and energy… I’m working when I can, but some days I’m just not up to it.
And I seem to be having some memory lapses too, which is quite unsettling. For example, I actually wrote last week’s blog post three weeks earlier, but not only did I forget to post it, I forgot I’d even written it…
How does this affect you? Well, thanks to all of this, I’ve just discovered that a few customer support requests may have slipped through the cracks. I don’t have the energy to wade back through a month of email and messages from other channels and follow up with everyone to check whether I’ve completed your request, so I’m going to just start fresh from today.
If you’ve contacted me via social media or rav PM, please email me for help instead (email@example.com).
Having all my customer support requests in one place will make it much easier to manage them as I continue my recovery.
Thanks for your continued patience, and I’m so sorry if your message is one that slipped past me – it’s incredibly frustrating to me too; this is not the level of customer service I’m known for, but I can’t just wish myself better! I highly recommend you try to avoid head injuries, if you have that option… 🙂
Thank you all so much for your kind comments and well-wishes about my accident.
Because of the concussion, my head has been hurting too much until now to spend more than a few minutes at a time on my computer or phone, so I haven’t replied to anyone individually (either here or on social) to say thanks, but please know that it meant a lot to me to get your messages when I was feeling very sorry for myself!
A little health update
Most of my injuries are healing nicely. I have a dentist’s appointment this weekend for my broken tooth, and hopefully by then the concussion will have completely faded and it’ll be safe for me to drive myself there and back. I’m still feeling a little confused, but the killer headaches have faded and I’m coming back to myself.
It was a pretty scary experience, but reading some of the comments people have left me about their similar falls onto concrete that resulted in a broken arm or pelvis, or still having occasional head problems years later, I’m counting myself lucky that I have no lasting damage beyond a ruined pair of expensive glasses and a broken front tooth (and I’m hopeful that my dentist can restore my smile so you’d never know the difference – I know that’s just vanity, but please keep your fingers crossed for me on that front!)
And a little work update
As you’ll already know if you get my newsletter (and if you don’t, sign up now!), my next crochet pattern was due to be a Tortoise with a very detailed crocheted shell. Finishing the shell assembly instructions is still a little beyond my slightly-concussed brain, so I’m putting the pattern on hold for a couple more weeks, or until I’m completely recovered.
But I do have a different design I’ve been working on that needs none of that pesky careful thinking to find exactly the right phrase that most clearly describes an innovative process, so I should have a new pattern for you soon – it just won’t be the one I’d planned to release this month!
I’m still taking things slowly and needing plenty of naps and rest sessions, so please be patient with me as I try to catch up with everything I let slide last week without overdoing things and making my head hurt again…
I had a bad fall the other day and smashed my head into a concrete sidewalk. I’ve fractured a front tooth and broken my glasses, and I have a concussion as well as cuts and bruises, a fat lip and a big lump on my head.
It hurts my head to use the computer or my phone and I think I need to go on ‘sick leave’ for a few days to recover.
Please be patient if you need anything from me – I will get back to you, but it may take some time!
And I’ve knitted, crocheted, sewn, woven and needlefelted projects in my downtime, plus a few more fun projects that I haven’t had a chance to blog about yet (time spent writing is time spent not crafting!)
Last summer, I decided to stop logging customer support requests for my business. I’d been tracking them every day for over 5 years, and, at this point, the value of the time I’m saving is much higher than the value of the data I’m losing. I’ve used the data to assemble an arsenal of template responses to the questions I most commonly receive, so it’s served its purpose.
And, in the autumn, I opened my pop-up crochet tool shop for the first time, and it worked well. Opening the online pop-up shop occasionally to offer a limited run of my stuffing tools is a way to let me balance my time and commitments without having to let people down by discontinuing my tools completely. I also successfully introduced some new tools to the pop-up shop, so I think this will be a good model going forward.
To further my own learning this year, I attended an inspiring photography workshop and completed a very useful voice artist course.
I also collaborated with my Mum to publish her book of original Scottish music and, now I’m an Amazon publisher, I’ll be able to use what I’ve learnt to produce and publish more books in future.
Musings on Blogging
I’ve been battling with the ‘shoulds’ when it comes to my blog for the past few years: as my blog supports my business, I should mostly publish things that relate to my business; I should publish posts on a regular schedule; I should use my blog to make more money by adding annoying adverts all over the place, etc…
But, it’s my blog! Sharing what I’ve been making and hopefully inspiring you to add more creativity to your life in the process is one of the reasons why I started blogging in the first place, and I want to make more time to document and share all my creative pursuits here, not just my crochet designs and tutorials.
It makes good business sense to only share product-related posts: blogging about my hobby projects takes time and doesn’t make me any money (the only downside of sticking to my guns and not allowing ads to interrupt my website…) – craft blogging without ads is not paid work, and it’s not exactly play either.
Even so, this year I’ve tried several new hobbies that I haven’t found the time to blog about yet, and I want that to change next year. It’s strange to get to the end of the year and look back for the photos of my craft projects and discover that many of the things I’ve made aren’t posted here, but I’ve still been making the time for creative play – it’s one of the things I enjoy best in the world – and I want to share all of that with you again!
I hope you’ll enjoy it too when I do. I find social media to be mentally exhausting, so I love the thought of being more present in my own quiet little corner of the internet, and hopefully re-engaging with you all about the joy of making via chat in the comments below each of my posts.
Managing my Energy
I’ve been working to improve my sleep quality and reduce my anxiety levels this year. My mental and physical health are both much better than they have been for a long time (yay!) but I still have an ongoing unexplained fatigue problem that makes my daily life much more challenging than it used to be.
It’s very frustrating to have so many ideas for things I want to do, but not enough energy to make them all happen, especially if I need to reserve enough energy for making dinner and other daily commitments. These days, I can’t manage more than an hour or two of anything – work or play – without getting completely worn out.
But I’ve recently started experimenting with a new way to manage my energy: if I have two or three sessions per day, separated by long rests or naps, I’m more productive overall than trying to push through when I get exhausted.
It feels like I’m being lazy and wasting time, but when I do rest for an hour or two it often gives me the energy for another creative burst (or to go grocery shopping, exercise, or do whatever else needs to be done). It’s not ideal, but I think this will be better than a constant struggle to keep going, and hopefully this fatigue won’t last forever.
This year my priorities are to continue to develop innovative new crochet patterns, to do enough tech upgrades to keep my website running smoothly, and to share more of my crafting here on the blog.
And, above all that, to keep self-care at the top of the list – my design breakthroughs don’t happen unless I have enough time and rest to get my brain working at full capacity.
Last year, I wished for focus, determination and acceptance. My focus has been compromised by my lack of energy these days, and my determination to push through that has only led to more exhaustion, so acceptance – trying to make peace with my situation – has become even more important in making the most of my life.
My wishes for 2020 are for:
acceptance of the things I can’t control, like my fatigue problem, and the bigger problems in the world
appreciation for all the good stuff in my life – I’m so fortunate in many ways
inspiration – a new decade is a perfect time to try new things, and I have a feeling I have some great ideas coming!
I hope you’ll continue to accompany me on my creative journey into this next decade, and I hope 2020 brings you fresh creative energy too! Happy New Year 🙂
A quick announcement today: for one week only, until October 4th, I’ve re-opened my Crochet Tools shop with some old favourites and new offerings. Pre-order now and I’ll ship your package by the start of November, in plenty of time for Christmas gifts 🙂
Detail Stuffing Tools
The ever-popular PlanetJune-exclusive stuffing tools are back, in all 5 cheerful colours:
The Detail Stuffing Tool lets you get a grip on your stuffing, stuff the tiniest pieces and stuff right into the corners with ease. Don’t miss out on your chance to grab my bestselling tool that’s already an essential for thousands of amigurumi makers!
PlanetJune stitch markers are back in new extra-strong black plastic with a wider opening, but still with the same rounded tip that won’t snag your yarn, a secure clasp that won’t pop open accidentally, a large enough size (3cm/1.2″) to be able to open and close easily, and a super-cute safety pin shape. Sold in a set of 5. Go to Stitch Markers >>
Needles in Flip-Top Pebble Cases – finally, the perfect way to store your needles so you won’t lose them! The stylish flip-top Pebble container is smooth and flat and easy to slip into your project bag, but large enough not to be mislaid. Each high quality needle slides into its own space in the Pebble, so it’s easy to see if you’ve forgotten to replace it after use. John James is a renowned English needle brand that I’ve used for years and highly recommend.
Knitters Pebble (jade green).I didn’t name it – we can call it a Crocheters Pebble if you prefer! Whether you’re stitching your pieces together or weaving in loose yarn ends, a high quality yarn needle makes the task of finishing your crochet (or knit) projects much easier. The strong steel passes smoothly through even the smallest spaces, and the rounded tip won’t damage your fibres. Includes 3 large assorted yarn needles. Go to Knitters Pebble >>
And, as I expect some of you enjoy other crafts too, here are some other handy pebbles you might enjoy:
Tapestry Pebble (lavender purple). Whether you’re stitching features onto an amigurumi or enjoying a relaxing embroidery or cross stitch session, high quality tapestry needles make all the difference. The slightly rounded tips slide between your fibres without damaging them, giving a smooth finish to your work. Includes 6 assorted tapestry needles. Go to Tapestry Pebble >>
Household Pebble (pink). Whether for emergency repairs or hand sewing projects, every household needs a selection of high quality sharp needles. Use them to stitch on buttons, fix loose seams, hand-sew soft toys, and for all your other hand sewing needs. Includes 12 assorted general hand sewing needles. Go to Household Pebble >>
Buy More, Save More!
Christmas is coming, and wouldn’t these tools make perfect stocking stuffers for your yarny friends and family too? Here’s an added bonus if you want to stock up on several items – use these discount codes at checkout to save on your tools purchase:
Spend at least $10 on tools, save 10% with code SAVE10
Spend at least $15 on tools, save 15% with code SAVE15
Spend at least $20 on tools, save 20% with code SAVE20
I hope you like this selection of essential tools I have for you. Don’t forget to order before the tool shop closes on October 4th, and, as my stocks are limited, if there’s something in particular you have your eye on, don’t wait!
If you’ve ever considered upgrading your craft/design hobby into a business, this post may offer an interesting insight, as I’m now both a professional designer in one field (crochet) and a hobby designer in another (knitwear), so I can speak to both sides of this.
My Hobby/Pro Designer Experiences
I’m really enjoying my journey as a knitwear designer – I get to design, make and wear my own clothes, and that feels like a pretty amazing process. Every now and then, I feel a little wistful that I’m not parlaying my designs into a new income stream by selling patterns for my sweaters. It may seem like an obvious next step, but there are many reasons why I don’t want to do this.
Knitting is my hobby. I enjoy doing it for relaxation in between my crochet designs. I like making clothes for myself, that fit me and in colours I’ll wear. I can take months or years to finish a design and it doesn’t matter. If something isn’t perfect I can fudge it to make it good enough to wear.
Crochet is my business. It’s how I earn my living. I enjoy the challenge of developing new designs – and I love the things I design! – but there’s always a voice at the back of my head thinking ‘How well will this translate into a pattern? How can I explain this technique? Can I simplify anything to make it more enjoyable to crochet?’ Every new design has to be as good as I can possibly make it, and, while I never hurry an individual design, there’s always pressure to have regular new pattern releases, to keep PlanetJune in people’s minds and keep my business going.
Support. I’ve built an extensive website full of tutorials to help crocheters successfully follow my patterns. I don’t have the time or inclination to do that for knitting techniques. At best, I could provide links to other sites that offer tutorials, and that’s not the level of service people expect from me.
Fitted garments. I intentionally don’t design fitted garments in crochet. When I design and knit clothes for myself, I make them to fit me (short and pear-shaped). There are so many different body types and shapes, and it’s important that your clothes fit your shape as well as your size, or they won’t look or feel good on you. And I love making knitwear for myself that makes me feel good when I wear it!
If I designed a (knit or crochet) garment in the style I like as a pattern for sale, I’d have to:
design it for ‘standard’ body measurements
make a standard-sized sample (that wouldn’t fit me well!)
find a ‘standard’ shaped lady to model it for the pattern photos
either accept that ‘non-standard’ bodies (i.e. most people!) won’t be 100% happy with the result of my pattern, or offer extensive customization advice for how to modify the sizes to fit your own shape
The other option would be to change my design style to create very simple, non-fitted, rectangle-based garments that will work for most people as-is, but that’s not a style I’d enjoy either making or wearing. (There are also plenty of designs like that already, so I probably wouldn’t even make any money from trying to sell something I didn’t want to make in the first place!)
I’m sure there are many more potential difficulties I haven’t even thought of, but just these few are more than enough to keep me from starting down the path of publishing my knitwear designs.
I know I don’t have time to start a parallel second career, and certainly not to run a knitwear pattern business with the level of quality and support that (I hope) people have come to expect from PlanetJune.
So, at least for the foreseeable future, I’m keeping my knitting (and garment design) on a purely hobby level. But I do love sharing what I’ve made, and I hope my projects will inspire others to try knitting (or crocheting, or sewing) a garment. It’s a very empowering feeling to be able to make your own clothes, and so satisfying when you get it right and it actually fits!
Hobby or Business?
Finding a way to make a profitable business from your hobby may sound like a dream come true, but it has the potential to suck all the joy out of your hobby, and, at best, it permanently changes your relationship with your craft.
I’m endlessly grateful that I’ve been able to build a successful business from my crochet designs. I try to keep innovating and developing new techniques to keep my designs fresh and exciting – both for my customers, and for my own enjoyment and improvement in my craft!
But, even so, I do sometimes miss the freedom of being able to create more complex crocheted art pieces that wouldn’t make a good pattern. Keeping my knitting as a purely creative outlet, with no motive other than making things I want to make, has given me that freedom back. It’s a way to balance the pressure of creating for my business with the joy and relaxation that only comes with making for fun.
So, the moral of the story is: there’s no right answer as to whether you should try to turn your hobby into a money-making venture:
A hobby gives you complete artistic freedom, relaxation, enjoyment, and personal satisfaction.
A business reduces all those things in exchange for the possibility of success: happy customers, recognition, more financial freedom, etc.
Having a hobby can give you a release from the stresses of everyday life. Turning it into a business adds to those stresses, but if you’re willing to put in time, hard work, and the determination to keep going even when you don’t feel like it, turning your hobby into a business can be very rewarding.
Or you could keep it more casual – instead of aiming to start a serious business enterprise, you could have a ‘hobby business’, where you sell a few things you’ve made to pay for your craft supplies etc, but don’t try to scale it up into a full-time business.
On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for the pure joy of making just for fun! Maybe you should keep your craft as a hobby, like my knitting- it’s important to protect the things that make you happy. 🙂
So, what’s your experience? Have you ever considered turning your hobby into a business? Have my words made you think about doing (or not doing!) it? Or have you already tried, and how did that change your relationship with your hobby?
I’d love to know! Please leave your thoughts in the comments below…