PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Punchneedle PlanetJune logo

I’m so happy to see punchneedle embroidery starting to get more popular (finally!) and thought it was about time I dust off my needle and start some new embroideries of my own. Although it’s mostly the large rug-punch style that’s trending right now, it’s miniature punchneedle embroidery – worked with a smaller tool and standard embroidery floss – that I’ve been enjoying for almost a decade.

Punchneedle really is the easiest form of embroidery – you can draw any shapes on your fabric and fill them with punched loops of colour just like a paint-by-number painting!

Intrigued? Learn more on my Punchneedle info pages.

And now here’s the PlanetJune logo, punchneedle style!

PlanetJune logo in Punchneedle Embroidery

I love the depth that the looped stitches give to the finished piece, don’t you?

PlanetJune logo in Punchneedle Embroidery

I thought you might like to see a little look at the process!

This is the back of the embroidery, and the side that faces you while you punch. You can see it looks like rows of straight stitches. Here, I’ve finished all the red but I’ve only done about half of the white areas:

PlanetJune logo in Punchneedle Embroidery

From the front, you can see the nice even loops that are formed by the punchneedle tool as you punch. The loops are so dense that you can’t even see any spaces in the upper half where the white will define the red sections. But that will all change soon…

PlanetJune logo in Punchneedle Embroidery

After punching the rest of the white stitches and the finishing steps to tidy up any loose threads and messy stitches, here’s the result:

PlanetJune logo in Punchneedle Embroidery

And then the final step – it’s basically finished, but, at this stage of a punchneedle embroidery, you can choose what to do next depending on what you want to do with the embroidery.

You could keep it attached to the backing fabric as in the photo above and frame it like that, fill in the backing fabric with more colours and/or patterns to fill the hoop and use the hoop as a frame, square off the embroidery with more stitches and then frame it, turn it into an applique to attach to something else… Lots of choices!

I decided to mount my logo on a felt backing and cut it out so it became a free-standing ornament:

PlanetJune logo in Punchneedle Embroidery

Isn’t it cool?

Next, I think I’ll return to my punchneedle butterflies project – I want to make a beautiful Monarch to commemorate my return to Canada!


If you’d like to learn more about punchneedle, see my Punchneedle info pages.

And if you’re ready to get started, my ebook, The Punchneedle Handbook: Miniature Punchneedle Embroidery Basics & Beyond, walks you step by step through the entire process of miniature punchneedle embroidery, from selecting tools and materials, to how to punch correctly, and the all-important finishing steps for perfecting your finished embroideries. It’s available in two versions, for right- and left-handers, so you can see step-by-step photos that show you exactly how you’ll be punching.

The Punchneedle Handbook by PlanetJune

Have you tried punchneedle embroidery yet? If not, I’d love to help get you started with this easy and satisfying craft! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below 🙂

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Extreme Amigurumi: Extreme Whale!

After the success of my giant amigurumi baby bunny, Mega Bun, I decided to try some more extreme amigurumi experiments using regular yarn that’s currently available in stores, so I can give you some recommendations.

As before, I used my Susan Bates Xtreme crochet hook, which is size 50 (that’s 25mm, or 1 inch!) and this time I decided to use my smallest, simplest amigurumi animal pattern, Tiny Whale. Is it possible to make an extreme Tiny Whale?! Why yes, it is:

extreme amigurumi whale and standard size whales - all use the Tiny Whale crochet pattern by PlanetJune)

And now let’s look at how I got to this point…

First Attempt: Jumbo Yarn

extreme amigurumi experiments

Bernat Blanket Big is a #7 jumbo weight yarn with a recommended hook size of 25mm – exactly what I was looking for!

(Note: this is a completely different yarn from the #6 super bulky weight Bernat Blanket yarn, which is only a fraction of a size of this monster yarn! You may find ‘Bernat Blanket Big Ball Yarn’ for sale online, but that’s just a big ball of Bernat Blanket, not a ball of Bernat Blanket Big…)

This chenille-style yarn works up beautifully to make a massive and super-soft amigurumi with no large holes. Look at these huge single crochet stitches:

extreme amigurumi experiments

And then: disaster! A ball of Blanket Big weighs 300g but only contains 32 yards (29m) of yarn. It turns out my one ball made less than half of a Tiny Whale, and I had no way to get more of the same colour…

extreme amigurumi experiments

So that was the end of this attempt, but at least my experiment proved that the #7 jumbo yarn is a viable choice for extreme amigurumi.

Verdict: Thumbs up for this yarn, provided you’re prepared to buy several balls to make a single amigurumi! (But please check that your jumbo yarn recommends a 25mm hook size if you’re going to replicate this: “jumbo” covers everything larger than super bulky. Most jumbo yarns I’ve seen are designed for a 19mm hook, and are much less bulky than this.)

Second Attempt: Super Bulky Yarn

Jumbo yarn isn’t very common, so, for my next experiment, I wanted to know how many strands of super bulky yarn, held together, would make the equivalent of a single strand of my jumbo yarn.

I used Bernat Blanket yarn, which has the same chenille-style construction as Blanket Big, but is a much more usable size (the recommended hook size for this yarn is US L/8mm).

I tried to gauge how many strands I’d need by holding several strands up against the jumbo yarn to compare visually and by feel, and then crocheting with them to see what gave the most similar result to my first experiment. And the result? You need a whopping six strands of super bulky yarn to replicate the weight of one strand of the jumbo!

extreme amigurumi experiments

I came up with a variation of chain plying that let me wrangle 6 strands relatively easily, but it was still hard work on such a massive scale. The multiple strands, held tightly together, are clearly visible in the amigurumi and don’t give as soft a finish as the jumbo yarn, but I quite like the effect, and, most importantly, it worked!

Extreme Whale used 500 yards (460m) of Bernat Blanket yarn with a 25mm hook. Despite this huge stitch size, there are no large holes between the stitches and I was able to stuff him directly (unlike Mega Bun, who needed a net to contain the stuffing).

Verdict: The end result is a definite success, but wrangling 6 strands of yarn was an added challenge!

extreme amigurumi whale and standard size whales - all use the Tiny Whale crochet pattern by PlanetJune)

Extreme Whale is exactly six times the size of the original Tiny Whale, at 24″ (60cm) long vs 4″ (10cm) in the original pattern, and weighs in at over 1kg (well over 2lbs) including stuffing!

Final Thoughts

These experiments have shown that it’s definitely possible to scale up an amigurumi pattern by multiple times, provided you don’t mind the look of the huge stitches and you choose an appropriate hook and yarn for your project.

extreme amigurumi experiments

Mega Bun is very happy to finally have a friend of her own size!

extreme amigurumi experiments

If you’d like to make an extreme ami and are debating buying ridiculously thick yarn vs using multiple strands of a finer yarn, you may be interested to know that I compared the cost of each yarn, and the cost of an ami made with 6 strands of Blanket yarn is the same as making the same ami from 1 strand of Blanket Big yarn.

If I make another extreme whale, I’d try to use the jumbo yarn to save on having to hold all those strands together! But Bernat Blanket is very readily available in a wide range of shades, whereas Blanket Big is often unavailable (I think it may be released seasonally in the winter and discontinued every summer) and only comes in a handful of shades. So either option is fine, depending on what you can find.

Pattern Info

If you’d like to make your own extreme (or standard-sized!) amigurumi whale and bunny like mine, the PlanetJune patterns I used are:

What’s Next?

Will I be putting away my giant hook now? Oh no, I’m not done with extreme crochet just yet!

I’ve come up with lots of recommendations throughout this journey so far, and I’ll be compiling all my extreme amigurumi tips for you – and the pattern for my giant crocheted ami eyes – when I’ve finished my final supersized crochet experiments.

Stay tuned for the next extremely thrilling update…

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Donkey crochet pattern

Today I have a new animal design for you that’s particularly close to my heart: a Donkey!

Donkey crochet pattern by PlanetJune

I’ve loved donkeys for as long as I can remember – how can you resist those big soulful eyes and that sweet, gentle character?

Donkey Fun Facts

  • Donkeys are members of the horse family, Equidae, together with horses, zebras and wild asses.
  • Donkeys were domesticated many thousands of years ago and helped to moved the stones that formed the ancient pyramids of Egypt.
  • Today, donkeys are found all over the world and the majority still work as pack animals, helping people to transport heavy loads.
  • Donkeys can be crossbred with horses (to make a mule) or with zebras (to make a zonkey)!
  • As well as being sturdy and dependable workers, donkeys are also friendly and intelligent.

Donkey crochet pattern by PlanetJune

About the Design

I was planning to make my donkey as an expansion pack for my Horse pattern, but once I started making it and comparing real-life horses and donkeys, I found that every single piece was a different shape and size. Donkeys have such a different body type and build, plus completely different ears, mane and tail – there wasn’t anything of the horse pattern left by the time I’d finished!

Just compare the sweet, stocky donkey with the tall, elegant horse:

Donkey and Horse crochet patterns by PlanetJune

Definitely related, but definitely different. Donkeys may not have the glamour of horses, but I think they’re totally adorable. I hope I’ve captured that big-eyed, long-eared, sturdy donkey essence in my design.

Donkey crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Buy Now & Launch Discount

If you love donkeys too, you can pick up my Donkey crochet pattern from my shop right now. Or, if you’re not ready to make it just yet, add it to your Ravelry queue or favourites so you don’t forget about it:

And for one week only, you can take an extra 50c off the price: add the Donkey pattern to your shopping cart, and enter the discount code EEYORE at checkout! (Offer ends Wednesday 11 July, 2018.)

Donkey crochet pattern by PlanetJune

I hope you’ll love my pattern – don’t you agree that donkeys are just adorable?

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Summer crochet-alongs

Summertime is typically the slowest season for crochet, but perhaps I can tempt you back to your hook with a choice of two PlanetJune crochet-alongs to join in with for July and August? Both include some small, quick pattern options if you’re short on time.

If you feel like something a bit different, how about joining the new FantastiCAL, featuring all the PlanetJune crochet patterns with a fantasy/mythical theme:

PlanetJune FantastiCAL - a fantasy/mythical crochet-along
Aliens, Yeti, Unicorns and more – which will you choose?

And, with 99 participants so far and over 60 finished projects, the BotaniCAL is still going strong, so I’m extending it through to the end of August to give everyone more time to finish their projects (or start more…)

You can choose from any of the PlanetJune plant, fruit and flower crochet patterns. If you haven’t joined yet, you’re welcome to sign up, and you’ll still qualify for the CAL discount on the Succulent Collection 3 and/or 4 patterns 🙂

PlanetJune cactus and succulent crochet patterns
These are just (most of) the cacti and succulent choices – you have over 30 botanical patterns to choose from!

You’ll find both CALs in the PlanetJune Ravelry group, and you’re welcome to join either, or both.

Choose your patterns now:

Then come and join us on Ravelry and tell us what you plan to crochet this summer…

Comments

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

As always, I was not compensated for this review, and the following is based on my honest opinions!

Overview

Making Pipe Cleaner Pets by Takashi Morito was originally published in Japanese, and has now been translated into English.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I’ve previously reviewed another translated-from-Japanese craft book (Crafting with Cat Hair) and, like that book, this is another book of adorable crafts you’d probably never think of making until you see the book!

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

Throughout, this book has a very Japanese aesthetic. On the photo pages, the dogs are posed in cute tableaus with a variety of unrelated props – books, craft supplies, crackers – and a haiku-esque poem to introduce each dog, for example:

The morning air feels good
Now, we’ll all play ball
And bathe in the morning sun

The overall effect is charming in that bizarre Japanese craft book kind of way.

(I should mention that ‘Making Pipe Cleaner Pets‘ is a bit of a misnomer if you’re looking for a variety of pets – this is a book of dogs. It has designs for 23 different dog breeds, plus puppy-sized miniature versions of several of the breeds.)

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets
A few more of the included dog breeds.

After the cute photo gallery of all the dogs, we get to the tutorials for how to make them. The first three dogs (Toy Poodle, Pug, Boston Terrier) have detailed step-by-step instructions, including both a diagram of each step and a photo of the result.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

Those three designs teach you the basic techniques you’ll need to make all the dogs. The other 20 dog breeds have text and diagrams only, but the basic idea is the same for all the dogs, so you’ll rarely need to look back once you’ve tackled a couple of the easier dogs.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

My Experience

I found the perfect pack of pipe cleaner colours (two browns, grey, white and black) and got started! I planned to make 2 or 3 dogs, to give myself a chance to get the hang of the technique.

First up, I tried the Toy Poodle, the first and apparently easiest dog in the book:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

My completed effort definitely looked like a dog, but nothing like a poodle! The legs were too short, so I decided to embrace that: I shortened them further by folding over the ends, and reshaped the face a bit (by squashing it around), and now it’s a dachshund puppy. 🙂

For my next attempt, I thought I’d try the actual Dachshund model:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I felt like the proportions in the instructions weren’t quite right, so I lengthened the body and shortened the legs as I made my initial bends in the pipe cleaner, and I think it looks pretty good!

Okay, I’m getting the hang of this now; time to step it up a notch with a multi-colored dog. I tried the Jack Russell Terrier:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I like the result – the head colours are good – but I somehow made it all a bit skinny (my fault, not the book’s). I think mine has a bit of greyhound in him 😉

And then the Pug:

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I learnt from my mistakes and used the basic method from the book, but tweaked all the proportions to be more suited to how I think a pug should look. I ended up with lots of the dark brown showing on the back of the head, so I wove a bit more of the light-coloured pipe cleaner over to hide that. What a cute pug face!

After making a few dogs, you get a feel for what you’re doing, as the basic concept is very similar for all the dogs. I decided to make some modifications for my last two dogs…

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

The Miniature Schnauzer model seemed like a bit of a cheat to me – the white beard and eyebrows were formed separately and glued into place! Instead, I used what I’d learned from the Pug and built the beard into the face.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

And finally, the Corgi. I used the book for the face colours, but built the body myself, plumping it up and omitting the tail completely.

The advantage of this book is that, as all the dogs are constructed along the same principles, once you’ve made a few, you should be able to get a bit more creative and extend the same principles to different animals. I thought I’d test my theory by trying – what else – a grey cat!

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

I basically made another dog, but tweaked all the proportions as I went (shorter muzzle and ears, wider face, longer neck, etc) to make it more feline. The great thing about pipe cleaner models is they are completely poseable, so it’s easy to adjust the leg positions, add a curve to the back, or reposition the tail, if you decide it doesn’t look quite right.

The book suggests some finishing touches – glued-on plastic eyes and noses, trimming some of the pipe cleaner fuzz to make e.g. pointier ears, and an occasional glued-on mouth or tongue. Even my smallest (4.5mm) animal eyes are too large for my dogs, so I decided to keep my dogs (and cat) as pure pipe cleaners. I’m sure they’d look even cuter with faces, but I like them as they are, and I like that there aren’t any glued-on parts this way – they are simply twisted pipe cleaners and nothing more.

Top Tips

  • The first stumbling block is that all the designs in this book use 1m (40 inch) long pipe cleaners, which may be common in Japan, but I’ve never seen in all my years and countries of craft shopping! The book instructs that you can instead twist multiple regular-length pipe cleaners together to make a long one, but I’d recommend you use one at a time, and twist on a new one as you reach the end of the old one – it’s a lot more manageable that way. I used 3 or 4 pipe cleaners for the main colour of each dog (and 1 or 2 of any secondary colour).
  • All the dogs’ muzzles are made by coiling the pipe cleaner and then feeding the remaining end through the middle of the coil. I found this to be impossibly difficult to do neatly, until I coiled the pipe cleaner around a narrow tube (I used a small knitting needle), which gave perfectly round coils, and a nice space in the middle for feeding the end through.

Verdict

I found the concept of pipe cleaner dog models to be fun, but it was more challenging than I’d expected. Although it looks like a kid’s craft, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for young children – it’s not easy to make a dog that looks like the photos! Teens with good dexterity and patience may enjoy making dogs, and it’s great for crafty adults like me.

The dogs are very cute and fun to pose, but there’s a bit of a learning curve, and every dog will end up with its own personality, no matter how closely you follow the directions. But that variation is part of the enjoyment of making things by hand: I feel it adds to the charm – just like a litter of real puppies, you never know exactly how each one will look until you see it!

If you persevere through a couple of practice runs, you’ll be able to make cute pipe cleaner pups too, and, once you’ve made a few dogs, you’ll see how the general idea works, and be able to try designing your own animals, if you want.

book review: Making Pipe Cleaner Pets

If you’re looking for an unusual craft to try, I can recommend Making Pipe Cleaner Pets as a fun diversion, and a great introduction to sculpting pipe cleaner animals!

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    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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