PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

how to ‘plant’ crocheted plants in a real pot

Say you find the cutest mug or basket that would look lovely with a crocheted plant inside, or you’re crocheting a plant as a gift and don’t have time to make the pot too… How can you ‘plant’ your crocheted plant securely so it’ll look good in a non-crocheted container?

I’ve been asked this many times over the decade since I published my first potted plant patterns, so I thought it was about time I document and share my preferred method with you.

In this tutorial, you’ll make a ball of crocheted ‘soil’ and stitch your crocheted plant to the ball. You can then ‘transplant’ your crocheted plant into a decorative container of your choice!

how to crochet a Soil Ball for 'planting' Crocheted Plants - a PlanetJune tutorial

The online version of this tutorial includes the basic recipe for making a soil ball of any size. As I like to reward people who choose to donate for my donationware patterns, the PDF version also includes special bonus content: the full crochet patterns for two sizes of pot (1.5″/4cm and 2.25″/6cm diameter), and additional tutorial photos.

As always, though, the basic pattern is free for you to use, and you need only donate if you’d like to thank me for my time in creating it, or if you’d like the easy-to-print PDF version.

I hope you’ll enjoy this tutorial, and find it useful next time you’re making a PlanetJune potted plant pattern 😀

Go to the Soil Ball for ‘planting’ Crocheted Plants tutorial >>

Comments (2)

Backyard Wildlife Photography: UK & France

I’ve just got back from a holiday visiting family in England, Jersey and France. The weather and time of year meant everyone’s gardens were in full bloom and the bird feeders were busy, so I took the opportunity to practice some garden wildlife photography.

After the photography workshop I took a few months ago, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to composition, depth of field, etc, to improve my skill level. This is especially challenging when it comes to wildlife photography – wild creatures don’t tend to sit around and wait while you try to get the best angle and compose the perfect shot!

The galleries below showcase my favourite bird and butterfly sets from the 1200+ photos I took over the past couple of weeks, and I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to relax and enjoy them…

Click into each gallery to see the full-size photos.

Butterflies

Birds

I consider some of these photos to be among the best I’ve ever taken – do you agree? Even a humble house sparrow can be quite enchanting when posing for a photo.

Although the subject matter of these photos isn’t as exotic as my African photos, my safari experiences have changed me – these days, I’d much prefer to watch and photograph wild animals and birds in their natural habitats instead of caged animals in zoos.

I’ve really missed practicing this hobby – it’s so relaxing to get out into nature and watch and wait for something interesting to photograph! When I have my own garden again (we’re currently renting until our new house is built) I’m planning to make a native wildflower meadow so I can attract pollinators (birds, bees and butterflies) and other local wildlife to visit my back yard. Isn’t that a lovely idea?!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos, and that you’ll remember to take time to look out for your local wildlife too…

Comments (6)

Cotton Yarns: an investigation

If you’ve seen my new Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds pattern, you may be wondering what type of yarn is best for making them.

PlanetJune Accessories Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds crochet pattern

  • Does it even matter?
  • Will any cotton yarn scraps work equally well?
  • Should you choose a yarn based solely on colour preference, or is there an advantage in using more expensive yarn, organic yarn, etc?
  • Is mercerized cotton really a no-no?
  • Are the cosmetic rounds really washable and reuseable, or will they look sad and ragged after a couple of uses?

I crocheted all the samples for my pattern using the same brand and type of yarn (Bernat Handicrafter) so I was wondering all those things, which means… it’s time for another PlanetJune investigation! 🙂

The Candidates

I raided my stash for a selection of cotton yarns for my comparison, and here’s what I chose:

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

(Yarns and samples, left to right):

  1. Bernat Handicrafter (blue/purple), an inexpensive worsted weight kitchen cotton available from most craft stores (and the same type of yarn I used for my pattern samples)
  2. Knitpicks Dishie (green), a worsted weight cotton, with a smoother look and feel and tighter twist that makes it less splitty than everyday kitchen cottons
  3. Earth Collection Oceanside Organic (brown), a DK weight 100% organic cotton
  4. Patons Grace (cream), a sport weight mercerized* cotton (I held two strands together to approximate a worsted weight)

* I’ve read from several sources that the mercerization process improves the smoothness and sheen of a yarn, while reducing its absorbency, so I intentionally included a mercerized yarn sample in this test so we can see exactly how much less absorbent this yarn will be than the others!

I’ll refer to the samples by number from now on, and I’ll always arrange the samples 1-4 clockwise from top left, or in a straight line left to right.

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

I used the same hook and pattern for each sample, and you can see that there’s a difference in the size of the pads. Dishie (2) is much finer than Handicrafter (1) even though they are both supposedly worsted weight; it’s much closer to the DK-weight Oceanside (3). Holding two strands of Grace (4) together worked well to give me the right weight of yarn for the pattern (useful to know!)

Let’s look at each sample individually:

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

  1. I intentionally made my pattern samples using a ‘standard’ inexpensive kitchen cotton that should be widely available (there are several other comparable lines from other brands, e.g. Sugar ‘n Cream, Peaches and Creme). Some skeins can be a bit harsher-feeling and splittier than others, so I’d recommend you look for softer skeins if you have the option of touching them in-store. The resulting pads are nice and cushiony, without large holes between the stitches.
  2. As the Dishie is both finer and more tightly spun, you can see it left some gaps between the stitches. (If I made more, I might try going down a hook size to reduce the size of the holes.) The yarn didn’t split at all and the stitch definition is lovely, but the finished pad feels a little firm.
  3. Th organic cotton was very soft to work with, but extremely splitty. The finished pad is beautifully soft, though, so perhaps worth the frustration of trying not to split the strands while crocheting!
  4. The mercerized cotton is very smooth, with a nice sheen. The yarn felt firm and not at all splitty. The finished pad feels smooth and firm.

Absorbency Test

Okay, so we know how they look, but how well do they work? Time for an experiment!

I used a graduated pipette (yay, science!) so I could measure the same amount of water for each test:

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

For each sample, I squirted 0.6ml of tap water into the centre of the pad, and watched what happened.

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

  1. The water soaked in within a few seconds.
  2. The water sat on the surface for a surprisingly long time (about a minute) then soaked right through the pad.
  3. The water did not absorb at all – even after several minutes it was still sitting on top of the pad!
  4. The water soaked in immediately.

Yes, that’s right – the mercerized cotton, which I’d been led to believe would be less absorbent, was actually the most absorbent sample!

And the organic cotton, which I assumed would be very absorbent, was eerily waterproof.

I guessed that yarns 2 and 3 may have some fibre-processing treatment residue that was affecting their absorption rate, so I decided to re-run the absorbency test after washing and drying the samples, and see if that made a difference.

Washing Test

I put all 4 samples in a mesh laundry bag (this one is designed for washing bras, so it’s a nice compact size for washing a big batch of cosmetic rounds!) and ran them through the washer and dryer with my regular laundry.

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

How did they fare after the laundry cycle? Let’s see:

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

Not a lot of difference. Here are my observations on close examination:

  1. Fluffed up a bit on washing but also got considerably softer. (And, from my experience of using these for a few weeks now, they don’t look any worse after repeated washings than after the first wash.)
  2. Softened a bit on washing and didn’t fluff up.
  3. Fluffed slightly on washing. It was already very soft, so I don’t think it softened further.
  4. No difference at all – still smooth and firm.

Post-Wash Absorbency Test

I re-ran the absorbency test in exactly the same way as before, with 0.6ml of water dropped onto the centre of each pad.

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

  1. The water soaked in immediately.
  2. The water absorbed over a 5-second period and soaked right through the pad.
  3. The water still didn’t absorb at all. The only way I could get it to wet the pad was to rub the water around on the surface with my finger.
  4. The water soaked in immediately.

So, 1 and 2 became more absorbent after the wash, but 3 did not, and still seems highly water-repellent:

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

Here’s a close-up of 3 so you can (just about) see the big blob of water sitting on the surface of the middle of the pad (and clearly see a tiny droplet just to the left). I still can’t account for this behaviour – it was completely unexpected.

comparing cotton yarns for crocheted cosmetic rounds

And here’s the big shocker – the completely soaked mercerized cotton.

Conclusions

Although the yarns did look and behave differently, any of them would work as cosmetic rounds – and I’ll be adding all these samples to my stack!

The yarns that started out smoother and with more lustre (2 and 4) looked closer to new after washing than the others, which had a little bit of fluffing up. However, fluffing is not necessarily a bad thing – the yarns that fluffed feel softer and less firm than the smoother yarns, and a little extra fluffiness actually makes them feel even softer.

And, most importantly: mercerized cotton is clearly not less absorbent than non-mercerized. I’ve removed that statement from my pattern, and I’ve since done further research and found a source that claims the mercerization process makes cotton more absorbent, which my test would support (although, without being able to test the same fibre pre- and post-mercerization, I can’t prove that definitively!)

Tips for Choosing Yarn

  • As we know, yarns of the same weight (e.g. ‘worsted weight’) are not all exactly the same thickness – see my worsted weight yarn comparison for proof! Different yarns will give you slightly differently-sized rounds, so if you want to crochet a matched set with some variation, I’d suggest sticking to the same yarn line and just swapping colours (or choose a striped yarn so you get multiple colours from one ball!)
  • For sample 1, I used a variegated skein of Bernat Handicrafter in Beachball Blue, instead of the striped colourways I chose for the pattern samples. I found the resulting mishmash of colours to be a bit busy for my taste, with a colour change every couple of stitches, but you may love this effect! Every pad will look different, but still co-ordinated, if you make them with a yarn like this.
  • Does appearance or softness matter more to you? I prefer the feel of the fluffier, softer cottons (after the first wash) to the smoother, firmer yarns. So I’ll be sticking with the basic kitchen cotton for my rounds, even though I prefer the look of the stitch definition of the smoother yarns.
  • As evidenced by my absorbency tests, some yarns may not behave exactly as you expect! So, if you’re unsure about a yarn, I suggest you try making a single pad with it, using it, washing it and using it again. That’ll give you the best gauge as to how well the yarn will do the job, and whether it will fluff up, soften up and/or become more absorbent after washing it. I’d recommend you do this before you make a whole batch from the same yarn, especially if you plan to give them as gifts!
  • Having said that, you can probably make effective cosmetic rounds from pretty much any cotton or cotton-blend yarn. Pull out some cotton scraps and have a go!

eco-friendly cosmetic rounds crochet pattern

If you’d like to make some Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds, you can find the free online version of the pattern here.

Or, send me a donation and receive the easy-to-print PDF version of the pattern as a thank you! The PDF version also includes some bonuses (the pattern for the Mini size rounds – perfect for applying toner – and additional instructional photos and tips, including left-handed photos).


Do you have any experience with cotton yarns? Please share your recommendations for your favourites – or warnings for your least favourites! – in the comments below…

Comments (12)

Incyanity yarn review

I’d like to introduce you to a new Canadian indie yarn hand-dyer, Cheyenne Brammah of Incyanity!

Cheyenne is a long-term customer of mine and she sent me some test skeins of her hand-dyed yarn for my feedback before she launched her shop. But, as always, the following is based on my honest opinions, and I’ve been waiting for the launch so I could tell you how much I enjoyed these yarns!

Cheyenne has a great eye for colour, and choosing her palettes from her own nature photography is inspired – each shade tells a colour story, illustrated by the beautiful photos. Just look at these stunning yarn/photo combos in the lush launch colourways:

Incyanity yarns (photos by Cheyenne Brammah)

I always appreciate bringing inspiration from the natural world into my designs, and looking at these yarns together with their inspiration photos makes my heart happy.

My Experience

Incyanity yarns

Incyanity yarns come in 100g hanks, and are dyed onto high quality bases (currently merino/silk, merino/nylon and merino/bamboo are available). I chose a merino/nylon (teal) and a merino/silk (purple) to test, both in fingering weight – the perfect weight for crocheted shawls!

My yarn was securely packaged and arrived in perfect condition. They looked lovely in the hanks, and even more stunning once I’d wound them into cakes. This is some seriously pretty yarn…

Incyanity yarn

The tonal teal is a lovely shade. It’s just varied enough to provide some fun tonal changes while you crochet, but not so busy to distract from a beautiful stitch pattern in the finished piece.

Note: This shade is a preview of an upcoming colourway. It’s bluer than the Canyon Cascade colourway, but otherwise similar in the tonal variation.

Incyanity yarn

The variegated Amethyst Sky is gorgeous in the skein and absolutely stunning after being wound. Just look at those rich purples tempered with icy blue – this colour scheme could have been designed just for me!

Note: The yarn base felt very nice to me, but Cheyenne wasn’t satisfied with the softness or sheen, and she has since found a vastly superior base for her Incyanity silk blend yarns. You can see how much more pronounced the sheen is now by comparing the same yarn in the shop with the photos of my test skein 🙂

Incyanity yarn in Amethyst Sky colourway

It can be a challenge to find the right stitch pattern for a very variegated yarn in crochet, so I tested it out with this linen stitch swatch to see how the colours would play together. Very pretty! I can definitely see this as a lovely hat or cowl. But, in the end, I chose an unfussy lace stitch pattern for this skein (see my shawl below!), and I think the result is beautiful like this too.

Verdict

I really enjoyed working with both yarns. They felt soft and bouncy, they didn’t split at all while crocheting, the yarn colours didn’t fade at all after soaking (a very important test!), and both blocked out beautifully.

And I think the results speak for themselves – the two shawls I made from my yarn are just gorgeous in these rich colours:

Diamond Lace Wrap crochet pattern by PlanetJuneSweetheart Lace Shawl crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Left: Diamond Lace Wrap; Right: Sweetheart Lace Shawl

If you’re looking for a high-quality, stunningly-coloured, nature-inspired hand-dyed yarn to elevate your next crochet or knit project, I recommend you check out Incyanity 🙂

Comments (5)

free pattern: Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds

I recently started using a facial toner, and suddenly I was throwing out more cotton pads in a week than I usually use in a year! I try to minimise the amount of trash I generate, and, as the bathroom bin started to fill, I decided this had to stop. Enter my new free crochet pattern: washable, re-useable Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds.

PlanetJune Accessories Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds crochet pattern

Use these washable rounds anywhere you’d use a disposable cotton round or facial wipe – for cleansing, toning, or removing makeup – and save money while helping the environment! They crochet up in minutes, take very little yarn, and make a pretty and practical gift.

Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds are easy to clean – simply toss the used pads into a mesh laundry bag or a drawstring bag and run them through your washer and dryer with your laundry.

PlanetJune Accessories Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds crochet pattern

As I like to reward people who choose to donate for my donationware patterns, the PDF version of the Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds pattern also includes the bonus pattern for the Mini size (pictured above; I find this size is perfect for applying my toner!) and additional instructional photos and tips, including left-handed photos. As always, the pattern for the Standard size is free for you to use, and you need only donate if you’d like to thank me for my time in creating it, or if you’d like the easy-to-print PDF version with the bonuses.

Go to the free Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds pattern >>

Or jump straight to donate:

Order the Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Rounds pattern >>

Not ready to make them yet? Add this pattern to your Ravelry queue:

I hope you’ll find this pattern useful! And every step we can make towards helping the environment by reducing waste is a step in the right direction, no matter how small.

Comments (2)

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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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