Gathering the Winter Yarn Harvest

Gathering the Winter Yarn Harvest

PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: Did you know SpaceCadet yarn actually grows on trees?

You might be surprised to learn that we don’t actually dye our yarn*.  It’s a common misconception. No, SpaceCadet yarn grows naturally on our cultivated yarn trees.  And every few months, we go out to the orchard and gather the harvest…

It’s wonderful fun discovering what the trees have produced for us.  The colours change naturally with the seasons.  And we’re never quite sure just how that crop’s unique terroir — that unique combination of soil, sun, and weather — will affect what the trees produce.

Each skein is gently plucked from its branch, being especially careful not to damage the newly sprouted tags, and any windfall skeins are gathered and inspected for damage.  It’s such an exciting moment when we’ve gathered enough for a sweater!


Oh, the joy of finding a whole sweater’s quantity!


Each tree produces slightly different colours, known confusingly as a “dyelot”

Once we’ve collected all the skeins that are ripe, we load them into a sledge to carry them home from the orchard. When the trees are heavy with yarn, the journey back can be quite a workout. In the winter snow (as you see here), it’s a pretty easy job, but when those muddier spring days arrive, getting the yarn harvest home becomes a real challenge!

And there you have it, another successful Winter yarn harvest!  The Gradient Explorers trees were especially generous to us this year with these beautiful colours.  But we’ll be back again in a few months to see what the orchard is sprouting for the Spring…

*This is all, of course, a total lie. We dye every skein and mix every colour by hand in our studio. But we dream of cultivating a beautiful orchard of yarn-producing trees.  Don’t you?


This story went out to our newsletter subscribers first, along with the latest news in the world of knitting and crochet, some fabulous pattern pics, and updates on SpaceCadet club openings and Small Batch releases. 

And you missed all that!  You should be on this list! 👇

Are you ready for any knitting scenario?

Are you ready for any knitting scenario?

Just because it’s Friday afternoon, here’s a fun quiz!  How many of these must-have items do are in your knitting project bag? Let’s see!

The hardest part about dyeing yarn…

The hardest part about dyeing yarn…

The best moment of developing a new colourway is when we pull it out of the dyepot and it’s exactly what we hoped for.  That feeling is — and I’m being totally honest here — it’s downright thrilling!

I mean, picture it: you have an idea in your head for a new colourway and, in your imagination, it’s glorious…  so you calculate what you think the recipe will be to get those shades, and you mix them up using only the primary colours, which means the slightest change to the recipe — literally a few drops this way or that — could change everything…   and then you lower the yarn into a dyepot that’s far too dark and intense to know if you’ve got the colour right, and wait while it slowly comes up to temperature.

And then…  and then you pull out the skein for the moment of truth and…

BOOM!  You nailed the colourway!  Honestly, it’s the most heady feeling.

Followed immediately by the hardest part of developing a new colourway: choosing the name!  You may laugh at that…  I mean, how hard can it be to choose a name?  But when you’ve just gone through that whole process of calculating the recipe for that perfect colourway and held your breath to see if you got it right, there’s suddenly such a sense of responsibility to get the name right too.  And not just mostly right, not just right-ish, but absolutely perfect, nailed-it-on-the-head, everyone-loves-this-name right.  Coming up with colourway names feels big.

(This, by the way, is why the minis in our Mini-Skein Club bundles have dyelot numbers but not names.  With ten new colourways every month, I honestly think we’d collapse under the pressure of trying to come up with names for them all!)

In fact, it feels so big that I rope in the whole SpaceCadet Crew to help.  We start messaging back and forth, throwing words out at random to see what sounds good.  Often, we’ve already got a vague idea of what we want the name to reference: the colour might have been inspired by the change in seasons, by something I saw on a walk, or even an interesting event such as the Mars landing.  But getting from that vague idea to the absolutely-perfect name involves a lot of random words…  a lot.

Take us trying to come up with a name for the latest SpaceMonster Club colourway…

Me: “The SpaceMonster colours this month are all sunsets hues so I’m looking for a sunset-word…  Ideas please?”

Me (a little while later): “…You guys, have we ever had a colourway called Afterglow…?”

Me (immediately afterward): “Oh, answered my own question. Yes, in 2016. Gah.”

Cathy: “Eventide?”

Jade: “Could also be words to do with gold and summer solstice?”

Jade: “halcyon”

Jade: “golden hour?”

Jade: “splendor?”

Cathy: “Gloaming”

Sara: “Horizon”

Me: “Ooooh… horizon…”

Me: “the yarn looks like it’s on fire….”

Me: “Ah! Got it! Horizon Fire! Sara wins!”

(Phew…  and that was relatively quick.  Sometimes this goes on for hours…!)

I know you already knew that we put a lot of work into every skein: lovingly hand-dyeing each one in colours that we mix from primaries, and then tagging and twisting each skein by hand too.  But I’ll bet you never knew how much effort goes into naming each colourway too — truly, it’s probably the hardest part of the whole process.  I bet you never look at the name on a SpaceCadet tag the same way again!

What’s your favourite SpaceCadet colourway name? Or… the one that you’re most curious about? Send me a quick email to let me know — and I might walk you through the story behind it!


Newsletter

If we think names for complex colourways are hard to come up with, the truth is that names for general colours are no less complicated.  Beyond the basics of ROY G BIV, there are millions of individual hues and, through history, humans have assigned specific, evocative names to thousands of them — think “caramel” vs “eggshell” vs “aubergine”.  My assistant Sara shared this fun quiz from Merriam-Webster that lets you test your colour-name knowledge and gives the background of each one as you go along.  It’s kind of tricky!  She got 12 out of 17 right — tell us how you do!

I often feel like the different fiber arts traditions are so separated but then I see something like this amazing outdoor cross-stitch art that my assistant Jade shared with me…  and it makes me look at yarn in a whole new way.  Suddenly I want to lay my whole stash out on the floor and choose colours to stitch into flowers and fish and butterflies.  So inspiring!

This is utterly mesmerizing!  Photographer Lior Patel used a drone to film from above a flock of over a thousand sheep during their migration from their winter to summer patures, and the result is nothing short of hypnotic.  My favourite bit?  They never, ever miss an opportunity to stop and eat. I feel you sheep, I feel you!

It’s true that there are no knitting police (there are no knitting police!) but there are a lot of knitters and crocheters who get very passionate about terminology, even when it overlaps.  Confusion often ensues… and so do strong opinions!  I enjoyed reading the responses to this thread about how different knitters term and work the Centered Double Decrease.


Upcoming Shows

As things open up, everyone has careful calculations to make about how comfortable they feel about attending in-person events… including yarn shows.  As I weigh up our show schedule for the rest of the year, the most key factor is the safety of the SpaceCadet Crew and our customers, so I need your input about shows in these changing times.

Please click below to share your thoughts in a completely anonymous, 2-minute survey.  Your input will help me so much!

Our Summer Limited Editions: Opening Soon!

Balmy summer days are made for the beach… and are the inspiration for this collection of gorgeous Limited Edition colourways.  Dyed in an exploration of beachy blushes, they’ll be opening for pre-orders soon, so watch your inbox.

Even better, they introduce our newest yarn, Callisto, a breathtaking fingering in 50% Alpaca, 25% Silk, and 25% Linen.  Seriously, you don’t want to miss this!

The pandemic continues to create delays at the mills so quantities will be limited.  If you’d like to get your order in first, click here and add your email to the early access list!


Ooh, one other quick thing before I go…  I’m looking for a little sympathy and I know you’ll understand…  The other night I cast on a new project, joined in the round, and had waded through nearly five hundred stitches of seed stitch, swinging that working yarn back and forth and back and forth, and I was nearly through it and ready to start the speedy stockinette when I realised…  I’d twisted the cast on!!!!  Gahhhhhh!!!!  I frogged the whole thing and last night I cast on again and was super careful this time when I joined.  Only about 520 more seed stitches left to go…

Ok, I’d better get the day started.  Today I’m taking some lovely colourway photos, packing orders, and then…  doing some bookkeeping.  Not as exciting as dyeing, but it’s got to be done.  I’ll be sure to take a break and knit a few rows just to get my fiber fix.  I hope you’ve got a lovely, colourful day planned and, until next time, all my best!

Transitions… And Other Thoughts

Transitions… And Other Thoughts

The other week, as I packed up the SpaceCadet trunk show and sent it off to a lovely yarn shop in Southern California*, I realised how exciting that simple act felt.

*(it’s The Altered Stitch in Valley Village — go see them if you’re local!)

In a way, it was strange to feel so excited — all I was doing was packing yarn and sweaters and shawls into a huge box, something I’ve done a million times before, but it’s something I haven’t done much in the past year.  When the pandemic hit, the orders from local yarn shops just stopped and, as much as that made me worry about SpaceCadet, it made me worry about the whole industry too.  Local yarn stores are where so many of us learned to knit and crochet, where we go when we need project guidance, where we find community… To see the activity from our yarn store partners dry up like that was really frightening.

But now, things are starting to feel different.  Yarn shops are opening up again…  and getting in touch!  In fact, I sent a wonderful collection of yarns to a store just the other day, and our trunk show is booked up solid for the next few months.  Even better, we’re doing a virtual trade show later this month and I’m thrilled to be able to show off our colourways to new shops who maybe wouldn’t have been able to travel to a live show.  Things feel good!  And I’m so grateful.

But one thing I’m aware of is that this is a really strange time of transition.  I’ve always felt that each of us went into the pandemic from the place of our own experience, meaning that the reality of the very same situation was incredibly different based on each person’s own background and medical history.  And I think coming out of it is just the same: each one of us has to approach the transition at our own pace based on our different needs.  I’m thinking about that not just for myself, but for my team as we work out our schedules and our customers as we think about upcoming shows.  It’s important to me to take that into consideration, to be patient, and to give everyone the space they need as we make this transition.

Most of all, I think the pandemic has taught us a lot about how many things that seemed normal actually weren’t working for so many people.  Whether it’s curbside shopping, flexible working, wearing masks when we’re ill, or any of the other adjustments we found we were able to make, I am so hopeful that we can emerge going forward with the very best of what we learned, and not simply go back.

Oh, and with yarn too. Onwards!


Newsletter

Sometimes I talk about epic projects and by that I mean, maybe a really big wrap or a coat-cardigan but this project gives an entirely new meaning to the word epic.  It’s a knitted model of Sandringham (a royal residence in Norfolk, England that I used to live very near to!) which spans a full 18 feet and took Margaret Seaman two years to create, knitting around 10-12 hours per day!  Truly a sight to behold, it’s now on exhibition to raise money for three local hospitals.

I know you’ve seen those incredible scarves and blankets that track the temperature each day for a year, but have you seen this awesome chart tracking, in chronological order, the colours in every cardigan that Mr Rogers wore from 1969 to 2001?  It’s lovely to look at but I am waiting for someone to cast it on as a striped scarf or blanket.

Hands up if you love washi tape (and don’t feel bad if you don’t know what it is… but trust me, it’s addictive once you do).   If you’ve heard of bargello knitting or crochet, I think this article on how to adapt bargello to your washi tapes is fascinating.  It’s got me digging through my washi stash and my Mini-Skeins to start two bargello projects simultaneously!

(This next bit of news is entirely for my assistant Jill) I don’t know who needs to know this or how I didn’t spot this earlier in the year, but along with her wonderful Harry Potter: Knitting Magic book, designer Tanis Gray has released Star Wars: Knitting the Galaxy, the official book of Star Wars inspired patterns that is sure to delight every fan of the franchise from little kids right up to… well, fully-grown SpaceCadet Crew husbands!  (And dear reader, what this news means is that our lovely Jill now may not get to knit anything for herself for a long, long time)


Did you receive an email from me this week that was… nothing?  Yeah, it’s embarrassing but I made a tech goof-up and fooled the system into thinking it needed to send out an email template instead of an actual email.  Thank you so much to everyone who let me know — I appreciate you looking out for me!  (And besides being grateful, I’m secretly delighted to know that you do open my emails… even if it turns out I’ve got absolutely nothing to say in them! ::chuckle::)

How to Choose the Best Colourways for You

Here’s something fun: do you ever worry that the colourways you fall in love with aren’t actually a fit for who you are as a knitter or crocheter?  Have you ever fallen in love with a yarn and then been stumped by what to do with it?  I put together a super fun quiz* to let you know they colourways that will suit you best.  Plus you’ll get great tips to making the most of what’s already in your stash!
*that asks you a bunch of questions that have nothing to do with yarn and everything to do with your true aesthetic

(I’d love to know what you think of it — if you take it, please do send me a quick note and let me know!)

Industry Untangled, June 13-17

As I mentioned earlier, SpaceCadet will be at Industry Untangled, a virtual tradeshow from June 13-17 and we’d love to meet your LYS there!  If you’d like that too, please do let them know about it (you can just forward them this newsletter!) so they can go here to find out how to attend.


Ok, I’ve got a busy day ahead of packing a ton of boxes.  When the weather is this nice, I like to do it on porch, so please keep your fingers crossed that the sunshine holds all day!  I hope you have a lovely day planned too, with good weather and some fiber-time scheduled in.  And, until next time, all my best!

Pandemic Curve Balls and their Silver Linings

Pandemic Curve Balls and their Silver Linings

I was chatting the other day with a local yarn store owner and we were both laughing (or crying? …or was it laugh-crying?) about just how much the pandemic has thrown business-as-usual right out the window and replaced it myriad challenges that, like an iceberg hidden mostly beneath the water, are almost invisible to all but our most eagle-eyed of customers.  It’s not so much the current coronavirus situation in our local areas that impacts us as it is all the various coronavirus restrictions at every point along the journey our supplies take to get to us: a shutdown or even temporary closure anywhere along that line throws everything into a sudden halt, even when the local economy is doing well and opening up.

Photo by Torsten Dederichs

She was telling me about how hard it is for her to get some of her best-selling yarns, how they’ll be there one day and then suddenly gone as she tries to place her order the next day, and I was telling her how delays on even the most mundane of supplies can send our whole system into a tailspin.  We once had a whole club shipment completely ready to go, with hundreds of skeins of yarn dyed and tagged, dyer’s notes written and gifts ready to pack… and the whole thing was halted for two weeks because the post office kept promising but couldn’t deliver our shipping boxes to us.  Our shipping boxes!

And we both agreed that, if nothing else, this pandemic has taught us a lot about ourselves, our employees, and our customers: about just how resourceful we can be when surprises happen, about how nothing in any business is as valuable as a good team who makes small miracles happen (and they do!), and how wonderful it is to have customers who know and trust that we are going to come through for them (maybe a bit late!) no matter what.

A Change to Our Spring Limited Edition Colourways

And here’s a great example of the way the pandemic has thrown us curve balls: two weeks ago, we announced our Spring Limited Edition colourways on three yarns – Celeste, Oriana, and Lyra – and they’ve sold so well that we’ve had to ask the mill for more Oriana only to find… they’ve hit one of those random pandemic bottlenecks and can’t spin any more of it at the moment!  So, we’ve turned on a dime too and, after marking the Oriana as Sold Out, we’ve opened up orders to our lovely, spoingy Vega instead.  And that’s actually such an exciting development, because now these gorgeous colourways are available on full range of yarns from the lightest fingering (Celeste), through a sweater-perfect sport/dk (Lyra), right through to a smooshy worsted (Vega).

Today is the Last Day for Pre-Orders!

If you’ve already placed your order, don’t worry – your skeins are reserved and will go in the dyepots this weekend.  And if you haven’t, today is your last chance* to get your order included in the Spring Collections First Dyeing Day this weekend!  Just click here and make sure we have your order by midnight tonight, and we’ll get it in the dyepots!

*all orders received after midnight tonight (eastern) will go into our regular dyeing queue


Club Shipment Update

I want to thank the members of our Mini-Skein Club and our Gradient Explorers for their kind understanding as we ran late with their parcels this month.  The reason for the delay is actually something truly good: several of our small team had the opportunity to get their coronavirus vaccine shots this month.  If practicality had been the priority, we would have perhaps staggered our shots across several months so that members of the SpaceCadet crew weren’t experiencing vaccine reactions and symptoms all at the same time.  But there was no way I could (or would!) ask any of my team to delay their vaccinations and so we all just did our very best, even as several folks had to take things slow to recover.

The good news is that all the yarns for both clubs are ready to go out and I’ll be packing them later today, so keep an eye on your mailbox!  And in the meantime, if you’re ever looking for a status update on any of our club shipments, I’ve created a handy Club Shipment Update page that you can check anytime.

The Yarn Alliance Opens Today!

I’ve always felt that our club members get our very best dyeing, because we know they’ve come on a colour journey with us and so we truly put our all into the colourways we create for them.  And it’s time to start that colour exploration afresh in a new season the Yarn Alliance, our premiere yarn club, focused on fingering weight yarns.

So, what do you get when you join?

…beautiful yarns, colourways you might never have dared try but suddenly realise you love, and some seriously fabulous gifts!

As a member of the InterStellar Yarn Alliance, you’ll receive a fabulous parcel delivered to their door every other month, containing:

  • SpaceCadet  yarn (light to medium weight) in an exclusive Yarn Alliance colourway (guaranteed not to be offered on the SpaceCadet website for at least 6 months)
  • A great Yarn Alliance gift tucked into every parcel!
  • The SpaceCadet’s Log exploring the inspiration for each colourway.
  • The InterStellar Yarn Alliance newsletter with periodic special offers exclusively for members.
  • 15% off coupon every six months


Corallinus Socks by Carolyn Lisle
on Rav here, off Rav here

This time of year, it’s lovely to cast on something quick and satisfying, and these socks fit that bill perfectly.  I love the elongated Vs that create interest by showing off the colour changes in a variegated yarn. Designed in SpaceCadet Lucina, they’re inspired by fungus. Wait what?!? No, it’s true, and Caroline’s description is both interesting and (at least to me) educational.  But however you feel about, um, fungus-inspired footwear, there’s no denying these socks are lovely.

Diluvian by Hunter Hammersen
on Rav here, off Rav here

Speaking of socks for spring knitting, this is a pattern worth revisting.  Designed in SpaceCadet Astrid and published all the way back in 2010 (when SpaceCadet had only just begun!), I think the design hasn’t aged a day. And as the weather warms, they’re a perfect combination of airy stitchwork and seaside-inspired texture to transition to warmer weather. Oh, and here’s a nifty twist: they’re completely reversable!

Rocky Beach Top by Andrea Weber
on Rav here, off Rav here

And here’s one last pattern that’s made for this time of year: an easy spring top with bold colour-blocking and lots of textural interest.  Designed with minimal shaping to for intermediate beginners who want to go from afghans to garments, it’s exactly the kind of meditative crocheting that’s perfect for relaxing on a sunny spring afternoon.

Images ©Carolyn Lisle, Hunter Hammersen, and Andrea Weber. Used with permission.


Ok, I have a ton of packing to do today, so I’d better get that started. I’m so excited to get these yarns to their forever homes!  And I hope you’ve got exciting yarn plans for today (maybe a spring cast-on?).  So until next time, all my best!

Three New Colourways for Spring!

Three New Colourways for Spring!

It snowed in Pittsburgh this week..!  Not a just a few flakes making their last stand, but a real, proper snow fall, that covered the trees and stuck on the ground …and reminded us all not to take Spring for granted.  Opening the door to frigid temperatures and the suddenly-silent songbirds, I had to laugh because, only two days earlier, I had been photographing our new Spring Limited Edition Collection, in the warm dappled lighted filtering through my apple tree covered in delicate blossoms!

The snow hung about for half-a-day and then it went nearly as suddenly as it arrived.  The warmer temperatures will be returning this weekend and then, I suspect, we will make a true start to Spring, with the birds back in full song, the sun warming each day, and, if I’m lucky, some of those glorious blossoms still adorning my apple tree.

Our New Spring Limited Editions

You can see the influence of Spring in this collection as soon as you lay eyes on it!  We’ve taken delightfully fresh vernal hues and gilded them with the rich, warm golds of the returning sun.  Each one is beautiful on its own and, altogether, they create a stunning palette to celebrate Spring.

These gorgeous colourways are available for pre-order now, and we’ll be holding their First Dyeing Day on May 7.  So if you’d like to get these colours fresh out of the those first dyebaths, click here and place your order now!


Newsletter

This little shearable toy sheep gave me allll the feels!  Besides being adorable, the details are perfect: the zipper pull is a set of shearing clippers and there’s a removable ear-tag.  Currently available only on the company’s Japanese-language website, I’ve heard through the grapevine that an English-language site will be coming online soon.  Because I think we all need one of these, right?!?

When my assistant Sara shared a news story saying that Prince Phillip might possibly be buried in a wool coffin, I was reminded of the 1667 law designed to prop up the English wool industry that required everyone in England to be buried in a wool shroud.  This article about it is an interesting read in its own right, but I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the picture of the church in the tiny Somerset village of Cucklington, taken only a couple of miles from where I lived and which is even pointed, if only one could zoom in enough, directly at my old office across the fields in the distance!

Photo by Will Wright

From one end of the country to the other, sheep are earning their keep — by acting as living lawn mowers.  In Carson City, NV, a flock of sheep are being employed to reduce the risk of wildfires by eating their way through 2000 acres of cheatgrass.  And on Governor’s Island, NY, a flock of five sheep are proving a cost-effective way to remove invasive species.  Pretty cool, but you and I already knew sheep were awesome.

If you don’t love swatching, I get it, I really do.  I always want to jump straight into my projects too!  But I found this post really eye-opening: it’s proof positive that the same needles, the same yarn weight, and the same stitch pattern can still give wildly differing gauges.  There’s no substitution for swatching!


I want to show you something…  Over on Ravelry, the (very casual) D’aeki Wrap KAL is going on and I am so excited to see everyone’s progress!

But I think I am most blown away by Andrea Giannotti’s wrap, below.  Not just because she’s make incredible progress but mostly because Andrea really went with the idea of colour exploration.  Instead using her Minis in the colour-order that we dyed them, she laid out her whole stash of Mini-Skein Club Minis and created her own colour-flow, mixing and matching Minis from different bundles in 2015 to 2018.

And I think the result is simply incredible!

With many thanks to Andrea for letting me share her pictures, and for putting together such a beautiful D’aeki.  If you’re feeling inspired by Andrea’s amazing work, you can join in by casting on your own D’aeki Wrap!  Click here for the pattern (non-Rav link) and here for the KAL (Rav link).


Ok, my teacup is empty so it’s probably time I got back to work.  Today, I’ll be prepping for some upcoming shows (maybe virtual… maybe real…?  Time will tell!).  In the meantime, I hope you’ve got something lovely planned for today and definitely a couple of breaks for fibery pursuits.  And, until next time, all my best!