This Way the Tradewinds Blow

Last week I asked you all to help me choose one of the four Tradewinds to go forward with as a colourway for the shop.  As the responses rolled in, I was so pleased to see so many of you reply and it was really interesting to see which ones you picked.  Thank you all for your comments!  And please do remember to mention your comment on your next SpaceCadet order, so I can be sure to give you that $4 credit.

And so now, which one will it be…?  Well, technically, The Sea Below got the most comments — by one, to be exact.

The Sea Below

However, as the week went on and I was visiting the post again and again to read your responses, and I kept seeing the pictures… and looking the yarns here on my desk…  I realised that it was Westerly that was really calling to me.  So my vote would be for Westerly — one extra vote that brings the count to even for Westerly and The Sea Below.


So I think the only fair thing to do is to call it a draw and say that they both deserve to be in the shop!  The next step is to do a few more test runs and make sure that the recipe that worked for the first skein will produce consistent results for future skeins.  One that’s done, you can look for them to appear in the shop over the next couple of weeks!

The Most Important Piece of Equipment for Dyeing

When I tell people that I dye yarn, I get a variety of responses — from surprised to confused to intrigued.  Occasionally, I find the person I’m talking to is a knitter, and that’s always a nice surprise for both of us.  I love it when that happens.


Sometimes the person asks if I can teach them to dye, or if they can come and watch the process.  And I always struggle with that, because I’m not sure what I’d show them.  The mechanics of dyeing are no secret — they’re well documented in books and websites — and it’s easy to learn how to do it.


But the Process happens in my head — it’s when I think of the colours and the combinations I want to create, and I work backward to figure out how to mix the dyes to get exactly what I’m visualising.  The Process is me experimenting with colours, making mistakes, learning from them, saving them at the last minute, and learning some more.  And I honestly don’t know how I could show that to anyone without them actually getting inside my head.


But there is something I can show you.  It’s the most important part of dyeing.

It took me a while to figure it out, but it’s the one piece of equipment you really cannot be without.


It’s not the wool.  It’s not the dyes.  It’s not the dyepots, nor a special magical stirrer that makes the colours come out just right…


The most important piece of equipment a dyer possesses is…


…her Sharpie pen, so she can write NO FOOD on every piece of dyeing equipment.


Because poisoning your family by accidentally serving dinner out of the bowl you’ve been dyeing in really takes the shine off of achieving even the perfect colour!

Scenes from a Fiber Life: Laceweight NeverEnding

With great beauty comes… great danger? Great sacrifice?  We all know that laceweight yarns are beautiful — there’s something inherent in its delicacy, and the luxury of its fibers, and the way it soaks up colour.  Laceweight is beautiful.

And dangerous, as I recently found out.  But sacrifice?  The beauty of laceweight requires sacrifice?  Not for you, dear readers, but it does for me.  Let’s talk about my arms.

My arms are going to fall off.  They ache, they’re sore.  And as much as my eyes love laceweight, my arms hate it.  At 1300 wonderful, delicate, luxurious yards per 100g, it takes a loooooong time to reskein.  I have to sit and turn that skein winder round and round and round and round…

When the dyed skein goes on the swift, it really doesn’t look much different from any other skein.  My arms are blissfully ignorant of what’s about to happen.



But after a few minutes of winding, when my arm is expecting the job to be half done, I look and find there’s only wee bit of yarn on the skein winder…


And so I keep winding.  Round and round and round and round…


And after what seems like forever, I look up and…

.the swift looks as full as it ever was!  HOW can that be?!?

My arms are not happy with me.  My arms are burning and fed up and ready to quit.  It takes some convincing to get them to keep going.


But after a long, long time, the skein winder starts to look lovely and full like this…


And the swift finally starts to look a bit emptier…!


And then just as my arms get to the point where they are ready to fall right off, we reach the end.


And then it’s done.  And it’s gorgeous.  And I hold the finished skein in my hand and look at how all the colours blend together gently and I am in love!  Laceweight is worth it, I tell myself.


Until I lay that skein aside, and pick up the next one and start to arrange it on the swift and my arms realise what’s happening… and they don’t like it.  They don’t like it one bit.

Dyeing Disaster, Last Minute Save

This yarn was a dyeing disaster.  I was aiming for Garden In Spring, one of my favourite colourways, and the colour just went all wrong on me.  I pulled it out of the dyepot and… Oh no! The pinks were crazy-bright, the greens were just plain ugly, and the purples totally non-existent.  I have a picture of it…  I can’t even show it to you, it was that awful.  It was embarrassing.

I set it aside and decided not to think about it for a few days.

When I finally went back to it and turned it over in my hands (cringing, cringing the whole time), I realised what I wanted to do with it.  I thought I knew the shade that would salvage it.  I mixed my colours and in went the yarn.  And a little while later, this is what I lifted out…

I had hoped to salvage it — instead, it has been saved.  It came out so much better than I could have hoped!

There’s one skein in Astrid DK and one in Celeste Fingering weight.  And now I just have to decide if they go in the shop or…  if I keep them for myself!!!  I may have to think about this for a spell.

Boy oh boy, it is soooo tempting…

The Dangers of Luna Laceweight

So, let’s say I was holding out a skein of yarn to you — beautiful, light, airy yarn, with a slight halo that made the softness just call out to you.   And let’s say that, as I held it out to you, I said, almost in a whisper, “It’s laceweight, a two-ply of silk and merino…”  As you reached out to touch it, what would be the first thoughts that came into your mind?  Would you be thinking strength?  Would you be thinking red-hot?  How about razor sharp?  No?  Those words wouldn’t be what popped into your mind?  Huh.  Me neither.

I’ve been dyeing the new laceweight yarn that will be going in the shop this week.  It’s called Luna and it’s everything that laceweight ought to be: delicate, soft, luxurious, stunningly beautiful.  With 20% silk blended into 80% superfine merino, it feels divine against the skin — the kind of yarn you just can’t stop touching.  Oh, and it takes colour like a dream.

So far, so good.

It was when I was reskeining the dyed yarn that everything changed.  I was turning the skein winder with my right hand and gently guiding the yarn with my left…  I had the skein winder going at a good clip because, at 1300 yards per skein, it makes for very tired arms if it goes too slowly.  So, we’re going along at a good pace, this yarn and me, when I realised my left hand is starting to hurt…  The space between my thumb and my index finger is really starting to burn.  So I moved my hand and rolled the yarn up my finger a bit and…  moments later, that spot is red-hot too.  This yarn is just so thin and going at such a pace that it was actually cutting into my skin!

So I looked about for something to hold it with — an oven glove would be ideal — and spotted a plastic coat hanger  which will do the trick nicely.  Arranging the yarn so it was running through the hook, I could guide it onto the skein winder by moving the coat hanger back and forth.  And it worked perfectly  …for a time.

After a little while, I realised that there wass a little ball of fluff forming on the hook of the coat hanger.  Thinking that there might be a rough spot taking some of the halo off the yarn, I stopped the skein winder and took a closer look.  And that’s when I discovered this…

That’s right.  You are seeing what you think you are seeing.  In a matter of minutes, my lovely, light, airy, and stunningly beautiful  laceweight yarn was actually slicing through a coat hanger.  You could have knocked me over with a feather!

And I’m so pleased I’d not carried on guiding it with my bare hand…

So, there you have it.  SpaceCadet Creations’s new Luna Laceweight yarn: delicate, soft, luxurious and saturated with colour.  Just as you’d expect.

…And also, apparently, red-hot and razor sharp.  Not as you’d expect at all.

Dyes Mixed by Hand, From Primaries

Tucked away in the description of my yarns, right down there in the last paragraph, are these words: “Each item is individually hand-dyed by the SpaceCadet, using professional grade acid dyes which are mixed by hand from primaries”.  That last bit is really important to me — mixed by hand from primaries.  Every colour you see in my yarns and fiber has been created by hand, conjured up from only the primaries and black.  It’s both the entire reason that making hand-dyed yarns excites me so much and the source of more than a little pride for me.

I see a colour in my mind (or, more usually, several colours together) that I know I want to dye and I start dissecting them.  If it’s a purple, is it a red purple or a blue purple?  If it’s a darker shade, I gauge how much black is needed to darken it.  If it’s lighter, I work out the dye-to-water ratio it requires.  And then I calculate in the personality of the fiber — every fiber takes dye in its own unique way, so the same colours can come out wildly different.  And taking all that together, I mix up the dyes in the way that I think is going to create the colour I see in my mind, submerge the yarn, and… wait.

And the moment that I pull the yarn out again, and see whether my calculations — and my instinct — were correct, that is the most exciting moment in the whole dyeing process.  When I get it right,  I go a little wild, grabbing friends, family, any passers-by and saying, “Look! Look! this is the colour I was going for and this is what I got!

Thinking abou this the other day, I wondered if all this excitement wasn’t really a bit ridiculous…?  I mean, really, it’s just colour.  Painters do it all the time, don’t they?  And they not only mix their own colours but then go on to create something with them.  They don’t just sit there crowing over all the little puddles of colours they’ve created on their palettes!

But then I realised that, unlike painters, when I mix my dyes, I’m doing it blind.  The colours in the water are sometimes a good indication, but often not.  And besides, the insides of the dyepots aren’t white so what I see in them is always distorted anyway.  No, there’s no way to know if the colour is right until the yarn goes into the water.  Dyeing is a one-shot deal.

So when I pull the yarn or fiber out of the dyepot and it’s exactly the colour I had envisioned, it’s pretty darned exciting.  For this yarn, I imagined cornflowers, that lovely soft violet-blue that seems to be everywhere this time of year.

Merino and Silk Laceweight Yarn in Cornflowers

When I lifted the yarn out of the dyebath, I knew I’d nailed the colour.  And, yeah, I am really proud to be able to say I mixed these colours by hand from primaries.