I Need Your Help Choosing a Yarn

One of the really fun things about TNNA was just wandering around and looking at all the lovely yarns.  I mean, really.   For someone who loves yarn, who really gets quite giddy around large quantities of it, TNNA was heady stuff!

And the yarns ran the gamut from rustic bulkies to really stunning silk laceweights complete with beads and sequins — everything a fiberista’s heart might desire.  And I really thought I’d be drawn to the finest, most delicate, most beautiful yarns… so when I realised that the one thing that kept jumping out at me was these smooshy, chunky, single-ply yarns, it totally took me by surprise.  But they were wonderful — they looked like clouds, they looked so sheepy… I just wanted stick my face into them and snorgle!

So smooshy!

And, they seemed to be everywhere.  Even though I was trying to look at fingering yarns, my eye kept spotting these chunky single-ply yarns everywhere.  So, I’m tempted to buy some for my autumn/winter dyeing.  And y’know, when I say “tempted”, I kinda really mean “aching”.  As in, I loved them so much, I am aching to get my hands on some and start dyeing!

yarn, knitting, crochet, indie dyer, hand-dyed
Man, I love this yarn...

But there’s a distinct possibility that instead of spotting the emergence of a fabulous new yarn trend, I might be just falling head-over-heels for my own personal preference.  And that you, my fingering-and-laceweight-buying customers, might be reading all this and just going, “Whaaat…???”

knitting, yarn, crochet, indie dyer, hand-dyed
(that's a nickel, by the way, not a dime -- I couldn't find a dime...)

So, tell me, what do you think?  Do these pictures get your heart racing, and your fingers itching to cast on?  Do you want to grab that skein and just smoosh it?  Or does it leave you saying, “Meh…” and happily turning back to the much more delicate yarn of your current project?  Please tell me — leave a comment below, I’d really love to know your thoughts!

In a World of Colour, Are We Starving?

Last night, I went round to a friend’s house and she showed me her knitting.  The pattern is simple — just a stockinette cardigan — but the colour is spectacular.  She has chosen a blue so deep, so intense, that I almost felt I was falling into it headlong.  I felt energised just looking at it  …just being near it, in fact.

Celeste Fingering Weight Yarn in Blue Horse

As adults, we shy away from colour.  I first became conscious of this when my daughters were born.  The clothes that they were given by friends and loved ones were full of colour: brimming over with wild, riotous combinations of shades that I would never (at the time) have had the courage to put together myself.  Colours full of life, calling out with joy.

Shades of… Blah

By contrast, when I looked at my own wardrobe, it was made up entirely of drab.  Sensible colours (yawn), muted colours (yaaaawn), black, brown, grey, beige (zzzzzzzz….).  And I wasn’t alone — everyone around me dressed (dresses) this way.  You know it’s true — and, next time you’re in a crowd, look at the colours you see on the people around you.  Sure, there will be one or two red jackets, but that’s it — the rest will be a mass of greys, blacks, browns, and blahs that all merge into one big drab blob of blending-in.  We all blend in.

We dress our children in glorious colour (and we are jealous of them), and then we dress ourselves to blend in  …to disappear.  If colour is primal, if it is the food that nourishes our visual souls, then we are all malnourished.

Stella Fingering Weight Yarn in Carnival

Colour Freedom

I’ve always considered the biggest appeal of knitting or crocheting was the zen-thing — that wave of calm that washes over as you fall into the moving meditation of stitch upon stitch.  And then, of course, there is that wonderful rush of having created something — a garment, a pattern, a new stitch combination — from our own ingenuity and with our own two hands.  Powerful stuff.  But more and more, I’m coming to realise how much the fiber arts also set us free to embrace the glorious colours that we otherwise deny ourselves.  Yeah, there are lovely yarns in neutral/natural shades and they can be formed into beautiful garments.  But it’s rare for a knitter to walk into a yarn shop and choose black.  We are called by the colour.  It sings to us and we are drawn to it.

yarn, knitting, crochet, handdyed, indie dyer
Stella Fingering Weight Yarn in Sweet Dreams

And so here is the other great appeal of the fiber arts: in our knitting, in our crocheting (our spinning, our felting…), we are suddenly free to dive into the colour that our hearts desire, but which we so often deny ourselves.  With the yarn in our hands, colours running through our fingers, we can envelope ourselves in the glorious colours that wake our senses, that make us feel alive and giddy with excitement.

…That let us escape from the blah of blending in.

knitting, crochet, yarn, handdyed, indie dyer
Celeste Yarn in Forgiven

Challenge: To Be Aware

So here is my challenge to you: let yourself become more aware of the colours around you — of the colours that nature presents to you each morning, of the colours that you see through the day, of the colours that call out to you.  And more than that, become aware of the colours that you knit or crochet with, and of the colours that you wear.  Do they match up?  Do you adorn yourself (your home, your life) in the colours that you truly love?  Or do you shy away?  And if you do shy away, why?  Or… perhaps more importantly, why not?

Because colour is primal, colour does feed the soul.   And there is an absolute feast of colour out there, just waiting for you…

knitting, crochet, yarn, handdyed, indie dyer
Celeste yarn in Garden in Spring


Members of the Interstellar Yarn Alliance: be ready for your feast…!

When Pooling Goes Right

Last week, I asked you guys to give me your questions and tell me what intimidates you about hand-dyed yarns.  And I loved the responses — I got some great food for thought, and you guys prompted me to ask a couple of experts to contribute to the ebook and answer some of your questions.  Exciting stuff!

yarn, hand-dyed, handdyed, indie dyer, knitting, crochetAnd that post has started several really interesting conversations with friends about their approach to hand-dyed yarns.  In each of these conversations, there have been some saying they are always trying to avoid pooling, and there are others saying that they just sit back and go where-ever the yarn takes them — treating it as an adventure, a journey to be traveled, whether the yarns pools or not.  I have to admit, I loved hearing that because, as a dyer,  that’s how my creative process often feels too — a little adventurous, a little out of control.  Sometimes I’m in charge and the colours follow my lead, but sometimes…  sometimes it’s better to stop controlling and just go where-ever the colour takes me.  Sometimes it takes me to some really beautiful places.

The Beauty of Pooling  (…no, really!)

And pooling can be the same way too.  Yes, absolutely, sometimes pooling can be horrible — just horrible — and I totally get why knitters and crocheters strive to avoid it.  But sometimes pooling can take a really exciting turn that gives spectacular — and unexpected — results.

Take this scarf for example, knit by my friend Megan.  Now, we’ve all seen pooling that forms diamond patterns before, but I have to say I’ve never seen a more perfect and even example than this.  And though this was entirely unintentional, it adds so much to the scarf — gives it a real feeling of fun and adventure.  In fact, she liked it so much that when she switched to her second skein of yarn, Megan was really careful to join it in such a way that the argyle-pooling continued uninterrupted all the way to the end of the scarf.  Spectacular!

knitting, handyed, indie dyer, yarn,
Photos used with permission

Pattern: Here and There Cables by Norah Gaughan;  Yarn: SpaceCadet Creations Lucina in Megan’s Frost


So, ok… being surprised by nice, evenly repeating pooling along a nice, even rectangle is one thing, but when you get patterned pooling on a shaped project like a hat, that is really something.  Here’s a one that Megan knit (that woman has some kind of uncanny pooling gift, I tell ya!) for a little girl with brain cancer, and when I saw the pooling, I nearly fell off my chair.  Check out the pictures — this is not colourwork, this is the yarn just pooling in a beautiful way.  I love the way the stripes work through the colours and then back out again in reverse order, and they stay in that formation right up until they hit the sharpest decreases in the crown.  Amazing!

knitting, yarn, hand-dyed, handdyed, indie dyer
Photos used with permission

Pattern: Swirl Hat by Mandie Harrington;  Yarn: SpaceCadet Creations Estelle in Ice Skating


But what if stripes and argyle-diamonds aren’t your thing?  Well, check out this shawl by Karrie of KnitPurlGurl.com.  Because it’s crocheted instead of knit, the stitches move the colours about in a different way… and it produces small squares of pooled colour that look to me just like tiled mosaic.  Honestly, I can’t take my eyes off it!  Breathtaking!

crochet, yarns, handdyed, hand-dyed, indie dyer, yarn
Photos used with permission

Pattern: Wycheproof Shawl by Rebecca Velasquez;  Yarn: SpaceCadet Creations Estelle in Cold Flame

.So, have you ever had a project start to pool in a really beautiful way?  Did you love it?  And did you do anything special to encourage the pooling?


Pattern Giveaway

Don’t forget, there’s only a few days left to enter the Pattern Giveaway to win beautiful shawl patterns from RockandPurl and Leslie Thompson.  Click here to see the patterns and get entered!

MDSW: The Glorious Aftermath

The weather was glorious, the shopping overwhelming, and it was sheep as far as the eye could see! I got back from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival exactly the way I knew I would: drunk with excitement, completely exhausted, and yet ready for more! There is nothing else like MDSW…

MDSW, Maryland Sheep and Wool
The traffic to get in was CRAZY!!!
MDSW, Maryland Sheep and Wool
And the transport from car park to front gate was appropriate...
MDSW, Maryland Sheep and Wool
The sheep were looking their very best for the judges
MDSW, Maryland Sheep and Wool
And the shopping was... simply overwhelming!

I was lucky enough to run into the lovely Nora Bellows of Noni. I discussed spindles with Sasha Torres of the SpinDoctor podcast. Got to say hello to Amy Singer of Knitty magazine. And I had really enlightening conversations (about credit card machines of all things!) with Andrea Berman (I Speak KnitSpeak), Gale of Gale’s Art, and Jennie Lanners (you know… Jennie the Potter!).

Did I take any pictures of any of them? No, not one. I know …I know!


So, you’ll just have to settle for pictures of my swag instead…

MDSW, Maryland Sheep and Wool
Clockwise from top left: Yarn Bowl from Honeysuckle Pottery, Trindle (spindle) from Trindleman, a hand-sized loom from Hazel Rose Looms (and my friend Sara!), and a Tsunami spindle from Golding

Oh wait! I forgot… I got some really cool stitchmarkers too from Jennie the Potter. Let me go grab my knitting…

MDSW, Maryland Sheep and Wool

I love that they have knit stitches on one side and instructions on the other! So cool! The yarn is SpaceCadet’s Stella in Vibrance.

So, you see how much fun it was? Oodles and oodles, and I am jonesing for more! What are your favourite fiber festivals through the year? Which ones do you love?

Of Christmas, Ballet, and Good Friends

Do you remember these funky little slippers by Kate Atherley?  Do you remember I said they’d be perfect for two ballet-mad little girls I know?


I had planned to knit them in time for Christmas morning, but as December wore on, the whole month got crazier and crazier and seemed to be flying by at an alarming pace.  One day I looked up at the calendar and realised I had only one week left before Christmas, a bazillion things left to do…  and the wonderful little slippers weren’t even cast on yet.

Is Christmas about gifts or about friends?

My friend Natalie was ridiculously organised and had already finished all her Christmas knitting well before crunchtime.  “Would you like me to knit them for you?, she asked.  “So they’re ready for Christmas Day?”  I was floored!  How could I possibly say yes?  They were supposed to be gift from me!  But looking at the calendar…  oh, how could I not?  Without Natalie’s help, there’d be no Christmas ballet slippers at all.  I said yes.

Natalie knit like a fiend, and got all four slippers done in a week.  …In that last manic week before Christmas.  They were wrapped and under the tree for Christmas Eve.  They were opened on Christmas morning.  They were beautiful!  …And loved.  And danced in.  And danced in… and danced in…

The most perfect Christmas gift!

Knit in Celeste yarn in Funky Ballet Shoes


With deep thanks to Natalie for knitting the slippers.  And genuine thanks for Kate Atherley for the pattern and her incredibly kind offer to resize it for tiny feet.

And my deep apologies to both for not blogging about it until now.  That crazy December pace?  Yeah, it’s March and yet the pace still hasn’t let up!

An Open Letter

An Open Letter to Those who Don’t Get the Fiber Arts

I am not doing this to recreate the past.  I don’t harbour any fantasies of wearing petticoats or a bonnet.   And I don’t knit because I want to feel domestic.

I do this to free my soul.  I do this to work in colours that make my heart sing.   I dye because I see in my mind hues and shades that are bursting to be let out.  And so I do let them out, laying them down in dye upon fiber – vibrant shades poured out over wool, over silk, over the ordinary of life.

SpaceCadet Yarn 2

And when, at last, I cast those colours onto my needles, I feel a calm wash over me as I work them up into a fabric of my own making — the needles clicking softly and the colours gently blending and contrasting.

I know you think this is old-fashioned, but it’s not.  It is as modern as imagination, as current as discovery, as now as creativity.  Would you ask a painter why he doesn’t just take a photograph?

And it’s ok if you don’t get it.  I understand.  But I just wanted to say – I just wanted to say out loud – that this is nothing about old fashioned.  This is what I do, and I do it now.  I am a fiber artist.

SpaceCadet Yarn 1