Get Ready to Spin your Wheels…

Because the Tour de Fleece is nearly upon us!  For spinners, it’s one of the biggest events of the year — a chance to really challenge ourselves and encourage each other.  Oh, and watch a bit of cycling as well.  In honour of the Tour de Fleece, I’ve spent this week dyeing fiber.

If  you don’t know anything about the Tour, don’t worry — Monday’s post will explain all and give some links to help you get started.  In the meantime, what sort of spinning would be a challenge for you?  To spin more? Or to spin finer?  Maybe to try a new fiber, or a new technique?  And please cast your eyes over this week’s fiber porn, all going in the shop today and over the weekend…

Bombyx Silk in Freshly Cut Grass
Tussah Silk
Merino combed top in Garden In Spring
BFL combed top in Garden In Spring
Tussah Silk in Freshly Cut Grass
Bombyx Silk in Pond
BFL combed top in Underfoot
Merino combed top in Freshly Cut Grass

How Much Yardage to Expect with Handspun Yarns

A customer recently wrote to ask me how much handspun yarn she could expect get from a braid of my hand-dyed fiber and, to be honest, I was at a bit of a loss.  How much yarn you’ll get varies from spinning style to spinning style  …and from spinner to spinner.  The thicker the yarn, the less yardage; the thinner it’s spun, the more yardage.  Beyond that, it’s a very hard question to answer.

Hand-dyed BFL Combed Top, in Garden in Spring

And especially for me, because I hardly ever calculate the yardage on my handspun.  I have no idea why — I just never do!

So I turned to my friend Natalie who is a more experienced (and excellent) handspinner and posed my customer’s question to her.  She replied, “It’s usually 20 – 30 % less yardage than you’d get from the same amount (grams/ounces) of commercially spun yarn of the same weight (worsted, dk, fingering etc) because handspun tends to be denser. From 4oz, I’d expect 300-400 yards fingering; probably 200-300 of a dk/worsted range.” A much more technical and useful answer than mine!

The yarn spun by my friend from the Garden In Spring BFL

And then she added, “Hard to judge though… It’s all very variable.” Which made me feel a bit better!

A Quick Peek at the Prizes

I posted the prizes off to the winners of the Giveaway today and, before I slipped them into the envelopes, I just couldn’t resist taking a few pictures just so I could share them with you.

The two runners-up got 2oz each of this BFL fiber.

When I dyed this, I was going for a fiber version of Plumberry, the colourway of the newest yarn in the shop*.  But, although I mixed the dyes up correctly, I did the dyeing in slightly the wrong order and the blue took on an amazing silver-grey tint.  It doesn’t look like Plumberry to me but, let me tell you, it is really quite stunning!  I might dye more like this, but I am undecided as to whether it deserves its own name, because dyeing is a dynamic process — even if I gave it a new name and tried to dye it this way again, it might come out of the dyepot with more blue and looking more like the original Plumberry…   Hmmmm…   Maybe the nature of Plumberry will be that it’s sometimes got this grey, sometimes got more blue.  We’ll have to see.

Anyway, I do hope the runners up enjoy the lovely colours of their new fiber!

*You never saw the Plumberry yarn?  That’s because both skeins sold in two hours!  But I’ve dyed some more that will go in later this week.


And for our winner, I’ve chosen a skein of Garden In Spring sock yarn.  This is the first colourway I ever dyed for the shop and it is absolutely one of my favourites.  It’s so bright and cheerful and just so darned happy, and I think that’s the very essence of how winning a giveaway ought to make a person feel!

Congratulations again to the winners, and I hope you enjoy using your yarn and fiber!  And to everyone else, there will be more giveaways in the future, so keep your eyes open for those.

On the Wheel: Heathered Silk

Beautiful sunshine and a lovely warm day, I sat in the dappled shade of the trees and spun silk into heathered shades of blue, green, and purple.

Just before I finished and came in, the wind picked up and the skies transformed from blazing and blue to an angry dark grey.  A summer thunderstorm rolled in, and then ended as quickly as it started, leaving everything drenched but fresh again.  Perfect!

Spinning Up Memories of a Friend

This is Wilson.

Wilson belonged to my friend Leslie (who was instrumental in creating the SpaceCadet logo) and he was a great dog.  Everyone says that about their dogs, I know, but Wilson really was.  I met him when he was starting his retirement career as a Pets as Therapy dog, visiting long-term residents at his local hospital who benefited from a bit of borrowed canine company.  He was also an “Ambassa-dog” for a charity called the Dogs Trust, attending talks and events with Leslie and showing people just how lovely rescue dogs can be.  And he worked behind the scenes at the charity too, where they used his excellent communication skills to help less confident rescue dogs become used to being around others.  When I met him, Wilson was gentle and kind, tolerated my (then) 1-year-old’s clumsy curiosity, and lent against my leg with the kind of heaviness that tells you this dog would really like a nice scratch behind his ear.

Last month, Wilson lost his battle with a brain tumour, and when Leslie realised he didn’t have much time left, she asked me and another mutual spinning friend, Stephanie of OttertopWorkshop, whether it would be possible to spin up Wilson’s fur to knit a small square to go into his keepsake box.   Or was that a crazy idea…?  Stephanie and I both assured her it wasn’t at all crazy — it’d be a nice way to remember him — and we agreed that she should spend some quality time with Wilson in his last few day, fussing over him and brushing him, until she’d collected enough of his undercoat to spin a bit of yarn.  I warned Leslie that it might need to be mixed with wool if it didn’t hold together well on its own and, though she agreed, I could sense that wasn’t what she really wanted.  She wanted 100% Wilson — and I understood.

The bag of fur arrived on Friday, and I sat down immediately at my wheel.  I’ve never successfully spun dog before — I’d tried years and years ago, with some Husky fur that a colleague had given me, but I couldn’t make a yarn that held together.  But that was when I was a relatively new spinner, and I hoped I’d gained enough experience by now to coax a yarn out of Wilson’s uncooperative-looking fluff.

I began the wheel turning… slowly… slowly…  just to see how the fur would behave.  With such a short-stapled, uncrimped fiber, my hands quite naturally went to a long draw, and spun it with a bit of thickness.  And it seemed to be holding together pretty well.  I stopped the wheel and let the yarn twist back on itself and it looked good but… here… and there… I could see it wanted to come apart.  I moved the drive band to a slower whorl for more control, loosened the brake a wee bit, and decided to go a bit thicker and to overspin it.  It wouldn’t be as soft as I would like, but needs must.  I could see that with a little overspin, Leslie could get the 100% Wilson yarn she really wanted, and I was determined to give her that if it were at all possible.

The overspinning worked and the yarn was (fairly) stable, thick, and surprisingly fuzzy.  And I was covered in dog hair, which made laugh — all dogs shed, all humans complain about it, and here was Wilson being cheeky and still shedding on someone from beyond the grave!  I took the bobbin off and put it on the lazy kate for Navajo plying — there hadn’t been enough fiber to split between two or three bobbins for proper plying, as I would have preferred.

Navajo plying was a bit of a trial — pulling the yarn through the loop was more friction than it could handle in places and it fell apart on me quite a few times — but I managed it in the end.  Again, a little overtwist helped to hold it and, in this case, balanced the overtwist in the singles.  When I was done plying, I grabbed my needles and knit it straight off the wheel.  Normally I’d let the yarn rest and give it a wash, of course, but I didn’t want to lose any of the fiber’s Wilson-ness for Leslie, so I decided to leave it as it was.

Unfortunately, I got lost in my thoughts and cast too many stitches, so it came out as more of a rectangle than a square, but the yarn had held together surprisingly well during the knitting and so I decided to leave it as it was rather than stress the yarn by ripping back.  When I cast off, I looked at the fuzzy rectangle in my hand, and decided that was probably just about right.

Before I wrote this piece, I emailed Leslie and asked her to clarify Wilson’s various jobs.  I remembered them roughly, but wanted to be sure I got it all right.  She replied with a list, and the last point on it read simply, “my best friend.”  Of all the jobs that Wilson did, and all the joy he brought to people’s lives, I suspect his most important role was being Leslie’s best friend.  I am honoured to have been able to help give her something to remind her forever of her lovely Wilson.

Silk is for Spectacular

You know, I forgot how exciting pure silk is. I used to spin it a lot …but then I moved onto other fibers and I haven’t spun it in a while.  And I’d just forgotten. But I bought some pure silk at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival — on a bit of a whim, just to play with — and when I dyed it… Oh! OH! Yes, now I remember what I love about silk.

There is no fiber that can rival pure silk.  It takes ordinary colours and gives them an intensity and luster that is just amazing to see (and which, unfortunately, pictures cannot capture!).  And then you reach out and touch those colours and…  oh, there’s just nothing like silk.  After I dyed these braids, I showed them to a friend and she actually grabbed them out of my hands and began to squeal and dance across the room.  Really, they are that exciting!  And I was that excited as I pulled them out of the dyepot, so I understood her reaction.  If you love fiber, if you’re a spinner, this is what pure silk does to you.  And if you’ve never spun it before, you gotta try it!


Hand-dyed Combed Top, Tussah Silk, in SouthWest

Shimmering in the light, here is the burnt orange of desert rock, of terracotta walls, of the parched earth. And here beside it is the startling blue of turquoise, the desert’s own true jewel. Two bold colours that reach out and vie for attention. But there, nestled between them,is the softest of dusty roses, quiet and gentle and tempering them both, so that all three can sit together in harmony, and evoke the essence of the SouthWest.

This is over 2oz of the most incredibly soft Tussah Silk, which spins up beautifully into a lustrous and luxurious yarn.

Fiber Content: 100% Tussah Silk
Weight: Approximately 2.20oz / 60g
Colourway: SouthWest 100505-001
Care Instructions for the final item: Hand wash, Lay flat to dry.


Hand-dyed Combed Top, Tussah Silk, in Oil on Water

Where steam rises from the puddles that form in the road after a sudden summer storm, and the standing water lifts the grease from the tarmac and carries it like little oil slicks across its surface… there, as the sun breaks through the clouds, the light dances across the oils and creates a delicate rainbow — its shimmering greens, pinks, blues at once both murky and crystal clear — that always takes you by surprise and draws your eye back again and again, just to check that it is still there.

This is over 2oz of the most incredibly soft Tussah Silk, which spins up beautifully into a lustrous and luxurious yarn.

Fiber Content: 100% Tussah Silk
Weight: Approximately 2.05oz / 55g
Colourway: Oil on Water, 100504-001
Care Instructions for the final item: Hand wash, Lay flat to dry.

Each item is individually hand-dyed by the SpaceCadet, using professional grade acid dyes. Please be sure to buy enough for your project as the colours may not be able to be reproduced exactly.
SpaceCadet Creations is a smoke-free, pet-free environment.
Please remember that the colours in pictures may vary depending on your computer monitor. The colours in the photos are as accurate as possible.