A Cowl in Colours to Inspire!

“I’m inspired!” Heather said after reading Pattern Roll-Call: Something Gorgeous Around Your Shoulders, and she ordered a skein of Celeste in Red Brick.  Last week, she showed me what she made with it.  It’s a gorgeous, lacy cowl — I don’t think she could have picked a nicer pattern.   And I thought you might like to see too…


The pattern is Eclipse by Jacquelyn Ridzy — so simple and really lovely.


It always amazes me how the colours in yarns totally transform when it’s knitted up.  Look at the way the red flows into the purple!  And those little flecks of gold really pop.


And it’s got this sweet little garter-stitch border.  I love it!


I can’t tell you how much I love it when people share their projects with me.  Thanks, Heather — your cowl is gorgeous!

Trade Winds — Help Me Choose the One

I dye because I love playing with colour.  And when I free myself from the (usually self-imposed) requirement to create a specific hue or shade, and instead just let myself be drawn into pure experimentation, I find real joy in the process.

Last week, I did just that.  I created a basic colour recipe, and then tweeked it, and tweeked it again, and then once more…  and dyed one skein in each, just to see how they’d come out.

The Trade Winds Clockwise from top left: Westerly, Northeasterly, Southeasterly, and The Sea Below

Trade winds blow great ships across the sea, their sails billowing, their hulks lying heavy in the blue and green waters, laden down with trunk upon trunk of brightly coloured silk fabrics, and barrels filled with the warm shades of precious spices.

Because the recipes (and the resulting colourways) are so close, I’m going to choose only one colourway to dye for the shop in future.  But… I’m not sure which one to pick.   And so I’d like to ask you, dear readers, for your help.  Which one would you pick?  Please tell me!

And, just to add a bit of fun, I’ll give a $4 credit on your next order from SpaceCadet Creations to everyone who leaves an answer in the comments here before midnight on Friday.  Howzat then?  Sound good?

So, go on then!  Tell me which colourway you’d pick!

Small print:  Comments must be left on this blog post before midnight on Fri Oct 1 2010.  Limited to one $4 credit per household.  Comments must name a colourway chosen from the four listed to be valid.  Multiple comments will not count for multiple credits. Commenter must list a valid email address when leaving the comment and then use that same email address when placing the order with SpaceCadet Creations, in order to be properly credited. The $4 credit must be claimed via the message section when placing the order on Etsy, in order to be properly credited.

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!

Spotted in the Wild: Socks Knit with SpaceCadet Creations Yarns

The thing that never fails to take me by surprise me is the way that the colour of a yarn can change as it is knitted up.  As beautiful as it looks in the skein, when the colour repeats are all long and stretched out, is nothing compared how to it looks as you start knitting and the stitches join the colours together in unexpected ways.  It’s so exciting to watch each row unfold!

So exciting, in fact, that it’s sometimes a bit hard for me to send my yarns off to customers…  because I want to knit them up myself and see how they come out.  And so the thing that never fails to absolutely delight me is when customers share pictures of their finished objects and I get to see my yarns all knitted up.   Let me show you two that I think worked out beautifully.

Cindy won this skein of Garden In Spring in the SpaceCadet Creations May Giveaway


And she used it to make these fabulous Dancing Diamond Socks by Wendy D. Johnson.  I love how knitting subdues the wild variegation of the colours but still allows the yellow to pop.  The result is just gorgeous!


When I lifted my first skein of Plumberry out of the dye pot, I loved it — loved it — but I knew that it was the kind of wild variegation that needed a carefully chosen pattern to really bring out the best in the colours.


And when Sarah chose to knit Pomatomus by Cookie A. with it, I don’t think she could have picked a better pattern for the yarn or a better yarn for the pattern.  These socks are absolutely stunning!


Thank you so much, Cindy and Sarah, for sharing your beautiful socks with us!

And everyone else, when you finish a project with one of my yarns, please do share it — I just can’t get enough of seeing how those colours turn out!

Rain and Reds, a Shop Update, and a Treasury

It’s raining today — a nice, warm, gentle summer rain, but rain nonetheless.  And I know I promised you sunshine for this week, but the reason it’s raining today is because the lovely yellows I dyed over the weekend are still drying and if they are wet, then there is no sunshine to be had and the world must be wet too.

But even if your day is rainy like mine and there’s no yellow to brighten it up, let me offer you instead something as deliciously dark and moody as the clouds above.

First, I was delighted to discover that myhideway included my Red Brick yarn in a treasury called Rosé Wine.  It’s so inspiring to see all those beautiful rosy reds together.

So inspiring, in fact, that I went and filled the shop with warm colours from pink to burgundies.  Have a look…


Fingering Weight Yarn, Superwash Merino and Nylon, in Pink Autumn

If autumn leaves turned pink instead of red, it would be this pink. If they shunned the sophisticated golds and the russets, all the subtle shades of brown, and chose instead to wear a girly hue — something wild and unpredictable — it would be this. An explosion of pink tinged with the warmth of the season, this is the colour that autumn leaves secretly wish for. This skein is over 100g of Stella, a beautiful and distinctive 2-ply fingering weight yarn in 80% Superwash Merino and 20% Nylon.


And four yarns in Desert Wine: one in Stella Fingering weight, one in Celeste Fingering weight, and two in Astrid DK weight.

This is a bottle of burgundy wine, rich and deep and smooth, poured out on the brown of the parched desert earth, there amongst the green cacti, where the merciless sun dries it to dark, dusty stain. A waste of good wine, but worth it just to see the amazing colour.


And a lovely new colourway, DK Weight Yarn in Superwash Merino, in Sleep Deep, that I simply cannot get my camera to capture accurately.  It looks all blue-red in the pictures, but as I hold it here in my hands, it’s swirls of deep red and purple.

Here are the colours of dreams, at the moment when you slip from the dark of the room into unconciousness, surrendering to the safety of bed and the soft of pillow behind your head. These are the colours of a mind freed to wander, a psyche unencumbered, your true nature as you let yourself submerge into the deep deep of sleep. This skein is over 100g of Superwash Merino in Astrid, a beautifully smooshy 4-ply, DK (double knitting) weight yarn. There are two skeins available, sold separately.

And watch the shop for those sunshine yellows too!  As soon as they appear, the weather is sure to change for the better.

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.