A Surprisingly Difficult Question

There’s been a fascinating conversation going on over on Twitter.  It started with a question that the ladies at Lorna’s Laces had been discussing, and it seemed simple enough.  In fact, when I heard it, I thought instinctively that I knew the answer…   Of course I knew the answer!  It’s an easy question!

…Until I really began to think about it, and then I realised, I had no idea what the answer is.  And it’s not easy — not at all.  The question is:

What is the difference between an indie business and a corporate business?

Particularly when it comes to the crafting/creative industries, where is the line that separates the two?

Now, you’re probably doing exactly what I did, and thinking, “I know an indie business from a corporate business!  It’s obvious!”  And, maybe it is, but… I’ll tell you what, it’s a bloody hard thing to define when you actually try to do it.

When most people think of a corporation, they instinctively think of large office buildings or big factories but, in truth, almost any kind of business — even tiny ones — can be incorporated.  All it really signifies is the way the business is structured for financial and legal purposes.  A corporation might as likely be run out of someone’s spare bedroom as out of some glass-and-steel skyscraper.

So, I started out thinking that maybe it was the terms that were confusing, and I tweeted that maybe the difference was really between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’…  or was it ‘professional’ and ‘hobbiest’?

But that wasn’t right because, really, the nature of an indie business is that it’s… a business.  And anyone seriously running a business, even a small one, is going to be beyond amateur, beyond hobby.

M.K. Carroll and Cathy (@glamsmitten) tweeted back with “Indie vs Industry?” and Ruth at RockandPurl suggested, “Mass-market vs Personal Touch”.   And then M.K. asked, “At what point is something ‘mass-market’?” at the same time that I tweeted, “Is the keyword, ‘handmade’? Can something be both mass-market and handmade?”

I really thought I’d hit the nail on the head.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, actually.  Yep, the key was ‘handmade’!

And then M.K. replied, “Mass-market crochet items are ALL handmade. There is no machine-made crochet.”  Damn! She was right!  And further, “Couture uses a lot of handwork (e.g. ‘petits mains’) – it’s not mass-market.”  And there was a picture of a Chanel dress being carefully stitched by hand.

Chanel is definitely corporate, at least in my mind.  At one point someone asked if was about the ownership of a company…  the difference between private companies and publicly traded ones?  But then someone said that Lion Brand is a family-owned company.  And I thought about a company I used to work for back in my “corporate” days — a huge, multinational company with tens of thousands of employees… which was entirely family-owned.

Huh! This was turning out to be a much, much more difficult question than I had first thought!  And though the Twitter conversation continued on for some time, not one of us was able to come to a satisfactory answer.  Was it the size of the company?  Does having employees mean you’re not indie anymore? Or is it the amount of money a company makes?  Or is it the intent of the company?  What is ‘intent’ anyway, when almost all companies — large or small — are in business primarily to make money?

So, even though it feels like it would be an instinctively easy question to answer, it isn’t.  How do we define the difference between corporate and indie?  It’s much more thorny than it appears.


That Twitter conversation was yesterday and, all day today, the question has simmered gently in the back of my mind.  While I was in the studio dyeing, I pondered it, and it percolated while I packed up orders to go out.  And at some point today, an answer bubbled up that started to feel a bit right.  I’ve turned it over and over in my mind and, so far, it still feels right…

Is the difference between ‘indie’ and ‘corporate’ the extent to which the owner is involved in the making?

I’m thinking that a company stays indie so long as the owner or founder is regularly in the studio creating — even if it’s only for part of the time.  When the owner moves out of the studio completely, and leaves the making entirely to employees…  maybe that’s when a company crosses the line from ‘indie’ to ‘corporate’…?  Can you imagine a company of 150 people where every single person spent as much time creating as they did in the office — would that make the company feel ‘indie’ even with so many employees?  When the owner was right there in the studio with her sleeves up alongside everyone else?  Maybe a company moves over to ‘corporate’ only when it allows most of its focus (and time) on the business side of things rather than the creative side.

So far, that answer feels right to me.  But then, every answer I’ve come up with so far has felt right, and then turned out to be wide of the mark.  What do you think?  How do you define the difference between corporate and indie?  I’d love to know, because I’m amazed by how difficult it really is!

My Favourite Online Knitting Magazines (and the best giveaway yet!)

The thing that I love about knitting, the thing that calls me back to the needles time and time again, is the way knitting grounds me.   There is something about the warmth of the yarn, the feel of the needles, the gentle repetition of stitch upon stitch that makes the whole world slow down a little so that I can exist just in that moment.  And that incredible sense of calm is the way it’s been making other knitters feel too — for generations and generations.  Knitting is ancient, simple, essential.

So every now and again, when I stop and reflect on how the knitting world has changed in the last ten years, it blows my mind a little.  I use my phone to keep track of the rows I knit, I can check Ravelry to see how my pattern worked out for hundreds of other knitters, and I tweet back and forth with my favourite designers.  Knitting is still ancient, essential, and grounding   …but now it’s also all about the techno.  Yeah, sometimes that really blows my mind.

And one of the best things to come out of this techno-revolution is the rise of online knitting magazines.  Fresh, individual, quirky, and oh-so-vibrant — opening an online knitting magazine gives an instant virtual fiber rush.  It makes you want to cast on something gorgeous.  It makes you want cast on now.

Here my three hands-down favourites:

Did Knitty start the online knitting magazine craze?  Even if it didn’t, it did for me.  Knitty is the brainchild of Amy Singer, who launched her online magazine alllll the way back in 2002, and quickly became the starting point for thousands of new knitters and the launching pad for hundreds of new designers.

knitty, knitting magazine, knitting patterns, knittingFilled with informative features that help new knitters find their feet and advanced knitters move on to higher planes, and offering instant access to a library of entirely free patterns, Knitty has revolutionised the concept of accessibility for a whole generation of knitters.


Twist Collective

The Twist Collective began with a mission: to treat designers and writers honourably by giving them a place  to display their talents and get paid fairly for their work, while still having the option to use and build on their work after publication.

twist collective, knitting magazine, knitting patterns, knittingBut beyond even those loftly ideals, what the Twist Collective ultimately achieves — through luscious photography and beautiful designs — is downright seductive.


knitcircus, knitting magazine, knitting patterns, knitting

Starting out as a print publication, KnitCircus transitioned to an online format in 2010, and I’m so glad it did!  Another magazine with an emphasis on treating designers fairly, KnitCircus is also committed to supporting indie fiber businesses, which gives readers the wonderful opportunity to discover new dyers and fiber artists that they might not otherwise find.

knitcircus, knitting magazine, knitting pattern, knittingI find KnitCircus an absolute pleasure to read, partly for the totally trivial reason that the pages flip by delightfully (just like a real magazine! go try it!) and mostly because the articles are absorbing, the photography is sharp and fresh, and the patterns are utterly lovely.

Enter to Win the Entire KnitCircus Summer 2011 Pattern Collection

And here’s the bit that’s got me crazy-excited: KnitCircus‘s editor, Jaala Spiro, has generously offered me three copies of the KnitCircus Summer 2011 Pattern Collection to give away!

Wait, what’s that?  Did I just hear you go squeeeee?!?  Oh yeah, I know you did!

Ok, here’s what you have to do to enter:

  1. Click on the links the three magazines above and choose your  favourite pattern or article out of all of them (just one favourite, not three).
  2. Then, come back here and leave a comment below telling me what your favourite is (and feel free to tell me why — I’d  love to know!).

Now, because this is such a fabulous prize, I’m going to give you a way to get two  bonus entries.  To enter up to twice more, all you have to do is:

  1. Retweet this tweet on Twitter, and/or
  2. Mention this contest in a post on Ravelry (anywhere except the SpaceCadet group board and the InterStellar Yarn Alliance board)
  3. Then, make sure you leave a comment here to let me know you’ve done it (include your Twitter and Rav names).

And there you go — you’re in with three chances to win one of three copies of the Summer 2011 KnitCircus Pattern Collection.  And you can’t beat that with a stick stack of magazines!

Rock the details: Sweepstakes opens when this blog post is published and closes on Mon June 20 2011 at 11.59pm EDT and all entries must be made before the close. All entrants will be verified and must complete the mandatory entry (that is, mentioning in a comment on this blog post a favourite pattern/article from one of the three knitting magazines) before completing the ‘extra’ entries (retweeting the specified tweet and/or mentioning this sweepstakes in a post on Ravelry). Please take note: completion of all entries must be mentioned in a comment on this blog post to qualify, and comments must include the commenter’s Ravelry or Twitter name (as applicable). Invalid entries will be disqualified. Winner will be announced on this blog after sweepstakes close and must respond within 72 hours or we reserve the right to choose another winner. No purchase necessary. Only one entry per person. SpaceCadet Creations reserves the right to substitute prizes. Prizes cannot be redeemed for cash. No geographical or age restrictions apply because knitting knows no barriers.

Spinning Up Clouds of Baby Alpaca

So while I was waxing lyrical about the new cashmere in the shop, I never said a word — not a word — about the little something I had up my sleeve for the spinners.  Why?  Because the holidays are all about surprises!

And this was a surprise worth keeping: the most amazingly soft combed top made from 50% Baby Alpaca and 50% Superfine Merino wool.  It’s incredibly light, incredibly soft…  It feels like clouds in your hands.  And it dyes up beautifully.

Baby Alpaca and Superfine Merino wool combed top 150/50 Baby Alpaca/Merino blend in Evening Fog (left) and Tarnished (right)

For those of you who’ve never tried alpaca, I turned to my friend Natalie — a more experienced and excellent spinner — for some advice.  She said, “Alpaca is warmer and lighter than wool.  For knitting, a worsted weight yarn would make an awfully warm sweater – possibly too warm for daily wear.  On the other hand, if you want outer gear like hats and gloves, a thick, woolen spun alpaca would be like carrying around your own little furnace!

“Alpaca is a little more difficult to control than straight wool because it has a shorter staple length and feels sort of slippery.  I hold my hands closer together when I’m drafting to adjust for the shorter staple length.  I also try to get twist into the fiber more quickly than I would usually do with wool.

“Also, remember that alpaca has practically no memory.  So, for knitting, it often works better blended with other fibers that will give it a little bit of elasticity and memory.”

Baby Alpaca and Superfine Merino wool combed top 250/50 Baby Alpaca/Merino blend in Rhubarb and Custard (left) and SeaFoam (right)

The blend of superfine merino and baby alpaca together will give your yarn the elasticity and memory that you need for knitting.  And the extra lightness and warmth that the alpaca gives you yarn will be perfect for warm winter mittens and hats.

And as I was in a mood for dyeing fiber, I went ahead and did a batch of Blue-Faced Leicester as well.  Enjoy!

BFL combed top Clockwise from top left:  BFL Combed top in Spice Trade, Sweetpeas, SeaFoam, and Sweetpeas.

The Season for Luxury

The holiday season is upon us and suddenly, I’m in the mood for something a bit luxurious.  I don’t know if it’s the chill in the air, or the lovely smells of wintery comfort-food, or thoughts of all the gift-giving to come…  but I have been wanting to snuggle down and knit with something really luxurious.

Cashmere, I thought.  Cashmere is luxury.  And I knew it would be soft, and I knew it would feel heavenly, but I wasn’t really prepared for just how luscious it is…

Estelle Fingering Yarn in Nutmeg Spice Trade (left) and Burnished (right)

Let me introduce you to Estelle, a stunningly soft 4-ply fingering yarn, in 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Nylon, and 10% of that most wonderful Cashmere.  The superwash will prevent it from felting, and the nylon adds the strength needed for socks and mittens, but it’s the cashmere — oh, that cashmere — that makes all the difference!  And this is not me talking this yarn up — I was quite genuinely surprised by how soft this yarn is, how squishable, how… well, just how luxurious it is.  I have not been able to stop petting it all week!

I also haven’t been able to stop dyeing it.  I may never go back to ordinary yarn again…  Care to join me?

Estelle Fingering Yarn in Steel Leaf (left) and Evening Fog (right)

Cooking Up Something Special

In every home across the country this week, the scene will be exactly the same…  There will be mixing bowls filled with the most amazing treasures, and pots gently bubbling on the stove.  There will be the old favourites and new recipes, last minute changes and quick saves when things go wrong.  A pinch of this and a dash of that…

And it’s been no different here.   Well…  ok, then, maybe a wee bit different here in the SpaceCadet house.  Here’s what I’ve been busily cooking up this week…

Stella Yarn in Spice Trade

BFL Fiber in SeaFoam

Stella Yarn In Funky Ballet Shoes

Celeste Yarn in Frost

BFL Fiber in Flock of Parrots


Celeste Yarn in Iris

…Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


LAST CHANCE to enter for a $25 Gift Certificate!

The contest to win a $25 SpaceCadet Gift Certificate ends tonight, so — quick! — make sure you’re entered!  All you have to do is go the SpaceCadet Creations Facebook page and click the “Like” button right at the top — and that’s it, you’re in with a chance!

After that, you can earn up to four additional entries by:

  • Share this contest with your friends on Facebook
  • Tweet a link to this contest on Twitter
  • Mention this contest in a post on Ravelry
  • Subscribe to this blog, if you haven’t already.

And then leaving a comment to let me know that you’ve done it.

Full details on how to enter can be found in this post here.  Thanks for entering and GOOD LUCK!