I Had a Brainwave! Using Squares, Woven or Granny

Monday really should have been a bad day.  I had to take my car in for unexpected repairs (urgh…  the combination of those two words is always the worst, right?) and I ended up spending nearly six hours waiting for it to be finished.  And then to top it off, I realised that as I left the house, I’d accidentally grabbed the wrong project bag.   Yep, it should’ve been a bad day.

What to Make with Zoom Loom Squares -- Ideas from SpaceCadet

But when I unzipped the bag, I realised it contained my Zoom Loom — which I haven’t used in months — and a set of Mini-Skeins in some gorgeous purples and greens.  So I started weaving  …and suddenly remembered how much I love my Zoom Loom — and just how addictive it is making those sweet little woven squares!

Now, whenever I show people how to use the Zoom Loom, I always get asked, “But what do you make with those squares?”  And on Monday, I started out making little flowers for a cool boho bracelet.  But, let me tell you, you can weave a awful lot of those squares while waiting for your car to be fixed(!), so I started thinking what else to do with them.

Making cool boho flowers with the Zoom Loom

What to Make with Zoom Loom Squares?

And I suddenly realised something…  Something that was patently obviously but which felt like a brainwave because it had just never occurred to me before…   You could use Zoom Loom squares with any pattern that would normally use granny squares!

Now, Zoom Loom squares are much, much lighter and airier than crocheted squares, so the whole feel of the project would change completely in to something far drapier and — woven in fingering yarn — absolutely perfect for summer.  But, in the end, it’s just changing one modular building block for another, so the answer to the question is simple.  What do you make with Zoom Loom squares?  All the same funky, cool things that you make with granny squares!

The Zoom Loom Taught Me How to Make Granny Squares!

Wellllll… not really.  But as soon as I had that brainwave, I went online to get inspiration for granny square projects that I could convert into Zoom Loom projects.  I just wanted to fill my head with ideas, so I went straight to my Crochet Inspiration board on Pinterest and started looking through all the granny loveliness.

Now, I’m not much of a crocheter at all…  Seriously, I can chain and single-crochet and that is it.  But something about those granny squares started calling to me.  I suddenly thought, I really want to learn to make those…   And, even better, I actually heard myself say something I’ve never said about crochet before:  I can do this!

Five minutes later, I was watching this (excellent) video on You-Tube and had started my first-ever granny square.  And not long after that, I had this…

The SpaceCadet's first Granny Square

I have not knit a single stitch all week.  I am totally addicted to weaving on my Zoom Loom and now obsessed with crocheting granny squares.  Yep, Monday really should have been a bad day, but it ended up being the beginning of a week of fiber adventuring.  How fantastic is that?!?

…Ok, so now that you’re thinking of using Zoom Loom squares as if they were granny squares, what modular pattern would you use for them?  Got any suggestions?



Sharon Silverman’s Crochet Scarves

A couple of months ago, I recieved a lovely, lovely, lovely parcel.  Amid all the massive boxes of yarn that were arriving in the run up to Rhinebeck, there was one small manilla envelope waiting on the doorstep.  I honestly couldn’t think what it might be but, when I ripped open the package, I was immediately over the moon!

Sharon Silverman is a wonderful crochet designer and I’ve really enjoyed working with in the past.  She contributed to the SpaceCadet’s Guide to Using Hand-Dyed, and do you remember when she designed her stunning Moonmist Shawl in my Luna Laceweight yarn?  So when she told me she was writing a new book of crocheted scarves and asked if she could use SpaceCadet yarn, I jumped at the chance!

Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions-Various Techniques


So when my copy of Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques arrived, I couldn’t wait to settle myself right down into a comfy chair and crack it open.  And it is — as expected — fantastic.  Twenty-one brand new designs, covering everything from traditional crochet to Tunisian (I love Tunisian!) to broomstick lace.  And all with really wonderful step-by-step visual instructions and easy-to-read charts.

Sharon Silverman's Step-by-Step Instructions


Now, can I tell you something?  I don’t care what kind of a day you’ve had — whether it’s been a facepalm kind of day or wildly successful.  And I don’t care what kind of week you’ve had, or month or year or life…  no matter how things are going for you, when you see your name in print, in a book, it sends such a thrill down your spine, I just can’t tell you.  So, I turned to the Cactus Scarf and saw SpaceCadet yarn right there on the page and… I squeed!  Alone in the house, still sitting in my comfy chair (well, jumping out of it actually), I was squeeing my heart out.

Sharon Silverman's Cactus Scarf featureing SpaceCadet Luna Laceweight yarn

SpaceCadet Luna Laceweight featured in Sharon Silverman's Cactus Scarf design


One of the hardest things about selling yarn online is that it’s incredibly difficult to express the tactile elements of each yarn.  It’s one of the reasons I love doing shows so much.  When customers can come and see the yarns in person — smoosh the yarns in person — everything changes.   For the Cactus Scarf, Sharon chose SpaceCadet Luna, a merino and silk cobweb laceweight that gives a stunning 1300 yards per skein (that’s nearly 3/4ths of a mile!).  It’s so fine and yet so smooshy, and the silk gives it an amazing sheen that I can never seem to do justice to in photographs!  That just kills me, because this is one special yarn.

SpaceCadet Luna Laceweight in Feather

SpaceCadet Luna Laceweight in Plume


But you know what?  I think the Cactus Scarf would look great in any of the other SpaceCadet laceweights too.  Pyxis is 100% superwash merino and a great, straightforward laceweight yarn — or for anyone taking their first steps into open stitchwork.  But I think this scarf would be amazing in Thebe — it’s a heavier laceweight in silk and linen that has an almost rustic feel and fabulous drape.  And then there’s Venus, with its incredibly subtle sparkles blended into merino and silk — now that would be one eye-catching scarf!

So, are you as excited about Sharon’s new book as I am?  Check out Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques and the rest of Sharon’s fantastic crochet designs here on her website.



It’s All in the Details… Melissa Jean Handknit Design

Somehow….. somehow it turns out this weekend is the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (MDSW).  And even though I’ve had my hotel room booked for months, it has still managed to sneak up on me.  Will you be going?  If you will, please look for me — I’m not vending (I wish!) but I’ll be shopping and having the fibery time of my life!  You can spot me by the SpaceCadet tattoo on my cheek and please stop and say hi — I’d love to meet you guys in person!

But listen, there’s someone else who’ll be at MDSW that I want you to meet, and even if you’re not going to be there this weekend, you’ll still want to get know her.  Her name is Melissa Tompkins-Stahl and she creates beautiful buttons and knitting patterns as Melissa Jean Handknit Design.

Melissa Jean handmade buttons


I’d mentioned previously that I met her at Rhinebeck, but I love her work so much, I wanted to get a little more in depth with her and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.


The Dublin Tee by Melissa Jean Designs

Which came first, the buttons or the knitting patterns? And which do you feel is more your ‘true’ calling?

Knitting definitely came first.  I was writing children’s patterns and making them up as kits.  I wanted to write the patterns, dye the yarn and source the buttons. I met some potters who made buttons for me, but I had specific ideas of how the buttons should look, I decided to start making them myself.  I worked for a pottery called MacKenzie-Childs and felt comfortable venturing out on my own…however, there was still a learning curve. I had to do quite a bit of research along with trial and error before my buttons were good enough!

As far as knitting, I knit a lot but have not released any new patterns in a few years.  I am waiting for my youngest to go to school full time, which she will do this fall.  I have 2 patterns to release this summer…Dublin Tee (pictured below) and Janey Pullover (a rerelease actually).  With my kids in school, I feel I can better meet deadlines…pattern writing involves more than just me…test knitters, tech editors, photo shoots, and the public.  Buttons making is much more solitary and I can fit it in as I can.  I can’t wait to get more ideas out of my sketchbook and onto my needles.

 So, tell me what you love about your job…

I love that I work in my studio at home…I can crank my music, or listen to podcasts and work.  It affords me time to take care of my family while doing something meaningful to me.  I also like the process of making buttons, working with my hands, with color.  I love the element of surprise when I open the kiln and find shelves of color…that never gets old!

 Buttons by Melissa Jean Designs

How crazy does it get for you before a big show like MDSW or Rhinebeck?  How many buttons do you bring, and how long does it take for you to make them?

No matter how far in advance I start gearing up, the 2 weeks before Maryland and VERY busy.  I bring about 5,000 buttons (I did not count) but there are a lot!

Where will you be located at MDSW this year?

I’ve changed from a tenter to a barn dweller this year.  I will be hunkered down in Barn 4, booth 12.

Gorgeous handmade buttons by Melissa Jean Design

What new or interesting buttons are you taking that we should be looking to nab at MDSW?

This year I’ll have very small buttons with shanks, I am very excited about.  They lend themselves well to sock weight yarn. On the other hand, I will also have some very large buttons, great for bags, hats and shawls. I will also have a beautiful teal color and a deep red.

Where else can we buy your buttons and knitting patterns?

My website is www.melissajean.net   Besides Maryland, I vend at Finger Lakes Fiber FestivalNY Sheep and Wool fest (Rhinebeck), Fiber Festival of New England, Yarn Cupboard Retreat. But keep an eye on my website’s event page because I may be adding a festival or three this year.  As far as shops, I have not ventured into wholesale yet…..but hope to this year, so follow me on Twitter, or like my Facebook page.

Gorgeous handmade buttons by Melissa Jean Design

Don’t you love her buttons?!?  I do — and I’m going to buy a ton of them at MDSW so if you want them, you better get there before I do!  I have a hankering to knit some lovely wide wrist cuffs and put Melissa’s buttons all over them.  What do you think?

Oooh, and there’s one button up there in particular that’s really calling to me — ten points to the first person to guess which one it is!

The SpaceCadet’s Ebook: Launching into Hand-Dyed

One of the things I love most about doing a yarn show or festival is getting to meet all of you.  It’s so wonderful to get to put faces to email addresses, and talk to you about your yarn choices and your projects.  I enjoy that so much!

But sometimes I see a customer pick up a yarn and, even though I can tell she clearly loves it, and even though she turns it over and over in her hands to admire all the different colours, I hear her say to her friend, as she reluctantly puts the skein back, “But how would I use it?”

Variegated knitting and crochet yarns from SpaceCadet Creations, featured in the new ebook, Launching Into Hand-Dyed: a basic guide to knitting and crocheting with hand-dyed yarns

I always want to reach out to her and offer the chair next to me, so we can sit down together for five minutes and talk through hand-dyed yarns…  I want to show her how to understand all those colour changes so she choose a project that will use them to their very best advantage.  But yarn festivals are crazy-busy places, and there’s never the opportunity…

The SpaceCadet’s Guide to Using Hand-Dyed

the new ebook from SpaceCadet Creations, Launching Into Hand-Dyed: a basic guide to knitting and crocheting with hand-dyed yarnsBut now there is!  Because today is the day I get to release Launching into Hand-Dyed: A basic guide to knitting and crocheting with hand-dyed yarns It’s a new ebook from SpaceCadet Creations and, in it, I get to do what I never get to do at those yarn shows.  I get to sit down with you and talk about how to choose a hand-dyed colourway that’s going to work with the pattern you have in mind   …or how to choose a pattern that’s going to work with the yarn you just fell in love with.

And it’s not just me telling you this.  Abigail Horsfall of TAAT Designs shows how she chose a pattern for her SpaceCadet yarn, and Sharon Silverman, of Sharon Silverman Crochet, walks you through how variegated yarns work with different crochet stitches.  And then to round it out, textile conservator Christine Maurhoff discusses different ways to wash and care for your projects made with hand-dyed yarns.

Authors of the new ebook from SpaceCadet Creations, Launching Into Hand-Dyed: a basic guide to knitting and crocheting with hand-dyed yarns

Doesn’t it sound great?!?  Doesn’t it sound like something that’d be really helpful for that customer who’s fallen in love with that beautiful yarn but doesn’t know what to make it with it?  Does it sound like something that’d be helpful to you?

the new ebook from SpaceCadet Creations, Launching Into Hand-Dyed: a basic guide to knitting and crocheting with hand-dyed yarnsWell, let me tell you the best bit.  It’s yours.  No, really, it’s yours — for free.  The thing is, I really hate to see people fall in love with a yarn but not be sure what to make it with it.  Hand-dyed yarn is for more than petting (no, really, it is!).  Hand-dyed yarn is for using   …for knitting, for crocheting, for running through your fingers and turning the colour loose stitch upon stitch.  I want you to have this book and so I’m making it available free for signing up to the SpaceCadet mailing list.  Just click here and get yourself a copy!


Cue the Oscar Style Tears…

Carrie Keplinger, editor of the new ebook from SpaceCadet Creations, Launching Into Hand-Dyed: a basic guide to knitting and crocheting with hand-dyed yarnsNow, I just have to tell you something else.  You know when you read the first few pages of a book and the author is going on and on about how they owe everything to their editor for being such a support and sooo patient and blah blah blahhh?  I always thought those dedications were overdone.  I mean, really, this life-long devotion? Really?!?

Yeah, well…  I was wrong.  Turns out there’s a reason authors write with such love and dedication to their editors.   I thought I had this book all ready to go when I turned it over to my editor, Carrie Keplinger (of Ebooks That Rock), but I had no idea how much more there was to do.  And she was incredibly patient with me as we went through edit and re-edit… and re-edit.  And I changed the pictures, and then changed them again, and then tweaked them for good measure.  I never, ever, ever would have got this done without her — even though I had no idea how much I would need her.  So, yeah, I learned why authors are so dedicated to their editors.  And I want to tell you, Carrie is worth her weight in… well, yarn.  Could I come up with any higher praise than that?


Tell Me What You Think!

I am just so excited about this, I can hardly tell you.  This book has been months and months in the making, and I so genuinely hope you find it useful and inspiring.  So go on and download your copy right now!  And then, please please do come back and leave a comment below to tell me what you think of it.  I can’t wait to hear!

And for everyone who is already a subscriber — don’t worry!  You guys have been dedicated readers for a long time, so you’ll be getting a special email shortly with your download link.  Keep an eye on your inbox for it!

Two Rhinebeck Discoveries and a Shop Update

Last weekend was Rhinebeck, otherwise known as the New York Sheep and Wool Festival and one of the best and most exciting fiber festivals in the country.  Or…  so I’d been told.  I’d never been to it before, but this year the stars aligned and I got my chance!

The Ravelry Meet-up at Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival

Rhinebeck was everything I hoped for.  Sheep, alpaca, llamas, kangaroos (seriously!), fair food, fine food, wine, spinning wheels, spindles, fiber, and yarn yarn yarnyarnyarn.  At the Ravelry meet-up (above), I got the chance to meet Laura Nelkin, a designer I’ve featured here before and whose work I’ve admired a long time.  I also ran into the delightful Ariane of Falling Stitches, my friend Julia of Knitterly Things, my friend Gwen of GwenErin Natural Fibers, and Ravelry’s own Mary-Heather and Sarah (wearing a fast-asleep Carlton).

But never mind all that, because I discovered two people whose products I loved so much that I really thought you’d want to meet them!

First is Melissa Tompkins-Stahl, whom I liked right from the moment I met her but — more importantly for you — who also makes absolutely lovely ceramic buttons.   Seriously, they are like candy for knitters.  My friend Kristen introduced us and pointed out how beautifully the colours of Melissa’s buttons and colours of SpaceCadet yarns go together.  Kristen put several buttons against a cowl she’d spun with SpaceCadet fiber and she was right.  Melissa and I clearly share a colour connection, and if you’re ever looking for buttons for a project you’ve made with SpaceCadet yarn, it’s worth looking at her website

Melissa Jean handmade ceramic buttons for knitters and crocheters


And the other person is Leah LaFera of Ulster Soaps.  I knew I needed to check out Leah’s stall even before I saw it — the smell of her soaps was tugging at me!  And when I got there and met Leah, I knew I wanted to tell you about her.  I’ve always wanted to try soapmaking (don’t you?), so I asked her a whole bunch of questions, and she answered them all so enthusiastically.  It’s clear she loves what she does!  I chose some soaps: Peppermint Delight, Lavender Dream, and Lemon Poppy Seed (nom nom nom!) and I knew I wanted to share them (and her!) with you too.

Ulster Soaps, handmade soaps by Leah LaFera

And of course, there was all that yarn — so much fun to look at it, to smoosh it, to pet it!  And it inspired me to do a shop update…

Clockwise from top left: Fingering yarn containing Bamboo in a Dept of Rocket Science colourway, Celeste in Cove, Estelle in a Dept of Rocket Science colourway, BFL yarn in Algae, Celeste in Cove, BFL yarn in Salmon.Shop Update of SpaceCadet Creations yarns for knitting and crochet

Pattern Roll-Call: Mini-Skein Patterns, Part 1

A friend mentioned the other day that I haven’t done a Pattern Roll-Call in a while and, as I realised she was right, I also realised I knew exactly which patterns I wanted to include!  Usually, I focus on one-skein projects that work well with hand-dyed yarn but, just lately, everywhere I look it’s been mini-skeins mini-skeins mini-skeins…  So I think it’s in the stars that I have to do a few Pattern Roll-Calls focusing on all the fantastic mini-skein patterns that are so hot right now.

And the place to start is with the Beekeeper’s Quilt by Stephanie Dosen of Tiny Owl Knits.  It’s the pattern that’s turning everyone into hexipuff addicts and it’s just so intriguing.  All those puffy little hexipuffs, all mixing their colours together gently, and the result is a like a patchwork quilt but with a funky, modern twist.  So cool!

The BeeKeeper's Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits, knit with mini-skeins of sock yarn

And here’s another that’s really calling to me: The Sock Yarn Blanket by Shelly Kang.  I’m crazy about this design!  That’s partly because I’m a sucker for mitered squares but also because I love how it looks like feathers of some fantastical bird flowing down from top to bottom.  Again, a million colours that really shouldn’t work together and yet, somehow they do…   This pattern also comes with some really helpful tutorials to get you started.

The Sock Yarn Blanket by Shelly Kang, knit with mini-skeins of yarn

And then there’s the Babette Blanket by Kathy Merrick.  And the thing I love about this pattern is that it demonstrates how beautifully the Mini-Skein craze works in crochet.  And I also love how these three examples show the way Mini-Skeins can work in any colour combination — bright or subdued, matching or contrasting, each one is just gorgeous!

The Babette Blanket by Kathy Merrick, crocheted with mini-skeins of sock yarn

See what I mean?  As a dyer, these projects really get my blood pumping, because they are just so full of glorious colour!  I want to dive in and roll around in them!  Mmmmmmm….   Gorgeous!

And if these patterns have got you as excited as they’ve got me, do check out the SpaceCadet’s new Mini-Skein Club.  Each month you’ll receive a surprise selection of gorgeous SpaceCadet yarns delivered to your door, so that you can try out all the SpaceCadet bases and feed your mini-skein project addiction!

Click Here to Join the SpaceCadet's Mini-Skein Yarn Club!