There’s a lot of experimentation that goes on in the SpaceCadet studio — experimentations with new colour combinations, experimentations with new yarns and fibers. And it’s a hell lot of fun (!) that produces a lot of wonderful yarns. It also produces a lot of yarns that may be the start of something great or… that may be one-of-a-kind specials, never to be seen again.
And while most knitters and crocheters stick to the more tried-and-true colourways, there is a small, core group of my customers who really, really love this kind of yarn. I think of them as Yarn Adventurers — customers who like to break new ground, who want to try new things, who love the possibility of knitting with a yarn that no one else may ever their hands on.
If you’re a Yarn Adventurer, I’m talking to you. Later this week, I’m going to put a new button over there in the right-hand column. Look for it — it will say something like “Yarn Adventurer” or “Yarn Voyager”, I’m not sure yet. And when you click on it, you’ll get the chance to sign up for a new newsletter just for people who like you. In this newsletter, I’m going to offer the first chance at some great experimental yarns. You’ll see them before anyone else does. You’ll see them waaaaay before they ever go into the shop — in fact, they may never even get into the shop. It’ll be first-come first-served, and you’ve got to be on the list to know about it. Watch for that button later this week!
There’s just one thing I ask for if you sign up for this new newsletter, and that’s feedback. You are going to be one of the first people to try a new base, to see a new colourway. You are my man on the ground. And I need to know what you thought of it. So, for any yarns or colourways I’m debating about, I may get in touch with you after your purchase to ask your opinion, to get your thoughts. If you’re up for that, and you’re up for a little yarn adventure, then make sure you are on that list!
Now, let’s get to the yarns in the shop update this week! Every one of them is the sort of yarn that will go in this new newsletter but, until it’s set up, I’ve put these in the shop. First, there’s a pair of merino/bamboo/nylon yarns in a beautiful, luminous, almost oxidised green called “Torment”. I’m crazy about this shade!
And then, the rest of the yarns are on a merino/nylon base that… that I… well, I bought it by accident. Yeah, I know! I just marked the wrong box on the order form and, well, there you go. Almost ten pounds of the wrong yarn arrived a few days later and I faced the choice of owning up to my mistake and hoping the supplier would take the yarn back or… just dye it.
So, I dyed it up (I mean, why not? I love to dye!) and you know, what? I am so glad I made this mistake. I think I’m a little in love with this yarn! It’s an ordinary merino/nylon blend, smooth and quite light, but there’s something about it that I just love. It’s the way it takes colour — it’s almost lustrous. I love this yarn. I’m soooooo glad I ticked the wrong box!
(Oh, by the way, the yarn in the first picture? There are six skeins of it, easily enough to do a whole sweater, maybe a bit more. If you fancy that, grab it up quickly!)
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is working with other fiber artists. It is somehow so satisfying to collaborate with people whose work you really admire and who… well, who really understand why I’m so crazy about all things fiber (Because, y’know… they’re crazy that way too!). And I’m lucky enough to have quite a few of those collaborations going on at the moment. SpaceCadet yarns have been chosen recently for four designs in two upcoming books, as well as for designs by a couple of independent designers, and was used in an award-winning sock (more about that soon). Exciting times!
As a really accomplished and inspiring fiber artist, I wanted to find out more about her and her work as a designer…
At what point, in your own mind, did you switch from being a crocheter to a crochet designer? What defined that change for you?
For my first crochet title, Basic Crocheting, I was not confident enough to design all of the patterns myself. I purchased a few from established designers. The sweater pattern was disappointing: it was all single crochet, which made it very stiff and impossible to pull over your head, and it was definitely not “basic” like I had requested. I took a deep breath and told myself it was time to design a sweater. I picked a chevron pattern and did it! Because it was the first time I had worked with multiple sizes, I actually made one sweater in each size to make sure the instructions would work! That sweater was the first time I really felt like a designer.
Do the design ideas flow easily for you, or do you ever find yourself stuck? When you are stuck, what do you do to find inspiration again?
With the wonderful yarns available today in every material and colourway, and with the addition of Tunisian crochet to my stitch bag of tricks, I rarely feel stuck for a design. I keep a binder of “Design Ideas.” Anything that catches my fancy goes in there, from architectural elements to interesting color combinations to nature photos. Often I’ll browse through that with some yarn and stitch dictionaries in front of me. Swatching is a great way to get inspired.
What was the inspiration for the Moonmist shawl?
I love lightweight shawls, and the Luna laceweight yarn seemed perfect for an openwork pattern. I like the addition of some post stitches for added texture. To make the shawl symmetrical, I started in the middle of the back and worked left and right.
As your own crochet skills grow, do you find it harder or easier to design simple projects for new crocheters?
I think one thing that crocheters appreciate is the clarity and kindness with which I write patterns, whether for beginners or experienced crafters. I always try to give an overview, kind of like a road map: here’s where we’re starting, this is the route we will take, and here’s where we will end up. Otherwise it’s like driving blind. I have been crocheting for more than 40 years, and I still come up against poorly written patterns that I cannot figure out. It’s frustrating, and there’s no reason for it except laziness and arrogance on the part of the designer, editor, and publisher.
Along with clear instructions, technique photos are crucial. I want crocheters to feel like I am looking over their shoulder ready to answer any questions they have. “Does the hook go here or here?” “Do I skip this shell or work into it?” Photos can help them understand what the pattern requires.
I always enjoy creating simple yet interesting patterns for new crocheters.
For anyone wanting to try crochet for the first time, what resources would you recommend? Where should they start?
For anyone just starting out, there is no substitute for sitting down for an hour or two with a friend or instructor. That way you can make sure you are holding the yarn properly, making your stitches right, counting correctly, etc. Crocheters are often surprised to realize how important the non-hook hand is in managing the flow of yarn from the ball to the project. Your local yarn shop or a crochet conference may be your entree into the wonderful world of crocheting. Ravelry is a wonderful resource, an online community for yarn folks without the intrusiveness of Facebook! YouTube also has many good videos. There are some great designers out there. Read what other people have said about their designs–and how good their instructions are–and choose a book or pattern from your favorite.
I am a huge fan of Tunisian crochet. For anyone interested in giving that a try, I recommend my books (Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting and Crochet Pillows with Tunisian & Traditional Techniques). Both of those come with detailed instructions and photos to explain the basic stitches. My first book, Basic Crocheting, also has a lot of visuals and illustrations.
If you had the opportunity to tell the world the one thing they
really ought to know about crochet, what would it be?
Crochet does not have to be frumpy and boxy! Choose the right combination of yarn, hook, and designer, and you can create garments that are beautifully shaped, drape like a dream, and are high-fashion enough to grace any runway.
Now, I’m not allowed to tell you anything about Sharon’s upcoming book — it’s all top secret. But I will tell you that it’s coming out for Autumn 2012 and it’s got some gorgeous designs in it… and two new beautiful new colourways from SpaceCadet Creations. But in the meantime, do go check out her website, www.SharonSilverman.com, and especially her pattern page on Ravelry, where you can find the pattern for the Moonmist shawl, for the lovely Sonata shawl (above) — the first of Sharon’s designs that really caught my eye — and tons more. She’s on Ravelry as CrochetSharon and on Facebook as Sharon Silverman Contemporary Crochet.
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!
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!
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…???”
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!
I’ve been thinking about colour a lot lately — about what draws us to it, about what makes us shy away. And, most interestingly to me, what is it that pulls some knitters and crocheters time and again hand-dyed yarns?
Hand-dyed yarns are very different from the rest of the yarn universe. One thing that struck me at TNNA is that there were only a handful of indie dyers scattered amongst the rows and rows of big yarn companies. And the big yarn companies were very impressive, with their extensive line-up of yarns in every colour imaginable. They sell dependability, repeatability, a yarn you can reach for time and again.
Whereas the magic of hand-dyed yarns lies in something completely different. It’s something about freedom, the pure abandon of colour that might submit to the knitter’s will or might… might just turn wild and uncontrollable. Hand-dyed yarns are about their untamed individuality, their uniqueness… With hand-dyed yarns, you never really know what you’re going to get.
So, as I watched them for a while, the hand-dyers at TNNA, busy chatting with LYS owners, I suddenly saw the dilemma… For the indie dyer who wants to grow her business, there is the temptation to emulate the big yarn companies and to aim to pull those wild hand-dyed colours under control, to create legitimacy in a bigger marketplace by moving her line toward more predictability and controlled results. But I suspect that what initially drew every hand-dyer into her craft was a desire to delve into the colours and go where-ever took took her.
So, being pulled in both directions, which way does an indie dyer go?
I think the answer comes back to the customer — to you. The real question is, why do you buy hand-dyed yarns? Why do you seek out indie-dyers when there are so many wonderful, established yarn brands in your local yarn shop? And I suspect the answer is that you are a very special kind of knitter or crocheter. You are an adventurer. And buying hand-dyed gives you a yarn that is like no other yarn in the world, which acts as a base on which to create your own art — the unique work of your two hands. I think that people who buy hand-dyed yarn do more than just follow a pattern — they see the creation before it is created, they see the colours intertwined, they are drawn to the challenge of taming a yarn that they’re not quite sure will bend to their will.
In short, I think the knitter or crocheter who buys hand-dyed yarns is an artist herself, no less dyer whose yarn she works with.
So tell me, why do you buy hand-dyed yarns? What is it that draws you to them? And do you believe that when you create with them, you are also an artist?
My throat is sore, my nose is stuffed and my head is pounding, pounding, pounding. And, under normal circumstances, I’d be feeling pretty sorry for myself. Probably tucking myself up in bed with a nice a cup on tea and my vapours nearby. But, actually, I’m not feeling so sorry for myself. What I’ve got is TNNA flu, and it’s the sort of ailment that is so much fun to catch, it’s almost worth having.
TNNA is the The National Needlework Association, the trade organisation for all things fibery, and this past weekend was their biggest tradeshow of the year. The official reason to go is because it’s the place to scout out new suppliers, spot new trends, and learn new skills. But the reason is because it is just SUCH a blast. Imagine a knit night where where every where around you are the designers you admire the most, the editors of your favourite knitting magazines, and the dyers whose yarn you covet… Can you see that in your mind? Doesn’t just the very thought of it feel delicious? That’s TNNA.
I loved talking with Jaala Spiro, editor of KnitCircus (on the right). She is so much fun! And a genuinely nice person — I’m so pleased I got to meet her. And next to her, that’s Michelle Miller, the Fickle Knitter, whose pattern I wore at HomeSpun Yarn Party and featured here.
And I got to chat with so many others that I never got any pictures of: Amy Singer, Clara Parkes, Lisa Shroyer (editor of Knitscene), Stefanie Japel, Andi Smith, Shannon Okey, Ysolda Teague, Mary-Heather Cogar, StevenBe, Nicky Epstein, Rebecca Velasquez, Melissa Leapman, and… and… Oh! There were so many knitterati, I’m sure I’ve forgotten some…! But, suffice to say, it was a fantastic weekend.
And on a more serious note, regarding the actual business of bringing you beautiful yarns to knit with, I discovered some gorgeous new yarns that I am… erm… dying to dye. And a bunch of fun notions and accessories that just might end up in a Yarn Alliance parcel or two…
So when I got home and my throat began to get sore, and my head started to ache, I knew exactly why. Big events with lots of people like that… they always bring on the lurgy, don’t they? There’s just too much chatting with too many people, too much shaking of hands, not to catch something. But… was it worth it?
The response to the Sexy Knitter’s pattern giveaway has been fantastic, and it was so much fun to see the comments rolling in and all the feedback on your favourite Sexy Knitter patterns! Thanks so much to all of you for participating.
And I’m about to tell you who’s won but, before I do, let me just quickly show you two exciting yarns I’ve put in the shop today. And they’re exciting not because of the colours I’ve applied, but because the yarns themselves are just so beautiful. Really, when I’m holding them in my hands, turning them in the light, they are so lusterous, just so gorgeous! I can hardly take pictures to do them justice — but trust me, you’ll love them.
Ok, I’ve made you wait long enough. The winner of two Sexy Knitter patterns of her choice is:
Congratulations! Please email me at spacecadetcreations (at) gmail (dot) com, using the same email address you used in your comment, to let us know which patterns you’d like. And the Sexy Knitter will get them to you!