“Just Be Creative!”

Custom orders can be exciting… and daunting.  Dyeing can be an unpredictable process — the slightest change in acidity, temperature, or concentration can create really noticeable colour changes from one dyelot to another.  And it’s just the way life works that those unpredictable changes will always occur on that special order where the customer has a really specific result in mind!

So when a customer contacted me the other week and asked me to dye three custom orders for a birthday celebration for three knitting friends, I had a slight moment of trepidation.   But when I asked her what she had in mind, she put back at my ease: “Just be creative!” she replied.  That I can do!

The birthday girls’ favourite colours are red, purple, and green, and I spent all week letting my imagination run wild on that theme.  I wanted to do a few different colourways of each, and then her choose whatever yarns she liked best.

It wasn’t an easy choice.  Here’s what she picked…


Kristen’s HeartBeat


Jill’s Storm


Natalie’s Steel Leaf


I was having so much fun dyeing and just letting my creativity run free that I rather let it run away with me, and I now have quite a stash of exciting new yarns to put in the shop.  Look for them to start appearing Monday or Tuesday of next week!

Scenes from a Fiber Life: the Art and Science of Hand-Dyeing

Years ago, when I was a corporate buyer, I remember my boss explaining that buying was both an art and a science.  I didn’t really understand what he meant at the time — surely it was just a matter of knowing how much should be in stock and plugging in the numbers, wasn’t it?  It was simple.  What was he on about “art”?

I didn’t really get it until I’d been in the job for some time, and I found myself explaining some of the basics to our intern.  She was plugging in the numbers — just plugging in the numbers — and coming to conclusions that I knew would spend our money in all the wrong places.   And as I explained that there was more to it than just the number, that was the moment that I realised what my boss meant by “art”.  Over time, I’d been quietly and unconsciously learning to follow to my instincts as well as the numbers, learning to apply both art and science.  And when I watched that intern making those simple, novice mistakes, I began to understand the value of staying tuned into both.

Today I tried to duplicate Westerly, the beautifully shaded colourway from the Tradewinds quartet that I showed you last week.  And there I was, duplicating the recipe exactly when…  I just suddenly didn’t trust it.  My instinct told me the colours weren’t right.  My instinct told me to add a bit of this, mix in a little more of that…

My instict wasn’t right.  This is what came out of the dyepot…


It’s beautiful for sure, but it’s not Westerly.  And though I think I’m going to love it when it’s dried and reskeined…  there’s no denying that it’s not Westerly.


Which just serves to remind me that, even though dyeing is undoubtedly an art as much as a science, and even though a dyer’s colour sense is borne of instinct, it’s important to remember and never to forget the first rule of the second dyelot: even when you want to follow your instinct…


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!

She Likes Winter, Snow, and Ice: Shop Update

Megan was thinking of a cardigan, something simple, with a crew neck… maybe with snowflakes.  The kind of go-to cardigan that could keep her warm and cosy all winter long.  She was excited to get it on her needles, and asked me to dye the colours of Frost.

It would have white, of course, and a soft silver grey, and…  and… ah yes, that lovely cool blue of winter shadows.  I couldn’t wait to get started!

The key was getting the balance right: the amount of white to blue to grey, and the intensity of the colours.  Frost can be soft and light, or it can hard and crisp; sparkling bright in the sun, or shadowy and blue.   I wanted to make sure that Megan got the Frost that she had in her mind, so I dyed it twice and let her choose.

This is Megan’s Frost:

I loved pulling the yarns out of the dyepot, seeing how the colours came together.  But, better than that, Megan loved the colours — she said her yarn was exactly what she was hoping for.  And I can tell you that nothing is so nice for a dyer to hear!

The silver-grey Frost and more skeins of the shadowy-blue Megan’s Frost are in the SpaceCadet’s shop.

New Yarns in the Shop

I’m really excited to show you some of the new colourways I’ve put in the shop this week!   I have to say, I just cannot get my camera to really capture them, but I hope you get a good idea here.



Dragonfly flitters by, catches the light and throws back iridescence — greens, lilacs, pinks that shimmer in the sun for only a moment… and then are gone. This skein is over 100g of Superwash Merino in Celeste, a wonderfully soft 3-ply fingering weight yarn.


Mountain Mist

These are ancient mountains, gentle and rounded, that seem to go on forever, ridge upon ridge disappearing into the distance as the night falls and the mist rolls in — deep blue fading into soft purples that stretch as far as the eye can see. This skein is over 100g of Superwash Merino in Celeste, a wonderfully soft 3-ply fingering weight yarn



Happy yellow that welcomes the sunlight, stretching skyward, petals open to catch the rays. Yellow petals, deep brown seedheads — happy sunflowers basking in the mid-day sun. This skein is over 100g of Superwash Merino in Celeste, a wonderfully soft 3-ply fingering weight yarn, which has been dyed using a technique to create random, short bursts of contrasting colour.


Midnight Swim

Dark waters, dark night. Soft waters, cool and still, flashing deep blue, purples, greens. Water dark as bruise, quiet as the night, so cool on the skin… Irresistible. This skein is over 100g of Stella, a beautiful and distinctive 2-ply fingering weight yarn in 80% Superwash Merino and 20% Nylon.


These skeins are over 100g of Superwash Merino in Celeste, a wonderfully soft 3-ply fingering weight yarn. There are two skeins available, sold in separate listings.

And there are more new colourways going into the shop later this week.  Keep your eyes open for them!

Dyeing Disaster, Last Minute Save

This yarn was a dyeing disaster.  I was aiming for Garden In Spring, one of my favourite colourways, and the colour just went all wrong on me.  I pulled it out of the dyepot and… Oh no! The pinks were crazy-bright, the greens were just plain ugly, and the purples totally non-existent.  I have a picture of it…  I can’t even show it to you, it was that awful.  It was embarrassing.

I set it aside and decided not to think about it for a few days.

When I finally went back to it and turned it over in my hands (cringing, cringing the whole time), I realised what I wanted to do with it.  I thought I knew the shade that would salvage it.  I mixed my colours and in went the yarn.  And a little while later, this is what I lifted out…

I had hoped to salvage it — instead, it has been saved.  It came out so much better than I could have hoped!

There’s one skein in Astrid DK and one in Celeste Fingering weight.  And now I just have to decide if they go in the shop or…  if I keep them for myself!!!  I may have to think about this for a spell.

Boy oh boy, it is soooo tempting…