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!

A Yarn Club, a Yarn Club, and… Another Yarn Club!

Now that everyone in the InterStellar Yarn Alliance should have received their latest parcels, I really want to show you what they got!

And as the weather turned hotter and hotter, I found myself inspired to dye a skein rich in the full-on colour of summer.  The yarn is Stella, a really wonderful 80/20 merino/nylon mix and the colourway is Starved for Colour.

knitting, yarn, hand-dyed, indie dyer, yarn club, space cadet, spacecadet

And then for fun, I created mini-skeins of Lucina, a lovely yarn in merino and nylon with a little added sparkle, and dyed them in coordinating colours — some Alliance members got purple, some blue, some green.  I kind of fell in love with the idea of using it to knit socks with sparkly toes and heels (I mean, seriously, how cool is sparkly toes and heels?!?), but it’d also look great as a border on a shawl, or collar and cuffs on a child’s cardigan.

yarn, knitting, indie dyer, hand-dyed, space cadet, spacecadet

Now, onto the really cool stuff… the goodies.  I was so in love with the custom SpaceCadet Tool Tins that Sarah Wilson, The Sexy Knitter, created for the last parcel, that I asked her if she could create a custom version of her adorable origami stitchmarkers…  And she did!  They were so cool that I squealed as soon as I saw them!  They came packaged in their own little glass vial.  Don’t you love them?!?

knitting, yarn, indie dyer, hand-dyed, space cadet, spacecadet


Guest-Dyer for the Cultured Purl

“Guest-Dyer” has a pretty nice ring to it, don’t you think?  I was thrilled when Shirani at The Cultured Purl  asked me if I’d be a Guest-Dyer for their Spectacular Summer of Socks Club.  She asked me to create a summery colourway, so I took inspiration from lazy summer lunches eaten under a bright blue sky…  And dyed Picnic, a custom colourway designed to create fun bursts of colour throughout the knitted fabric.

knitting, yarn, indie dyer, hand-dyed, space cadet, spacecadet


And… Another Yarn Club!

And, as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been asked to dye for yet another club (squeee!).  I don’t know yet if I’m allowed to tell you who I’m dyeing for or what colours I’m making, but I can tell you that I just sent a skein of the yarn to the (very fabulous) designer and I can’t wait to see what she creates with it.  As soon as I know I have the go ahead…  I’ll tell you all about it!

When Pooling Goes Right

Last week, I asked you guys to give me your questions and tell me what intimidates you about hand-dyed yarns.  And I loved the responses — I got some great food for thought, and you guys prompted me to ask a couple of experts to contribute to the ebook and answer some of your questions.  Exciting stuff!

yarn, hand-dyed, handdyed, indie dyer, knitting, crochetAnd that post has started several really interesting conversations with friends about their approach to hand-dyed yarns.  In each of these conversations, there have been some saying they are always trying to avoid pooling, and there are others saying that they just sit back and go where-ever the yarn takes them — treating it as an adventure, a journey to be traveled, whether the yarns pools or not.  I have to admit, I loved hearing that because, as a dyer,  that’s how my creative process often feels too — a little adventurous, a little out of control.  Sometimes I’m in charge and the colours follow my lead, but sometimes…  sometimes it’s better to stop controlling and just go where-ever the colour takes me.  Sometimes it takes me to some really beautiful places.

The Beauty of Pooling  (…no, really!)

And pooling can be the same way too.  Yes, absolutely, sometimes pooling can be horrible — just horrible — and I totally get why knitters and crocheters strive to avoid it.  But sometimes pooling can take a really exciting turn that gives spectacular — and unexpected — results.

Take this scarf for example, knit by my friend Megan.  Now, we’ve all seen pooling that forms diamond patterns before, but I have to say I’ve never seen a more perfect and even example than this.  And though this was entirely unintentional, it adds so much to the scarf — gives it a real feeling of fun and adventure.  In fact, she liked it so much that when she switched to her second skein of yarn, Megan was really careful to join it in such a way that the argyle-pooling continued uninterrupted all the way to the end of the scarf.  Spectacular!

knitting, handyed, indie dyer, yarn,
Photos used with permission

Pattern: Here and There Cables by Norah Gaughan;  Yarn: SpaceCadet Creations Lucina in Megan’s Frost


So, ok… being surprised by nice, evenly repeating pooling along a nice, even rectangle is one thing, but when you get patterned pooling on a shaped project like a hat, that is really something.  Here’s a one that Megan knit (that woman has some kind of uncanny pooling gift, I tell ya!) for a little girl with brain cancer, and when I saw the pooling, I nearly fell off my chair.  Check out the pictures — this is not colourwork, this is the yarn just pooling in a beautiful way.  I love the way the stripes work through the colours and then back out again in reverse order, and they stay in that formation right up until they hit the sharpest decreases in the crown.  Amazing!

knitting, yarn, hand-dyed, handdyed, indie dyer
Photos used with permission

Pattern: Swirl Hat by Mandie Harrington;  Yarn: SpaceCadet Creations Estelle in Ice Skating


But what if stripes and argyle-diamonds aren’t your thing?  Well, check out this shawl by Karrie of KnitPurlGurl.com.  Because it’s crocheted instead of knit, the stitches move the colours about in a different way… and it produces small squares of pooled colour that look to me just like tiled mosaic.  Honestly, I can’t take my eyes off it!  Breathtaking!

crochet, yarns, handdyed, hand-dyed, indie dyer, yarn
Photos used with permission

Pattern: Wycheproof Shawl by Rebecca Velasquez;  Yarn: SpaceCadet Creations Estelle in Cold Flame

.So, have you ever had a project start to pool in a really beautiful way?  Did you love it?  And did you do anything special to encourage the pooling?


Pattern Giveaway

Don’t forget, there’s only a few days left to enter the Pattern Giveaway to win beautiful shawl patterns from RockandPurl and Leslie Thompson.  Click here to see the patterns and get entered!

Are You Ready?

yarn club, knitting, yarn, sock yarn, handdyed, indie dyer

I’m a little bit excited…  I’m a lot excited actually.  But I can’t tell you about it because what I’m excited about is the yarn club parcels, which are all finished and ready to be posted out.  We’ve spent the whole evening gathering the bits and pieces for them, putting it all together…

And I want to tell you all about it!  …And I can’t!!!


But… I can tease you!  I can, for instance, show you this…

yarn club, handdyed, yarn, knitting,

(I have to admit, I’m really really excited about that one!)

And I can tell you that this goes along with it too…yarn, knitting, sock yarn, handdyed, yarn club, indie dyer


There’s some of this sort of stuff…

yarn club, yarn, knitting, indie dyer, sock yarn, handdyed


And some nifty stuff to read…

yarn club, yarn, socky yarn, knitting, indie dyer, handdyed


And something else…  Something else….


Hmmm…  Now, what was it?


Oh yeah!  This!

yarn, knitting, sock yarn, handdyed, indie dyer(Wait, you didn’t think I was going to show you the colour, did you?!?)


So…  are you ready?  Are you ready?!?  ‘Cause I totally am!!!.


(And…  should I ring your postman and just warn him that you’re gonna be stalking him for the next few days?)

An Open Letter

An Open Letter to Those who Don’t Get the Fiber Arts

I am not doing this to recreate the past.  I don’t harbour any fantasies of wearing petticoats or a bonnet.   And I don’t knit because I want to feel domestic.

I do this to free my soul.  I do this to work in colours that make my heart sing.   I dye because I see in my mind hues and shades that are bursting to be let out.  And so I do let them out, laying them down in dye upon fiber – vibrant shades poured out over wool, over silk, over the ordinary of life.

SpaceCadet Yarn 2

And when, at last, I cast those colours onto my needles, I feel a calm wash over me as I work them up into a fabric of my own making — the needles clicking softly and the colours gently blending and contrasting.

I know you think this is old-fashioned, but it’s not.  It is as modern as imagination, as current as discovery, as now as creativity.  Would you ask a painter why he doesn’t just take a photograph?

And it’s ok if you don’t get it.  I understand.  But I just wanted to say – I just wanted to say out loud – that this is nothing about old fashioned.  This is what I do, and I do it now.  I am a fiber artist.

SpaceCadet Yarn 1


SpaceCadet At The Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival!

His Vision: He is having surgery this week — nothing major, but enough to keep him on off his feet and off work for a few weeks.  And in his vision, he sees himself sitting comfortably in bed — or perhaps on the couch, remote control in hand — where pillows will be lovingly fluffed for him, and cups of tea brought on a tray  …perhaps with a plate of cookies to soothe his suffering.  He sees himself waited on hand and foot, while he gently recovers in peace and serenity.  A bit like man-flu, but fittingly multiplied.

The Big News: SpaceCadet Creations has manged to get a last-minute spot at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival!  This is so exciting, I can hardly tell you!  If you’ve ever wanted to see the SpaceCadet’s yarns in person — if you want to see the colours in real life instead of in pictures, or just want to pet all the lovely fibers — please do come.  We’d love to see you!

The Reality:  There is an enormous amount of work to be done — an enormous amount! — and only three weeks to do it.   There are kilos (and kilos and kilos…) of yarn to be dyed.  And then to be reskeined and twisted and tagged.  I’ve got to get a sign made, and cards printed, and get bags sourced.  I’m trying to figure out how to dress the booth — baskets? shelves? racks? what?!? — so that everything looks good (and nothing comes tumbling down!).  And then, of course, there is the shop to keep stocked as well, the custom orders to fill, and a few special projects that I already had up my sleeve.

I am so excited and so looking forward to the Festival but — oh! — there is so much to do!  And only three weeks to do it!  Did I mention there’s only three weeks?!?


Sooooo…  back to his vision…

He will get good care, and he will get love.  And cups of tea.  No really, he will!

But when I should be waiting on him hand and foot, I… um…  I’ll probably be out in the studio dyeing.  And when I ought to be fluffing his pillows, I’ll be… yeah… out in the studio dyeing.  And when his dinner should be arriving on a tray, or his teacup being refilled (again), I might be out getting the sign made, and the cards printed, and finding those baskets and shelves…

I’m afraid his peaceful and serene recovery isn’t going to be anything like what he envisions, and I feel terrible about that.  The poor lad.  But, hey, SpaceCadet’s gets to go to the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival!  And you get to come and snorgle all the fibery goodness in person!

Soooo… are you going to tell him, or am I?



(…I vote you!)