Like many children, Stephanie Alford sometimes would do something without thinking and her father would affectionately call her a "space cadet."
As an adult, when she started her own business, she remembered the nickname and called her business Space Cadet Creations.
"I think all artists are kind of space cadets anyway, so it seemed to fit," she said.
Mrs. Alford, 42, hand-dyes yarn and fiber for knitters, crocheters and weavers all over the world in a studio in her Upper St. Clair home.
She will be one of the vendors at the Ninth Annual Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival to be held Friday through Sunday at Four Points Sheraton North in Marshall.
Although she majored in textiles and clothing art in college, Mrs. Alford didn't pursue a career in fiber arts until she "happened upon" it. Born in Pittsburgh to British parents, Mrs. Alford grew up in Murrysville in what she refers to as "Little England."
"There were a group of people from England who worked for Westinghouse, including my father, and they all lived in the same area," she said.
Three months after she graduated from Ohio State University, she moved to England. Five years ago, she moved back to the Pittsburgh area with her British husband, Marcus, and their two daughters, Eleanor, now 7, and Edith, now 6.
"That explains my funny accent," Mrs. Alford said. "When I am in England, people always tell me I sound American, and when I am here, people always tell me I sound English."
While in England, she worked in the chemical and defense industries, but in retrospect, she believes she always was drawn to textiles and fiber art.
"I begged my mother to take spinning lessons when I was 11 after we saw a demonstration during some pioneer days, but I was too young to stick with it," she said. When she was 19 and in college, she decided during Thanksgiving break to learn how to knit.
"I remember telling my mother on Thanksgiving Day that I needed to know how to knit and she was in the midst of making dinner and said, 'Not today.' But she did give me an old book that she had and I figured out how to knit," she recalled.
When she lived in England, her desire to spin resurfaced and she bought a spinning wheel.
"I joined a group of women who would spin and knit," she said, recalling that she would "hoist her wheel over her shoulder" and head to the meetings.
She also started collecting yarn and "a large collection of all things made of wool." When she and her husband decided to move back to the Pittsburgh area, he suggested leaving the yarn behind.
"He is a drummer and we were going to ship his drums, then we realized I could ship the yarn inside of the drums," she said.
Once they moved to the states, one of the first things Mrs. Alford did was find a group of knitters to join. In that group, she discovered yarn dyeing from another fiber artist and started dyeing yarns in 2009. When friends started requesting the yarn, she realized she could make a living doing what she loved -- working with yarn.
"I started selling it in 2010 and then started yarn clubs," she said, referring to her monthly clubs through which customers purchase yarn that is automatically shipped to them. She has club members all over the world, and her business has grown so much that she has two part-time employees.
"I am delighted that I can make a living doing what I love to do," she said. "I feel so blessed."neigh_south
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.