Introducing Series

Introducing: Jenna from Nunnaba Artisan Yarns!

hollandrdcollage

I have been thoroughly enjoying finding local handmade dyers since I've been back in New Zealand, although I should hasten to add, my definition of "local" includes Australian as well as New Zealand dyers. After all, we're only a ditch apart, sound vaguely similar and share the same seasons!

One of my recent discoveries has been Nunnaba Artisan Yarns from Australia and what a delightful discovery it's been! Jenna has a way of creating beautiful fresh, romantic colourways that capture my imagination and make my fingers start twitching to cast on. Plus, her colours are all dyed onto the most glorious of bases; White Gum Wool, which is simply divine. 

I recently managed to snaffle some Nunnaba yarn by ordering some in Jenna's Ravelry group when she let everyone know that she had developed some new colourways and was taking a limited number of orders for semi-solids and coordinating gradients. It was only a short wait before my beautifully packaged yarn arrived and I was thrilled with the colours she created and the quality of the wool she uses.

Needless to say, I was very keen to ask Jenna some questions about how she creates her magic and I think you'll really enjoy what she has to say.

Without further ado, let me introduce Jenna!

me and wool


I was amazed at how fast your last order of yarn sold out! You seem to have fantastic fans who snap up your yarns as soon as they're available! How did you get into dyeing and when did you start?


I’m very lucky, I have such a delightful group of people that are so supportive and encouraging which means that I can keep dyeing! It is a wonderful blessing. 

I first got into the yarnie world when I was pregnant with no. 2 (over 6 year ago now) and was too big to make him the quilt that I had planned, so decided that knitting was a better option for someone who couldn’t really get up off the floor anymore. It turned out pretty horrible and wasn’t finished until he was one anyway, but it did start a bit of an obsession with yarn. 

Anyway, when I first got into it, I fell in love with hand-spun yarn and so started spinning shortly after he was born. I loved that so much more than knitting at the time (is it weird to like making yarn more than making with yarn?). I then started to make my own batts, and then dabbling with dyeing fibre, which kept me occupied for quite some time, but then yarns beckoned again and here we are! 

Bit of a tangent, but our number 2 is also behind the name Nunnaba, not just the origin- he was always called ’Nunnaba’ by my students at the time. We lived in outback Western Australia in Wongai country where ‘nunnaba’ means ‘little and cute’ and although I wouldn’t say my yarn is little or cute, it was just a special name to me. 


You have a knack of dyeing beautiful, fresh colourways which look so romantic. Where do you find inspiration for the colours you choose?

Thank you! I spend a lot of time on pinterest and Instagram “working” where I find so many beautiful, inspiring photos. I will quite often find one that just catches my eye and that will start a theme that I then look for complementing photos to use as inspiration for the colour palettes. 

For example, there was a photo of an elegant ballerina in soft, sweet lighting that caught my eye, which led to looking for more ballet inspired photos; they will become part of an upcoming collection that should be out within the next few months, I just need to work out which order I’ll do the next few collections. 

The Spiced collection actually all started from an inspiration photo that I didn’t even end up using! Although I loved the solid that I made for a ‘cinnamon’ colour way, the gradient just didn’t work, which meant that the solid found it’s way into my stash instead- oops! One of the perks of the job! 

2015-02-18 13.22.31

Gradients seem very popular amongst dyers and knitters at the moment and yours are particularly lovely. Do you enjoy dyeing them?

Oh I really do! The very best part is where I have dyed up a new colourway and wind it into a ball and I get to see the lovely colours coming together in their final form - it’s just magic every time! Although planning them and tweaking them is wonderfully fun too as that’s where the creative process really comes in, like, how will these colours react together, how could I blend so that these two don’t muddy, those sorts of things. And the actual dyeing part- that’s awesome too- when the planning and the playing come together on the yarn and I can see how it all comes together, so much fun! 

Actually, I think the whole process is my favourite part! Except for the cleaning up part, that I could totally live without.


outside workspace

I love hearing about the places people create, especially yarn dyers. Where do you dye your yarn and what is your workspace like?

Well here is what it looks like when it is tidy, but if I stepped back and took a bigger (ahem... more honest) picture, it would be surrounded by bikes and balls and cars and other things to trip over - I get to share my back deck with my 4 kidlets (1 passionate kitchen gardener, 2 future rugby players… or race car drivers, and 1 eager helper).

So behind that window is the laundry, where I soak the yarn and rinse it and fill up bottles and that sort of thing, and then I’ll do the actual dyeing out the back on this table where I store my dyes and bottles and pots and pans. It’s not glamorous, but it is what it is really like here. My basic process goes like this (coz really, the dyeing is just a small part of the process) - I have all my winding equipment inside, so while the kids nap or have quiet time, I prepare the yarn inside (so that’s an afternoon job), I’ll also do any winding during naps too, then while kids are awake I’ll get the dyeing done while they play outside. 

This does mean it’s a bit stop-start at times, depending on how well everyone is getting along that day, but it does mean that I can watch them play while I’m working. Then at night I will do the computer work, which is basically the emails, photo editing, more emails and invoices, and I’ll do most of the packaging at night too, basically anything that can’t be done while I’m a little bit distracted. 

2015-02-18 13.23.31

I've had a ball dyeing up my own yarn recently and although I've heard dyers say there are never "mistakes" when dyeing, I'm not so sure! It's tricky getting exactly the colour you're after. What tips would you give to people wanting to have a go at dyeing their own yarn?

There are definitely no mistakes, although there can be some very frustrating learning experiences!  

Having said that, those “mistakes” can be really valuable as they can teach you so much about the colour that you are working with.


I would say just jump in and have a play, but I understand that most people don’t have the luxury of having oodles of yarn lying around, so perhaps more practical advice would be- pick a small palette of colours and spend time experimenting and just playing with small quantities just to get a feel for how the dye works on the yarn. Once you really know how they work in different strengths and with different blends then you can start adding to your collection and expanding with a bit more predictability.


I started off with 6 colours and just spent time playing with them for quite some time and learnt so much from them. I would also add, on a much less insightful note, that Powerade bottles are the best dye bottles that I’ve used- they have a really wide mouth, which makes it easier to pop the dye in, and hold a good amount, especially for gradients. Oh, and if in doubt, over dye - that’s where you will get some really interesting layers of colours that have so much depth!


See? No mistakes after all, just cover it up with more dye!


2015-04-06 17.30.00

Do you have any special tips for making blanks and dyeing gradients?

When I first started gradients, there weren’t many sock blanks that you could buy and I didn’t have a knitting mating of any kinds, so making blanks was out of the question, so I developed a “top secret” technique to prepare my gradients, which gives that dappled effect when knitted up. I’m not going to have any great answers for this one, I’m sorry! But, I will say that there are ways of making gradients that don’t use blanks and don’t end up in a tangled mess - if you use a little bit of lateral thinking. 

If you would rather not spend hours and hours researching and making mistakes like I did, there are a few places now where you can buy the knitted blanks premade and just enjoy the playing with dye part. Or you could just bribe a friend who has a knitting machine. 

I could share a little tip in terms of dyeing them though, make sure you don’t use too much water, as the colours won’t necessarily behave themselves. Limited water = more control over where the dye goes.


I bought my yarn from you through a pre-order in your Ravelry group. In the past I see you've also run yarn clubs. How can people buy your yarn at the moment?
 
I usually work on a preorder basis at the moment and I post all the details each month on the Nunnaba Facebook page (www.facebook.com/nunnaba) and over on Ravelry as well in the Nunnaba group, though I am hoping to open a website soon where I will sell the preorder yarn, but for now it’s all Facebook and Rav. 

I’m just finishing up the Heirloom colours at the moment, but the next lot will be available very soon! I can’t wait to get stuck into them!

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thank you so much Jenna! You can find Nunnaba Yarns on Facebook and on Ravelry - be sure to get in quick!

Did you catch my last podcast? Jenna has kindly donated one of her beautiful gradients for me to giveaway to one of you. Head over and find out how to be in the draw to win. I'll draw a winner when I record my next podcast on 9 June 2015.






Introducing: Woolly Wormhead!


Blog.Diane.NEW.Elsica.100x155.1

I'm feeling very privileged to be interviewing this month's guest on my blog. I've been in love with her work for years and am in awe of her fabulous creative skills, especially her ability to work with one idea in so many different and exciting ways. 

Of course I'm talking about the very wonderful Woolly Wormhead! Woolly Wormhead designs hats.  Many fantastic hats. She is inventive and creative and single-handedly has managed to completely revolutionise knitted hat construction. If there's a new way to knit a hat - Woolly will find it. Her hats are stunning, her photography is gorgeous and I'm a huge fan of her work.

I was lucky enough to meet Woolly in real life a year or so ago and take part in a class with her about decreases and increases. It was fascinating and I learnt heaps, bought her beautiful book Playful Woolly Toppers, but the part I especially enjoyed was when we tried on all her hats to work out which shapes and styles suited us best. Woolly regularly runs "Hat Clinics" where she brings a suitcase of hats and everyone gets to try them on and figure out the perfect shape for them. I was very impressed when she managed to find a hat that flattered every single head in the room and so when I released my recent hat design and heard from lots of you that you "didn't suit hats", I knew that simply couldn't be true and immediately thought of Woolly and my experience with her.

I wasn't sure if she would also remember me when I wrote asking if she'd be willing to do an interview on my blog and so I was super pleased when she said that she did and that she'd be happy to answer my questions. Yay!

Are you ready for this month's interview? I sure am. Without further ado, I'm thrilled to introduce: Woolly Wormhead! If you don't think you suit hats - or even if you do. Read on!


You're one of the first designers that I discovered when I joined Ravelry and the online knitting community. You've been designing beautiful hats for a long time. What do you love best about hat design?

This years sees 10 years of Woolly Wormhead... which is kinda crazy.

What do I love best about Hats? Lots of things! I've a pretty short attention span, so Hats satisfy that well; they're small and there's only one of them. I also travel a *lot* and they're incredibly portable. They're brilliant for learning (teaching) new techniques, encouraging confidence with our knitting. Best of all, they combine my structural/creative/engineering sides. I can create a 3-dimensional structure from numbers and repeats and systems and it's such a wonderful thing to be able to do.

Blog. Tangled.River.100x155.1


You haven't always been a knitwear designer; what did you do before and what led you to knitwear design?

Prior to being a knit Hat designer, I was an art and textiles teacher for 11-19 year olds, and prior to that I was an electronics engineer for GEC! My Mum taught me to knit at age 3 and I've always had something on the needles. When I left teaching I picked up my needles with a vengeance and it helped me through a very difficult time. That path led me to where I am now.

Many people tell me that they don't suit hats. I know you take a different view - what don't these people know that they should?

Most of the time picking the right Hat is about framing the face, providing balance.... and knowing how to wear it! That fashion trend of wearing berets to the back, off the forehead? Hardly the best look for most people. And despite how popular beanies are, they really don't suit most faces. One thing you'll often hear me say is "don't be afraid to let a Hat hug your head" - let a beret come forward around your ears - it's a Hat, let it keep you warm! Always allow a little hair to peep out, even if it's just that little bit around the ears. Glasses look brilliant with Hats - they just like a little bit of room.

I'm currently working on a bunch of resources for yarn shop owners, to help them when I can't get there for a trunk show. In the meantime, this link might be helpful: http://www.woollywormhead.com/blog/2013/4/22/get-ahead-get-a-hat-pt1.html

Jetty.Kate.100x155.1


I enjoy wearing lots of hats, summer and winter. What do you recommend people for if they like hats and want to wear them but aren't feeling confident to take the leap?

The best thing to do is to get along to a trunk show and try on as many Hats as you can! Your local yarn store should have plenty of samples for you to try out. Hats are small and relatively quick knitting projects, and whilst it might feel like a waste to knit one and not like it, or not have it fit right, they're very giftable.. I say pick your yarn and cast on :)

Dancette.50x75.2


You sound like you enjoy the challenge of creating something unique and beautiful. Do you have a favourite style of hat? Is there a hat style that suits most heads?

I think my favourite type of Hat to design is a pointy one, something that sticks up from the head somewhere, but they don't tend to sell well ;) Something with a bit room or slouch is a good thing to aim for - a beret or slouchy beanie - they don't grab the face or squash the hair and are far more flattering to wear. And even though they don't hug the head like a beanie, if you're wearing the right size it will still stay on!

Front.Cover.Final.4.Border.LR


You seem to have a steady stream of new patterns being published using new and different constructions - what can we look forward to in 2015 from Woolly Wormhead?

My latest collection has just gone on pre-release, with a publication date of the beginning of June! Painted Woolly Toppers is a collection of Hats designed specifically for hand-dyed, painted and variegated yarns. We're literally just working on the final edits for it and I'm rather excited! You can expect all the usual Wormhead details - use of technique, multi-directional knitting, structure, multiple sizes - with the added bonus of being able to use those beautiful and seductive skeins that often sit there in the stash, looking a bit lost.

Beyond that, I'm launching a new wholesale venture for my books and patterns, and a complete restructuring behind the scenes. That's almost finished, and I'm very much looking forward to indulging myself in the next collection, 'Turning Heads', which are all exploratory, sculptural pieces.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 



Thank you so much Woolly!

Do check out the link she suggested about finding a hat to suit you. It's really interesting and I think you'll find it very useful.


Happy knitting!


Introducing: Helene from Happy-Go-Knitty!

Happy-go-knitty_cotton_2

Helene's hand-dyed yarn company Happy-Go-Knitty was the first hand-dyed range from New Zealand that I heard of. Her gloriously rich colourways caught my eye and I was immediately a fan. Funnily enough, Helene was also the very first dyer I met in New Zealand. The day after we arrived from the UK we visited (very jet-lagged!) a craft market where I found Helene and her beautiful stand of yarn. She was absolutely lovely, friendly and smiley and I was thrilled to find her and her yarn so quickly. Of course I had to buy a few skeins and you'll see some of her self-striping knitted up into socks in the photo below. They're all finished now and these lovely striped socks are one of my favourite pairs.

We've met a couple of times since at yarn shows but when (excitingly) Helene contacted me earlier this year wondering if I'd be interested in designing a shawl for one of her clubs I leapt for joy. Of course! I pushed my nerves to one side and jumped in. My shawl is well underway now and I can't wait to show you - but it has to stay top-secret until the shawl club packages are sent in a few months.

The Happy-Go-Knitty shawl club runs over May, June & July this year. You'll receive a beautiful skein of hand-dyed yarn, a shawl pattern and a selection of "treats" each month. I'm designing one shawl and the others two are being designed by Brenda Green from Natural Star. If you're interested in finding out more about the shawl club and want to join in the fun, keep an eye on Helene's Facebook page for details of when and how to sign up.

But first, let's hear from the talented dyer herself! I asked Helene some questions and here's what she had to say:

I first heard of Happy-Go-Knitty when I was living overseas. You’ve got a loyal following and are one of New Zealand’s most popular places to shop for hand dyed yarn. How long have you been dyeing and how did you start?

Thanks, that’s lovely to hear! I started dyeing cotton yarn 12 years ago, when my kid’s were toddlers and I still lived in Sweden. The yarn was a basic but great quality 100% cotton and I used it for beanies and jerseys. They were soft and nice for them to wear and easy to wash. When I moved to NZ in 2004 I took lots of cotton yarn with me.

One day when I was knitting I thought “maybe it’s possible to sell this cotton yarn at craft markets?” I asked my mum to bring some yarn on her next trip to visit us. She also brought the dyes with her since they are very different to the dyes I can find here. The yarn sold pretty well and next time my sister came to visit I asked her to bring a larger lot. That also sold but when my sister was here she asked me “Helene, NZ is full of sheep and wool, why don’t you dye wool instead?” The dyeing process is very different but I gave it a go and I was hooked! That was about 4 years ago and ever since then I have been experimenting with new qualities and dye ways.

My customers seem to knit a lot of shawls and socks and therefore I have specialised in 2ply and 4ply yarn. My range today consists of 2ply silk/merino and silk/yak down. In 4ply sock yarn I have got 100% BFL, MCN (merino/cashmere/nylon), alpaca/merino/nylon, sparkle wool and merino/nylon. For shawls I have also got a lovely 4ply silk/merino which has quickly become my best-selling yarn.

I dye my yarn in the following colourways – semi-solid, variegated, self-striping, painted and from time to time I have gradients.

Re-learning How To Knit Socks

When I think of Happy-go-knitty yarn I think of rainbows! You have such a beautiful palette of colourways available. Do you have favourite colours and colourways that you like to use?


When I started dyeing yarn Happy-go-knitty was all about bright colours in bold combinations. I soon started experimenting with four-colour self-striping yarn and my customers liked it, it was very successful! Eighteen months ago I tried six-colour self-striping in rainbow colours and that has since been one of my best-sellers! I now sell it in several different sock qualities including sparkle yarn.

About a year ago I decided to try some new colours and bought more muted colours – browns, greys, olive green and dusky blue. I tried them on my silk blends and the result was amazing! The colours came out beautifully and the muted colours are now a part of my range, I’m very pleased with them.

I’m quite fond of dark pink and purples myself – think black plums, blueberries, raspberries – yup, those are my favourites!

Happy-go-knitty stall_3

I love hearing about the places people create, especially yarn dyers. Where do you dye your yarn and what is your workspace like?

When we moved to a new house 18 months ago the plan was to create a dyeing studio in the basement. It still hasn’t happened so I dye all my yarn in the kitchen... Luckily I have a very patient family!

The rise in popularity for fibre craft seems to be happening around the world. Have you seeing a rise in the popularity of knitting and knitters using indie yarn in New Zealand?

Oh yes! People are definitely interested in hand dyed yarn! Knitting and crochet is very popular and many people don’t mind spending the extra money for hand dyed yarn since they put a lot of time and skill into what they are making. The end result is so different with hand dyed yarn.

I can also see a growth in the yarn events I visit as a trader – for example Knit August Night in Napier (August)* and Unwind Fibre Retreat in Dunedin (March). I have visited both of them twice and they have grown for every year. On Saturday 23 May, Woolfest* will be on here in Auckland for the second time and we expect it to be much bigger than last year! Don’t miss this event at Corban estate!

*Truly Myrtle will be at these events too! Do come!


11015861_865360230187424_2611513744451645582_n

I’ve loved playing around with yarn and dye. What tips would you give to people wanting to have a go at dyeing their own yarn?
Don’t take it too seriously and don’t be afraid of experimenting! Your first skeins might not come out the way you wanted them too but don’t give up. It takes quite some time to learn how to do it your own way, to come up with a style that you like and feel is your identity. I also recommend dyeing with proper wool dyes to make sure you get a colourfast and lasting result.

I’m super excited to be designing a shawl for your new shawl club. What clubs do you have and how do they work?
I’m super excited to have you on board for the next club and I’m very much looking forward to see what you have designed!

I have run six yarn clubs so far and they have been very successful. The clubs have been sock clubs, arm warmer club and shawl clubs. Right now I’m running a Sock Club for Beginners as I noticed that many people want to learn how to knit socks. I have already been asked to run it again so it’s likely that I will do.

My clubs run for 1–3 months and each month the members receive a package including a pattern, yarn to make the pattern, a knitting treat and a healthy, edible treat. The packages are meant to be a surprise when they arrive so only basic information is revealed when the club is announced. The patterns are a secret but they are always by talented designers and lately all the patterns have been designed specifically for my clubs! There are always several colour options to chose from but the exact colours are not given, only a name for each option. In my latest club the names were Hummingbird (bright), By the shore (muted), Rose garden (bright) and Berry smoothie (muted). People had to use their imagination and make a wild guess!

The shawl club you have designed for will be a 3-month shawl club for knitters and it will be announced soon, I just need to make a final decision on colours and some other details. I also have a 1-month shawl club for crocheters in the pipe-line and another, still very secret club up my sleeve! I highly recommend that people check out my facebook page and instagram for these exciting clubs!

* * * * * * * * * * * 

Thank you so much Helene! 

I'm really enjoying working with Happy-Go-Knitty yarn and have a few more design ideas sketched out for future patterns with this gorgeous yarn. You should try some yourself!

If you'd like to sign up for any of Helene's up-coming clubs follow her on Facebook to receive announcements. You can also find Helene on Instagram and she regularly appears at a variety of markets and festivals around New Zealand. 


Introducing: Tash from Holland Road Yarn Company


A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on



It's that time again! Time to interview someone inspirational and fabulous!

This month I was lucky enough to interview a very inspirational New Zealand fibre enthusiast. Tash is the owner of the very beautiful and very famous (in New Zealand!) yarn shop Holland Road Yarn Company in Wellington. Holland Road feels a little like my local yarn shop even though it is a long eight hour drive away from where I live. I buy yarn and needles from Tash through her online store and chat to her like she was just down the road. Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? 
Tash opened her first branch several years ago and quickly grew, opening a second store in Wellington soon afterwards. The Holland Road Yarn shops are hugely popular amongst New Zealand knitters, stocking beautiful yarn from all over the world, lovely accessories and running a fabulous range of classes. Tash has set a very high standard for New Zealand yarn shops to follow!


A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on


Tash is also known for her beautiful dyeing. Her yarn line Knitsch Yarn is just delicious and I've stashed some away for myself after hearing that she was taking a break from dyeing for a while. Psst ... there's a wee bit left!

It can't go without saying that fibre, yarn and knitting are in Tash's blood. Many knitters know of Tash's Grandmother Margaret Stove. Margaret is a very talented lace yarn spinner and lace knitter. She has won awards and represented New Zealand with her beautiful knitting and was famously commissioned to create a shawl for Prince William in 1982. You can purchase her stunning Artisan lace yarn and her books through a number of distributors including Holland Road Yarn Company.
I am so grateful that Tash made time to answer my questions so we get to hear a little bit about life in a yarn shop .... and, without further ado - here's Tash!
You seem to be from a family of famous knitters! Were you aware of how much talent you were surrounded by growing up? When did you start knitting?
I had no idea how famous Margaret is until the age of about 12. Now it’s really wonderful to be able to keep sharing her work with the world and learn as much as I can from her. Although for both of us it’s really hard to get time to sit down and talk knitting.

I was taught to knit several times when I was younger by both my grandmothers and my mum. Despite absolutely loving the process, it never quite stuck. In 2006 I found myself working at a ski field surrounded by people teaching themselves to crochet, so in an act of rebellion went back to knitting instead. I found it hugely therapeutic and haven’t stopped since. Back then I never envisaged it becoming the centre of my life!

I wonder if every knitter dreams of owning a yarn store (I certainly do!) Did you open Holland Road with any experience of selling yarn or running brick and mortar shop or has this whole adventure been a huge learning curve?
Like many kids I worked in retail at school - I was about 16 when I started working in a fabric store and was there part-time for five years. That was the end of my retail stint until 2009, when I found myself going stir-crazy in London trying to job hunt. I emailed a bunch of yarn shops offering my services for free, and ended up at the place that inspired Knitsch Yarns and Holland Road Yarn Co: Socktopus. I came back to New Zealand determined to share the yarn inspiration i’d found in London, by hand-dyeing yarn and generating enough cash to open a store. I worked at another shop, Wanda Harland, for a year as Knitsch Yarns became established before opening the doors of Holland Road Yarn Co in 2011.  Martha, who owns Wanda Harland, was (and continues to be) a huge inspiration and gave me loads of guidance.
It’s still been a huge learning curve. Looking back to the early days, I got by on guess work and advice. These days I still learn constantly, and there is no way I could do this thing without the support and understanding of my special man friend, my mum, my staff, my friends and family.

A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on


Knitting seems to have stormed back into fashion this last decade. Have you seen a change in the popularity of knitting since opening your shop and do you have a typical customer?
Absolutely! When I got back into knitting in 2006, I could count my real-life knitting friends on one hand. Now, more and more people are picking up the needles as they see their friends knitting anywhere and everywhere and making really amazing things.
I wouldn’t say we have any ‘typical’ customers. So many interesting people walk in the doors and they are all looking for something different. So my approach is to listen to them as much as possible, while still bringing in stock that makes my heart sing and that I desperately want to knit with. There’s also a large element of pastoral care in this business - customers quickly become friends, so it’s much more than simply selling yarn.
You announced recently that you were showcasing an New Zealand indie dyer on your shelves each month. I think this is a brilliant idea! How have your customers responded? Have you seen an increase in indie dyers in New Zealand over the last couple of years?
The Indie Shelf Project has had a great response! It’s so refreshing and exciting for everyone to have something completely different turn up each month. It forces me away from my usual colour sensibilities too, which is only ever a good thing. The main reason for it is to make up for the lack of Knitsch Yarns this year. I’m taking a break from dyeing this year in order to refresh creatively, and the Indie Shelf Project seemed the perfect way to keep local hand-dyed yarns on the shelf in the meantime.
There has been a noticeable increase of people starting up business here over the last few years and it’s a tricky thing to navigate. It’s wonderful that it’s so easy to start up as an indie dyer here, but we also have a limited market in New Zealand and the yarn road isn’t paved with gold. However….there’s no such thing as too much yarn.
I recently wrote a post about substituting yarn in patterns. It's a subject that lots of knitters have questions about. Do you have a couple of tips that you could share about using yarn different from that specified in a pattern?
Substituting is something we deal with constantly! Our usual process is to look at the specified yarn on Ravelry to check out the meterage, weight and fibre content. I try to get the meterage to weight as close as possible, while still taking into account the behaviours of the fibre content. Being around yarn all the time means knowing yarn qualities really well, so my best advice is: if in doubt, ask. It’s better to ask a quick question than to be disappointed after lots of work.
I guess you have to try lots of new yarn before you order it for your shops? Is your stash enormous? And, when do you find time to knit?
Hahahaha no my stash is tiny! It takes up two shelves in a sideboard and that’s about it. Having said that, my stash is a visual bucket list of yarn I’d like to stock in the shop. We’re about to start stocking Quince & Co’s wool yarns so I’ve pulled the Chickadee out of my stash to play with while we wait for it to arrive. I don’t always knit with a yarn before we order it, particularly with the international yarns. If one of our existing suppliers brings out something new, and I get weak-kneed at the idea of it (and the budget allows), I’ll usually order it in. Weak-knees is how I make lots of the store purchasing decisions, now that I think of it.
As for knitting, it’s rare that I can knit when working in the shop. I’ll always have something on the go and snatch moments here and there, but 95% of my shop time is looking after customers and admin. Knitting is still my favourite thing in the entire world though and I go home at the end of each day and knit.


Holland Road Yarn Shop

Finally, a question for me and all the other New Zealander's living outside of Wellington; how about the rest of New Zealand? Can we hope to see a Holland Road yarn shop in our town anytime soon?
12 months ago I would have said YES ABSOLUTELY. I want to share amazing yarn as far and wide as I possibly can. However last year was personally quite difficult and it's made me step back and reassess a bit. I'm not able to spend enough time with friends and family, my partner has to put up with my stress levels and I'm not always the best person I can be because all my energy goes into running a business. I'm not ruling out more locations completely, I just want to be sure I can take care of myself and do a good job if it happens. In the meantime you can shop online! It isn't quite the same I know but at least we're based in NZ and do really love getting to know our online customers as much as the in-store ones.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thank you so much for such a fabulous interview Tash! 
I'm still crossing my fingers for an Auckland Holland Road Yarn store ;) In the meantime, if like me you don't live near Wellington, check out the Holland Road Yarn store online.

In other news: Did you see I (finally!) started a Ravelry group? I'm so thrilled to see so many faces over there already. The group is a friendly place on Ravelry to gather together and have a good chat. It's for new pattern announcements, questions and support for Truly Myrtle patterns, knit-along's and lots of happy chattering about what we're making.
Do feel free to pop along, join, introduce yourself and have fun! I'm really looking forward to getting to know you. X

Introducing: Stitchseekers!

This year I'm thrilled to be bringing you a new series of interviews with inspiring makers and creators from around the world. If you've been reading my blog for a while you might remember my "Introducing" series from a couple of years ago and I'm excited to be starting it again. I've got some fantastic people lined up to interview each month and I hope you'll enjoy hearing from the wonderful array of people that I'm talking to as much as I do. Shall we begin?!


366886_orig

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Men in Knitwear calendar that launched last year and I know I'm not the only one. Both the 2014 & the 2015 calendars are a collection of 12 (small) knitting patterns on 12 (larger than life) men released month by month. My curiosity to discover more about who was producing this innovative way of selling knitting patterns led me down the path to the totally gorgeous new Outlaw range of yarns produced by the same two clever women. I fell completely in love with their Vanitas yarn when I used it for my recent cardigan, I've stashed some stunning Bohemia and I absolutely can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Deb and Rhiannon are the two women behind the calendar, Outlaw yarn and a funky range of patterns for women, published under the "Stitchseeker" label. They both live in New Zealand and in the space of 18 months they've had a roller-coaster ride that has seen them launch not one but three fibre businesses! 

When Deb agreed to an interview on their behalf I clapped my hands with glee. Yippee!

May I introduce to you ... Stitchseekers!


7542327_orig

You seem to have the energy of a team of people, rather than just two! Do you each have specific roles within the business or do you both do a little of everything?

We're both very driven and determined (ie obsessive!) about our work which means we burn the candle at both ends.  My computer goes on usually 5 minutes after I'm up and goes off 5 minutes before I go to bed!  I've often done an hours work before I finish my first cup of tea in the morning and Rhiannon is the same.  The great thing about our partnership is that we have a lot of complimentary skills.  We decided early on to work to our strengths and experience.


Rhiannon has a BA Hons in Fashion Design from Central Saint Martins in London (designers like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney trained there) and has worked as an art and photography teacher.  I worked in film and tv as a make-up and spfx artist and I'm a jack of all trades with a retail, customer service and admin background.  Rhiannon has the final say in the creative aspects of the company and I spend most of my time working on the marketing and admin side.  It is very much a partnership though and we both have input into everything.  I'll often go to message something I've been thinking about to her to find that she's just messaged me about the same thing!  This happens so often that my husband refers to her as my 'soul mate'.  We're lucky to have very supportive families.  

It seems that your Men in Knitwear Calendar has really got everyone talking. It certainly turned my head! Where did the idea come from and did you have any inkling of how successful it would be?


Men in Knitwear is a great example of how we work.  The entire company began with a 5 minute conversation in the local coffee shop and Men in Knitwear was the same.  We'd been working for a few months on Edition One so it was about mid-October and we were chatting about a poncho design that Rhiannon was swatching.  She was joking that she would photograph it on her husband and make it look like he was naked underneath.  At the time, I'd been playing around with ideas for marketing Edition One and had thought it would make a lovely calendar, so that was sitting in the back of my mind.  Instantly those two ideas clicked together and 5 minutes later we had a plan for the Men in Knitwear Calendar Club.  Initially we decided that we already had too much to do with Edition One and wouldn't have the time to pull it together for 2014 but the more we thought about it the more we liked it so in typical fashion we just jumped right in and did it anyway! 


BadSantaWeb_medium2

I expect the question on everyone's lips (well mine anyway) is "where are you finding these delicious men?". It must be so much fun choosing a new man for each month.  Are they helpful friends and family or do you spot them on the street?

Our first plan was to go to a model agency but we couldn't afford the price they wanted to charge us.  That nearly killed the whole idea.  That's when our families and friends got roped in!  Most of our models have never been in front of the camera before.  I've actually got a reputation for dragging men off the street but they always come willingly!  Some of them are guys we know, friends of friends and workmates.   Others we have approached on the street.  Mr May knocked on my door collecting for charity, and Rhiannon spotted Mr November in the local shopping mall.  I'm so proud of all our models.  I think they do a fantastic job in often difficult circumstances.  It's a pretty challenging thing to ask someone to do and they all give it 100%.

Your Outlaw Yarn is simply divine. I've used "Vanitas" DK yarn for a cardigan recently and it was delicious to knit with. Your new line "Bohemia" is fabulous too.  Did you have any background in yarn production when you decided to launch the Outlaw range or has this been a huge journey for you both?

We'd talked about having our own yarn line "in the future" but we weren't expecting it to happen so fast!  Sometimes opportunities present themselves though and you just have to run with it!  Being knitters we obviously know what we like in a yarn and we could see a gap in the market between the indie dyers and large commercial companies.  That's where we fit!  We were very fortunate to have expert advice from the team at the mill since we didn't have any background in yarn production and had to learn a lot very quickly.  Like our design collections, our yarn is themed and we've worked very hard to get the colours and blends that fit our vision.  It's been so exciting to see our ideas translated from our initial mood boards to actual yarn and I love seeing all the new projects go up on Ravelry.   When we first started Stitch Seekers we really wanted to inspire people to push their craft boundaries and it's wonderful to see what people create with our yarn.  We've been absolutely thrilled with the response to Vanitas and Bohemia.  


s376432825597951263_p11_i4_w640

Bohemia is a yarn blend which includes possum fur. Here in New Zealand we appreciate that possums are a huge pest, destroying our native bush and spreading disease and the use of possum fur in yarn is seen as a good thing. How is your Bohemia range being received overseas? Are you having to educate people about why it's ok to use New Zealand possum fur?

Yes, education is very important for people from overseas.  As soon as you say 'possum' many North Americans think of 'opossums' which are totally different!  It's a big job to educate people that we're not participating in any kind of 'fur trade'.  Possums are a terrible pest here and such a threat to our native ecosystem that they would be culled even if their fur was horrible. We are trying to make the best of a bad situation. The fact of the matter is that creating an industry around possum fur also gives us power as business people to demand that possums are culled as humanely as possible.  Some people have been concerned that if all the wild possums were gone that we would then start ‘farming’ them to keep the industry going but I don’t see that ever happening. For a start, it’s going to take a very long time to get rid of the 30-70 million possums already here and secondly, I believe that the people working with possum fur are primarily conservationists. We are working to protect our native species. We wouldn’t then condone the farming of an animal that is such an ecological threat. From our point of view, NZ has some of the best sheep in the world - if the possums were gone we would still be able to produce gorgeous yarn! 


DroverWeb_medium2

You seem to have accomplished so much in just over one year. Do you have any more fabulous plans up your sleeves?


Of course!  Men in Knitwear has just started for the second year and we have some fabulous guest designers working with us this year.  Production for Edition Three - Atlantiscape is well under way.  I'm struggling not to share photos with everyone now.  I love this collection and want every piece in it!  Probably our worst kept secret at the moment is the addition of Bohemia Worsted to the Outlaw Yarn line up.  There are also a couple of projects that are in the very early planning stages and who knows what we'll think of tomorrow! 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thank you so much Deb and Rhiannon! I really enjoyed hearing all about your businesses. It sounds like you've got another exciting year in front of you - I can't wait to try your worsted yarn ...

If you'd like to take a closer look at the Stitch Seekers patterns or the Men in Knitwear calendar visit the Stitch Seekers website. Outlaw yarn can be purchased directly from the Outlaw Yarn website or from various retailers listed on the website.