Hello, and welcome to Part I of a new series I am introducing to you today about New Zealand “Yarnies”.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how it would be nice to know more about the people behind the yarn I write about. So I asked a few of the yarnies I know if they would be interested in being interviewed for my blog, and happily, they said “yes!”
This interview today is the beginning of the series, and I’m hoping to introduce as many as possible of the wonderfully talented people behind New Zealand’s independent yarns to bring you their story.
Today, we start with Helene Dehmer of Happy-go-knitty.
I asked Helene to tell me a bit about herself, why she came to New Zealand from Sweden, and what started her journey into hand-dyeing yarn.
Just before we hear from Helene, this is also a great opportunity to tell you about a current project that she is organising and coordinating – Woollypoles in Devonport.
This project came after Devonport Arts Festival invited her to create a woolly art installation for the revived festival in November 2012.
Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect. I wish I could go up to Auckland and see it when it’s on in November – I’d love to wander around just looking at it, and admiring the work that everyone has put into it. The knitting is true Art!
Anyone is welcome to join in. If you’d like to send a piece of knitting to be included in this installation, please contact Helene at knittygraffity AT hotmail DOT com.
The invitation came off the back of another successful knit installation “The Woolly Walk Along” that Helene organised during the Rugby World Cup in 2011.
Helene also put together a look book of the day – an inspirational viewing of the skills of the many talented people in New Zealand, and the wonderful spirit of camaraderie that this event inspired. It’s a classic example of how knitting brings people together and can tell a story about the human spirit.
And now, over to Helene!
You come from a very crafty family, with sister Mia in Sweden also involved in producing hand-dyed yarn. Tell us a bit about you.
Yes, my family is very crafty. My nana taught me to knit when I was 11 and I have pretty much knitted ever since. My mum knits as well but she mainly weaves rugs. My very clever sister (Mia) not only dyes her own yarn, she also dyes wool and spins it into gorgeous yarn. And she knits amazing shawls with the hand-spun yarn and makes her own patterns for the shawls.
I’m married and have two wonderful kids and we are a very arty family. Hubby is a great painter and musician. My son is very good at drawing and building in 3D. My daughter loves to sing and dance and every once in a while she pulls out her tapestry and adds a few stitches.
Why did you and your husband choose to live in New Zealand?
Oh, that’s a long story that involves a band called ‘Split Enz’! The short version is that hubby and I visited New Zealand a couple of times and we decided that we wanted to live in NZ. We sold everything we owned and in April 2004 we arrived with 4 suitcases and our 2 kids. We had no jobs and no visa… When we came here we stayed in a bach (Kiwi speak for holiday cottage) on Waiheke Island but after a couple of months we moved to a rental in Devonport, Auckland. The rest is history!
Why did you get into hand dyeing?
I have always enjoyed knitting and about 10 years ago, Mia asked if I wanted to join her in dyeing some cotton yarn. That was so much fun that I continued. At the time, it was very small scale and only for private use. When I moved to NZ, I brought some cotton yarn with me. The cotton I use is very different to what you can find here in NZ. It’s spun with a high twist and has a nice shine. I found out that it’s spun for the Scandinavian market and doesn’t sell anywhere else, so I still get my cotton from Sweden.
When sis visited 18 months ago she asked me why I don’t dye wool, since that would be so much easier to get. We gave it a go and here I am! My range now includes sock yarn (100% BFL and merino/silk/nylon), lace weight (silk/merino) and 100% cotton.
What is the thing you enjoy most about hand dyeing?
I’m a very small scale dyer and I experiment a lot while dyeing. I probably don’t use my dyes in the most efficient and economic way, but for me the most important thing is to come up with interesting colour combinations. My colours are very often one-offs. I have also come up with a very fun way of dyeing self-striping yarn. Yup, stripy yarn without the hassle of doing the ends!
Your favourite yarn base so far?
I love the 100% BFL sock yarn – it’s such a nice yarn! But the new merino/silk/nylon sock yarn is also very scrumptious. And the merino/silk lace is so, so soft. And of course I love my good old cotton! Hmm, I didn’t really make a choice, did I?
What’s your favourite NZ food?
I’m a foodie and I love going to food markets. Anything that is fresh and well cooked!
What is the best holiday you’ve had in NZ?
We enjoy going away on trips over the weekend. A favourite place is the old lodge in Whatipu, west of Auckland. I think BookABach (accommodation website) is fantastic, we have been to heaps of different places and stayed in other people’s baches. It works so well. I have to admit that I have never been further south than Christchurch, I would love to travel the South Island.
If you lived in an ideal world, where would you live in NZ and what would you be doing?
Oh, that’s a tricky one… I love the Matakana area north of Auckland and I really like Mt Maunganui. But there are heaps of places I would like to live! In my ideal world I would dye yarn and knit full time. I work as a book designer and production manager for a small exquisite book publisher and I really enjoy it. But I would give it up if I could make a living as a full time yarnie!
Is there anything you’d like to tell knitters and crocheters of Happy-go-knitty yarns?
I hope you enjoy my yarn! You can trust that I always use the best yarn bases and dyes that I can find. My yarn is available at craft markets (check my blog for details on where to find me) or on felt.co.nz. I’m happy to take custom orders if you would like something specific. And please feel free to email me photos of your finished projects – I love to see what people make of my yarn!
What are you knitting now?
I’m a complete knit-a-holic and I bring my knitting everywhere! I knit on the ferry, on the bus and I even walk and knit. I have always got bead-knitted cuffs on the go to keep up with the demand at the craft markets I do.
I have a couple of ‘tangle-free knitted earphones’ lying around to be finished.
And of course I am knitting some artwork for the Woollypoles in Devonport!
Thank you so much Helene for that small window into your life! I’m looking forward to my next encounter with your beautiful yarn.