Tash is a native Wellingtonian with an artistic heritage who began a hand-dyed sock yarn line a little over three years ago. The seed formed on her overseas adventure (a rite of passage for many New Zealanders). Working and living in London in 2009, Tash was fortunate to work with the lovely Alice Yu of Socktopus fame. At the time, Alice had a yarn store in London, and working there, Tash was exposed to the beauty and wonder of hand-dyed yarn. Nothing like this existed in New Zealand at the time.
London was a place of enormous creative inspiration for Tash. Her flat became a meeting place of creative types. A dream began to form: “A dream to open a yarn store full of beautiful hand-dyed yarn and fibre, comfortable couches and copious cups of tea,” as she says on her blog.
On her return to New Zealand in October 2009, Tash asked her aunt, Kristine, to teach her to dye. Kristine is a very experienced dyer – she was looking after the Artisan Lace brand for her mother, the world-renowned Margaret Stove.
Tash started small with the Knitsch Yarns brand, selling mostly online and at crafty market events. (Knitsch is her knitting graffiti pseudonym). Success was fast coming: her colours were beautiful and very unique, the yarn very well dyed. The sock base, a tightly-spun 100% New Zealand merino yarn, was different to the typical 25% nylon, 75% wool bases of the time.
In 2011, Tash left her job and opened Holland Road Yarn Company, to the great excitement of the knitting community! The yarn store is just as she imagined: In addition to her Knitsch line, she also stocks a range of hand-selected yarns from New Zealand and around the world that match her strict personal requirements for quality and beauty, including Malabrigo, Cascade, Fyberspates and Blue Sky Alpacas (all very hard to find brands in New Zealand). There are workshops on offer, and a regular meet-up of crocheters and knitters to which Tash brings delicious home-baked cakes (see Tash’s blog for further details).
The store is a magnet for all lovers of fine yarn, knitting and crocheting. A customer almost since she first started dyeing, I have amassed a rather (ahem) large selection of her colourways. In fact, Knitsch Yarns will be the canvas for my version of Audry Nicklin’s Southern skies companion to the Celestarium shawl pattern when she releases it. In a very appropriately-named “Milky Way”:
Let’s hear from Tash in her own words now:
What got you into dyeing?
Sitting in Alice’s store, surrounded by beautiful yarn, I had an epiphany: yarn was what I wanted to ‘do’. Dyeing seemed the sensible option to start – I could start small, work part time and as it transpired, take on responsibility for dyeing Artisan Lace. So I came home from the awful job market that was London in late 2009, and my aunt, Kristine, taught me how to dye Artisan Lace.
How much of an influence were your family in deciding to begin a career in yarn?
I couldn’t have started without them! It was very much a solo decision to go into the business, but it would have been almost impossible to get started without their support and encouragement. It worked out really well that as I decided to get into dyeing, Kristine was looking to get out of looking after Artisan Lace for Grandma.
One of the things I love about your yarn base is that it is 100% New Zealand merino. I love the absence of nylon, and I love that the tight spin makes it a very durable yarn. My socks in your yarn have performed very well. Can you tell us why you chose this base and not the traditional wool/nylon for sock bases?
Doing a bit research before I got started, there was a noticeable gap in the New Zealand sock yarn ranges of 100% merino fingering weight. Playing around with it at the very beginning, I fell in love with the way it took dye. When I found out that it’s the same base as Koigu use, I was sold: the very first pair of socks I’d ever knit were in Koigu. A year after wearing them, washing them and abusing them they were still going strong and were delightful to put on. Four years later, they are still beautiful.
What inspires your colour choices?
Everything! Colour makes my world go round. Sometimes a colour will just pop into my head, other times I’ll see two or three skeins dyed up sitting next to each other and be inspired. I also get really great suggestions from customers and then there are those happy mistakes…
Do you see many orders from overseas?
More and more! In the past few weeks I’ve sent yarn away to Sweden, Germany and a lot to the States. I have some fantastic customers who share the Knitsch love far and wide – they are the best advertising a person can have!
With a successful online business selling your hand-dyed Knitsch yarns, what was your motivation for starting Holland Road Yarn Company? Or was it all part of the master plan!?
Yes. It was part of a master plan that felt like a pipe dream. And yet everything fell into place and I was able to make it happen. Part of working for Alice Yu and travelling with a knitter’s eye through Europe made me realise how badly served New Zealand knitters were. A yarn store should be inspiring and full of joy, a comfortable, welcoming place. Holland Road Yarn Co. is a place I would like to shop – and hopefully others feel the same.
I notice that you have started designing. Is this all part of the grand plan – is more designing part of the future?
Design is a compulsion – try as I might to avoid it, I can’t help but come up with ideas.
Lace or cables?
Lace! I love how cables look but I will always prefer the process of knitting lace. It feels to me like a dance, with steps and rhythm and symmetry.
What’s on your needles at the moment?
Ha, it’s funny you ask that. I’m obsessively crocheting the blanket I started as part of our Crochet Blanket Addicts (anonymous) group. Only because I can’t seem to settle on what to knit next. There’s a pair of Garden Gate socks in Knitsch Sock & Wollmeise, and a Trellis Stitch Scarf pattern by Grandma in Malabrigo Silkpaca on the needles. But the enthusiasm isn’t there – I need a substantial project and I’m waiting to order yarn from the States before I can get started. My biggest problem right now is knitting guilt – I feel awful choosing to knit things in yarn that the shop doesn’t carry. Which is all a very long answer to a very short question! 🙂
Do you have any teasers to tell us about what’s coming up in 2013? Which markets and craft events will you be at so that non-Wellingtonians can get a chance to experience the gorgeous real deal before buying?
Right now I can confirm that I will be at the Creative Fibre Festival in Porirua 25 – 28 April; Wonders of Wool at Frank Kitts Market (Wellington Underground) in May; I’ll be running the Knit Lounge at Handmade in Wellington during Queen’s Birthday weekend; Knit August Nights in Napier 23 – 25 August; and a couple others up my sleeve that I can’t talk about yet.
Here are a few new colourways I dyed in time for Unwind and that are available in my shop:
There will also be new colourways in time for KAN in August, and I’m mulling over a rather absurd plan for another yarn club. Time will tell on that one.
If course there’s always online shopping – I ship absolutely everywhere!
And finally, outside of the yarn world, what are your interests?
I love to sew, and bake. Both things that complement the day job rather nicely. I have a degree in Art History so I love to wander around art galleries as a way to clear my head and find new inspiration.
Thank you so much Tash, for this view into your life and motivation behind Knitsch Yarns and the Holland Road Yarn Company. I for one, hope to continue to be a customer for many years to come.