Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

A chat with Circus Tonic Handmade


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It’s no secret that I’ve got a bit of a crush on Circus Tonic Handmade‘s yarns.  They are simply gorgeous and if I had my greedy little way, I’d own much more of this beautiful yarn, in particular Revelry Sock.

Why do I like it?  It is soft.  Super soft.  And it doesn’t split on the needles. Despite its softness, it is hard wearing.  And let’s not forget the talent of the hard working dyer who makes the prettiest colourways.  But equally importantly, it’s the finished result that really gets me – I just love the way this yarn turns into amazing looking garments that look and feel stunning!  I like it so much that I can’t seem to keep the yarn in my stash as it keeps getting used for projects!  This is an interesting development for this compulsive yarn hoarder collector.

I thought it would be nice to know more about Hannah Ginn, mother-of-three, wife, scientist and creative energy behind Circus Tonic Handmade, and she kindly agreed to an interview!

Here is our conversation:

I understand that until recently, you worked as a Molecular Geneticist.  Dyeing yarn is a bit of a change!  Why did you choose to become an indie dyer?  

You will surprised to know that I have met quite a few ex-scientist yarn dyers. Maybe it’s something to do with not being afraid of “lab work” or confidence with working with exact amounts of chemicals and liquids. The actual chemical reactions taking place are interesting….how you can alter them with acidity levels or the actual fibre used. We are very process driven people, so the prep, dyeing and then producing a saleable skein takes many many steps. Once you factor in weather, the attention to detail needed for planning stock updates might just be our forte!

Once I found luxury hand dyed yarns…and even before….I found the yarn selection brought me so much joy during a knitting project. I was completely in love. Once I stopped working to take care of our three young kids, I desperately wanted to have a business ticking over that involved my love of yarn and something I could devote energy to. I read books, watched as much You-tube content as I could, reached out to dyers and experimented for months on 20g mini skein samples I made. I was always on Etsy buying yarn anyway….and started to really pay attention to why certain products jumped out at me. Sometimes I didn’t hesitate to buy, and I tried to figure out why.

Why the name Circus Tonic Handmade?

Our house is a madhouse, like a circus. Our surname is Ginn where you pronounce the G as in gate. Many people say Gin as in the drink. So that’s one reason for the Tonic. The other meaning of tonic is that craft, knitting and making by hand is a remedy or salve for the crazy busy life many of us lead. Circus Tonic Handmade.

What did you look for when you selected the bases for your range?

The yarn sourcing is the hardest bit by far. As I knit a lot of kid knits, I was looking for soft to the skin, superwash but tougher yarns. I was looking to source yarn as locally as possible that I could sell for affordable prices. I started with only a few bases. As my business has grown and favourite friends and customers have let me know their hearts’ desires, I am about to expand with a super luxe silk, cashmere and merino blend, a merino bamboo blend and a sparkle sock base. I am also about to bring out a 10 ply heavy worsted weight 100% merino that I am in love with and need to knit hats out of immediately!

I love that you used bird colours as the inspiration for your first collection.  I’ve personally always thought that nature gives the best inspiration!  What inspired you to choose birds?  What’s next?

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

To be honest, I was nervous about colour theory. I wanted to offer muted, tonal shades that were sophisticated and in the league of some of my favourite dyers. I knew what I liked but had no idea where to start. I have always collected antique books on natural history subjects, and I live on the coast of Australia, so with the combination of the scenery on the doorstep and the beautiful illustrations in my books, I felt ready to tackle colours for yarns that I could not find in the marketplace.


Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

My next collection has finally settled on The Antipodean Garden. Native flora and fauna of our Pacific region…including the introduced favourites we all grow or would love to grow if we had a garden. I will try to capture the gardens of our childhoods….or present…or future. Our grandmothers’ gardens…or the little strip of planting in the town centre near the bus stop. There are an incredible range of stunningly beautiful, wearable colours to choose from and I am really looking forward to attempting this!!


Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

How long have you been knitting for?  How did you learn?  Has your knitting influenced your choice of dyeing style?

I was taught as a child, and then took up the needles with a vengeance while I was expecting my third baby due in our winter. I had wanted to learn for several years and in all those evenings not drinking wine focusing that pregnancy nesting tunnel vision, I knit about 30 baby cardigans, found Ravelry, found Etsy and never looked back!!! I watched video tutorials, bought a whole lot of books and again, experimented!

I have tried a lot of different styles of hand dyed yarns. I love speckled yarn for striped shawls, tonal semi solids for baby knits, one colour shawls and hats. I love saturated yarns for lace and minimally dyed yarns for hats with cables. There is such a thing as that magic moment when you absolutely chose the right yarn for a pattern. I suppose I’m conscious to offer all those possibilities to my customers. I also dye the same colourways slightly differently to suit each base…as a nylon sock yarn will take dye very differently to a relaxed ply DK wooly yarn. I try to be sympathetic to each base to let it sing “pick me!!” I like adding splashes of surprises so that there is interest held throughout the knit.

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

I’m really impressed at how quickly your yarn has become so popular.  I’m not surprised though!  Quite a few designers have also already produced work in your yarn.  Do you have a favourite design so far?

Thank you! There’s that tunnel vision coming into good use again! I won’t lie, I’ve worked very, very hard on this business. I have worked seven days a week since well before I launched the shop. However, it doesn’t feel like work. I can still look after my children and produce semi decent meals. I don’t iron or mop….but to be honest, I never really did. I love interacting with everyone, and meeting so many brilliant, supportive creative people. That has been the best surprise!! This new community has encouraged and supported me and I will be forever grateful.

I don’t have a favourite design so far. I am floored with amazement seeing every single one of them. I get all fainty…I just can’t believe it. There are some seriously talented people out there and I am beyond thrilled that people have been picking up the yarn and loving it as much as I do. It makes me very proud. Can you say that about yourself?! I just did!

Favourite moment as an indie dyer to date?

Working for many years behind the scenes in labs within a large research organisation you are pretty much nameless. It’s exciting work and there are great people but of course personality is just something that gets in the way, rather than something to be celebrated. Everyone enjoys seeing their name out there and so to be totally honest, seeing my yarn reviewed and talked about on blogs that I have read religiously for many years……well there’s that faint feeling again, it’s so awesome!!!

In real life, favourite moments have happened standing over the dye pots and seeing the dye settle in the way I was hoping for. It is fascinating and really fun. One of my favourite parts of the long process from cone to postage, is skeining the yarn up into hanks once it has dried. That is the moment when you see what the customer will see…and the form of the yarn that as a buyer for many years I would base my decision process on. I love seeing a skein of my own yarn….it’s very addictive and I will hopefully be doing a great deal more of it in the coming years!

Thank you Hannah, for sharing a bit about yourself and your dyeing with us.

As part of this interview, Hannah very generously offered to donate a skein of a custom colourway to readers.  We agreed on a little bird that we share in Australia and New Zealand – the Silvereye.

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To enter the draw to win this skein, I’m going to take a leaf out of My Sister’s Knitter’s blog (if you haven’t already, have a look at Andi’s post about Circus Tonic Handmade – she has a giveaway happening there too!)  Visit Circus Tonic Handmade’s etsy store, and comment here about which colourway you like the best.  Or tell me which flower from your garden you would like turned into a yarn colourway!  Don’t forget to include your email in the appropriate place in the comment form or note your Rav ID in the comment so I can contact you if you win.  Entries close on Tuesday, 22 March 2016.

Lastly, for New Zealand readers, Circus Tonic Handmade will be on the indie shelf at Holland Road Yarn Company in April!!  Here’s a sneaky peek from Hannah’s Instagram feed (@circustonichandmade) of what you will see next month (notice there are a few skeins of Silvereye especially made for this shelf…)


Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

Personally, I’m hyperventilating at the thought of all those beautiful yarns headed our way!  Hopefully I will get a chance to visit the store!!


Author: kiwiyarns

Welcome to my blog where I talk about knitting in New Zealand and the beautiful yarns you can find here.

67 thoughts on “A chat with Circus Tonic Handmade

  1. Gorgeous colours, but have a new niece arrived this week and with winter not far away , I feel a hat and matinee jacket in a soft pink need to be on my needles.

  2. Parrot and Magpie in the sock yarn section are my favorites!

  3. King Quail is my favorite so far! They are all stunning colors 🙂

  4. I love the colour and the name Spangled Drongo but for me it has to be the Splendid Fairy Wren. Prickly Bursaria grows in front of my window at work and this little bird loves the protection and the constant supply of insects that can be found there. Unfortunately my work colleagues keep cutting back the Prickly Bursaria and then for a while (until it grows back) I am without my little friend to entertain main. A Splendid bird and a splendid colour.

    • I can understand why! I would love to see that little blue bird flitting around in the bushes beside my window! What a treat! I didn’t even know there were real blue birds until Hannah started her colourways.

  5. Hi wei siew! Ooh i hope i win. You know me, if its purple or pink I’m in. I love the one in your post with the photo of the bird best, its not in the shop right now though 🙂

    • I saw that colourway on someone’s Insta feed yesterday and went “oooh!!” I hope Hannah makes it again because it really is quite pretty isn’t it!!

  6. Thankyou for this interview, how interesting 🙂 the giveaway made me think of a pink primrose I see on the way to school every morning, on a hill of yellow primroses, it peeks out quite audaciously xx

  7. It’s great to seeing fellow Australians being interviewed. In her colors, the Magpie is gorgeous!! As far as what flowers I would like to see from my garden, Frangiapanis & Crepe Mertyles are favourites!!

  8. I’d love to see a kaka beak colourway. Great interview – I always enjoy reading about local yarns and dyers. I’m kozmic on Rav.

  9. Spangled Drongo rocks my boat! Awesome name too.
    But if a yarn dyer could reproduce the colours of hydrangea flowers fading into autumn – that would really put me in a spin!!!

  10. Although I’m not a pink person usually, as soon as I read the article I thought I would love it if there was a galah colour way, and there is! Love the pinks and grays together.

    Rav ID is Mina71

  11. I love all the colors my favorite is Magpie.
    Ravelry ID is wkh25

  12. Her colors are all so beautiful. My favorites though would be the parrot or the honeyeater.
    Rav ID Scrapnstitch

  13. I love the Spangled Drongo, there are others as well of course, but that was the one that really spoke to me. I’m sewsable on Rav.

  14. Supurb Parrot is great because I love green. Was so pleased to see waxeyes (silvereyes) again after coming home from a decade+ in the UK. Rav ID is wikinz

  15. Such a cool name 😀 I really liked their Fiesta fingering yarn in the shade Galah (Such a pretty colourway!). Waiting eagerly for April, thanks for informing about the rising brand 🙂
    My email id:

  16. I really loved Trumpet Manucode but it was quickly sold out :((( my Rav ID handmadekoala and same on IG @handmade_koala

  17. I would love to see a colourway inspired by lilacs 🙂

  18. Spangled Drongo is calling out to me tonight but there are so many pretty ones!

  19. I loved reading this. The snippet about dying countless number of 20g mini-skeins leapt out at me. How sensible… And too, the work involved.
    As my Ravelry name is Ginsling, I did like the question about name derivation.
    So many of these colour ways sing…
    I loved the moody tones of mallard.
    And a flower to inspire a dye bath? … Crocus.
    Great post

  20. I was a bit in love with King Quail but then I saw Spangled Drongo and wow, that name made my new favourite.
    I’ve planted some bee-friendly Salvia in a colour called Amistad which has turned out to be an amazing deep purple. That would be my favourite plant at the moment.

  21. Great blog posts thank-you. Loving Magpie colour way in Etsy and lots of the combinations I’ve seen on Instagram. Would love to see a fuchsia one?

  22. Having technology issues but I think it’s my fault, apologise if I come up twice. Great blog posts, thank you. Circus Tonic Handmade has some beautiful colours and endless combinations. Love Magpie the most currently.

  23. So hard to choose. Love the Spangled Drongo! Rav=Hsings

  24. Spangled drongo is very lovely. Rav I’d=Hsings

  25. I love her yarn and have a few stashed away in my collection, with a plan to get my hands on some more when I have the funds. I love her King Quail colour, though Mallard is my all time favourite. As for a flower to inspire the dye posts, hmm, where I live we don’t get many flowers, but I would love to see what a yarn inspired by hydrangeas would look like. All the subtle colour changes and mixes from blue to purple with hints of pink.
    (Rav ID is mrslevitt )

  26. I love Supurb Parrot. She really captures the colors of nature in her yarns!

  27. Pingback: A chat with Circus Tonic Handmade | Serendipitous Cookery

  28. I grow black holly hocks in my garden. no flower is truly black but these blooms range deep, deep purple that is almost black to a very dark burgundy red. it is quite a treat to watch the bees and hummingbird buzzing around these tall spiky plants during the summer. I would love to see what color Hannah would create to represent this flower
    ps. I naturally dye with the blossoms and get lighter shades of gray and blues and sometimes a dark green.

  29. I was drawn to the Spangled Drongo. The pink peony would be the flower inspiration I’d like to see. Use different shades of pink like magenta, pink, reddish pink. Add a grey pink into the mix to tone it down a bit.

  30. I am adding this yarn to my Christmas or maybe birthday since is it sooner wish list. I LOVE the name, catchy and memorable.

  31. I agree that Magpie could almost be calked tui but my favourite is Spangled Drongo- for both the colour and the name!

  32. No question – Fairy wren! I just love their different shades of blue!

  33. King Quail is my favourite, I think!!
    nzdeb on Ravelry

  34. Don’t know if I can enter since I live in the US . . . but I enjoyed your interview and the yarn looks yummie. House Crow looks immenintly wearable—although I wouldn’t call it my favorite. The shop looks like the shelves are pretty bare right noW!

  35. I discovered Circus Tonic Handmade from the My Sister’s Knitter post – I love the colours! My favourite is definitely the magpie, but all of them are beautiful.

  36. I really have to try some of her yarn sometime, don’t I! I keep being drawn to the Spangled Drongo, although the Grey Hawk is a close second.
    (StringHerder on ravelry)

  37. Magpie is my favourite too – although Fairy Wren comes close. (Acegirly on Rav)

  38. Oh my, narrowing down my favourite of Circus Tonic Handmade’s colours is too hard! They’re all so delicious! But today the Superb fairy wren has got my heart singing. Such a perfect blue! I’m Woolyreader on Ravelry 😊
    Thanks for the chance to win such scrumptious yarn!
    Jo x

  39. What a fantastic interview! I have been following/ drooling over Circus Tonic Handmade on Insta for a while now and it is just great to hear the inspiration behind it! I absolutely love the Mallard colour way. If I had to pick a floral inspiration for a yarn I have always admired the Bird of Paradise flower and think maybe it would take a scientist to turn that into a yarn!

  40. Beautiful looking wool. Loved reading the interview. Fabulous colours and names. I liked the Spangled drongo, a really delightful name and the Galah but also the colourway under the bird in your interview . Really too many to choose. I am knitting your Anemone pattern socks just at the moment, it’s great.

  41. Oh my gosh, those color ways are beautiful. What a neat idea to take the colors from local birds and gardens! So different from the birds and flowers typical here on the other side of the world. I can’t wait for my trip to NZ to see in person all the beautiful yarns you’ve been highlighting in your blog. My rav id is the same as my wordpress id – iLoveSchnauzers

  42. mmmm lovely colour ways ! Mallard is my favourite from her Etsy shop as it’s very soft & calm but I actually think this one you have as giveaway is the best as tauhou (waxeye) are one of my favourite birds in our garden 😀 thanks for hosting the giveaway 🙂
    I’m piri127 on Rav

  43. What beautiful tempting yarn. I could have almost reacedh into my monitor to grab it all!! I love the Silvereye colourway. Green is one of my fave colours and I love the blend. I’m MelsNattyKnits on Rav.

  44. oh, all those colors are beautiful and scream to be turned into a knitted shawl, cardigan, baby blanket… Nature is the best source of inspiration for me too.
    Adelie Penguin and Mallard would be the first colors to turn to.
    On Rav, I am Alopee.

    Great interview!

  45. A flower I would love to see reflected in yarn would be an Iris – such bold bright colours that work really well together.

  46. I think you must be selling out of yarns after this post as I didn’t see some of the colors above. 😦 Good for you 🙂 I think the magpie colorway appealed to me. Subtle color changes, just as the bird in light. The Mallard gradient was also very pretty. (Or was it called ‘Ducks in a Row’?

  47. I love Hannah’s yarns and I am very excited about her new merino singles! I have spied one called Figbird in her shop and it is drop dead gorgeous!!! Great interview! I am Noni26 on Rav 😀

  48. They all look so beautiful! It is the beginning of spring here in the United States, and the crocuses are beginning to bloom. The purple and yellow shades could make a lovely colorway.

  49. Love the shades of the yarn! That one with yellow looks like tie dyed!

  50. As an avid knitter and spinner of yarn I have just returned to the UK from a five week holiday in New Zealand and following your blog with regards to all things “wool”. What a super country, I have arrived home with fleece, yarn, a Shona schofield wrap, a circle weaving tool and possum/merino. Australia is next on my bucket list!
    I think a suitable flower colour to emulate would be a rhododendron called ‘Flash Harry’ spied at the Wellington botanical gardens, not withstanding that though I think the ‘Mistletoe Bird’ colourway of Circustonichandmade is a delightful mix of slate greys, crimson and raspberries.
    Rav ID knitterage
    Thank you for your blog, it was really helpful and enlightening, as would be winning the sample yarn Silvereye to round off one trip and start another!

  51. So many gorgeous colours it’s hard to choose a favourite, perhaps the Magpie one! My ravelry name is wendygoknit

  52. They are truly gorgeous yarns. I love the blue combo in the Sacred Kingfisher colourway … so very pretty!

  53. I am in love with a certain color of Gerber daisy that we have here…it’s not quite a red and not quite an orange, as for the Circus Tonic…it would be the Mallard colorway….I’m graceysgoodies @

  54. I’m quite partial to Mallard, but they’re all beautiful!