Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


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A New Year

Hello! It is the eve of another new year! I wish I could say the time has gone fast, but so much has happened, that I think it has been a very full year. It has been an eventful year on many, many, counts. I hope this year has treated you kindly on a personal level. My own has certainly been one of those roller coasters – terrible lows and also incredible highs. I am interested to see what the next 365 days bring!

I don’t have a finished object to show you as knitting time has been a little limited lately. But there are a few nice projects accompanying me into the new year:

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This is Regenerate. It should be nearly finished by now, but I made a major rookie mistake knitting this! There are two charts per row for this shawl, and for some reason, I knitted them in the wrong order. I wondered why I had so much trouble getting the pattern to look right and was getting quite frustrated with my knitting skills when I realised, into the third repeat of the second and third charts that I was doing it the wrong way round!!! Major durrh moment, and major sulking occurred as I ripped out the shawl to start all over again.

I re-ordered the printed charts and after a couple of days spent gathering my wits, started again. I am pleased that this time, the shawl is looking like it is meant to. The added bonus is that it is much easier to knit – for some ‘strange’ reason!

I am using Anna Gratton‘s gorgeous silk/mohair/wool blend in the Forest colourway. I really like how it is turning out.

I also have a couple of obligatory socks on the go.

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These pretty things are the Waving Lace Socks. I am knitting them in Circus Tonic Handmade’s Revelry sock in the Frilled Monarch colourway. Here’s a closer look:

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The other sock is some gorgeous Stray Cat Socks merino/cashmere/nylon blend:

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These are for the youngest boy, who is now taller than me. I knitted him some socks earlier in the year, and found to my horror that his feet had grown while I finished them. This time, they are man-sized socks!  Let’s hope they last a little while…

As the new year begins to roll in around the globe, I wish you Happy New Year!

May 2017 be a good year for you.


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The trouble with WIPs

It is a wonderful and exciting thing to be a knitter. The ability to create new projects is boundless, limited only by one’s imagination, time and sometimes, skill.

On the other hand, the ability to finish new things, hampered by one’s “cast-on-itis” can sometimes be challenging. It is something I must grapple with this week so that I can happily cast on yet more things (and have some hope of finishing them!)

This week another new thing (or two) popped on to the needles.

Thank you very much to everyone who gave my votes a little extra boost for the Aussie Sock Knitters’ KAL.  The clear voter’s choice was Bordurensocken.

I had a couple of hiccups starting this one.  As I mentioned in my first post about this, I was going to use Tanis Fibre Arts’ Dove colourway.  Only, when I started knitting it, the result didn’t look so great.

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Despite the soft variegation, it was still too variegated, and I couldn’t see the design very well at all.

I finally found what I was looking for in Circus Tonic Handmade’s Revelry Sock in the Grey Whistler colourway. It’s a lovely pattern, so ornate, I love it! Once it is finished and modelled, you’ll be able to see the detail a lot better.

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I have been really enjoying Stray Cat Socks‘ new base, an 80% merino, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon blend, called “Essential Deluxe.” So much so that I have finished one sock already! The lovely drape and softness of this yarn, combined with the just ‘one more stripe’ syndrome made it hard to put down.

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I also really appreciated all your comments on last week’s swatching exercise.  Thank you! I think I will definitely go with the blue silk/merino/angora mix.  But first, I need to finish a couple of things!

This pair of fingerless mitts has been requested urgently by the eldest boy, now living the student life.  Obviously, the walk to uni in the mornings is a little chilly! I’m using Bleating Art’s Pacemaker Sock, a 100% super twisted merino yarn. Pattern is from my head.

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I’m also still working on my Swan River cardigan in Maniototo Wool and the Liliaceous Shawl in Zealana Kiwi Laceweight.  There is nothing new to show you, so I will wait until they are finished before I put up any more photos of them.

And of course, this post would not be complete without some talk of WIPs to come!

Midnight Yarns

This beautiful mushroom coloured 100% merino from Midnight Yarns arrived in my letterbox recently. It is destined to become Lacebark as soon as I finish Liliaceous!

To my North American friends, Happy 4th of July!


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Coming soon

Hello!! I hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend!

I’m popping in very briefly today.  This week has been one of those very busy weeks, and although there is a huge amount cooking away in the background, I can’t show much of it to you yet.

Inspiration:  I suspect that many of you already know about this show.  I found it, and binge watched it, and I think it has to be the singularly most inspiring thing I have ever seen in my knitting life.  The episode I have linked you to has English subtitles, but if you watch it and like it, you’ll find that the language of knitting is so strong that you don’t really need to know what they are saying in the other episodes… It has electrified me!

Please excuse the horrible lighting – daylight disappeared before I got around to taking a photo…

The green things

The socks are my current ‘take along’ plain vanilla sock. They have received the most love this weekend, because I’ve been doing a bit of running around with the boy.  It’s an Opal colourway – Buffalo Bill.

The shawl is Liliaceous, another gorgeous number by Mary-Anne Mace. I’m using Zealana Kiwi in the Fern colourway.  It is another thank you gift… better knit it nicely!

The ball in the corner is a current secret project in Circus Tonic Handmade in the Silvereye colourway, and the skein in the top right is about something that I’ll be telling you about in a couple of days!!

Which leads me to say, come back on Monday, 16 May, because I have something brilliant to share with you.  (NZ/Aust readers please note this is US time, so it may not be until Tuesday, 17 May our time).  A wonderful designer has made a generous contribution to Sustain the Sea, and it is just beautiful.

I leave you with part of one of the photos minus the project… just a teaser!

Mystery pic

See you again soon!


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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.

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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!!

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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…)

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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!!


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A yarny update

Hello!  Happy Weekend!

Well, it has been an interesting few weeks on the knitting front, and I thought it is about time we talked about happy knitting news!  In short order, the highlights have been as follows:

  • I started my contract (hooray! Not knitting, but I thought I’d mention it.  I’m really enjoying being there too).
  • I finally found a heel for Mary Mary that I like and importantly, that other knitters will like (currently feverishly knitting the 3rd sample of Mary Mary that includes the new heel).
  • Very excitingly, I received some Yarn!
  • Feedspot nominated Kiwiyarns Knits among the Top 100 Knitting Blogs for Knitters and Crocheters!  I was a bit leery when I received the news, thinking it was spam, but having checked it out, and seeing what good company I keep, I’m really happy about this nomination!  This is very much thanks to all of you who read my blog.  Thank you very much for reading!
  • Designing is finally happening again, to great happiness.

So let’s get into details.  First up, The Yarn!

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This is a glorious bundle of squish – New Zealand made yarns compliments of Naturally Yarns, sent to me for review. Lucky me!

I haven’t yet had a chance to get into them properly, but I hope to have time to do that in the next couple of weeks. Here’s a very quick look at them for the time being:

Otira (40% NZ Merino/ 35% Tencel/ 25% Possum)

This new yarn was released in February.  Having read about the unenvironmentally-friendly manufacturing methods for bamboo and rayon fibre, I was concerned about the environmental friendliness of the Tencel content. However, this article from Ecomall has assured my fears that of any manmade fibre, Tencel is probably the best choice.

Tencel is the brand name for lyocell produced by Lenzing AG.  Lyocell is a fibre made from wood.  It is important to note that it’s the brand Tencel, manufactured by Lenzing AG that has been given this approval from environmental agencies, and not all lyocell.

Lenzing AG, which owns the Tencel brand, undertakes extremely careful manufacturing methods to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the environment in the manufacture of Tencel.  In addition, the wood it sources all comes from sustainable sources. Here’s another interesting article I read from OrganicClothing.blogs.com if you would like to know more about Tencel and production processes surrounding this brand.

Amuri (75% Pure NZ Merino, 25% Possum)

I have not yet knitted with this possum blend yarn.  It is the most halo’y of all the possum blends I have come across and has an interesting single ply construction that looks like the wool was softly felted.  It will be interesting to see how it performs!

Waikiwi (55% NZ Merino, 20% Nylon, 15% Alpaca, 10% Possum)

Billed as a sock yarn, I haven’t yet knit a sock out of this yarn, so it will be interesting to do some intensive swatching!

Harmony 8 ply (100% New Zealand merino wool)

Again, a very interesting single-ply, felted construction.  This yarn is available in 8 ply and 10 ply natural shades (not completely naturally coloured, as the natural wool is colour adjusted with dye to keep it consistent from season to season), in colour, and in tweed.  It’s incredibly squishy and I have to admit, is the first of the yarns to be put on the swift to be balled ready for knitting!

Most of the colours shown above are from their range of new colours out this season.

Also, you will soon get a chance to win this beautiful skein on Circus Tonic Handmade Revelry Sock:

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Hannah and I have been talking bird colours.  I asked if she would be interested in doing an interview on Kiwiyarns Knits, and she very kindly said yes!  She is one of the most amazingly generous people I have met – she decided to also include a skein of a custom-dyed sock yarn as part of our interview.  This colourway is called Silvereye (also called White-Eye or Wax-Eye) – inspired by the adorable little bird that can be found in both Australia and New Zealand.  The image of a Silvereye below is taken from Ordinary Goodness’s delightful blog which features a lot of New Zealand birdlife.  I know the Lynley wouldn’t mind if I used her photo.  Thanks Lynley!

Watch out for our interview soon.  I’ll also be giving away a free copy of my new sock pattern, Mary Mary.

I have also been working with Mary at Maniototo Wool to design a child’s poncho.  Here’s a sneaky peek:

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I’m really glad that I got a chance to work with Mary on this design.  I’ll show it in full detail when the pattern is complete.  The DK yarn in particular is delightful to work with and I’m very excited to use more of it in future designs!

As you can see, there is quite a backlog of things to catch up on, so now that life is “somewhat” on a more even keel, there should be some interesting reads to be had in the near future!


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Seriously Pretty

For a long time, I have hankered after a pretty, feminine yarn, with the barest hint of blush.  Something that reminded me of the palest cherry blossom scattered over clean white sheets.  I never was able to find that colourway, until Circus Tonic Handmade appeared on the scene.

When I saw Hannah’s Galah colourway, that beautifully muted pink and grey, I knew it had to be mine.  And then I started knitting it, and the pattern I have had in my head for a long time (but wasn’t able to find the right colour yarn for it) sprang up and shouted “Me, me, me, me!!!”

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After much swatching and ripping, I realised the pattern had to be toe-up, which threw me a bit as I dislike the backwards (to me) way of knitting heels.  Then I remembered that I could always do an afterthought heel, and all was well with the world again!

This merino/nylon blend yarn (Revelry Sock) is the softest sock yarn I have ever laid my hands on.  The merino wool used to make this yarn is of very high quality. It is so soft, I was scared that it would be weak, but it is not.  It is very well spun, with a non-splitty, springy twist that is perfect for socks or anything else you want to knit it in. I like it very much.

I think there is definitely a place in the world for pretty, feminine colours.  Ones that aren’t super saturated, but not washed out either.  It’s my new favourite style of colourway!

I bet you want to see that design I spoke of?

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This is a sneaky peek of Mary, Mary.  All going well, I’ll be releasing the pattern towards the end of next week (dependent on testing time).  Mary, Mary, was inspired by the nursery rhyme, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?  With silver bells and cockle shells, and little maids all in a row.”  It is a feminine design to match a feminine yarn, and I am very pleased with how it turned out in the end.  (The sock hasn’t been blocked yet, which is why it’s still a bit wonky looking).

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Can you see the silver bells and cockle shells?  I took the bell reference to be flowers like the Lily of the Valley which have little bells, and the cockle shells are run up the sides, like little borders on the flower beds.

The pattern is not hard to knit.  I will give you links to the Turkish cast on that I used (it is so simple, it is my favourite method for double-sided cast ons) and how to work out the length of the foot before commencing the heel.  The heel will also have a surprise.  I worked out how to knit a cushioned afterthought heel that fits well.  I am very pleased with it and for me, it will help very much with the holes that always develop first on the bottom of my heels!

On a final note, speaking of pretty, I saw some truly amazing and exciting New Zealand produced yarn this weekend.  Mary Furness-Weir of Maniototo Wool has produced a special new yarn this season – it is called Luxury Lambswool (from the wool of ram lambs). It is a worsted-spun, DK weight yarn.  I have never felt anything so beautiful.  It has drape, sheen, it is incredibly smooth (due to the worsted spin) and it is soft.  Oh so soft (22 micron).  It is quite tightly spun, which makes it even more different to the usual DK weight wool yarns.  It makes my head burst.  I want it ALL.  I don’t have photos (Mary only had two skeins for her own use on her when she showed them to me and I stupidly forgot to take a photo… I was too busy coveting).  I have regrammed one of her posts showing the yarn – have a look at the Instagram photo on my sidebar (visible if you are reading this post on a PC), and you’ll see the yarn.  Or if you follow me on Instagram (Kiwiyarns), you’ll see it in my feed.

If you hurry, you’ll find some on the indie shelf at Holland Road Yarn Company this month.  Mary will be in store at lunch time tomorrow (Monday), in case you are in Wellington and have time to meet her.

I had better get cracking and produce more patterns so I can afford to buy some before it is all gone!