Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


A giveway – Rose Marlow – NZ indie maker

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Meg of Rose Marlow, a New Zealand indie maker business.

Meg and Jen make beautiful things that knitters like.  Today, I’m hosting a giveaway for some of this lovely parcel of goodies that arrived on my doorstep!  Would you like to know more?

Rose Marlow

The yarn is mine for review, and I will be telling you more about it in due course. The stitch markers, project bag and pom pom are up for grabs.

The bag is very generously sized and big enough to hold a shawl project.  Here it is sitting next to one of my latest sock projects, for comparison purposes.  I have filled it with a 200g skein of shawl yarn and my small notions kit, and as you can see, there is still plenty of room for more in it.

Project bag comparison

It is made of double-lined Japanese fabric, and has a sturdy metal zip and handmade leather pull.

Project bag

The stitch markers are made of glass beads.

Stitch markers

They come in a handy handmade Japanese fabric bag.

And for those who like pompoms but dislike making them:


It will look nice atop a knitted hat!

If you would like to be the recipient of this parcel, please leave a comment sharing what features you would look for in a project bag if you were to buy one. I think mine would have to be one that is small enough to fit into my purse and the fabric is dense enough that my needles don’t poke through.

This giveaway is open to both New Zealand and overseas participants.

I will draw the winner next week, Sunday, 1 May. Good luck!




Mary, Mary, quite contrary

I am delighted, very happy, most relieved, to release the pattern for Mary, Mary today!

Mary, Mary socks

This is fun, feminine design inspired by the nursery rhyme “Mary Mary Quite Contrary”.  The main motif on this sock reflects “silver bells”, while delicate mock cabling along the sides are the “cockle shells”.  The use of softly coloured yarn from Circus Tonic Handmade contributes to the overall delicate look of this pattern.

This particular version uses the Western Whipbird colourway.  As you’ll know, I also knitted versions in the Galah colourway:

Galah colourway

and in Vintage Purls (I think it was called Whisper of Doubt, if I remember correctly):

Mary, Mary in Vintage Purls

I’m very happy with how these socks have ultimately turned out.

Mary, Mary socks

They are definitely one of my favourite designs!

Many thanks also to my test knitter for her feedback on the pattern.

I want to thank readers for your patience in having to wait so long for this pattern.  I am offering this pattern at 50% off for the next three days (until 20 April 2016) (regular price is going to be NZ$5).  You don’t need a code – the discount will apply automatically.  Download here.

There are also going to be opportunities to receive a free copy of this pattern.  Hang tight while I work out the details!


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!!


The Shepherd

It’s funny how one’s imagination can get completely fired up by a story that we relate to.  When I saw Kate Kavies’ post about The Shepherd hoody, I got very, very excited.

Leaving aside the fact that Kate Davies has managed to design a hoody that “had” me at first glance, it’s also the backstory to the Shepherd and the Shearer that has great significance to me.  The project resonates very loudly within my core:  using yarn from local sheep to make a beautiful sweater in a sturdy yarn that you could throw on and wear, and wear, and wear….and that will still be amazing in 20 years’ time.  It was also about women operating in a traditionally male dominated profession, doing what they love, and doing it well.  I could immediately think of several Kiwi women doing exactly the same thing, and what better way to celebrate their accomplishment in wool than by knitting a Shepherd in New Zealand yarn?

I immediately bought the pattern for The Shepherd, dug out the yarn, and swatched!!  In fact, I was so excited that even though it was late, I didn’t stop knitting until it was done, and that swatch is quite a monster!

The Swatch

So, which yarn do you think I am using?  I think I need to share a bit of this yarn love.  If you have been following my blog for a while, you’ll know my favourites, and should be able to figure it out.

More swatch

To make this really fun, I’m giving away two hanks of this wonderful yarn: one hank each to two lucky readers who comment with the right answer.  (There will be a natural colour choice).  Entries close on Saturday, 28 September, and the winners will be drawn by random number generator from a list of names with the correct answer.

Here is a clue:  It’s New Zealand grown, shorn and spun.  It’s 100% wool, and the sheep are farmed by a woman, shorn by a woman (I’m not sure if all the sheep are shorn only by her, but she definitely gets mentioned), and spun by a woman. It is the perfect yarn for The Shepherd, or the Shearer (I love Kirsten Kapur’s sweater too and might have to knit it as well!).  For that matter, it has all the qualities mentioned by Susan Gibbs for the yarn they have especially designed over at Juniper Moon.

Best of all for me, this yarn is the perfect gauge!!  Yippee!!

So, if you fancy getting your hands of a nice bit of New Zealand wool, take a guess at whose yarn this is (some research in my page tabs and it won’t be hard), and leave a comment.

In the meantime, I’m going to start my Shepherd!!

And the winner…

of one free e-copy of Lit Knits is Karen!  Congratulations Karen!  PM has been sent to you.

Thanks again to everyone who entered the giveaway for Lit Knits, and for your lovely, thoughtful comments.  You really made my day.  🙂

Remember, there are still eight more opportunities to enter the draw for a copy of the book – just follow the breadcrumb trail of the book tour!  Audry has listed all the book tours on her blog.  Do pop in on the others, I particularly loved the post by PansandNeedles.

Good luck!


Follow the breadcrumb trail

I think one of the best things about childhood is being read to by an adult.  I have so many happy memories of bedtime stories (and not bedtime stories!) being read to me by my mother and grandmother, the expression in their voices bringing the characters to life, translating the emotions portrayed in words, which in turn captivated the imagination and cultivated an enduring love of books.  Their encouragement of reading and regular infusions of new books into my life made me keen to read, and read I did.  I think I just about devoured the entire school library in my time!

Reaching back in time, I think one of my favourite childhood stories would have to be Hansel and Gretel.

For a fairy tale, it had quite a lot going on – love, betrayal, self-empowerment of children, triumphing over evil, a happy ending.

Hansel’s gathering of pebbles to find their way home and tricking the witch with a bone was ingenious; Gretel overcoming the witch, pure courage.  Victory in freeing her brother; their happy reunion with their beloved father.  I always felt very satisfied when I finished reading it.

Hansel and Gretel was so much more exciting and realistic to me than other saccharine fantasy tales of some unimaginably beautiful princess finding herself in difficulty and having a handsome prince ride to her rescue… quite hard to relate to!

Later on, the Laura Ingalls series was favourite reading material at home (this, and Anne Frank, brought on the craze for autobiographical books), leading on to Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the hilarious P.G. Wodehouse and James Herriot amongst many, many others.  I was probably a little strange in loving all the Shakespeare plays, but they appealed to me.  Roald Dahl came late in life. Although we had shelves of amazing books at home, my mother did not approve of his books for some strange reason, (my poor sister was given “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” as a gift, and it went in the fire, to our great sorrow) so they were banned reading until I left home and could buy them and read them in the privacy of my own home.  There were some things I would refuse to read. Mills & Boon… say no more.

As each of my children were born, I continued the beloved tradition.  Beatrix Potter’s “The Story of Miss Moppet” was the very first story I ever read my infant daughter.  As she got older, it became one of her favourite stories, and she would coo in sympathy for poor Miss Moppet and her head in the duster,miss moppet

and shriek in laughter at silly Miss Moppet finding the duster empty after the clever little mouse had squeezed out of the hole in it and was dancing a jig on top of the cupboard!

naught mouse in miss moppet

In fact, I bought the compendium of Beatrix Potter stories when I was only 19 years old, and hadn’t even got a partner yet, and it would be a few more years after that before my first child was born!  But the idea of being able to one day read this treasury of beautiful stories to my own children inspired me to get it.  I even have Pat Menchini’s “The Beatrix Potter Knitting Book” of ’80s designs all inspired by B.P. stories and shot on location on some of the National Trust properties that were owned by Beatrix Potter.  Some of them are still very knittable!

Peter Rabbit cardigan

Peter Rabbit cardigan and toning skirt from The Beatrix Potter Knitting Book

So when Audry told me about the book she was writing (Lit Knits), and that it would feature patterns inspired by children’s stories, I was very excited.  So many stories I could think of, so many patterns that one could think up!  What a great idea!  I waited patiently… for two years!  Clearly, this book would be one worth waiting for.

Then, on her trip out to New Zealand earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek of what she had dreamed up, and I saw that my hunch was right!

White Rabbit Mittens, and with a clock in the palm!?

Rabbit mittens

A Treasure Island blanket!?

Sail To Treasure Islandand of course, the Robin Hoodie, which I loved so much that of course I had to test knit it!

Robin hoodie

The fact that Audry has taken the concept of a story, and embodied its spirit in the design is inspired and speaks of the many hours of thinking she must have put into each and every design in Lit Knits.  This is the point about Lit Knits that captured my imagination.  A knitting pattern book inspired by a story or movie is not new. Only many of these books are basically costume reproductions (not a bad thing, but I’m just telling you here why Lit Knits is different to me).  Audry has taken it a step further:  it’s a book of patterns that embody a story.  You won’t look like you are wearing a story, or a character out of a book when you wear one of these garments.  I like that.

Today, I invite you to “follow the breadcrumb trail” as I am honoured to kick start the first round of Audry Nicklin’s blog tour for Lit Knits!

Audry has very kindly offered to give away one free copy of her e-book to a reader of Kiwiyarns Knits and on each of the other blogs who participate in this book tour between now and 25 September.

So… to enter the giveaway, the conditions are:  leave a comment on this blog saying which of the designs in Lit Knits is your favourite.  To view the patterns, click here for a link to Ravelry or here to go to the Bear-ears website (by the way, did you realise that the patterns can be purchased individually if you only want to knit one of the patterns from her book?)

I will draw a name from the list by random draw on 12 September, and we’ll be in touch for your details!

If you decide that you simply must have a hard copy (that’s me), then there is a special deal on at the moment:

Preorder Lit Knits by September 25 and you will get a complimentary copy of the e-book immediately with your order.  After September 25, the e-book will only be available as a separate purchase.

Visit Vivian at Bits and Pieces on 6 September for the next stop of this tour!

And, if you haven’t already discovered them, pop on over to Audry’s blog, where she has put up the back story to each of her designs.  They’re great reading!