I have to say that one of the best things that has happened since the Find Your Fade shawl went live, was how many new-to-me and AMAZING independent yarn dyers I have discovered! Shortly after it's release, I began seeing gorgeous gradients pop up in my Instagram feed created by these talented artists. It immediately made me want to cast on another, and also to get to know the people dyeing them!
Hannah from Circus Tonic Handmade is one of those delightful people. It has been such an honor getting to know her - and oh my goodness, is her yarn just stunning!! I am so excited to share her interview today! And lucky for us - I get to give away one of her beautiful skeins to a lucky winner!!
Could you tell us a little bit about what brought you to dyeing your own yarn line?
Soon after learning to knit at the end of 2013 I found hand dyed yarn. I quickly became absolutely obsessed…to such a point that my stash grew rather alarmingly! Even the mailman was wondering what on Earth was going on! I was still working as a scientist and up until that point had been a quilter drawn to the riot of colour in modern quilting. Once the kids came along and sitting with my back to them at a sewing machine became impractical (and have you ever tried to baste a quilt with toddlers around?!!) I knew I needed to switch to knitting and yarn. I just couldn’t get over how beautiful hand dyed yarn could be….and I loved being able to actually wear items handmade by me…so the love of knitting and yarn came hand in hand. Throughout the years of maternity leave, going back and forth to work and struggling with daycare, work and family balance I remember trying to come up with ideas that could allow me to work in what I loved which could also involve less crazy rushing around and expense! I enjoyed my previous science life, I had studied well over ten years for that position but with three kids in four years the lifestyle was just not practical anymore and as soon as the enjoyment goes it just makes it hard work.
Was there a pivotal moment that made you start your business?
I resigned from my career! From the day I realised everything had to change it was all done within a few short weeks. All the kids were at a University daycare where I worked, so they were all pulled out and we were home. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I was totally lost. I remember looking down at my hands…holding some magnificent Lemonade Shop yarn…. It took about 8 days before I had hotplates, yarn, dye and a mask ordered! I opened an Instagram account and started….the only way I knew how….studying!! I practiced and practiced….I dreamt yarn, I lived and breathed it…and still do. Obviously my kids and husband were top priority….but as far as I was concerned then and there I was so afraid not to be also “working” I had to throw myself head on into soly launched the business about five months later.
What inspires your colors?
I studied genetics, not colour and so I could only start with what I liked and I went with that. I actually turned…again….to books. I collect antique science and natural history books. Colour plates within books on Australian native birds became a huge focus and there is so much scope there I have yet to move on! There are even a lot of incredible birds to spot just around and about at home and on our travels. I have amazing books from the early 1900’s on gemstones, insects and flora. There is so much to pull from so that is where I am at the moment. I have become far more confident with new colourways lately, as I really explore the craft as there is a lot to learn!! There are so many ways to achieve fascinating speckles and highlights which are such a joy to knit in a skein and make wonderful fabric. Even in quilting, I fell in love with the whole “Low Volume” movement….and you can see that in a lot of my yarns lie Galah, Skylark, Wattlebird and Southern Cassowary. There is something so magical though about the depth a good semi solid tonal can lend to a garment. I’m totally hooked! I hope to continue on and on!
Can you tell us about some of the different bases you offer and if you have a favorite?
We offer local fingering, DK and Aran weight Australian merino bases which are extremely soft and delicious. Our 80/20 Australian merino nylon Revelry Sock base is the most popular…my favourite to dye and of course the most difficult and unreliable to source! As my shawl knitting obsession has expanded, we now carry a single ply merino fingering base, a higher twist merino cashmere silk blend, a stunning merino silk lace, a BFL sock and stellina fingering yarns. We try to offer a good sized range for sock, accessory, garment and shawl knitters.
What is the most unexpected thing that has happened since creating Circus Tonic Handmade?
The biggest surprise has been the incredibly generous and encouraging knit community!! Designers, yarn dyers, vendors, publishers, podcasters and makers all interconnecting and lifting each other. It is incredible and I truly think unique to our community. Never have I seen such kind acts on such a consistent and inspiring level….it’s been the icing on the cake! I’m really looking forward to building the business into a situation where I can start meeting up with online friends at faraway fibre festivals!!!!
What is the inspiration behind the name - Circus Tonic?
When people enter our home I’ve always said “Welcome to the Circus!” Knitting and making and yarn and fabric have been my survival strategy since having kids….my tonic. Tonic is also a play on words as our surname is Ginn, which is often mispronounced Gin like the spirit!
What advice would you give to people out there wanting to follow their creative dreams?
My top pointer would be to focus on something you really really LOVE as you should be prepared to work really REALLY hard!! The commitment needed to make a small business succeed is massive…..which is lucky for us as I do believe it’s easier for creative people to live, dream and sleep their business. There is that saying “The right time and the right place”. Once you think you are there you need to pull out all the stops and go for it!
What is the most important thing you have learned since starting your business?
I worked in many many different types of jobs while I studied…..florist, waitress, maître di, bartender, clothing retail, making hummus and tabbouleh in a Lebanese restaurant, librarian, tutor, lab demonstrator and research assistant. All of those involved customer service face to face. You could gauge situations in person most of the time and act accordingly. With almost 100% of my interactions now online I have really had to learn this new way of life…..and I believe it has unique customer service related challenges. I’m still learning but I really do enjoy having the odd live event, or Trunk Show….as meeting customers in real life and seeing their knits made from my yarn is a true thrill!
What is the soundtrack you have playing while dyeing yarn?
Bonobo mainly, with Air, Royksopp, Tame Impala, Fat Freddy’s Drop and then old school Basement Jaxx, Beastie Boys and Fatboy Slim if things need lifting a bit!!
Where can we find your yarn?
I currently sell on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/circustonichandmade and the best form of communication and keeping up with what is going on is to follow me on Instagram @circustonichandmade We have a thriving Ravelry group Circus Tonic Handmade Yarns and there are a whole lot of really fantastic projects to have a look at there.
What is your favorite thing to knit?
I started out knitting baby jumpers and cardigans and love how quickly they come together! It was shawls that really got me addicted to knitting larger projects....and now I have recently learned how to knit socks they are super fun to showcase my yarns. So I love those…but in 2017 I will be striving to attempt several sweaters and cardigans for myself! I have at least eight projects I would dearly love to make….most with colourwork yokes…and with our very short winter and knit wear season here in Sydney, those should last me quite some years! So I completely failed to answer that question…..but as I’m still a relatively new knitter I really can’t say yet!!
What is your spirit animal?
Can it be mythical? If so, Sphinx, for sure. But the benevolent Egyptian kind, not the monstrous Greek kind.
What is your favorite noise?
A champagne cork popping….daaaarling! No seriously!! It means there are friends, it’s the weekend, there’s great food…..family are happy and there are more adults around than just me…..and the mailman!!
Anything else you would like to include?
JUST THANK YOU ANDREA!!!!
Thank YOU Hannah for letting us peek behind the scenes of Circus Tonic Handmade!
To enter the giveaway to win a skein of Hannah's gorgeous yarn, please leave a comment below telling us what in nature inspires you? Remember to leave your email address or Ravelry name in the body of the comment so that I have a way to contact you!! The giveaway will close 4/1/17 at midnight EST.
All the images in this post were provided by and used with permission from Hannah Ginn.