Here’s another first for us – a yarn trunk show! If you hang out on Instagram you may have encountered Circus Tonic Handmade’s beautiful stream, which features Hannah Ginn’s soft, delicately coloured, hand-dyed, handpainted and speckled yarns.
Hannah lives in Sydney, but on 1 September, from 10am to 1pm, she will be at the store for some seriously engrossing squish and tell. Do drop by and say hello, and to pick up some goodies for yourself. In the meantime, here’s Hannah!
Tell us a little about yourself, Hannah, and the Circus Tonic Handmade story.
I live in Sydney with my husband, three kids and Hector the hound. I actually grew up in many parts of Australia and in Dubai before it was the mega-city it is today. My mum is English, so we would go to the UK for holidays. I didn’t return to Australia until uni, and haven’t left since!
I trained as a molecular biologist and worked for years in a genomics centre at UNSW. With daycare fees spiralling ever upwards it became counterproductive for me to work. I decided to take a break in mid-2015, take all the kids out of care and start over. Knitting and craft was a salve or tonic for our everyday crazy, loud, circus-like household life … so Circus Tonic Handmade it was. And now, the yarn has taken over!
I was home only a few weeks when I saw I needed another major goal to keep my spirits up after such a huge life shift. I had learnt to knit in 2013 when I was expecting my first winter baby, and often spent many hours wondering how I could turn my love of all things fibre and textiles into a business. I had been a huge quilter and knitting absolutely transfixed me once I began. Once I found hand-dyed yarn I was smitten!
What were your earliest influences and yarn dreams?
I always link back to certain times and places when I’m daydreaming about yarn. I recently found out my grandmother made kilts and then remembered looking through tartan and knitted yoke samples as a kid.
I started collecting fabrics on my travels when I was fourteen. I made scrunchies for pocket money and sold them to the cool kids at school in my lunch break!
My biggest can-do role model in terms of making is my mum. She used hand-making to survive motherhood, and made lead-light windows, sewed our clothes, grew our food, made our quilts and curtains, stencilled our rooms (eeeepppp! Lol) and has recently started a little residential upholstery school in the Southern Highlands of NSW.
Nothing is beyond her – and she actually trained as an opera singer! I remember standing under her skirt as she sang at a wedding, so it’s in the genes.
Tell us how you choose your yarn bases, and where you source them from.
I’m obsessed and I love all kinds, so my yarns are a mix of Australian and internationally sourced bases. I’m trying new ones all the time, depending on availability and even requests.
We love the bird names for your colourways, they are so inspired! How did they come about?
I’m always thinking about yarn, and while I pay attention to what’s on trend I really try to keep on my own path.
I based my current collection on Australian native birds as I thought that would give me a theme with plenty of scope. Some colourways are immediately recognisable while others take more artistic licence.
You have a lovely knitterly understanding of yarn and colour. How much does knitting experience inform your dyeing?
I love semi-solid tonals for garments especially as they were the types of yarns I first found as a knitter that I couldn’t resist.
I’m newer to speckled yarns but I love how they bring single-stitch pops to accessories. There are so many dyeing techniques to introduce speckles so it’s an ongoing education. From my former life as a scientist I’m used to taking very strict notes, experimenting and delayed gratification, so my dyeing will keep evolving.
How do you come up with the colours for an update/release? Do you work thematically, with a plan, or do you follow your nose and let serendipity take the lead?
I have sets of colourways that I feel go really well together so I tend to decide which ones will be the core of an update and then build around them. I try to come up with a couple of new colourways each update as customers love new yarn.
How important is social media to your business?
Instagram is centrally important to any indie dyer as it’s a great way to communicate what’s going on at HQ. I know the sorts of posts I enjoy looking at so I try to give my followers some lovely eye candy each day.
I don’t get a lot of time to knit these days and so showing my yarn knit up by talented and adventurous customers is really exciting and informative – I appreciate the sharing of project pics very much.
What does a day in your life look like? Do you manage to keep the kids and the dyeing business in neat compartments or does it all meld together in an organic fashion?
As business is picking up, Greg my husband is taking more and more of the weekend household and kid duties as I smash out several sixteen-hour days! As he does 55-hour weeks himself that is a huge commitment.
Each day I dye yarn, plot and plan, sew bags, visit my saintly post office, and do all the office jobs like photos, labels and packaging etc. We have two kids still at home during the day so we paint, ride scooters inside and generally hum along. They do watch a few too many movies, but I figure as long as I’m in the vicinity it’s OK!
Do you still knit a lot? And do you use other dyers’ yarns?
I love so many indie dyers! They are too numerous to mention, but in particular I love Skein, Miss Click Clack, The Uncommon Thread, Hedgehog Fibres, Baerenwolle, Madeline Tosh, The Wool Kitchen, Voolenvine Yarns, Knitsch, Spun Right Round and Skein Queen.
What and which other designers, artists or creative people inspire you?
I have always been a huge fan of Gustav Klimt, and I find it amusing that I see quilting and speckles and swirls all through his paintings and portraits.
Knitwear designers I constantly find myself drawn to are Melanie Berg, Ambah O’Brian, Kristen Finlay, Wei Siew Leong and The Lace Eater, and Françoise Danoy. There are so many others – Ravelry is my oyster!
What can we look forward to in your trunk show at Sunspun?
My trunk show at Sunspun will be a lot of fun. Retailing online misses so much of the personal interaction with knitters, and I’ve never met a knitter I didn’t like!
I will bring a lot of speckled, handpainted and semi-solid tonal sock yarns. My travelling limits what I can bring, but I hope to offer something everyone will like and want to take home. My mum and I are sewing a big stack of very covetable project bags too so there should be lots of delicious items to see.