Knitting seems to have stormed back into fashion this last decade. Have you seen a change in the popularity of knitting since opening your shop and do you have a typical customer?
Absolutely! When I got back into knitting in 2006, I could count my real-life knitting friends on one hand. Now, more and more people are picking up the needles as they see their friends knitting anywhere and everywhere and making really amazing things.
I wouldn’t say we have any ‘typical’ customers. So many interesting people walk in the doors and they are all looking for something different. So my approach is to listen to them as much as possible, while still bringing in stock that makes my heart sing and that I desperately want to knit with. There’s also a large element of pastoral care in this business – customers quickly become friends, so it’s much more than simply selling yarn.
You announced recently that you were showcasing an New Zealand indie dyer on your shelves each month. I think this is a brilliant idea! How have your customers responded? Have you seen an increase in indie dyers in New Zealand over the last couple of years?
The Indie Shelf Project has had a great response! It’s so refreshing and exciting for everyone to have something completely different turn up each month. It forces me away from my usual colour sensibilities too, which is only ever a good thing. The main reason for it is to make up for the lack of Knitsch Yarns this year. I’m taking a break from dyeing this year in order to refresh creatively, and the Indie Shelf Project seemed the perfect way to keep local hand-dyed yarns on the shelf in the meantime.
There has been a noticeable increase of people starting up business here over the last few years and it’s a tricky thing to navigate. It’s wonderful that it’s so easy to start up as an indie dyer here, but we also have a limited market in New Zealand and the yarn road isn’t paved with gold. However….there’s no such thing as too much yarn.
I recently wrote a post about substituting yarn in patterns. It’s a subject that lots of knitters have questions about. Do you have a couple of tips that you could share about using yarn different from that specified in a pattern?
Substituting is something we deal with constantly! Our usual process is to look at the specified yarn on Ravelry to check out the meterage, weight and fibre content. I try to get the meterage to weight as close as possible, while still taking into account the behaviours of the fibre content. Being around yarn all the time means knowing yarn qualities really well, so my best advice is: if in doubt, ask. It’s better to ask a quick question than to be disappointed after lots of work.
I guess you have to try lots of new yarn before you order it for your shops? Is your stash enormous? And, when do you find time to knit?
Hahahaha no my stash is tiny! It takes up two shelves in a sideboard and that’s about it. Having said that, my stash is a visual bucket list of yarn I’d like to stock in the shop. We’re about to start stocking Quince & Co’s wool yarns so I’ve pulled the Chickadee out of my stash to play with while we wait for it to arrive. I don’t always knit with a yarn before we order it, particularly with the international yarns. If one of our existing suppliers brings out something new, and I get weak-kneed at the idea of it (and the budget allows), I’ll usually order it in. Weak-knees is how I make lots of the store purchasing decisions, now that I think of it.
As for knitting, it’s rare that I can knit when working in the shop. I’ll always have something on the go and snatch moments here and there, but 95% of my shop time is looking after customers and admin. Knitting is still my favourite thing in the entire world though and I go home at the end of each day and knit.
Finally, a question for me and all the other New Zealander’s living outside of Wellington; how about the rest of New Zealand? Can we hope to see a Holland Road yarn shop in our town anytime soon?
12 months ago I would have said YES ABSOLUTELY. I want to share amazing yarn as far and wide as I possibly can. However last year was personally quite difficult and it’s made me step back and reassess a bit. I’m not able to spend enough time with friends and family, my partner has to put up with my stress levels and I’m not always the best person I can be because all my energy goes into running a business. I’m not ruling out more locations completely, I just want to be sure I can take care of myself and do a good job if it happens. In the meantime you can shop online! It isn’t quite the same I know but at least we’re based in NZ and do really love getting to know our online customers as much as the in-store ones.
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Thank you so much for such a fabulous interview Tash!
I’m still crossing my fingers for an Auckland Holland Road Yarn store ;) In the meantime, if like me you don’t live near Wellington, check out the Holland Road Yarn store online.
In other news: Did you see I (finally!) started a Ravelry group? I’m so thrilled to see so many faces over there already. The group is a friendly place on Ravelry to gather together and have a good chat. It’s for new pattern announcements, questions and support for Truly Myrtle patterns, knit-along’s and lots of happy chattering about what we’re making.
Do feel free to pop along, join, introduce yourself and have fun! I’m really looking forward to getting to know you. X