A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on

It’s that time again! Time to interview someone inspirational and fabulous!

This month I was lucky enough to interview a very inspirational New Zealand fibre enthusiast. Tash is the owner of the very beautiful and very famous (in New Zealand!) yarn shop Holland Road Yarn Company in Wellington. Holland Road feels a little like my local yarn shop even though it is a long eight hour drive away from where I live. I buy yarn and needles from Tash through her online store and chat to her like she was just down the road. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? 
Tash opened her first branch several years ago and quickly grew, opening a second store in Wellington soon afterwards. The Holland Road Yarn shops are hugely popular amongst New Zealand knitters, stocking beautiful yarn from all over the world, lovely accessories and running a fabulous range of classes. Tash has set a very high standard for New Zealand yarn shops to follow!

A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on

Tash is also known for her beautiful dyeing. Her yarn line Knitsch Yarn is just delicious and I’ve stashed some away for myself after hearing that she was taking a break from dyeing for a while. Psst … there’s a wee bit left!
It can’t go without saying that fibre, yarn and knitting are in Tash’s blood. Many knitters know of Tash’s Grandmother Margaret Stove. Margaret is a very talented lace yarn spinner and lace knitter. She has won awards and represented New Zealand with her beautiful knitting and was famously commissioned to create a shawl for Prince William in 1982. You can purchase her stunning Artisan lace yarn and her books through a number of distributors including Holland Road Yarn Company.
I am so grateful that Tash made time to answer my questions so we get to hear a little bit about life in a yarn shop …. and, without further ado – here’s Tash!
You seem to be from a family of famous knitters! Were you aware of how much talent you were surrounded by growing up? When did you start knitting?
I had no idea how famous Margaret is until the age of about 12. Now it’s really wonderful to be able to keep sharing her work with the world and learn as much as I can from her. Although for both of us it’s really hard to get time to sit down and talk knitting.

I was taught to knit several times when I was younger by both my grandmothers and my mum. Despite absolutely loving the process, it never quite stuck. In 2006 I found myself working at a ski field surrounded by people teaching themselves to crochet, so in an act of rebellion went back to knitting instead. I found it hugely therapeutic and haven’t stopped since. Back then I never envisaged it becoming the centre of my life!

I wonder if every knitter dreams of owning a yarn store (I certainly do!) Did you open Holland Road with any experience of selling yarn or running brick and mortar shop or has this whole adventure been a huge learning curve?
Like many kids I worked in retail at school – I was about 16 when I started working in a fabric store and was there part-time for five years. That was the end of my retail stint until 2009, when I found myself going stir-crazy in London trying to job hunt. I emailed a bunch of yarn shops offering my services for free, and ended up at the place that inspired Knitsch Yarns and Holland Road Yarn Co: Socktopus. I came back to New Zealand determined to share the yarn inspiration i’d found in London, by hand-dyeing yarn and generating enough cash to open a store. I worked at another shop, Wanda Harland, for a year as Knitsch Yarns became established before opening the doors of Holland Road Yarn Co in 2011.  Martha, who owns Wanda Harland, was (and continues to be) a huge inspiration and gave me loads of guidance.
It’s still been a huge learning curve. Looking back to the early days, I got by on guess work and advice. These days I still learn constantly, and there is no way I could do this thing without the support and understanding of my special man friend, my mum, my staff, my friends and family.

A photo posted by Tash (@knitsch) on

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.

Holland Road Yarn Shop

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

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