Scratching the Knitting Itch

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Trying to start the sabbatical

For quite some time i’ve thought about starting a professional / personal blog, to talk about some of the challenges and triumphs of being a small business owner. Then I realised this is the perfect place to do it – to write my way through this sabbatical and put down in words some of the things i’m thinking about and dealing with to improve our processes.

2014 has been a challenge. Not so much in the way of having two shops, but more in the fact life still happens and doesn’t care if you have a million and one things to do. Two shops would have been a whole lot easier to manage if life didn’t also throw the funerals of two family members and a dear friend our way. Add in about 14 trips to Auckland to spend time with my step-daughters (time I wouldn’t give up for anything), 3 major yarn events, volunteering at a week-long conference, and being supporter no.1 as the Mr helped organise and run another conference. We also moved house, and, well, opened that second shop at the beginning of the year.

All of that really pushed me towards making the choice to take this dyeing sabbatical. I was too busy, too stressed, and trying to do too much. Throw in any one of those major events and the already unbalanced work-life scales would fall over. So: sabbatical time. It officially started about a month ago, but there is one more dye day that must happen so I can make one of my planned knitting projects, plus a few other customer orders to finish off. Already, though, I have no idea how I managed to fit dyeing in around everything else.

What it has done is free up some head space to plan for next year. We’ve launched the Indie Shelf Project to fill the gap left by there not being any Knitsch for the year, and for the first time in 4 years i’ve managed to put together a class schedule well in advance. I’m trying to fit in all the different classes we are asked for often, but my main concern is having to teach a lot of them myself. Which means, as usual, i’m over committed before the year even starts. Working through the list and adding them in to the calendar I kept trying to find some space to squeeze a holiday in as well, but right now the chance of holiday in 2015 is looking pretty slim.

At least all the planning in advance means knowing how busy 2015 will be, and trying to organise life to fit in self-care alongside all the crazy business stuff. If you ever hear anyone say how incredibly hard it is to own a business, they aren’t kidding. Taking care of myself always, always comes after all the work is done, the family stuff is taken care of, after the house work has been sorted.

The goal for writing all this work / life stuff in one place is so you can see a bit of behind-the-scenes of running a yarn shop, and also help me along the way of finding balance amidst the crazy.

What’s on my mind at the moment:

– needing to sort out the home office and turn it into a bedroom for the 2.5 year old

– buying and making Christmas presents

– planning a list of things to do in the shops while they’re closed (cleaning, mostly)

– anticipating the bills that will come due over our closed period


What’s on the needles:

– the golden dress for our town shop window

– a cardigan for a shop sample / the 2.5 year old

– a sock which is entirely selfish knitting


December 16, 2014   No Comments

Knitsch Yarn Club

Goes on sale this Thursday! Hooray! Inspired by a dye day a few months ago where everything went wrong…in a good way. Sometimes mis-dyes are the happiest of accidents, and all three colours for this new yarn club are a result of one wayward dye day.

What you really want is the yarn club details:

‘The Jewel Thief’

3 months, 3 parcels, 3 skeins of Knitsch sock yarn each time (150g), 1 shawl pattern each parcel.

On sale: Thursday 3 July at 10am
Shipments: late July, mid-August and mid-September
Price: $135 plus shipping ($15 NZ, $21 Australia, $30 rest of world)

Don’t freak out that there aren’t any in stock right now – it will be available to purchase on Thursday. The product is there so you know exactly where you need to be on the day.

July 1, 2014   No Comments


October sees Knitsch Yarns celebrate 5 years. 5 whole years! When I first started I talked to lots of people about my business concept and lots of them mentioned the magic 5 year mark. Hitting it is a pretty major milestone, and i’m so chuffed that people love Knitsch Yarns enough to keep me super busy.

And busy we are – so busy, I can’t keep up. It’s a wonderfully awful problem to have. However between two yarn shops and dyeing, i’m feeling a bit burnt out. I have plans a-plenty but about zero energy to follow through or explore them further.

After lots of discussions and thinking, i’ve decided to take a one year dyeing sabbatical. It’s been a really hard decision to make, because I love Knitsch and I love dyeing, and I don’t want to give it up. Which is why i’m going for a sabbatical instead of just a break.

What’s the plan?


Tis a long and windy road, this business lark

Business as (relatively) usual until early October

I have two lots of yarn base scheduled to arrive, and i’m going to keep dyeing as normal until early October. So you’ll still find Knitsch on the shelves at Holland Road Yarn Co and online. We’re a bit low at the moment due to delays at the mill, but that’s how it goes occasionally.


Yarn Club

I have been planning a yarn club for about 3 months, and now I can finally get to launching it. There’s been a few delays with yarn base which has pushed it back but i’m still determined to do it. The club goes on sale 10am Thursday 3 July. I’ll post more details once I have them all ready to go.



I’ll be putting time into improving my dyeing set-up so I can dye more at a time (hooray!). I’ll be meeting with my mill and talking over some ideas for the future, doing lots of research and playing and exploring new processes. I’m really excited about this bit – it’s all the stuff i’ve been wanting to do but have been so busy just keeping up that it’s been impossible to fit it all in.


Random yarn releases

Because inspiration will no doubt strike, i’ll learn something new or just feel like playing around with colour, i’ll do random releases of Knitsch stock. Where and when and how are yet to be decided. It means that Knitsch yarns will still be available, but on a limited basis.


….time to find new inspiration in surprising places

At the end of the day I really need the space to refresh creatively. Hannah Donovan did a really amazing talk at Webstock earlier this year, and it hit home in a big way. Even doing something you love can become too much if you don’t take the time to play and restore your energy. I feel like i’m only just keeping up and things need a shake-up so I can better serve you, my amazing and supportive customers, and make sure i’m still in one piece at the end of it. I’m looking to restore the joy in what I do and therefore share more joy with you. I’ll keep track of my progress here so you can still see what i’m up to. It’s going to be a great ride!


June 24, 2014   2 Comments

Isobar Shawl

After neglecting this blog for about, oh, forever, it’s time I did some updates! I’m going to start sharing some of the gorgeous patterns that are being designed with Knitsch Yarn, starting with our own Isobar Shawl which was designed for the last yarn club.

Isobar shawl knitting pattern




The pattern is available through Ravelry as a digital download. You can buy gradient kits from Holland Road Yarn Company, but we’ve been playing with some other ideas:

Dark grey to yellow knitsch sock gradient

from l-r: Downburst, Chinook, Silver Lining, Yellow Brick Road

Dark purple to pale pink Knitsch Sock gradient

from l-r The William, Mulligan Drive, Sweetheart and Gwyneth

It’s a great pattern for everyone – not too complicated but enough to keep things interesting. Happy knitting!

May 22, 2014   No Comments

Filmy Fern: a shawl for a royal baby

This morning I had a bit of a surprise – tweets from friends exclaiming over the news that Margaret Stove had designed the shawl that was presented as New Zealand’s official gift to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for the birth of their first baby.


Having absolutely no idea what was going on, and assuming the Prime Minister had maybe got a bit confused between shawls from the Prince William’s birth, I rang Grandma.

One bemused conversation with her later, I have the story. The most hilarious (because all I can do is laugh about it) is that she specifically asked if she could tell me, so I could be sure to have copies of her book in stock, and she was flatly told that she couldn’t.

Anyway, here’s the info:

Margaret was commissioned to design, spin and knit a shawl for the event of Prince William’s birth in 1982. A special request from the High Country Breeders of Merino sheep, the shawl took nearly 400 hours of work and was a purely original design, inspired by traditional Maori design and native New Zealand flora.

Image courtesy of the Christchurch Star

There is an excellent article, written by Margaret, in the Summer 2013 issue of Spin Off magazine. It details the fascinating process of creating the shawl.


Anyway, the official gift given by the New Zealand government to the new parents today was hand spun and knit by Cynthia Read of Cambridge. I was lucky enough to meet Cynthia at the Creative Fibre Festival in April but had no idea why it was she wanted to have a nosey at our shawl samples. The design is Filmy Fern from Margaret’s most recent book, Wrapped in Lace (Interweave Press 2010). It is an incredible shawl with amazing drape and from tomorrow we’ll have the book sample in the shop for anyone who would like to drool over (just not on it, please, that would be gross). It is knit using Artisan Lace Gossamer, which produces wedding ring shawls – that is, a shawl that will fit through a wedding ring.


Image courtesy of Interweave


And here I was thinking i’d be able to avoid all the royal baby mayhem. Hooray babies, but let’s value the people nearest and dearest to us first, yeah? We’ve had a very shaky few days here in Wellington and it means nerves are frayed and knitting really is the ticket for keeping worries at bay. I have even more respect for what the people of Christchuch (including Margaret) have lived through the past few years, what with sleepless nights thanks to aftershocks and the constant worry that we’re yet to see our big earthquake. Thanks goodness yarn is soft and squishy and bouncy!

I’ll update this post as I get more information about the gift (and hopefully some pics!). Take care of yourselves xx


Edited to add: A great radio interview with Margaret on Newstalk ZB this morning – the link takes you directly to the clip.

July 23, 2013   No Comments