Indie Dyer Series · interview · knitting · yarn

Indie Dyer Series: Circus Tonic Handmade

Today I have something very special to share with you all: the first interview of my Indie Dyer Series! This will be an ongoing collection of conversations with dyers I adore, and I’m so excited that the beautiful Hannah from Circus Tonic Handmade has agreed to be the first interviewee! I had the absolute privilege of meeting Hannah in person earlier this year, so I can say for sure that she is one of the loveliest people I have the honour of knowing. Add to that insane abilities at dyeing gorgeous yarns and sewing stunning project bags, and you have a creative tour de force! 🙂

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Hi, please introduce yourself!

Hello! My name is Hannah and I am the creator of Circus Tonic Handmade. I dye yarn, love yarn, dream yarn and try to send yarn all over the world! I do a little sewing and generally juggle this in Sydney, Australia with my three kids, hound and hubby!

Can you share a little about what motivated you to start dyeing yarn?

Once I finally learnt to knit I realised I had a deep love of hand dyed yarn. I literally couldn’t believe how incredibly beautiful it could be and how using it really added to the knitting experience and finished project. I started watching a few podcasts and reading up about it…and then luckily I had a life change of direction where I was at home with the kids and could then experiment with my own dyeing. My tastes in hand dyed yarn were quite specific back then so I started with a lot of semi solid tonals with grey washes on top to mute everything down. I now enjoy a broader range of yarns and so my dye techniques have expanded too.

What do you enjoy most about the yarn dyeing process, and do you listen to anything while you’re working?

There are so many steps to dyeing yarn…much like cooking a dinner party. There is the planning stage….at my desk with paper and pencil…looking through my books (more on those later). I write a run sheet of everything I want to dye for an update and while I’m figuring that out I am constantly checking that the collection will be cohesive and customers can match yarns that go together easily. I have my formula book with all the colours….there are so many now that I do need that reference to check all the names! I really like this stage as I can sit with a coffee and just get stuck in. This is the point of planning a club yarn that I like the most….I’m thinking about what went before, the inspiration, looking through the books and planning the dye techniques, formulas and calculations and which pattern I’ll try for the sample for the photos.

There is so much going on in my house that I actually like to work with less noise. Working for years in labs, I always liked quiet…in my PhD lab, one guy controlled the radio and he liked TripleJ and we all used to like it to a point and then go crazy!! My mum was an Opera singer and complains we don’t have enough music in our house, so I do try to put some on when I remember! How bad is that?! Our tastes vary so vastly these days……some like Metallica, some like Katy Perry…some like the Wiggles, Frozen…..I like Bonobo, Royksopp and Bob Marley….so it’s hilarious. It’s a Circus, after all.

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Hannah is a queen in the art of yarn pyramid building!

Where does your creative inspiration come from?

I look to reference books on natural history almost all the time as a jumping off point. I’ve collected early 20th Century antique reference and text books for years. I’m glad they are really coming in handy now! I have a new book I found in a charity shop in Yamba on Australian gemstones…..Opals! I have books on butterflies, birds, astronomy, minerals, native wildflowers….all sorts. I am still dyeing a whole lot of yarn inspired by Australian native birds as the palette is endless and beautiful. I have had such fun exploring so many different dye techniques as I’ve grown the business over the last two years…..I owe a lot to the Galah!

What are your favourite bases to dye on, and what sorts of bases can we expect to find in the shop?

A high twist merino DK yarn such as my Pageant DK will make magnificent semi solid tonals. A slightly more rustic lower twist merino DK like Carousal DK will look stunning with subtle handpainted sections. A merino nylon sock like Revelry sock will show speckling beautifully, whereas a single ply merino like Circus Single looks amazing as a semi solid tonal. Basically, I have different favourites depending on the colourway I want to dye. At the moment I’m loving combining handpainting, speckling and immersion techniques all on the same skeins and a specialist medium twist merino nylon sock yarn like Jubilee Sock is best for that!

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A couple of my Circus Tonic Handmade favourites: Scarlet Chested Parrot on Soiree Fingering, and Southern Fulmar on Revelry Sock

Is there an important tip you wish you have known early on and would give someone wanting to start their own yarn dyeing or creative business?

I remember asking this same question to a very famous dyer…..I was expecting a creative response…and she said ‘get a good accountant’!! Money is a huge part of a business and sadly not a fun part. Without good business sense though, a business can’t exist…so it’s essential. Other than that……you absolutely MUST love what you do and you will need to work 24/7!

Are you a process or product maker, and what sorts of things do you most enjoy making?

I am a true mix! Some things I love knitting, or sewing. Other things get old. I was once a monogamous knitter. I think I should return to that…as I have WIPs that have been sitting there for ever and I am now no longer interested in the yarn, or the pattern or the finished object. Had I continued when I loved it I would have had a good year of great wear and enjoyment out of it! I have a few quilts that I need to finish from a looonngggg time ago. I have other quilts that I have binge sewed for three days straight and we can snuggle under them and love them!

I have a great love of shawls and wear one constantly from as soon as the air cools in Autumn to sweating in Spring! I love kid knits and now my deep love of colourwork yoked sweaters is back and I am literally sleepless planning them! Now I can knit socks too and there are ten patterns that I have yarn and needles ready to go but I worry my skill level is not quite there yet!

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It’s not only yarns – Hannah also sews amazing project bags too!

What’s your favourite non-yarn related thing to do?

Skiing……in Japan!!!

Favourite colour?

Hard to say…but all the greys.

Any new projects coming soon that you’d like to share?

I am diving in to sock blanks!!! I have had some in stock ready to dye for ages and am finally now going to give it a go! I wanted to do something a bit different and I hope people like them. They may be just a limited run, it will depend how they go….I think they are a bit of fun as a novelty.

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Some beautiful things are making their way to the shop soon!

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

I am most active on Instagram @circustonichandmade. That is where I advertise updates and let people know a little about what is going on. We have a fabulous Ravelry group Circus Tonic Handmade Yarns where we chat and have giveaways etc. We are also on Facebook too as Circus Tonic Handmade Yarns. My Etsy shop is at http://www.etsy.com/shop/circustonichandmade and I try to update every three weeks or so. I really look forward to real life events, market stalls and trunk shows in yarn shops and at retreats. All those sorts of things are advertised on all the social medias mentioned above, so I would love to bump into everyone one day!!

Thank you so much for sharing a little of your story Hannah! I personally love knitting with her yarns (keep your eyes peeled for a new design coming next week featuring the Revelry Sock base) and I know you will too. For those of you keen to nab some Circus Tonic Handmade for yourselves there will be an Etsy shop update on Friday March 3rd. Hannah has also generously offered a coupon code exclusively to blog readers to start on March 3rd and run for the entire month – just enter Jess10 at checkout for 10% off your Circus Tonic Handmade purchase!

5 thoughts on “Indie Dyer Series: Circus Tonic Handmade

  1. Great interview! It’s nice to find out a little more behind a dyer’s background and the influences that inspire them. I enjoy Hannah’s yarn a lot, both in finished projects and the number of skeins that I have prettily displayed, each day calling to me “knit me, knit me!”

    Thanks Jess, I look forward to hearing more about some of my favourite indie dyers, as well as discovering new-to-me dyers, by following your new series!! And I’m really looking forward to your new patterns!!

    Cheers, Fi x

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    1. Thank you Fi, that’s so kind of you! I love hearing a little more about dyers’ stories too – everyone has such different and interesting approaches to their practice! And I definitely agree, Hannah’s work is amazing for knitting with and even simply admiring. Hope you enjoy the future interviews!! 🙂 Xx

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