It really feels like we only just got back from the land of the long white cloud, but truly we've been back for four weeks already. Four crazy hectic insane but very fun four weeks - for the most part.
We spent three weeks in New Zealand, most of that time living and travelling in a motorhome, enjoying the beauty of free camping, very little domesticity and the amazing landscape that is New Zealand. Three blissful weeks in which you're probably guessing I visited my fair share of yarn stores. Indeed I did, and I thought it only appropriate that I share with you my finds. Most of my yarn shopping was limited to the South Island. Whilst on the North Island we stayed in Napier for Knit August Nights (a blog post on that to come still, I hope!) and after that my family were surprisingly a bit yarned out and weren't that keen for anymore yarn stores. I probably couldn't fit any more yarn in our luggage either, to be honest.
If you're familiar with my crafting ethos, you will know that my preference is to purchase local. And this is exactly what I sought out on this venture. While there are many yarn stores in New Zealand that stock a wide range of yarn, my interest was purely in those who stocked a good range of New Zealand yarn; yarn that had been grown, processed and milled in New Zealand. So this was my target, this was the yarn I wanted to discover.
Our journey began in Christchurch. Unfortunately, it seems to be the trend that whenever we fly into somewhere on a travelling holiday we are in such desperation to get exploring that the first city we encounter, we don't really explore. That was certainly Christchurch for us. I believe there are some perfectly good yarn stores in Christchurch as yet I however, haven't explored them.
Incidentally, Christchurch is the home of Outlaw Yarn, a yarn that if you do visit New Zealand you should be on the look out for. This is a luxury yarn that is distinctively New Zealand but also packs a a good deal of attitude with their interesting blends. Think yarns that contain alpaca, merino, possum and polwarth. Whilst travelling the South Island I spent my time knitting up some Outlaw Bohemia Sport, which truly felt like I was doing my thing for the local environment. I felt like an Aussie environmental warrior on a tour of reclamation and helping the cause of the kiwi (Deb has a great outline on her webpage about why possums are such a menace in New Zealand, a land of no native large mammals - obviously a very different landscape to Australia which is dominated by native mammals).
Ashburton is the home of the Ashford Craft Shop. This is one place that I really wanted to visit, unfortunately we drove through Ashburton late in the day and the store was already closed. Ashford has a well established place in the history of New Zealand wool. They are renowned for their world famous spinning wheels as well as their yarns, which are spun at the Bruce Mill in Milton (more on that shortly).
You can find the Ashford Craft Shop at 427 West St Ashburton.
While I was in New Zealand, a relation also recommended the Yarn Barn at 606 East St, Ashburton.
Geraldine: I'm making special mention of Geraldine as even though I didn't stop at the yarn store there, I did purchase some yarn from this region while I was at Knit August Night, Maniototo Wool. This area of New Zealand, Central Otago, lays claim to being the hottest, coldest, driest and most inland part of New Zealand. Maniototo Wool is a Merino/Romney cross with a mid micron level. In a world of worsted spun wool, it's interesting to see a woollen spun yarn such as this. It's lovely and robust and is spun on the island in Christchurch. Even though Maniototo don't have a farm gate or a bricks and mortar presence in Geraldine it is a yarn to keep your eyes out for.
Geraldine is also home to The Tin Shed at Rangitata R D 22, another iconic New Zealand yarn store, stocking a wide range of local alpaca, wool and possum.
Oamaru was our first yarnie stop down the east coast. This is such a beautiful little town with a big history. A stroll around the few blocks fronting the main beach area whisper of past glory days. Much like many Australian country towns, beautiful stone buildings speak of a once foretold promise for this town; 19th Century limestone buildings that now house a different present than that envisioned.
In the down-town historical precinct, you will find a collection of galleries and workshops with a wide range of artisans at work. These were once the waterfront warehouses and stores of yesteryear. It is in this precinct that I found The Oamaru Textile Emporium, and oh what a find it was. As my first taster of a New Zealand yarn store, this was going to be hard to beat. Here I found rare breed hand-spun yarns (some beautiful Romney, Gotland and Polwarth), the hand-dyed yarn of Doe Arnot (an amazing weaver and dyer), as well as the offerings of other local dyers. Doe's yarns are dyed on a huge range of different bases, but what really drew my attention was her gorgeous range of naturally dyed yarns. Her yarns are sold under the brand DoeSpins and are well worth seeking out.
I was also really excited to find The Oamaru Textile Emporium stocks the yarn I was at that moment knitting, Outlaw Yarn. This yarn is a perfect match for this town with its Victorian feel and leaning towards the Steampunk vibe. Make sure you take a walk down to the foreshore from here to check out one very very cool playground for the kiddies.
You can find The Oamaru Textile Emporium at 13 Tyne Street, Oamaru.
Milton: From Oamaru we headed further south down through Dunedin and inland to the town of Milton, where our next stop was the Bruce Woollen Mill. New Zealand's woollen mill history shares a parallel with Australia's. In the 1960s, there were 18 woollen mills operating country-wide producing yarn, carpet and textiles. The same time period that spelt the death knoll for Australian mills was similarly disastrous for New Zealand. Bruce Woollen Mills is one of the few yarn mills left in New Zealand. At its peak it employed over 500 people, now much of its original mill space is either empty or rented out to other businesses.
I have to say I had high expectations for this place. I was envisaging something similar to the Bendigo Woollen Mills and their infamous backroom. Not so. This is a small and rather quaint mill shop with a variety of knitting and weaving yarns, but I suspect increasingly more of their floor space is slowly being given over to woollen clothing. This is definitely the place to pick up a good New Zealand manufactured woollen jumper or a pair of possum socks.
Yarn wise, there was a good deal of commercially spun Perendale yarn, an interesting selection of variegated yarns that looked to be hand-dyed, and probably the cheapest possum blend to be found in New Zealand. There is a dusty wee museum room next to the shop that houses some relics of the wool industry, and while it is certainly an interesting look back into the golden past, there is a sadness for me that pervades places such as these.
You can find the Bruce Woollen Mill at 1 Edward Street, Milton.
Te Anau is one of my favourite places in New Zealand. I spent a fabulous New Years Eve there about 12 years ago when we took an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound and I remember being amazed at the sight of snow of the distant mountains.
Te Anau is a very different place in the Winter time. When we visited in the Summer the road into Milton Sound had been closed the week before because of heavy snow. History repeated itself this time around again and the road was closed due to avalanche. Instead we took a cruise on Lake Te Anau to the South Fjord with Cruise Te Anau. We were the only ones on the boat so it made it even more amazing and personal and probably suited our family much better than the hour and a half bus trip down into Milton Sound and out again.
I didn't expect to find a yarn store in Te Anau, I'm not sure why - maybe because of its tourist focus, but I did. In fact, I found what I suspect may have been my favourite LYS on the South Island. What greeted me in Fiordland House was beautiful walls of colour and an awesome range of New Zealand yarn, possibly the best I found. The service was also exceedingly friendly which no doubt enhanced the charm of the place.
This was my first contact with Zealana yarn, a yarn I've heard so much about but had never actually seen in person. Yes, you can get this yarn in Australia but I wanted to experience it in its natural environment. Experiencing brush tail possums in New Zealand, where they are considered a pest, is significantly different than how I'd view a brush tail possum in Australia, their native homeland. They're flipping cute here you know; until they get into your vegie patch or roof that is! There's a whole different environmental consideration of the effect of this animal in these two vastly different landscapes. You know, I'd always felt a bit guilty about the possum thing in New Zealand until I discovered that it was New Zealanders themselves who imported them. That's up there with Australia's stupidity for importing rabbits, foxes and cane toads! Sorry Kiwis, but it is. Let's not even get started on the stoats thing, hey.
dThere are so many different brands of yarn to be found at Fiorland House; Zealana, Touch Yarns, Naturally, Rare Earth and Rare Essentials, Crucci and Stansborough (the yarn used to create the costumes in the Lord of the Rings films), just to name what I can remember.
Fiordland House resides at 3 Town Centre, Te Anau.
Queenstown is definitely the adventure and adrenalin capital of New Zealand. So much adventuring to be done there regardless what time of the year. I suspect it's also the tourist capital and you can't help but wonder when you're there, where do or the locals live? The streets seem to be lined with temporary accommodation and the whole town is set up to accommodate this transient tourist industry. Because of its role as a tourist destination, in Queenstown there are plenty of shops where you can find manufactured New Zealand knitwear. Knitting yarn, itself is a little harder to find. We did manage to find one shop, the Kiwi Wool Shop nestled in amongst the glitz in a sweet wee arcade.
This shop had a huge range of yarn; including all the expected New Zealand yarns from Naturally, Touch, Rare Yarns, Crucci and Zealana as well a selection of international yarns. Here you can also purchase handmade jumpers at a relatively reasonable price.
You can find the Kiwi Wool Shop at Beach Tree Arcade in Beach Street, Queenstown.
From Queenstown I convinced the family to take a short detour before heading up to the West Coast. My destination was Clyde. My reason for wanting to visit Clyde was Touch Yarns. When the world of internet knitting really opened up for me after having kiddies, Touch Yarns was one of my staple yarns, although at the time I did not know it by that name. Instead, it was the yarn base that a group of Aussie hand-dyers used and many of those of us in the cloth nappy community adored. The colours on this base were always so beautiful and saturated.
Touch Yarns certainly didn't let me down, the walls were so colourful and there was so much variety in lots of different yarn bases. These days Touch is just as well known for their possum blends as they are for their superwash merino, but the shop also sells a huge range of yarns from gossamer mohair lace weight to more chunky trial spins. While I was there, they had in stock some interesting hemp, cashmere, mohair, alpaca and silk blends, boucle spun yarn as well as some local breeds.
You can find Touch Yarns at 19 Sunderland Street, Clyde in a quaint little cottage.
Our jaunt up the west coast was wet, not a damp sort of drizzly rain, but an insanely heavy rain that persisted non-stop for a good couple of days. From before Fox Glacier to just outside of Nelson, it poured like I've never seen rain before. Compared to Australia, New Zealand is a really wet and watery place. Living on this big old dry continent; the size of the rivers and lakes there and the persistence of such heavy rain, was something fairly unknown to us. The rain was so heavy at times that as we drove up the west coast road where it intersected with the coastline, you could not even see the ocean. That weather is pretty typical for the west coast of the south island, even if it is pretty annoying for visitors.
Stopping in Hokitika for a lunch break and for the kids to explore some of the Jade (pounamu) shops, we braved the downpour and ventured out of our motorhome sanctuary. This was a luck stop as I stumbled upon Sock World.
Sock World is home to a mini museum of sock machines from all over the world. You can even buy yourself a one if you've got a spare couple of grand. Along with this mini museum there were plenty of woollen socks, both traditionally manufactured in wool and possum, as well as some machine knitted socks in lots of different variegated yarns.
The service at Sock World was not exactly what you would call friendly. I tried to ask the lady a couple of questions about the sock machines, but all I got was short sharp answers and she seemed more interested in her dog than the customers who had deigned to brave the incessant rain and enter her shop. I suspect she would have preferred to have been at home in front of her fire, and probably thought we were just there to shelter from the rain rather than serious customers. I suspect if I lived the constancy of that winter rain I'd become grumpy too.
Nevertheless, amongst the usual suspects of New Zealand yarn brands there were quite a few rare and cheap finds to be had here, as well as lots of hand-dyed sock yarns. I came across some yarn made by Pebblemill Yarns in Christchurch, as well as lots of unlabelled possum and felted merino yarns.
You can find Sock World at 27 Sewell Place, Hokitika.
Driving north through more of the rain, I also stumbled across a yarn store in Greymouth. Here the walls of yarn were also bright and cheery, and despite it being just on closing time, so was the service. The lovely lady there gave Lily some ideas on how to knit some fingerless mitts, and I tried not to gasp audibly when she explained a seamed approach.
Pins and Needles have quite an extensive range of both New Zealand and international yarns, as well as lots of other crafting gadgets and necessities.
You can find Pins and Needles at 70 Mackay Street, Greymouth.
Our last yarnie stop in the south island was in Nelson, a beautiful city with arguably the best climate on the south island. Here we stopped at Cruella's Natural Fibre Boutique, which is a truly gorgeous yarn shop with walls and walls of stunning colour. It took me a little time to realise that one of the walls of yarn actually had shelves of finished knitwear garments nestled adjunct to shelves of the yarn they were knit in. I quite liked this touch.
There was lots of New Zealand yarn to be found here. Cruellas probably had the best range of Rare Yarn Company and Zealana yarns on the south island, as well as a good range of Touch Yarns and Crucci.
You can find Cruellas at 155 Hardy Street, Nelson.
By the time we'd reached Nelson, my family had definitely had enough of yarn stores, this is despite each of the kiddies collecting their own little stash of wool along the way. Next stop, however, was Knit August Nights in Napier, where there was more yarnie delights to be had than we could have ever imagined!
Keep in touch
Who am I?
Textile artist, knitwear designer and teacher.
Print Patterns for LYS available from:
Stuff I talk about: