Yarning about yarn with Nana Cindy

Pixie dust, Covfefe and I Currant Believe You’ve Done This are just three of the gorgeous yarns created by Nana Cindy. Taranaki Community caught up with her to find out how she dyes her yarn, how she comes up with those awesome names, and why she’s a self confessed nana.

Hi Cindy! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m also known as Nana Cindy, a tongue in cheek reference to my love for all slow paced recreational activities and fruit and nut chocolate. I hand dye knitting yarn and retail it and other knitting products on my website and at knitting events around New Zealand.  

When I was 19, I started going to a knitting group in Hamilton with my mum (also known as Nana Ona). There was a big resurgence in knitting at the time and soon I started hearing about all the lovely hand dyed wool you could get overseas from independent dyers online. It was not really a thing here yet, apart from some smaller family owned businesses who operated on a mail order system and bigger chain retailers.

Nana Cindy isn’t really a nana, but she can knit better than most grandmas.

The exchange rate between the US and NZ was horrific and my local knitting shop was very reluctant to get anything exciting in, so I decided to pull my sleeves up and start dyeing some myself. Thankfully, there are lots of us around now!

Nana-Cindy NZ the business has gone through lots of changes over the years, and although I’ve been producing off and on under that name since 2008, it’s really been since I moved to Taranaki that I really started building the little business up.

Those colours!

You’re hand dyed yarn is just incredible. Can you tell us how you create such wonderful and artistic yarns?
Thank you!  I truly love every bit of it.  My style is all about bright, fun, and sometimes in-your-face colour. I stock a permanent line of colours, as well as doing smaller one of a kind lines, often with a fun theme.

In the past I’ve had themes such as Unicorns, Irregular Choice shoes (they’re a cult classic British shoe maker), lollies, ice cream and fairy tales. Coming up with fun ideas fuels my creativity!

Nana Cindy often releases yarn club boxes, including this Halloween bundle which includes creations from Humdinger’s Cakes and Aunty Nana.

I also send out much coveted yarn club boxes, and have an Easter pack on its way to my club members very soon. I partner with some of my friends who also own businesses locally: Chenae from Humdinger’s Cakes who provides all the delicious sweeties and little knitting accessories and Megan who is also known as Aunty Nana (that part was purely coincidence!) who makes truly amazing project bags and hand sewn accessories.  The last ones sold out in seven minutes flat!

Dyeing wool involves using acid, usually citric acid or vinegar, and heat to bond dye with the wool. There are lots of ways of doing it depending on the effect you want. A big fashion at the moment is to have yarn with small speckles of dye powder, like in my yarn called Pixie Dust.  The rest of my permanent colours are mainly semi-solid yarn, which means that the wool goes swimming in a bath of water, dye powders and vinegar and is brought to the right temperature with a bit of careful stirring to make sure the wool dyes evenly but doesn’t felt.

Some of Nana Cindy’s colourful collection.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I think what’s most challenging is managing my time so that I have enough yarn to sell to my lovely customers and also finding enough time to knit for myself. I did lots and lots of dyeing last year but I decided I needed to make some time to sit down with my knitting because I missed it. I get a bit obsessed with creating all the different ideas for Nana Cindy and I have to remember I’m only one woman!

We hear you have a yarn that glows. Is that for real? Because that is so cool!
I do have a whole lot of UV reactive colours which glow spectacularly when you go under UV lights, like in the Glow Zone at the TSB Festival of Lights. I use special dyes which react with the UV light for the effect.

Nana Cindy, modeling one of the UV yarns.

You also have the coolest names for your yarns. What have some of your favourite names and where do the ideas come from?
I spend so much time on naming my yarns!  When I need to come up with either colour ideas or names for colours I’ve already dyed I usually ask my friends for inspiration, and it has become my partner’s favourite job to come up with something clever.  

The rule is, if they make me laugh the hardest, that’s the winning name. They’re usually inspired by pop culture or memes, or TV shows I like.  Some of my favourites are Covfefe – an eye searing orange; Jenny, a “Bubba Gump” (Bubblegum) pink, You Can’t Come to My Birthday Party which is a miss mash of pinks blues and black.

Covfefe. Best name ever!

But my absolutely favourite still makes me laugh every time I have to write it down or dye it, because it’s just so stupid! It’s called “I Currant Believe You’ve Done This” which is based on a Vine that went viral a few years ago.

How much yarn do you reckon you dye a year, and where do you find the time?
A lot! If I’m going to a show I usually prepare for months in advance as I work a full time job as well as managing this in my evenings and weekends.

It’s hard to keep up with demand! It does impact my social life and luckily I have a very understanding partner and very kind friends who see me when they can.

Pixie Dust! Isn’t it cute.

I usually try to dye a little bit of wool every weekend and spend an hour or so every night talking on social media to my customers. Somewhere in there I wind the wool up and label it – which one of my friends has pointed out is a bit like tackling the washing pile of doom, it tends to mount up before it gets wound! I don’t really have an off button.

What do you do outside of hand painting yarn?
I knit for myself and my family, I like baking, reading and social media and I love snuggling down and watching Netflix. I’ve recently gotten back into spinning wool again which has been nice. When I have time, I like to create fibre art pieces, and have entered in a couple of local shows in the last few years such as Skulltopia and Wearable Arts.

You can follow Nana Cindy on Instagram, and Facebook. You can also visit her website.