The Knitographer interviews Union Fibre

Images:  Victoria Vincent from A Beautiful Photo  & Bonnie De Gros

I have a few favourite local yarn dyers, the regulars that I turn to again and again. We are so lucky here to have amazing quality fibre and very talented dyers who create gorgeous yarns, and I'm thrilled that I recently found Union Fibre. There aren't many dyers that can make me buy pink yarn without a second thought, but Bonnie De Gros is one of them! Originally from Canada and now cooking up lovely dyes in Wellington, Bonnie tells us a little bit about herself and Union Fibre.

Tell me a bit about your fibre journey - how did you get into crafting?

I developed a love of textiles from a very young age. When I was a child I would sit in my mother's sewing studio and watch her paint silk and draft up sewing patterns. She had a knitting machine and also hand-knitted prolifically. It was impossible to not become fascinated with textiles. I would steal bits of yarn and fabric from her stash without realising it was all really expensive luxury yarn and linens. Clearly I had an expensive taste in textiles from the get-go!

You're originally from Canada and now based in Wellington - has your background shaped Union Fibre?

Yes, absolutely. The meaning behind Union Fibre came from an experience of isolation and loneliness. My partner and I moved to NZ from Canada in 2007, only 8 weeks after I became a mother. We had our little 8-week-old baby in tow and I had no friends for the first few months of living in New Zealand. My partner was also a first-year teacher and we both found our first year in NZ very challenging.
Over the years of living here we have been fortunate to become part of an amazing community of people and have created our own extended family. I have also become a part of a wonderful creative community where sharing knowledge and working together in collaboration is celebrated. This union of knowledge, passion and skills has lead to far more success, accomplishment and a sense of community than working independently.
I love supporting other creatives and makers and use Union Fibre as a platform to share not only my own work but also that of others. I think I am a bit of a cheerleader at heart. And I want other people to feel supported and acknowledged for the awesome things they are doing within and for this creative community, As a creative it is hard to put yourself out there for fear of criticism. I try to be kind and supportive of others because the feeling of being supported and encouraged by others is the opposite of loneliness. It's community. A union of sorts.

Victoria Vincent from A Beautiful Photo  & Bonnie De Gros


What made you decide to make the leap from crafting for a hobby to dyeing yarn professionally?

I am actually a trained midwife but had to put that on hold after having unexpected baby number three. I developed terrible postnatal depression and anxiety and my partner and I decided I should make a change in career and do something that reduced my anxieties rather than compounding my stress.
I have always loved textiles and started dyeing yarn about 9 years ago. Many people wanted to buy my yarns and I thought I would start selling them to bring in a little extra income. I had a little cottage clothing line called Lone Moose Clothing 10 years ago and decided that I wanted Union Fibre to be a proper business rather than a cottage industry. It took me about a year to plan it all and write up a business plan. This was completely for myself in order to think of this as a career and not a hobby. I had terrible imposter syndrome and almost decided not to launch my website! But I am so glad I took the leap and put myself out there.

New Zealand has great quality yarn - what do you look for in a good yarn base?

We are very lucky to have access to beautiful wool and yarn in NZ. While I love the feel of a soft yarn, I want to know that a yarn will perform well for the intended project. A soft and silky luxury yarn is perfect for a shawl or something worn against the skin, but a sturdy but still soft yarn like a Corriedale can be a great choice for a cardigan or a jersey which gets a lot of wear. While I love the way a treated yarn picks up the beautiful speckles, my absolute weakness is for naturally coloured yarns milled from rare breed coloured sheep and other animal fibres such as alpaca and yak. Naturally coloured Polwarth, Merino and Corriedale are my top picks, which must sound strange coming from someone who dyes yarn for a living!

Can you tell us about your creative process for choosing colours?

My mother was an artist at one point in her life and taught me about colour theory. This was a wonderful concept to me as a child and one which has continued to fascinate me. Colour is magic and much more than a passive observation. Colour is something I feel and engage with. I see the yarn as a canvas and use colour theory to create complex colours of secondary and tertiary tones and shades. This method creates earthy and muted colours that are easy on the eyes and mood with the occasional POP of colour to draw the eye to a certain detail in the yarn colour. These hues and tones also blend beautifully with one another and create dozens of stunning combinations.

Victoria Vincent from A Beautiful Photo  & Bonnie De Gros


Union Fibre has been up and running for a few months now - what has been the biggest surprise or challenge for running an indie yarn business?

One of the biggest challenges has been deciding what colours to dye and how much to dye. When I started up Union Fibre I designed colourways that I thought people wanted rather than dyeing intuitively. After a time I decided to create the colours I love. I was very surprised at the overwhelming response to these colours and it has made it even more fun to get into the studio and produce colours that make me swoon!
Another huge challenge has been the lack of reliable and consistent work time in the dye studio. As a busy mother of three, including a toddler, I have no consistent or predictable work time. This makes it very hard to produce a consistent amount of stock, which can be super frustrating. Thankfully knitters and fibre lovers are generally very understanding and supportive and this makes that challenge more manageable.

Victoria Vincent from A Beautiful Photo  & Bonnie De Gros

What are you hoping the next 12 months will bring?

I would LOVE to start my own yarn range and support one of the micro mills in New Zealand. I am hoping that within a year I will have a few lovely yarns that are 100% unique to Union Fibre. Knitwear design was one big goal in my business plan and I hope to have my first little collection of designs launched within a year.
I also want to travel and keen to get over to Australia (never been before), and back to Canada and also to EYF in Scotland!!

Where can we find your lovely yarn?

Currently my yarns are only available in my online shop www.unionfibre.co.nz but I am in the throes of figuring out how to manage a few wholesale orders for keen stockists.

Find Union Fibre on Facebook and Instagram

Comments

  1. Such a wonderful interview with Bonnie. I love her stunning sense of colour, especially the earthier tones that first caught my eye. Thank you for sharing!

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