From Central Otago to the world

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Twenty-five years ago, Marnie Kelly’s hobby became a business venture when she established a fine yarn operation inspired by a flock of merino and mohair (angora) goats. Now, that operation has become a global business with a niche market in the wool industry, selling specialty yarns around New Zealand and the world. Touch Yarns produces soft merinobased yarns dyed in colours inspired by nature, and everything is New Zealand made, providing a strong point of difference for the operation. ‘‘People just love it. They love the fact that it is all New Zealand made, it’s one of our strongest selling points. Plus the fact that our yarns are so soft; the main feature of our yarns is they are so soft handling.’’ The genesis of the business was a flock of merino and halfbred sheep and 250 mohair (angora) goats, from which Marnie — already keen on dyeing, spinning, knitting and weaving — began to make garments for her family in 1977. In 1989, she attended a coloured sheep conference in the United States. She had taken some fleeces with her and walked away with the top prize for mid-micron fleece, and it was then she realised she could possibly make a business of her hobby. She created Touch Yarns in 1991, specialising in fine yarns dyed in colours inspired by Central Otago’s palette. Reaching the 25th anniversary of the business was a tremendous milestone and Marnie was thrilled the business was thriving. New patterns and yarns are constantly being produced. At present, Touch Yarns produces a variety of yarns including 12-ply superfine kid mohair/merino yarn in boucle and brushed yarn. A new, specially spun 10-ply ‘‘light and lofty’’ yarn is the latest addition. Pure merino yarns are made in 2-ply, 4-ply and 8-ply thicknesses plus slub, which is a ‘‘thick and thin’’ yarn. The 2-ply merino is used for baby singlets and matinee jackets. Possum, merino and silk blended fibres make up Touch Yarns’ most popular yarn, and a beautiful kid mohair and merino blended yarn is used for lace knitting. This yarn is one of the many hand-dyed yarns made by Touch Yarns. Merino wool, mohair and possum fur is sourced locally, and Touch Yarns does most of its own dyeing at its Alexandra plant. About a quarter of Touch Yarns’ products is sold overseas, with a significant amount sold online. Yarns are sold in several other countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, United States, Japan and Denmark. Products are also sold from about 45 outlets throughout New Zealand. The Touch Yarns store in Sunderland