The reality of most home grown New Zealand wool is that it is a raw commodity to export, where processing happens overseas and a small proportion may be bought back as finished goods. This includes clothing made for the big brands such as Icebreaker.
So our wool mills have largely shut down and the equipment sold. There are a mere handful of mills left here. Some are very small boutique or specialist mills such as carpet Yarn spinners.
As a handspinner I still have access to beautiful NZ grown fibre mostly from life style block farmers. But I wanted a commercially woollen spun yarn from preferably local Otago grown sheep milled here on the South Island. Whilst I was researching how I could achieve this Mary Furness Weir began her wool business Maniototo Wool four years ago.
Here’s Mary selecting wool for her Yarns. Mary visits the Duncan’s farm in the Maniototo who rear commercial flocks of white halfbred (Merino/Romney) sheep. The Halfbred sheep is an established breed that does well here in Otago. The fibre has Merino traits but also the hardiness and staple length of the Romney. In this case the Merino rams are bred to Romney Ewes.
Photos above credited to Mary.
The sheep are shorn by very experienced shearers and the wool is removed carefully, cleanly and efficiently.
Mary selects with the guidance of a very experienced wool classer. I was particularly pleased that Mary always planned that it would be a woollen spun Yarn although she now has a lovely worsted version too.
Woollen spun wools are still unfamiliar territory for many hand knitters as the bulk of commercial knitting yarns in NZ are worsted spun. Woollen spun Yarns are matte, not shiney. There is a little more texture and the spin is light so they are fluffier and trap more air. They are also a little more delicate although the choice of half bred means this is a robust wool.
I love dyeing and stocking this wool. It is exactly what I would desire in my own commercial processed yarn. It takes plant dyes beautifully and stands up well to all the processing required when using plants.
Whether you knit, crochet or weave with this yarn it will produce a gorgeous fabric.
It takes up acid dyes well too. It needs a little more dye than other wool yarns to reach a full saturated shade but this is partly because it is a non machine washable wool which has had less processing and no polymer coating on the fibres. The Wool travels via Mary’s van from the farm to the Scourer in Timaru. Mary then collects it and takes it to the mill in Christchurch. From there she collects the finished yarns a few months later and takes them back to her home in Geraldine before sending them onwards to her customers.
Mary has a lovely range of her own dyed yarns so check out her website. Plus she is a beautiful prolific knitter with a few of her own patterns.
As you can see I enjoy dyeing This beautiful wool. It’s truly local to me and very special. Thanks Mary and the Duncans.