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Published: 04 March 2023

By Andy Ross

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Woollen progress

Torlesse Tussocklands Park

New Zealand and wool: the two terms go together, don't they?

Over the past year we have been looking for suitable weaving yarns that are made in the country. There are a couple of mills left here that make yarn but none of them produce one that suits what we would like to do. A couple of weeks ago I took a selection of spun hanks that had been donated, some slubby, some tight, and some thick and twisted, to a dyer in Mawhera Greymouth to see if it would be possible to make something from them. 

Dye Studio 54 makes colourful yarns for a variety of uses and Aleisha gladly took the hanks along with a picture that I had done a few months back (left) and that is going to be the inspiration for a throw. I have taken delivery of the first 1.9kg of yarn, dyed in different colours with streaks and splashes along their lengths to reference the image, and the remainder will be ready shortly. When all of the hanks are done I shall post photographs. 

The bespoke dyeing is a result of not being able to find the yarns I would like to use. There is plenty of yarn available but little from New Zealand, and what there is sometimes has plastic in it and generally is merino. It is wonderfully soft but it lacks the vitality of the yarns available in Shetland and the range of hues is not large. In the past those kinds of yarns were available; the collection of New Zealand blankets and fashion indicates they were widely used across the country. Maybe this experiment will help us to find a way to access the yarns we would like to use, supporting the woollen industry of New Zealand in a small way and helping keep small-scale production alive.