An Otago Daily Times feature has led to a marriage of fleece and fashion.
Glenavy sheep farmer Bruce McCulloch read about Oamaru weavers Rod and Sue McLean in the ODT early last year. They had set up a weaving studio behind their South Hill home and went into production as McLean & Co Hand Woven Textiles, producing items including scarves, blankets and ponchos.
Mr McCulloch had a stockpile of woollen yarn from his flock of about 50 black and coloured sheep. He’d had 330kg spun in Milton and was selling it online. After reading about the McLeans, he looked up their address and went and knocked on their door.
“We were happy to work with Mr McCulloch and his wool,” Mrs McLean said. “He spent many hours winding his yarn from the balls on to the bobbins.”
The wool, double knitting thickness, was the heaviest they had woven. It averages about 30 microns, bred from many crosses throughout the years to feel “like a fine Romney”.
“I’ve always tried to grow soft-feeling wool,” Mr McCulloch said. “I’ve been farming since 1975. I was always interested in wool.”
Using a range of wool colours from cream through to dark brown, Mr McLean wove herringbone and plaid cloth that has become scarves, baby blankets, throws, and hot water bottle covers.
Once the fabric is woven, Mr McLean puts it through a process called fulling that involves heat, moisture, and pressure. After 10 washes, Mr McCulloch’s wool had reached the desired softness.
Mrs McLean hand-finishes the blankets with blanket stitch.
Using the brand name “Nat-Ewe-Ral”, Mr McCulloch sells the products and is proud of their quality and authenticity, hoping they will become heirlooms.