Monday, November 18, 2013

Wooly New Zealand

 While the scenery and cultural attractions are spectacular in New Zealand, we all know what I really came for - WOOL.
 Following a tip, we rolled into Tally Ho Ranch, which is unique in hosting a number of different breeds, many are colored. The typical field here is filled with Merino, Corriedale and Rambouillet. Here, Gotlands, Cheviot, and others made for a more diverse flock. Also, Look at that cute wittle sheepy! Look. At. It.

Not pictured, but definitely also cute - newborn (like 3 hours old!) Shetland ponies. There was a lot of Daaaaws to be had.
 They also had a classic old carding machine, here the owner was demoing making a fluffy alpaca batt that will be used to stuff a comforter top.
 Aaaaaand this is the wool storage barn. Makes my craft room look pretty empty... I guess I'll buy some more fiber!

 Ooooh, look at that silver and charcoal Gotland! Hey, don't look at me like that! I spun up a pound and a half for Spinzilla, I have room for another Kilo... right?

 Yea... I know you're judging me little merinos...

 We also stopped into the town of Milton, following rumors of a mill and mill ends shop. Notice the angled roofs? That's to allow light in at certain angles. Where the wool is stored and sorted one wants indirect south light (southern hemisphere remember?) for a clear view of the fiber, and of course too much direct sun can damage the wool after a while.

In the Mill End shop there was a corner dedicated to being a museum, photos of the mill works and products from the early days up to the modern era were pegged up on boards. Old tools and machines were displayed. There were even old sample books showcasing the fabrics being produced there from the 30s to mid-70s.
 Even this hardened veteran of dozens of fiber museums saw a novel piece - this device "used to measure the twist of yarn".
The mill was Milton's main industry for almost a hundred years, and so the town remembers its "King". Many people who settled in this area were of Scottish descent, so the get-up is probably meant to harken to the olden days in the homeland.
And naturally, I sampled a range of their products! All these little balls are true "ends", leftovers from the weaving, plying, or skeining process. They were very cheap, and so cute, and I got a whole bunch, and... don't look at me like that! Several were actually very tough "Carpet Wool" that I will use for slippers.
 Our next little fiber stop was a total surprise, stumbled across in the small town of Hokiteka. The Sock Knitting Machine Museum and Shop. An entire wall lined with old machines of various makes and models, and a looping video of the owner demonstrating knitting machine techniques.
 Turns out the shop is manufacturing new machines, when we were there one was being tested before being sent to Switzerland! (Is there no where closer to buy a knitting machine I wonder?)
 The shop in fact had it's own little mill set up, carders, spinning machines, sweater knitters and more. An entirely self contained little venture, which seems to be capable of making o good deal of product in a fairly small space. My entrepreneurial mind was much intrigued.
 I indulged in some possum yarns there, and at a larger yarn shop. Possum are an introduced pest, and there is a bounty on killing them as they devastate native birds. The dead possum are skinned, and the fiber shaved off. It's a short, fine fiber that is hollow like Alpaca, and thus very warm. All four of these are hand-dyed and super soft, a blend of %20 possum with %80 merino is standard.

I also chanced to visit the Turnbull family (That's my Father's side) Wool Store (That's storage to us Americans, a warehouse.) My cousin showed us various samples, and explained wool grading. Each fleece is classed based on micron thickness, staple length, color, cleanliness and crimp. The far left clump is 'junk' wool destined for carpets and quilt batting. The middle pieces all variations on the finest grades, they were so fine the individual fibers almost disappeared when held up to the light. The final piece is the only bale of colored wool in the whole place... looks like us handspinners are the only ones interested in natural colors.

 I also kept my needles moving the whole trip, if I could only knit as fast as I buy yarn! Those purple pieces are Irish wool from my last trip, perfect for a global wool experience.

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