When Mary Furness Weir first wrote to me about a 100% New Zealand wool yarn she was developing, I was very excited. 100% New Zealand wool yarn in aran weight? That sounded interesting! We don’t have much aran weight yarn in New Zealand.
Then she told me the yarn was from Halfbred sheep (the sheep bred from Merino/Romney cross), and that sounded even better! I expected there would be heaps of bounce, it would be a light but strong yarn, and soft.
Here’s a picture of the sheep that produce the wool for this yarn on the station where they live (photo courtesy of Maniototo Wool and the owners of these sheep, the Duncan family):
I just love how the sheep are looking curiously at the photographer, and their generally calm demeanour (sheep can be quite scatty, so I am impressed).
These sheep live in an area of Otago in the South Island called Maniototo (hence the name chosen to brand this yarn, “Maniototo Wool”). Have a look at the Maniototo and Central Otago website to learn more about this special part of New Zealand. It features the perfect wool growing temperature and climate. The Duncans have further enhanced the climatic conditions by a strict focus on breeding Halfbreds that produce good quality wool of between 22 – 24 microns. This makes the wool a ‘mid-micron’ range, but still soft enough not to have prickle factor.
You’ll read on the Maniototo Wool’s website how Mary bought just one fleece to hand spin, and was so enchanted by the results that she decided to start a yarn line! A first batch of fleece was acquired, and Mary set about having it scoured and then spun at a boutique mill in the South Island. She waited patiently for the yarn to arrive… then spent a long time developing colours inspired by the local landscape that were ‘just right’, and could be repeatable hand dye lots…. and this is what it has become:
More shades have been developed since this picture was taken by Mary. See all the colours, and read more about this beautiful example of good New Zealand wool here.
The Halfbred fleece used to spin yarn for Maniototo Wool has been carefully classed by the wool handler at shearing time into ‘lines’ based on the characteristics of the fleece.
Mary chose 24 micron fleece for this batch because spinners can manage it more easily than the finer wool – 100g bags of sliver are also being made available for sale. Quality has been further assured by the wool being lab tested for evenness of fibre thickness throughout the fleece (it is called CV testing).
Mary very generously sent me a sample to try, and this is what I found:
The yarn is beautifully soft (not butter soft like merino, but still very able to be worn next to the skin). It has a lovely loft in both the yarn and the knitted fabric. It is indeed light and airy for its weight, and boy, is it strong! The batch that I received is beautifully dyed – a nice semi-solid.
Here’s my swatch, which I tested for pilling by continuously carrying it around at the bottom of my bag (purse) for the past three months… (this treatment usually produces lots of pills in wool garments knitted in yarn prone to it).
I have done no picking off of pills, or otherwise to this swatch, other than to brush off a bit of debris collected from the bottom of my bag… Can you guess which one got the ‘bag’ treatment? It’s the one on the left in the photo. Apart from a very slight fuzz, it looks virtually identical to the “un-tumbled” swatch.
I’m convinced it’s indestructible. Mary will tell you that there is a bit of odd ball pilling that occurs from frequent wear, but I figure it’s the type of garment that will continue to look great for a long, long time.
I talked about this yarn briefly when I first got it, and as you can see, it does very well with cables. I’m working on a design at the moment, but progress is slow because of my current affliction with “sockitis”…
You may remember my posts about the Shepherd Hoodie by Kate Davies. Well, I think this yarn would make an excellent Shepherd Hoodie for one thing! The Maniototo Wool website also features a few lovely free patterns available with yarn purchase that give you an idea of how it knits up.
This yarn is very special for several reasons:
1. It is both from a single source of New Zealand wool and and it is from a single breed of sheep. Many of you will know that individual sheep breeds can have quite different qualities to their wool. By using a wool (in this case, the Halfbred) with specific performance qualities, you can assured of the way the yarn will turn out and wear as a garment. I also think it’s pretty cool that the yarn producer can actually point to the sheep that the wool came from.
2. It is 100% pure New Zealand – grown, shorn, scoured, spun and dyed in the South Island of New Zealand. No ‘other country’ services included. (Some NZ fleeces are disappointingly sent overseas to be scoured before being shipped back to New Zealand for spinning. I am not sure I like that lack of sustainability in the full yarn cycle).
3. It’s aran (worsted) weight. As I said, we don’t have a lot of choice of good quality aran weight in this country.
4. It has been hand-dyed with care, and tested for quality.
I’m very happy to see another excellent addition to pure New Zealand, single-source wool yarns. It’s a bit like a fine wine – you need to try it to understand the difference that makes!