Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

The Wool from Maniototo

22 Comments

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):

Halfbreed ewes on hill - Maniototo

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:

Maniototo Wool

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).

Maniototo Wool

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!

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Author: kiwiyarns

Welcome to my blog where I talk about knitting in New Zealand and the beautiful yarns you can find here.

22 thoughts on “The Wool from Maniototo

  1. Beautiful soft colours, and the fibre looks wonderful!

  2. That looks scrumptious. I love to see people continue to experiment with sheep breeds to find new and exciting combinations for yarn and for handspinners.

    I wonder if the sheep notice that their partners look different…

  3. Another yarn to lust over

  4. Very cool 411. I like how you tested it for pilling. The sheep look majestic.

    • Glad you liked it. 🙂

    • How Judy Duncan got that photo of the sheep I can’t imagine. Trying to photograph sheep for a website had its funny moments. Apart from nearly getting blown off a hillside, I seemed to end up with lots of photos of the rear end of sheep running from the camera. In the end the farmer had his dogs round them up and herd them towards me while I clicked away, trying to look inconspicuous.

      • I have experienced the same thing – never can get a good pic of the damn sheep unless they are very tame and hand-reared. Well done to Judy, is all I can say!

  5. Yes a lot of planning and investment goes into creating a yarn plus lots of patience.
    Well done Mary. I love Halfbred fleece, it spins so easily and the Romney genetics give a bit of shine and staple length.

  6. That yarn looks delightful! I love single breed yarns. Great performance in the swatch, too.

  7. I was under the impression that it wasn’t possible to get fleeces scoured in New Zealand anymore. Has that changed?

    • Canterbury woolscourers are geared up to do huge amounts – 1500 bales of wool a day – but they will do a minimum amount of 100kg. You have to wait until they have a similar batch going through the process, and they put it through before or after the bulk lot. I had to wait about 2 weeks from delivery of the fleeces. It was a nervous wait

  8. Timaru still has a scour.

  9. thanks for such a great story 🙂 including all the extra info that is in the comments!
    can’t wait to place an order, yaye

  10. Beautiful yarn! The colors are SO spring-like (which we are dreaming about here in Northern Ohio, USA!). K

  11. thanks for telling about Maniototo yarn. It’s always good to hear about another local source to try out!

  12. What a gorgeous wool! It’s hard to find a truly locally produced and processed yarn for sure. Even tho we have lots of options here, most yarn dyers and producers only handle part of the process, so they don’t really know who else had a hand in their yarns.

  13. Great info and introduction – thanks! (Have you given thought to starting a Wool-of-New-Zealand tour company?!) 🙂

  14. Do you know how many meters per 100 g skein please? Thanks

  15. Oh nice! I have just pinned to my NZ yarn board. I will have to get some and try it. Exciting to see something new and in worsted no less! Lovely colours too.