ABOUT THE STANSBOROUGH GREY
In the early 1990s Barry and Cheryl Eldridge discovered a small flock of rare grey sheep in Nelson, which had been brought to New Zealand from Denmark 20 years prior. These elegant and fine-boned breed of Grey sheep were traditionally farmed for their pelts and were not particularly sought after in the pragmatic south for their wool. The sheep historically originate from an island off the coast of Sweden, and their unique grey fleeces were perhaps adapted to keep out the keen north wind which scours this cold land. The wool was utilised by the vikings for making the sails for their medieval longships. Cheryl and Barry decided to develop and strengthen the traits that led to the soft & lustrous 'Stansborough Grey' fleeces.
Barry & Cheryl specialised in wool production rather than the traditional pelt production, and their aim was to develop a fibre suitable for worsted spinning into worsted fabric. The line of sheep has been kept pure, and there has been enough semen and embryos frozen to provide the wide gene pool essential for future research and development. During these years of experimenting and trialling, the brownish colour lent to the fleece –and subsequent fabric – by the brownish tips and guard hairs associated with the pelts of the original sheep, has been modified and removed. It took 12 years to create the special wool breed of what is now a unique flock of 1000 animals – the 'Stansborough Grey' sheep – now a unique registered breed in their own right and the only flock of it's kind in the world.
Cheryl personally sorts every fleece into three shades of grey as the sheep are shorn, taking her inspiration from the environment. The wool of the sheep comes in dark grey, mid grey and silver grey, and within these pre-selected tones there is a whole greyscale spectrum which creates the marvellous, almost metallic sheen. The yarn is better spun as fine worsted, and then it is combed to enhance the lustre. The demand for the fibre is such that Stansborough cannot supply generally, and are currently unable to sell any yarns. All their production is used in house.
The fibre can be woven, knitted and felted, and all processes are used to produce the unique Stansborough designs. If woven, then the yarn is taken to the Stansborough weaving mill in Wellington. The looms at the mill weave their own strands of history. They date from the early 1890’s, and are the only six in commercial operation in the world. They are amongst the first mechanical looms ever designed. They add rather than detract from the general impression of intense individual involvement in production, as each loom can take up to two days to hand thread before weaving.
This intensity of involvement in all parts of the process between farm and garment results in products that are utterly distinctive. Years were spent in the development of the undulating twill-derived weave, and the resulting fabric has a unique handmade and natural feel, quite different to other mass-produced commercial products. The fabric has beautiful draping qualities, enhanced by the careful- sometimes done by hand - finishing to emphasise the lustre, drape and handling.
Throws, ties, scarves, wraps and jackets have been fashioned from the gleaming Stansborough fabric, as well as other knitted, felted and woven products, for discerning fashion, interiors and tourist markets. The Eldridge’s also work with individual designer stores around the world, developing and designing specific lines for them.