Stansborough Grey Wool: The Rarest Natural Fiber in the World

by Danica Carroll

 

Almost 3000 acres of green hills, with beautiful views and river valleys make up the sheep and cattle ranch of Stansborough, which dates back to the 1850’s. Barry and Cheryl Eldridge purchased Stansborough Farm after moving from England to New Zealand in 1971. It was here that the Eldridge’s discovered a primitive breed of rare grey sheep, which they have preserved by storing semen and embryos of the breed throughout the last twenty years. It took over 18 years of selective breeding to create this unique grey sheep known as the Stansborough Grey. Now a unique registered breed in their own right, the flock of 1200 sheep is the only flock of it’s kind in the world. As the rarest natural fiber in the world, the Stansborough Grey wool produces a fabric that is silky and lustrous with beautiful draping qualities. The sheep are shorn two times a year producing a staple length of about 3-4 inches. The emphasis at the Stansborough Mill is on quality not quantity, and is completely eco friendly.

The ‘Stansborough Grey’ sheep wool is spun, and then woven at the Stansborough Weaving Mill in Wellington. Cheryl Eldridge personally sorts every fleece into three shades of grey as it is shorn. The industrial worsted looms at their mill date to the early 1890’s and are the only six working commercially in the world. Cheryl has been making fabric from the Stansborough Grey yarn for years, and in 1998 started work with Ngila Dickson and her team of costume designers for many of the lead characters in Peter Jacksons famous movie  trilogy, The Lord of The Rings. After the success of the Stansborough Grey ‘fellowship cloaks’ used in The Lord of The Rings, the Eldridges have been contacted by several other productions craving their beautiful fabric for costume designs. Some of these productions include the films Avatar, Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, The Waterhorse, BBC’s Kidnapped, and Kingdom Come.

Photo:

http://internationalfleeces.com/2010/08/04/focus-on-fiber-stansborough-grey-the-making-of-a-breed/

Sources:

Barry Eldridge. Stansborough. Stansborough Mill. n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. ‹http://www.stansborough.co.nz. ›.

International Fleeces, Inc. Focus on Fiber: Stansboroguh Grey, The Making of A Breed. 4 Aug. 2010. Web 1 Dec.2011. <http://internationalfleeces.com/author/adminmultisite/>

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