1 Feb 2019

Old looms in Oamaru produce fine fabrics for today

From Country Life, 9:38 pm on 1 February 2019
Ultra fine NZ merino grown spun and woven in Otago.

Ultra fine NZ merino grown spun and woven in Otago. Photo: supplied

Oamaru artisans Rod and Sue McLean use heritage looms to produce handwoven and stitched textiles for their company McLean & Co.

The couple weave tartan and tweed, made mostly from locally sourced wool, on Yorkshire-made Hattersley weaving looms.

The three cast-iron pedal-powered looms were sent to New Zealand last century to provide rehabilitation and employment for disabled NZ servicemen returning from WW2.

Along with a bobbin winder, a pirn winder and a warping mill, the half-assembled looms were gathering dust in a South Otago shed until 2005 when Rod and Sue chanced upon them.

"A friend said 'I know a lady who's got looms in Lawrence and she's looking for somebody to hand them on to'. So we went and had a look and Rod absolutely fell in love with them," Sue says.

Rod weaving on a Mark 1 Hatterley Domestic loom

Rod weaving on a Mark 1 Hatterley Domestic loom Photo: supplied

Rod brought the looms back to life, learnt how to use them and has become an accomplished weaver on the Hattersley system.

In 2015, Sue went down to part-time teaching so she could focus on developing the business side of McLean & Co.

So far the couple have produced hundreds of metres of fabrics, including tartan, tweed and herringbone.

Most of it is produced for short-run commissions.

Sue also uses the fabric to make clothing, blankets and soft furnishings.

"It's been a fantastic journey and we've met the most amazing people along the way, from people who grow their own wool, to people who work with wool and people who supply wool, so many passionate people about wool!" she says.

Sue and Rod McLean

Sue and Rod McLean Photo: supplied