Words: Lynda Gray

Oamaru artisan wool weaving business McLean Textiles is based on respect. Owners Rod and Sue McLean respect the craft of weaving, the wool, and the three 100-year-old Hattersley cast iron looms that literally drive the business.

“It’s all about slow fashion and respecting the craftsmanship and yarn,” Jan says.

The looms “found” the McLeans by way of a friend in 2006.

“The person wanted to pass them on and her skills so we went to see her in Lawrence and immediately fell in love with what we saw.”

From a comfortably cluttered yarn and weaving paraphernalia-filled shed at the back of their Victorian villa the clunkety-clunk of the pedal powered looms is heard most days.

Rod, who wears ear muffs to block out the din, can turn out three metres of woven woollen fabric if everything is going smoothly, hence the term ‘slow’ fashion. But the end result, a tactile heirloom fabric to covet, cuddle or cut and stitch into a special garment makes the time and effort worthwhile.

A wide range of wool types and blends is used in yarns including Merino, halfbred, Corriedale, Polwarth, and crossbred. The yarn is woven into tartans, tweeds and checks and subtle herringbone patterns. Rod’s favourite yarn comes from a Middlemarch coloured Merino flock.

“I just love it because it’s so quick to weave, even though it takes a lot of pedalling.”

He happily takes on commissions from woolgrowers keen to capture in fabric the unique qualities of their clip. A North Otago farmer spent two weeks with Rod, winding yarn on to bobbins and then painstakingly warping up a loom. The end result was 10 metres of natural coloured tartan and tweed fabrics.

“We love those kind of projects because you get to know the people,” Rod says.

Aside from commissions, their scarves, rugs, blankets and clothing are sold in Design Federation in Oamaru’s historical precinct.

Rod has no plans to stop pedalling and peddling his traditionally woven fabrics. The couple want to build a sustainable artisan business and when the time comes sell, move the Hattersleys and skills to a new generation of crafty artisans ensuring the respect and passion traditional artisan weaving survives.