Once upon a time Hidden a way in a beautiful secret Valley, in Middle Earth, lived a lady and a man……….
30 years ago, when Cheryl and Barry Eldridge looked to diversify the farming activities on Stansborough, their New Zealand sheep station, they had no idea the results would eventually be seen on cinema screens around the world. The unique fibre created by their flock of rare grey sheep, which date back to the Vikings, was used to costume many of the main characters appearing in the blockbuster movies ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.
It was seen again in two major Disney productions, Narnia’s – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian; along with The Waterhorse, BBC’s Kidnapped, Avatar, Kidnapped, Mortal Engines and many others. This New Zealand couple say that producing the fabric for the ‘Fellowship Cloaks’ and major costuming in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and Hobbit movies, like all movie work was an ultimate challenge and some of their biggest achievements.
In 1991, Cheryl and Barry concluded that their hill country sheep and cattle farm, situated in a picturesque valley in the Wairarapa, two hours drive from Wellington, was a marginal farming operation. With the downturn in farming at the time, the Eldridge’s looked for other imaginative options. Their search resulted in them obtaining a flock of grey sheep with wool orignally used to make sales for Viking long boats , but now registered as a NZ wool breed in their own right, ‘Stansborough Greys’. The Eldridge’s also farm a herd of 80 alpacas, have some forestry plantations and created some native bush reserves, to cancel out their carbon footprint. Their sun Gavin, the new viking farmer, is helping with the day to day Management of the farm, while younger son Jamie and Cheryl do more of the paperwork side of the farm operation. They also produce a growing amount of high quality UMF honey on the property.
Their flock of blue grey sheep, now have wool that is unusually durable, silky, soft and lustrous. This is the result of many years of selective breeding and hard work, producing a ‘ Stansborough Grey’ flock of over twelve hundred animals, the only ones of their kind in the world. The alpacas on the farm produce fibre which adds warmth and a variety of other natural colours to many of the end products created at their weaving mill. When on display in New York, the unusual qualities of the ‘Stansborough Grey’ fibre caught the eyes of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ costume designers and thus began their ongoing involvement in the Movie industry.
The Eldridge’s personally attend the shearing, hand
sorting and grading of the fleece of each animal. After the fleece has
been professionally worsted spun, the yarn is then woven at their own
historic Weaving Mill in Wellington. 100% grown, inspired, designed and
created in New Zealand, the end product is totally natural and eco
friendly; from the sustainable way the animals are farmed, right
through to the hand finished textiles. The fibres used are in totally
natural or biodegradable overdyed colours only.
Cheryl , who has a background in the creative arts, along with Mill Manager Richard Graham design all the textiles and finished product range. Barry Eldridge, again, with Richard Graham , the mill Manager, draws on his engineering background to assist in design and problem shooting while the rest of Richard’s team operate the historic looms they use in their factory. The textiles are then all traditionally hand finished in house without the use of any chemicals. Kiri, their daughter, assists with the graphic design and point of sale material.
The looms, that came out to New Zealand in the early 1900’s , were developed in England in the 1890’s to make fine worsted textiles and are themselves masterpieces of design and engineering. These were among the very first commercial worsted looms manufactured, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and have the ability to still create heirloom textiles from a bygone era.
Cheryl with her team of dedicated artisans, are constantly developing their range of original and unique designer textiles, interiors , accessories & baby products .These are now marketed through high end outlets around and exported to the US, Europe, USA, Canada and Australia and China. They have created exclusive collections for SAKS Fifth Avenue, Hub and Inform and designer gifts for The Royal Family, The Princess Charlotte and ViP Visiting /Dignitaries, including the King of Jordan, the President of India and the throws for the Passchendaele Commemoration ceremony in 2017.
Stansborough textiles can been seen on fashion cat walks in Australia and New Zealand. Cheryl has worked with some of the world’s best Interior Designers around the world and furnished Super Yachts, Boutique Lodges and Designer Homes in NZ and overseas.
Their Designer Blanket range has been gifted to VIP’s worldwide, and has the backing of Campaign for Wool – led by Prince Charles. The Stansborough Label is now recognized on the world stage for its innovative and highly prized, sustainable, textile creations.
What originally started out as an idea to keep a rare sheep from extinction and a farm operating profitably, has grown into a family business that begins out in the paddock and ends in high end fashion outlets and increasingly on blockbuster cinema screens. Sustainable, traceable, chemical free and 100% pure NZ – from the farm, scouring, spinning, weaving finishing and packaging.
For more information and the latest on their involvement in Movie Magic or the Fashion\Interiors Scene
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