In the early 1990s Barry and Cheryl Eldridge discovered a small flock of rare grey sheep in the South Island, which had been brought to New Zealand from Denmark 20 years prior and developed as a potential breed for pelt coats. These elegant and fine-boned Grey sheep were traditionally farmed for their pelts in Northern Europe and were not 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 north wind. The wool was utilised by the vikings for making the sails for their medieval longships - as the fibers were strong and dried quickly. Cheryl and Barry decided to develop and strengthen the traits that led to the soft & lustrous ‘Stansborough Grey’ fleeces and breed of today.
After 25 years of experimenting and careful management, any brownish tips or guard hairs associated with the pelts of the original sheep brought in, has been bred out to create the special wool breed of what is now a unique flock of some 1500 pure bred, lustrous blue grey fleece producing animals – the ‘Stansborough Grey’ sheep – a unique registered breed in their own right and the only flock of it’s kind in the world.
Cheryl personally hand classes and sorts every fleece into three shades of grey as the sheep are shorn twice a year. The wool of the sheep comes in dark grey, mid grey and silver light grey, and within these pre-selected tones there is a whole greyscale spectrum which creates the marvelous, almost metallic sheen. The yarn is spun as fine worsted, and then it is combed to enhance the lustre.
This intensity of involvement in all parts of the process between farm and garment results in products that are utterly distinctive. Years and huge investments were spent in the development of the unique fleece, yarns and weaves. The resulting fabric has a unique handmade and natural feel, beautiful draping qualities, enhanced by the careful hand finishing to emphasise the lustre, drape and handling of each individual piece.