Upper Hutt Leader
Expressions and Upper Hutt Spinners and Weavers are getting behind an international campaign to create a flock of handmade pompom sheep.
New Zealanders are being invited to support England's Shaun the Sheep Pompom Parade by creating their own woolly wonder.
Spinners and weavers secretary Elaine Gousmett read about the project in the national spinning and weaving body's magazine, Creative Fibre.
"I thought 'why can't we do that here'."
She says New Zealand is the first country outside Britain to join the campaign.
New Zealand's unique environment produces wool, especially merino fleece, with greater durability and breathability than other countries but it is undervalued, she says.
The campaign aims to set a world record for the largest flock of handmade wool pompom sheep.
It was inspired by a 2012 Eden Arts project called Join the Flock which collected more than 5000 pompom sheep that were later exhibited around Cumbria in England.
The latest project is a joint effort in Britain of wool interior retailer The Wool Room, Aardman's woolly ambassador Shaun the Sheep and Join the Flock.
The spinners are encouraging all schools, youth groups and anyone with a passion for wool, anywhere in New Zealand, to become involved.
There are more than 5500 pompom sheep waiting for more to join them in England by March 1.
"We need sheep of all kinds and characters to join the flock - black sheep (there's always one in the family) white, green, red, multi- coloured, pirate sheep, rugby sheep, baaaabarians etc as long as they are wool.
"Be warned though, it is addictive with endless creative possibilities," she says.
Because of its unique qualities of versatility, absorbency, and breathability, wool is the fibre of choice not only for fashion, but it is also widely used in health, music, protective services, architecture and home interior design and insulation.
Today's yarns are machine washable and can be tumble dried.
New Zealand's early settlers came from cooler countries that valued wool whereas more recent migrants come from warmer climates and don't realise the health benefits of wool, especially in winter, Mrs Gousmett says.
She says there is a resurgence of interest in knitting and crochet but much of the yarn is imported from Australia and Italy and expensive.
Young women are turning to YouTube to learn how to knit and crochet but joining a club provided someone with practical advice if things go wrong, she says.
More are buying New Zealand "carded" wool to spin and knit. As a result an adult's pure New Zealand wool jersey can cost less than $20 and a child's garment less than $10.
Expressions is open daily for the delivery of sheep and viewing of a display until February 24.
A free "Flock In" family fun day will be held on Sunday, February 17, from 11am till 3pm with demonstrations of a variety of wool crafts. Anyone can make their own pompom sheep and go in a prize draw. Sheep can also be posted to Expressions at PO Box 40-594, Upper Hutt 5018.
Shaun the Sheep, created by Richard Starzk, is a loved children's (and adults') character which has been shown on television and in movies worldwide. He is a supporter of the Campaign for Wool, begun by Prince Charles to raise awareness of and support for the use of wool. Shaun has his own facebook page and a kit for making the sheep can be found at thewoolroom.com/shauns pompomparade or you can design your own ewe-nique one. Shaun is also twittering - he can be followed - like all good sheep - on twitter.com/ shaunspompomparade.
- Upper Hutt Leader