Gandalf's wizards of wool take own journey

Wairarapa's finest for Gandalf's Hobbit scarf

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
BUSINESS REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 02/11/2012
Stansborough’s Cheryl Eldridge, with her husband, Barry, displays the  Warner Brothers-licensed scarf that Gandalf wears
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ

SALES LOOM: Stansborough’s Cheryl Eldridge, with her husband, Barry, displays the Warner Brothers-licensed scarf that Gandalf wears.

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According to JRR Tolkien, Gandalf's scarf is made from the finest slivers of Mithril, sourced from the mines of Moria, a vast underground cavern in northwestern Middle-earth.

For the Hobbit film, the reality is almost as refined, with wool from a special breed of sheep in Wairarapa's Kaiwhata Valley spun on 120-year-old looms in Petone.

Like many firms in the Wellington region, artisan fabric manufacturer Stansborough is gearing up for a boost from this month's premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which used its yarns for many of the film's costumes.

The family-owned company has secured a licence from Warner Brothers to sell its products as official merchandise, starting with replicas of the 2.8-metre scarf worn by Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf.

For Cheryl and Barry Eldridge, the film industry has become a substantial part of their business, but the path to discovery was an unexpected journey in itself.

They bought their 1200-hectare farm in 1971 after emigrating from Britain, and set about building a luxury textiles business.

Having established sales in London, the Eldridges sent samples of their products to New York, where they were spotted by costume designer Ngila Dickson, who would later win two Oscars for her work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

"When she got back to Wellington she tracked us down," Ms Eldridge said.

Ms Dickson brought Sir Peter Jackson to their home to show him the fabrics which would be used in cloaks worn by hobbits in the coming films.

"It was just a case of being in the right place at the right time."

Their products have also adorned stars of Narnia and Spartacus.

Ten years after the first Lord of the Rings film was released, fans the world over are still buying replica cloaks, with sales boosted as the new film approaches.

"I would think a lot of people are planning to wear them to the premiere," Ms Eldridge said.

Contact Hamish Rutherford
Business reporter
Email: hamish.rutherford@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @oneforthedr

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- The Dominion Post

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