We love wool, and this week is Choose Wool Week, so we thought we’d get involved by doing a series of little interviews featuring some of our favourite New Zealanders working with wool.
Wool is a renewable and biodegradable fibre source, it’s beautiful, warm, versatile, natural, local and just plain lovely…
Ophelia Mikkelson agrees:
How does wool feature in your work?
I started to knit (on Japanese knitting machines) about a year ago, and more recently by hand. I started making socks mainly as a way to never be cold, as it’s something I don’t like to be. Socks seemed like a solution. I made them using linen, and as winter grew closer, in merino. With my hand-knits I use New Zealand wool, merino and alpaca.
What is it about wool you love?
Around the time I started making the socks I decided I would only wear natural fibres. Clothes that allowed your skin to breathe. Wool is fundamental to this ‘rule’. It has the ability to keep you warm, to break the wind and to cool your body down when it gets hot.
Can you remember the first woollen item you made?
As a child I used to finger-knit, wrapping pale-coloured wool around my fingers. I thought I was really fast. I’d go for hours making long, long ropes, which I’d then string around the edges of my room.
What was the most recent woollen item you made?
My boyfriend, Ryder, wanted a scarf that was purely functional, nothing long or frivolous. So I hand-knitted him something only long enough to wrap around his neck, that just crossed over at the front. He wears it when we go for walks around the rocks. He wraps it round, crosses it over and secures it with the weight of his ‘bluey’ – a heavy jacket made from wool, something a fisherman would wear. The scarf is blue too, deep navy, like the sea at night.
Is there anyone using wool you particularly admire?
The family behind Widdess use natural fibres beautifully, New Zealand merino being one of their favourites. I go there to get my layers of wool, silk and linen. And of course my friend Harry Were, who hand-knits with hand-spun wool from the Sounds. I’m lucky to have inherited a few of her tests and trials. We’re getting matching jumpers knitted in cashmere for this coming winter, I’m never going to take mine off.
Friends wearing my socks at the beach | In my Harry Were hand-knit | A woollen jumper I bought for $5 at the markets, made in New Zealand | Ryder took this photo of a yellow sock in a yellow car | A pair of my merino socks, hand-dyed with white onionskins. My friend Marta taught me how to use food scraps and the plants in my garden as natural dyes to colour linen and wool yarn