By Ross Manson Note: Originally published in the…
By Lyn Watson and Steve Clarkson
Back in 2015, we were running coloured sheep on our lifestyle block, and along with many others, were getting very little return for the wool produced. We were also looking for something to do in our ‘retirement’.
We chanced upon a small home-based business venture ‘Waione Woollies’ which had been operating since the 1970s-80s, producing saddle blankets for horses, using felted NZ coloured wool. The original owners had sold up to someone else, who now wanted to sell it on. It seemed a reasonable possibility to add value to our own wool clip.
We bought the business, complete with an ancient wool carder, a home built ‘wet-felting’ machine and a host of ancillary equipment, and squeezed everything into various sheds, and our garage, and started trading as ‘Waione Wool Saddleblankets’.
The operation uses commercially scoured coloured wool in dark brown, grey/brown, grey, moorit, or white, which is carded into batts, and then felted into sheets approximately 25mm thick. Various styles, shapes and sizes of saddle blankets are cut from these sheets, to the requirements of customers. Leather trim, pockets etc are added as required.
We soon discovered that our own sheep would not produce enough wool to supply the business, so we now buy in quite a bit of raw fleece from other BCSBA members, and combine this wool with our own before getting it scoured.
The business has grown substantially since we took it over and we now use about 800kg of raw coloured fleece wool each year. We have also branched out into bright dyed colours, using grey wool as the base, which results in an interesting colour shading.
We attend several equestrian trade events to showcase our products, but most of our business comes from customer referrals, and our website.
You can check us out on our website, www.saddleblankets.co.nz
You may also like to check out our other wool business at www.woolcarding.co.nz. The story behind that, can wait for another day!