Weaving History and Tradition into Woollen Creations for Today

Sue and Rod McLean (pictured above) combine their considerable skills and talent in their Oamaru-based weaving business. This year Sue is taking the leap onto the catwalk for the first time with two of her finely-crafted creations.

Be it fine merino or chunky handspun, there’s nothing North Otago designer Sue McLean doesn’t love about wool.

From off the sheep’s back, Sue and her husband, Rod, make hand-woven wool fabric that embodies history, culture, sustainability and a strong passion for this most-versatile of fibres.

Rod weaving tartan for a Wanaka client.

Sue then takes that fabric to the next level, creating clothing and homewares.

The couple followed the WoolOn story for some years, before being encouraged to enter for the first time in the upcoming show by a committee member.

“I saw an article in the Otago Daily Times a few years ago, then followed the event in the media and on social media. We have a Hattersley Domestic Weaving System which includes three cast iron looms that are pedalled. Rod is the weaver and we work together on all aspects of textile design and manufacture.”

Sue says she saw WoolOn as a great opportunity to showcase the fabric, her style and what can be done with wool.

“Our style is influenced by our looms and what they were designed to weave – long lengths of tartan and tweed – and by our love of culture, heritage and a desire to tread lightly on the Earth.”

'The Veil' woven as part of Sue's 2013 'Parallel Threads' exhibition.

Rod weaves most days, Sue says, either on commissioned work or for the couple’s business selling at markets, online and in a gallery. The wool is sourced from local growers or spinning mills.

“I do the making, marketing and anything else relating to McLean & Co as well as teaching part-time at Waitaki Girls High School.”

Sue says she’s always had an affinity with textiles, making dolls clothes then her own clothing from a young age. Being part of a North Otago Artisan Collective and meeting and connecting online with fellow creatives helps keep the couple inspired.

“And it’s pretty cool to be able to create your own fabric, then make clothes from it.”

She’s not giving much away about her entry for this year’s Streetwear and Accessories WoolOn Awards – “it will be great to wear in the winter, that’s all I’m saying.”

Being placed, she said, would give her the confidence to enter other fashion events, but mostly, it’s about the experience.

“We’re looking forward to meeting other wool and fashion enthusiasts, looking and learning and going home inspired.”

Handwoven fabric by Sue and Rod McLean.

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