Whether Rewa Rewa Station owner Patrizia Vieno could be regarded as an ambassador or a wildly zealous evangelist for natural fibre is a moot point. In a world distressingly drowning in synthetics, her passion for the benefits and joy of working and crafting with natural fibre, especially wool, is highly infectious.
“I am lucky that the people that we’ve got are great and so I can just concentrate on the things which I enjoy most which is the wool and wool production.”
Patrizia runs a fibre and craft shop from the station which is a 1000-hectare/600-hectare effective extensive hill country breeding operation which employs long-time stock manager Les Eden. Rewa Rewa supports about 3000 Romney breeding ewes, 1000 hoggets and 140 Angus cows at Tinui, Wairarapa.
Patrizia has a flock of 60 coloured sheep comprising small flocks of pure Polwarth, Romney cross Corriedale and Gotland, complemented by a few angora goats and alpacas which altogether provide the foundation for her fibre and crafting business which includes a website.
Until recently Patrizia ran the station with her partner Rod Clutton, but Rod tragically died while they were holidaying in Fiji in May. Last year, they were named the Regional Supreme Winners in the Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards and the station was a finalist in the 2023 New Zealand Primary Industries awards fibre producer category.
The farm is Patrizia’s “happy place” and keeping busy with this and her fibre business along with having supportive people around her has been therapeutic in processing her loss. “It was Rod’s happy place too.”
“I am lucky that the people that we’ve got are great and so I can just concentrate on the things which I enjoy most which is the wool and wool production.” Her aim is to produce good quality wool with natural colour interest and variation.
She also likes to experiment, so has the Angora goats for their mohair and the alpacas to complement the wool. “My fibres can be used on their own or blended with the coloured wool with pleasing effects. The mohair is white so this gives a great opportunity to play with [cold dye] colour and blending.”
Rewa Rewa Station’s shop sells a variety of blends of carded fibre mixes, commercially and hand-spun yarn, naturally dyed wool and natural undyed wool, sheepskins, clothing, garments, blankets and craft-related products.
From the very beginning, Patrizia decided that provenance and traceability would be the cornerstones of her fibre business model and is the reason all fibre-producing animals have an individual identification number.
When clipping or shearing, the fleeces remain separate throughout, labelled with their identification number. They are then processed individually and then labelled for sale.
Samples are kept of each fleece as it is clipped, and again after the fibre returns from processing in Dannevirke where it is washed and carded. The ability to track and catalogue each fleece proves invaluable when Patrizia is trying to find a suitable match for returning customers.
“Crafters have a big selection of different shades of brown and grey because I keep them all separate.” Patrizia runs monthly craft days and is keen to pass on her knowledge about fibre and spinning which is another passion; a skill she learnt after emigrating to New Zealand with Rod in 2011.
With the business now well established, Patrizia is making a considerable investment in a Belfast Mini Mills mill after seeing the need to be able to scour and spin smaller quantities than is possible on a fully commercial basis.
“I started thinking that there is a bit of a gap in the market for small quantities. If you want to a little bit commercially, say even 50 kilos, you cannot do particularly if the wool is coloured, they will only scour it once a year.”
A new shed has been built to house the mill which is being imported from Belfast, Canada. “This is our next step now.”
© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand