The Ashford Wool Story

Ashford wool sliver is 100% grown and processed in New Zealand. Because we want to provide our customers with the best quality fibre, we now manage the whole process from farm to fibre artist.

From sheep farms across the South Island of New Zealand we only accept wool from grass-fed sheep, free from mulesing.

To ensure a consistent high-quality sliver, we only select wool with good length, free from breaks, high bulk, brightness, very low vegetable matter and within the correct micron range.

New Zealand has a temperate climate, so the sheep spend all year in grassy pastures resulting in wool that is free of dust, dirt, and thistles.

Annie Studholme, Coldstream Corriedales, Ashburton
The Milton Woollen Mill was established in 1897 in Milton, Otago, New Zealand

Saving the mill

In 2011 Elizabeth and Richard Ashford bought a line of machinery that was part of the 117 year old Milton Woollen Mill.

Previously known as Qualityarns the mill is responsible for transforming our wool into sliver for spinners, weavers and felters worldwide.

When the mill went into liquidation, joining a long list of mills around New Zealand to close, with it went a critical part of our heritage, raising uncertainties about the future supply and quality of the sliver.

We looked at alternative processors, but few options were available, leaving us facing the real possibility of being forced to send our wool offshore to be washed, carded, and dyed. We were also concerned about preserving the invaluable knowledge and skills of the mill’s existing employees.

But taking it offshore simply wasn’t an option for us. There was no guarantee we could maintain our goal of providing the best fibre and equipment to make the whole craft experience as enjoyable and relaxing as possible.

So, we employed four very skilled and qualified men from Qualityarns who had over a hundred years of combined experience in wool processing, purchased dye vats, industrial carders, combs, gills and baller, and leased 1100 square metres (12,000 square feet) of the mill.

Our Milton men are part of the Ashford family and are passionate about wool. They understand the needs of our customers and are committed to producing top-quality sliver.

The wool is washed (scoured) using a standard aqueous treatment at 60-70 degrees with an eco-friendly detergent that is biodegradable and breaks down quickly in water.

It is then dyed using Oeko-Tex 100 compliant dyes, carded, gilled and combed to align and remove any short fibres.

Our auto-leveller ensures the sliver is a standard thickness or kilotex (grams per metre) before being wound into 1kg (2.2lbs) balls.

Ashford sliver is then ready to spin, weave or felt without waste or further preparation. It is available in 100gm, 500gm and 1kg (3½ozs, 17½ozs and 2¼lbs) bags.

Choose from our range of Corriedale, Merino, Silk/Merino and Alpaca/Merino blends with confidence, knowing the wool is 100% NZ grown and prepared by a team that understands the needs of the fibre artist.

Take the Milton Mill Tour – See the video how our fibre is processed.