Introducing Palliser Ridge

Introducing Palliser Ridge

We are excited to let you know about our latest project. Working alongside Palliser Ridge, our goal is to produce a line of garments and accessories where we know the story of that piece of natural clothing from the farm to the customers bag.

The genesis of this lofty idea came about when we were contacted by Lisa and Kurt Portas of Palliser Ridge. Lisa and Kurt had been having some of the farms 7 tonnes of first clip Romney lambswool spun & dyed and are run knitting/dying knit/crochet gatherings from their fabulous location in the main wool shed. Aside from the skills the budding knitters learnt and share to their peers, they were excited about working with truly natural materials at the source. They got in touch with us because they valued our dedication to natural New Zealand made clothing and felt some our customers would love the chance to work with the Palliser Ridge wool themselves.

Not long after, spun and dyed Romney wool from Palliser Ridge could be found from us online, and in our Norsewood and Otaki stores. Palliser Ridge yarn has proven  most popular in the large 1kg cones. Passionate knitters like Julie (NZNC Company Director) need a lot of yarn.

Soon enough Julie had switched her in-car production from a lovely Alpaca yarn to making headbands, glovelets, a childrens poncho, and baby blankets and more.

But one further step was possible. Not everyone is a knitter and you shouldn’t have to be in order to enjoy the fabulous organic wool Palliser produce. We wondered why we can’t have a jersey where the wearer knows the flock of sheep the wool comes from, what they eat, and even what their view is like! (As you can see below, it is a fine view indeed)

The simple answer is, there is no good reason why we can’t - and so we will! There is a little more to the story too. Julie and Phil worked for Norsewear and bought the 7 operating shops and the factory buildings at Norsewood in 2007. Luckily, the responsibility of taking over the business included the archive of Norsewear jerseys from when Norsewear began in the 1960s. Their 15 years in the industry has included plenty of looking at samples and catalogues right through from the 1960s to the 2000s. Reinforced by the feedback of classic jersey loyalists, it is hard not to see that those jerseys were seen as special. In fact, you can see many of the classic styles on gentlemen in Dannevirke and around New Zealand! 

With this knowledge in tow, the combination of a classic jersey style with the Palliser wool of the Wairarapa simply fell into place. The basic knit structure of the vintage Guernsey style was chosen as our design starting point. After the creation of two samples and a bit of tinkering, the machines are at work producing the first 100 Palliser Jerseys. The "Palliser" is to be launched and released for South Island Agricultural Field Days in Canterbury, March 27-29.

Before we tell you more about the Palliser jersey and accessory range, let us tell you a bit more about the people and palce that make up Palliser Ridge. If you're too impatient and need to hear about the clothes right away,  here is a shortcut to part 2 of the blog.

Introducing Palliser Ridge


A pleasant 10-minute farm road drive up from the Lake Ferry Hotel and you’ll find yourselves in a true New Zealand treasure. The crew at Palliser Ridge know they live and work in special place. What’s more is they love sharing it with people.

In January 2019, we had the chance to enjoy the comforts of the tourism side of Palliser Ridge ourselves. Julie and I headed down to Palliser for what has to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable business liaisons we’ve had in a long-time.

If you have a plan to stay at Palliser, I would highly recommend the 3-4 hour tour of the farm. It is worth it, if only for the views alone. Luckily, the tour offers a wealth of insights into the history of the land and the farming techniques they use. Speaking of views, we had the pleasure of putting our feet up in the first of the Palliser Ridge accommodation options - The Kaikoura Lookout.

It is a modern one bedroom cottage built with macrocarpa timber that was grown straight from the farm (you’re probably starting to get an idea about why we are so excited by the homegrown vision of this lot). The cottage is complete with a gas and wood fire, comfortably styled decor, and even a hot tub. It was the perfect place to watch the evening lights dance, with the finale being the sun setting behind the Kaikoura Ranges. We had amazing weather for our visit but the comfort of the cottage combined with the rugged beauty of the landscape means I would visit that idyllic spot all year round.

Go and stay a couple of nights. Take your surf caster or your walking shoes and explore the coast of South Wairarapa.

My last little tip is to try the Fish and Chip dinner at the Lake Ferry Hotel.

Growing the wool

The amazing thing about the wool from Palliser Ridge is the care and science that goes into looking after the sheep. You are what you eat, and in some kind of roundabout way, we wear what they eat. Beyond the obvious desire to look after stock, healthy sheep also means higher quality wool. Kurt ran us through the fodder that makes up the sheep's diet. The fodder selection is crafted to balance the health of the stock while also ensuring the long-term fertility of the land.

So what's on the menu?

Three of the regulars on the menu are chicory, yarrow and couch. Chicory is a crop that has good protein in it for the stock and is good for the land. Chicory has a 400-500mm tap root. This size means it breaks up the soil and increases the mineral content in the soil around it. Yarrow is used because it is tolerant in the dry, wind-swept conditions of a Palliser Ridge summer. Interestingly, Kurt told us that many people think of it as a weed but it in fact has a higher content of minerals that some perennial grasses. Another tough grass well suited to the conditions is couch. Couch is a tough fibrous grass that you might have seen alongside highways. It is a long dry grass that grows quickly so the stock can keep its health and fibre benefits many times a year. Rounding out the sheep’s menu at Palliser Ridge is a selection of other herbs and grasses including red and white clover, legumes plants such as common rye, and other seasonal grasses. A rather elaborate side-salad if you will.

While we are on the topic of fine menus, keep an eye for free-range Palliser Ridge lamb in cafes and restaurants around the Wellington-Wairarapa region.

Overtime, Palliser Ridge are building a full human menu too. Beekeeping is another art practiced on the farm, with honey available in a range of store - including our New Zealand Natural Clothing shop in Norsewood. Free-range honey-sesame lamb ribs anyone?

Moving onto things neither us nor the sheep want to eat, Kurt told us about the introduction of dung beetles onto the farm. The purpose is to balance the impact of livestock on the land by aerating soil, improving the nutrient cycle, and increasing water absorption. The Greater Wellington regional council has been actively promoting the introduction of dung beetles because of the benefits to regional water quality and improved pasture yields for farmers.

The result - A farm to bag woolen clothing range

All this means that when we leave Palliser Ridge, we know the wool is well-fed and ethical. The next stage is to turn it into something warm and wearable. Our vision is to create a range of clothing where the customer knows the flock of sheep the wool comes from and can wear in comfort knowing that every part of the production process has happened right here in little old New Zealand. 

Introducing the "Palliser", a vintage New Zealand jersey for a modern world. 

Having taken the Palliser Ridge wool and worked our magic, we brought the first jersey back to Kurt. Lucky enough the sample jersey was done in Kurt’s size, and we reckon he models it well!

But this was just the sample, simply the beginning. Continue to the story of the whole New Zealand Natural Clothing Palliser Range by clicking here.