Beverley Riverina Handknits
Beverley Riverina Handknits are timeless designs produced from wool off white and natural coloured Corriedale & Romney sheep bred on Beverley Forrester’s own hill-country property BlackHills, North Canterbury, which recieved the 2006 New Zealand Century Farm & Station award presented by Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Garments designed are 100% wool inspired from the expansive & dramatic North Canterbury landscape - snow-capped mountains, braided Hurunui River, craggy limestone outcrops, clear blue sky, tussock grassland, dry earth underfoot and strong Norwest winds.
In 2007 a company was formed in the UK, and a flagship store opened in Watlington, Oxfordshire England, followed by a web-based business, and now our own retail shop ‘BlackHills’ in Henley-on-Thames, selling womenswear / menswear / childrenswear and accessories. Garments are also in Australia and the USA.
A range of knitting patterns are now available to allow some new designs to be able to be produced individually by handknitters - such as the trend with off-screen actresses, politicians etc. World-wide trends now indicate a strong shift from mass produced garments to clients seeking out womenswear/menswear/childrenswear, accessories and home furnishings that are natural coloured, undyed, eco friendly and have traceability and origin to a NZ farm.
These New Zealand wool garments, individually handmade, have successfully entered the global market and are certainly internationally competitive.
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How the Beverley Riverina label came to be...
My Grandmother, Riverina, died when my Dad was just 7 years old and I am named after her. My label is my name, Beverley Riverina.
My family has four generations of farming in NZ on my Mothers side, with a strong tradition in crafts and I was taught knitting and crotcheting by both my Mother and my Grandmother (still knitting herself at 101 years), so from a very early age I have handknitted all my life.
As a NZ registered Occupational Therapist (NZROT) I had a career of 33 years working with people whom had disability (physical and psychological) My interest in genetics also related to that of breeding natural coloured sheep where varied colours of the wool could be bred, then a yarn produced and evolved into garments being made.
My husband Jim and I farmed the hill country sheep and beef property BlackHills, North Canterbury so I trademarked the yarn BlackHills – New Zealand Wool, Naturally; and my own name for the garments Beverley Riverina.
When my husband Jim died suddenly one night (52 years) and I was 46 I took over running both farms and after 4 years circumstances dictated I retired from Occupational Therapy which I loved.
In 2003 I gained the Her Business Network Award at the NZ Businesswoman of the Year, I was computer illiterate and from Hurunui, population 35. In 2004 the Beverley Riverina HandKnit designer collection was launched. Also that same year being a white corriedale sheep farmer, I travelled with the NZ delegation of Mid Micron farmers to China to visit handknitting yarn manufacturing plants, textile training institutes and participated in the prestegious Qifa Wool Awards of China, in the Peoples Palace, Tinanemen Square, Beijing - at which Katia, handknits of Spain, were the Guest Exhibitor on the catwalk. It was mooted that NZ should be the guests at the next Award ceremony in 2 years time. A collection of Beverley Riverina garments were produced for the fashion parade to be in conjunction with the inaugural Air NZ flight Auckland to Beijing, the garments were ready but sponsorship withdrawn.
The World Corriedale Congress held in NZ invited Beverley Riverina to be part of the fashion parade “A Night in Paris” for international delegates producer Prenay Baidya and cohost Andhy Blake.
In 2007 BlackHills (NZ UK) Ltd was established and a showroom shop initially opened in Watlington, Oxfordshire, England with yarn and garments. It also evolved over this time that garments were shown in Australia, NZ and also USA at which time I was the International judge at the USA Sheep Show, Oregon, etcetera.
In 2008 we had our first trade stand (and every year since) at the England Knitting and Stitches Show, Alexander Palace, London - and after returning to NZ was asked to produce a garment as a NZ gift for HRH Princess Ann when she attended the Commonwealth Agriculture Conference, Christchurch. A handspun, handknitted iconic musterers jersy was produced in 12 days to her measurements and then I had the priviledge of personally presenting it to her at the official function.
2009 was the opening of the BlackHills shop in Henley on Thames, England, as well as receiving the Runnerup Rural Woman NZ Enterprising Rural Businesswoman Award presented in Parliament, Wellington where we did a parade of garments. November was the “Style Christchurch’’ fashion parades in conjunction with Show and Cup Week (producer Andhy Blake) while I also had sheep exhibited at the Show.
In 2010 won the Niche Marketing Award, North Canterbury Businesses (Sept 4th the night of the first earthquake). In 2012 Garments went to the Launch of Wool Week NZ in Wellington attended by our Patron of the World Campaign for Wool HRH Prince Charles. Also a Fashion Parade at the NZ Machine Knitters Conference, Christchurch contemporary handknits.
in 2013 our product went from NZ representing our country to Somerset Wool House, Trafalgar Square, London for an exhibition of the World Campaign for Wool. Garments also went to the “Shear Fashion” fashion parade at the NZ Golden Shears, Masterton, with Miss NZ Wairarapa entrants as models.
Over the past 10 years the Beverley Riverina brand has evolved presenting “Field to Fashion”. We are a team all striving to promote New Zealands best primary product ...…WOOL.
It is the story of a farmer from a small rural area of North Canterbury taking wool produced by the corriedale and romney sheep bred on my own hill country property to garments presented on the fashion catwalk.
Beverley Forrester - Beverley Riverina HandKnits
ps. My sister in North Shore, Auckland continues still as one of the Beverley Riverina garment handknitters, we began as a small family based business.