The Story

"A photo of my mother and myself at the age of two, in a row boat on Lake Wanaka, must surely be the beginning of my love affair with the Otago hinterland."

Inspired by the natural beauty of New Zealand’s Central Otago region, Southern Lakes Tartan is a testament to one woman’s passion for the area, her family and her craft. This is her story.

After wonderful days of tramping, camping and holidaying in the area, I am now settled here for keeps.

Surrounded by such beauty, I was inspired to do something creative for my family. As a long-time weaver with a loom and some time, I embarked on a fun project with the colours of the Southern Lakes District.

I finally settled on a design which was, for me, an expression of the area’s beauty. The majestic mountains with snow-capped peaks, the golden tussocks, and the soft blue waters of the lakes were truly inspirational. And so I created a special tartan for my family.

Soon after, an upholster who saw the tartan persisted that I register it in Scotland. So, with the blessing of the Queenstown Lakes District Mayor and approval from Scotland, my design became the official registered tartan for New Zealand’s Southern Lakes district.

"What began as a gift for my family has now evolved into a gift for a region."

The Designer

"Craft was a way of life for me, growing up during the Depression. The necessity to make our own clothes and such meant that handcrafting skills were the norm."

Growing up in Dunedin, Shona always had a flair for creativity. And so, after gaining her fine art preliminary exam, she studied and later taught at the Dunedin School of Art.

However, with an urge to travel post WWII, Shona took off overseas after two years of teaching and based herself in London. Whilst there, she honed her crafting skills and studied at the Royal School of Needlework and the London School of Weaving.

When she returned to New Zealand, Shona took up her teaching role once again at the Dunedin School of Art before getting married and starting a family in 1951.

Over time, Shona was an inaugural member of both the Otago Spinners & Weavers Guild and the Otago Embroiderers Guild, before later becoming president.

Now based permanently in the Wanaka region with her family all grown and flown, Shona continues to work with textiles, and she loves every minute of it.

The Craft

"Creating and then having my Southern Lakes Tartan registered in Scotland has been a real thrill."

When we began looking for weavers to craft our collection, it was important that we supported New Zealand’s primary wool industry and kept the production process as distinctive as the design.

So, with quality our number one priority, we took Shona’s design to three carefully chosen artisans and weavers who now create our products to the highest possible standards.

Stansborough Mill 

Stansborough Mill have a traditional weaving mill just outside of Wellington. Recognised worldwide for their award-winning fabric design for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, they are also renowned for their commitment to traditional methods with their worsted looms harking back to the 1890s.

Producers of high-end and sustainable textiles, the skilled artisans at Stansborough Mill individually craft small batches of our artisan throws, scarfs, and hat and cushion fabrics.

Inter-weave Ltd

New Zealand’s leading commercial manufacturer of quality woven wool fabrics, Inter-weave specialise in the design and production of high-end interior furnishing fabrics.

Using leading technology, custom designs and unique wool yarns with luxury fibres, Inter-weave carefully create our traditional rug and upholstery/curtain fabrics from their headquarters in Auckland.

House of Edgar

The only one of our suppliers that’s not based in New Zealand, House of Edgar is the worldwide market leader in Highland wear. Associated with excellence since its inception in the 19th Century, House of Edgar exclusively weaves our dressmaker’s fabric for kilts and other tailored items.

From an ethical standpoint, it was important that all our products were woven in New Zealand. However, we were unable to find the standard of weave and high-end finish we wanted for our kilt fabric here in NZ. So, rather than going off shore to China and other parts of Asia, we decided to go to the birthplace of tartan – Scotland.

Dressmakers fabric being woven at House of Edgar, Scotland.

Traditional weaving mill at Stansborough, just outside of Wellington.

“I do hope you enjoy my tartan.”

Shona Johnstone