“I remember my Dad making one of those!”
“We still have the one that Nana made 40 years ago as good as new!”
“I wonder what happened to the flat one we made?”
Everyone seems to have a nostalgic story when they see Mary Self and her staff at Nancy’s hooking a pure wool rug with a latch hook and pre-cut yarn.
The story for Nancy’s starts in the early 1970s, when founder Nancy Robb, who started the business back in 1967, worked with a company that moved the manufacturing of their pre-cut pure wool plugs from England to New Zealand. She helped design the colour range and went on to hold exhibitions and to write a book on the subject: Make Your Own Rugs. Nancy even organised a publicity stunt here in Wellington, placing a rug at an intersection on Cuba Street for people to walk over to show how well it would last.
In England, the yarn was known as Turkey Rug wool, Mary tells me, but the branding here changed over time to Semco. Down the years, production has been affected by the rocky situation of the Alliance textile mill in Mosgiel. When the company that owned the Semco brand closed its New Zealand office, a former employee, Bruce Pickford, bought the original machine that manufactured the pre-cut plugs of yarn. He is now using pure New Zealand carpet wool to produce the plugs again, and is slowly building up the range of colours.
Mary, a textile designer, is passionate about adding value to New Zealand wool through local design. To that end, she is introducing new rug designs with a contemporary edge that would look good in a modern home but are also appealing for children to make.
“I have kept to a small number of colours in each design, adding to the range as more colours become available.”
Her iconic swan rug design has been very popular, but the latest trend is for swallow rugs — bluebirds for luck! These are available as kits, or just as patterns so that customers can choose the colour combinations they like. The chart has been reproduced here for you to have a go. Nancy’s also offer a free beginner’s rug-making class to get you started, so there are no excuses not to brighten up your own floors with a home-made rug!