When graphic designer Karina Merriman married Matt Westhoff in March this year, she was determined that her passion for wool would be a focal point.
Karina, the daughter of Charlie and Pip Merriman, Merrignee Merino stud, Boorowa, who shares the appreciation of wool of her forebears, including Lilian Faithfull, is a sixth generation descendant of William Pitt and Mary Faithfull.
While Karina had no girlish fascination with weddings as she was growing up, she has always had an inherent love of Merino wool.
“Merino wool, our industry and our families and friends who have spent tireless hours growing these marvellous animals that create this incredible fabric fascinate me, and I am extremely proud of my parents and brother and their achievements, dedication and passion, as well as our family history back through the generations and the different studs and stories,” said Karina.
For years Karina has talked about wool and its abilities to anyone who would listen. “I am constantly amazed at what designers can create with wool and astonished that so many think it is just for school jumpers.
“When we got engaged, I rang my cousin Catherine Maple-Brown, a designer and wool lover, to talk to her
about my idea of having a woollen wedding dress ... and this idea started to become reality,” Karina said. Next Catherine introduced Karina to friend and fellow designer, Gary Bigeni, “and the ball started to roll on a project where we could show the people in our life what wool was capable of, rather than just talking about it with them”.
“What I love about Gary’s design and ideas and talent with clothing is his ability to drape fabrics. I hadn’t seen anything like it and when Catherine showed me his pieces, it really was an ‘Oh Wow!’ moment.”
Gary Bigeni (www.garybigeni.com) has a reputation for masterful drape and intelligent silhouettes and Karina loved “the elegance of the movement of the material, the ‘how did he do that’ question that the pieces raise; he is one very talented designer and a true pleasure to work
With the next stage in the creation of the wedding dress being the sourcing of fabric, Karina’s mother, Pip, found the solution during a conversation with Warwick Rolfe of Woolerina, Forbes (www.woolerina.com.au). Warwick provided samples and “with his continuing help and patience we were able to find an amazing fabric that could handle the incredible width of Gary’s pattern”, said Karina.
“I was very excited to be able to use fabric from Woolerina; to involve a regional NSW business that is doing wonderful things with wool was such a bonus and truly felt like the perfect combination for this dress. We all pulled off a huge success.”
The raw material used in the fabric came from the Boorowa district and was all fleece wool measuring 18.3- micron. The fabric weight was 230 grams per square metre and 158 cm wide and Karina retained the natural colour for her dress. Fully machine washable, it is the same fabric used in many of Woolerina’s styles.
“The dress was incredible to wear. It fitted like a glove, was incredibly comfortable, cool during the warmth of the late afternoon, and warm as the autumn evening set in and there were some amazing comments,” Karina said.
“Even people who have produced Merino sheep and others involved in the industry were rather amazed by the fabric, the design and the combination of the two. I was one very happy wool wearer.”
As a postscript, Pip Merriman has since machine washed Karina’s wedding dress (on the wool cycle using a wool wash from Woolerina
) and she says, “It looks great and ready to wear again”. And in keeping with the family tradition, to perhaps last another 130 years.
Thank you to Top Sire 2013-2014 (Annual Journal of the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Assoc) for sharing this article with us.