When little Prince Louis is bundled up in his crib or rocked to sleep by the Duchess of Cambridge, there is a high chance he will be swaddled in a precious blanket hailing from New Zealand.
Christine Brimer, a textile designer and weaver, has been revealed as the Kiwi behind one of New Zealand's official gifts to the new prince, having designed and created the woollen blanket sent to the royal family."It was hard to keep it secret!" Christine (54) chuckles. "No-one in my family knew. When it was announced, my daughter, who is also a textile designer, and I were having a chat over breakfast and I asked her, 'Guess who wove that blanket for the royal baby?' She said, 'Oh, who?', so she had no idea!"
The blanket is woven out of pure wool from Corriedale sheep, sourced from the Anna Gratton mill in Feilding. It features a beautiful motif of the manuka plant to represent New Zealand's native flora and fauna.And it truly was a labour of love for the Wellington weaver who, even three years ago, could have never dreamed that one of her own designs would be on its way to royalty.
Christine began her career studying to become a plant physiologist and then later began working in biomedical research. Her love for creating and designing remained just a hobby for much of her life.
"I've always enjoyed making things, such as sewing and crochet, but I never felt completely satisfied because I'd make something and there would be an end point," she says.
After a career in science and time in the non-profit sector, she made the daunting decision to do a Bachelor of Design.
"Gosh, I think I was 48 when I went back to university. But I will say it was really exciting as an adult to go back and immerse myself in the learning process. The good thing was I never felt like I was older!
"My classmates were fantastic. Although I'm sure in the first year some people thought I was on the staff," she laughs.
Heading back to late nights of studying for four years as a mature student at Massey University involved taking on a number of challenges, including learning how to work in a much more digitally focused environment and understanding business practice. Throughout the process, Christine says her passion for the art and technology of weaving grew.
After graduating in 2015, Christine set up her small business, Niche Textile Studio, from her home in Wellington, championing her love for our nation's wool.
"I only weave with New Zealand wool and I only work with un-dyed wool. I'm really passionate about having a sustainable practice. And I love New Zealand. I love our landscape and our light, and that inspires most of the work I do."
It's this philosophy, she thinks, that is the reason she was nominated for the top-sceret project. However, when contacted by The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, she very nearly missed out on the opportunity entirely.
"They approached me over email, but I was actually in Fiordland when they sent it and communication was pretty tricky there."
Thankfully, Christine got back home in time to read the brief. She couldn't believe her luck when it mentioned celebrating New Zealand's native flora and fauna.
The gorgeous wool blanket she created over 60 hours definitely has meaning behind it.
"Manuka is a very important nursery plant for establishing native flora," Christine explains.
"After a fire, manuka can repopulate bare ground and nurture and support the growth of other plants. So there was some meaning behind that, in that raising and nurturing children is the most important of all human endeavours.
"And that's what I wanted the blanket to represent. They royal family is a family at the end of the day and bringing up their children is very important to them, as it is to all families."
It also helps, Christine adds, that Prince Louis' grandfather, the Prince of Wales, is the global patron for Campaign For Wool.
"Wool is completely natural and completely New Zealand. I'm hoping it will be an heirloom blanket, and knowing it is going to be keeping a baby warm and safe, I'm chuffed."
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