About Us

How it all began...

Hands Ashford New Zealand was established in 1981. Heather and Brian Guthrie started the business selling spinning and weaving equipment, manufactured by Ashford Handicrafts Ltd.

As demand grew, unusual and interesting craft supplies were sourced from around the world.

Today, handcraft classes and workshops encourage customers to try new crafts. Mail order, charge accounts to schools and institutions, and now internet orders and enquiries have extended the store's network of customers.

Hands is overflowing with craft supplies and is determined to keep in touch with the latest craft trends and be of service to their old and young customers alike. Because the shop stocks such a diverse and vast array of lines, it is impossible to list all products on this website. Feel free to download our catalogue PDF for more items but please be aware this is just a guide.

If you need more details, please contact us but remember, there is no substitute for a personal visit to our store when you are next in Christchurch.

The Ashford Story & Our Link To It

During the worldwide depression of the 1930's, Walter Ashford coverted the family laundry into a tiny workshop in one of the most depressed suburbs in Christchurch, New Zealand. Four days a week he worked making wooden fireside stools seated with seagrass. On the fifth day, with a stool on the handlebars of his bicycle, he rode the city knocking on doors and learned first hand that quality and value resulted in orders.

Not long after this, the family moved to Rakaia, a small country town. Here Walter rented an old building and set up a small factory. He repaired furniture and began making anything from picture frames to chicken coups. Rakaia's population was hardly enough for potential growth so he made the wooden parts for stools and posted them together with instructions for customers to "Assemble and Save", a catch phrase that became the company's buy-line.

And so kitsets became a great success in New Zealand. Because Walter was a practical man with a flair for design, his staff and production line expanded. Walter's greatest assets were his ability to design simple practical products and the specialised machinery to manufacture them.

In 1940, the Home Journal magazine asked Walter to design a spinning wheel that could make knitting yarn. The first model was a double drive model but Walter soon discovered that spinners wanted to change the bobbins with ease. So with the help of his father, the Reverand Dudley Ashford, the Ashford Scotch Tension flyer was developed and a patent pending awarded for its unique design. Today this innovation appears on many other brands of spinning wheel.

During World War 2, the wheels were in great demand to create yarn. By the time Walter Ashford returned from serving in the Airforce, the new wonder fibre nylon had taken over. For the next 20 years spinning slumbered like "sleeping beauty".

Then in 1965 Mrs Pamela Simcox knocked on the factory door and said "Please Mr Ashford, make me 10 spinning wheels". This was not the sort of challenge Walter, wanted to take up after the massive discounting to sell wheels at the end of the war. Pamela was persistant, emphatic that wool was a wonder fibre, cool in summer and warm in winter and so the industry started again. Spinning groups mushroomed all over the country and orders also began coming in from Australia, America and Europe.

A larger factory was built in Ashburton. Now with plenty of space, machinery and skilled craftsmen, the manufacture of spinning wheels surged ahead. It was only natural that weaving looms followed spinning wheels. Ashford now produces a complete range of high quality textile equipment. From these small beginnings Ashford have now produced over 500,000 spinning wheels and are exporting to over 40 different countries.

Walter and Joy's children now all play their part in continuing the Ashford Legacy. Son Richard now runs the Ashford manufacturing business, still based in Ashburton, and daughters Heather and Gay opened their own stores with the support of their father. Gay opened "Past Times" in Australia and Heather opened "Hands Ashford NZ Ltd", now more commonly known as Hands Craft Store.