Harris TweedPosted: October 8, 2013
The highlight of my trip was a week spent in a very remote cottage on the beautiful Isle of Harris. Just for a little relief from fabric, here’s a picture of one of the glorious beaches of Harris, taken on the 1st October. As I said, we were blessed with exceptional weather, as this island is famously exposed to storms off the Atlantic. We actually went in the sea here, just aftere this photo was taken. Brrrr!
Now then, what else is Harris famous for? Let me think a moment.
Oh yeah. Sheep. And what do sheep make? Tweed. Lovely, lovely Tweed.
Harris Tweed is a protected trademark, and in order to have the distinctive accreditation label featuring the orb trademark, the tweed must be hand woven in the Outer Hebrides.
Traditionally, the colours of the tweed are made using natural dyes and reflect the colours of the Hebridean landscape, and these are the cloths I like the best. More recently, Harris Tweed has become fashionable again, particularly in Japan. There has been a recent boom in tweed production, which has undergone a makeover with new modern designs and a wider, lighter weight cloth, woven in jewel bright colours on a larger and slightly more modern loom.
We visited a traditional hand weaver in his home. He was a delightful gent, and gave us a demonstration of his Hattersley loom, pictured above, in action. The Hattersley loom is the original hand loom and there are only a couple of dozen working looms left in existence. It produces traditional tweed in a 30 inch width, which is suitable for traditional tailoring and home sewing. The hours of work and close attention needed to create this magnificent fabric is mind boggling. The loom is powered by two foot pedals, which send the shuttles back and forth, one from right to left and the other to return it. The weaver perches on a tall stool, with one foot on either pedal, and operates the loom a little like a bicycle. The weaving is hard physical work, and it takes an hour of constant pedalling to weave 4 metres of tweed, but that does not take into account the hours of hand knotting and threading the loom before any weaving can commence!
I purchased these two 2 metre lengths direct from the weaver, so when I wear my completed skirts, I will always have that connection with the lovely chap who made it. I adored that cloth he was actually weaving on the loom at the time of our visit, which was a gorgeous blue & green herringbone, but unfortunately it won’t be finished for another week, so I arranged to purchase some of that by mail order at a later date.