Saturday, October 26, 2013

An Clo Mór

The Big Cloth.


Harris Tweed.  The only cloth in the world protected by an Act of Parliament.

The Harris Tweed Act of 1993 ensured that only cloth that fully conforms to the following is entitled to bear the Orb trademark:
Harris Tweed means a tweed which has been hand woven by the islanders at their own homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the islands of Harris, Lewis, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra and their several purtenances (The Outer Hebrides) and made from pure virgin wool, dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.


That means that Mary Ann was the winner of yesterday's post having recognized the trademark from the tweed fabric her parents sold in their business.  I had so much fun reading all of your responses.

Though many of you were correct that the symbol was a globus cruciger, this particular rendering was from the Harris Tweed trademark.



As for the funniest guess...I let Jack decide.  And we both loved Rebecca's response of a papal bowling ball.  I'll be emailing you both to send you a bit of tweed from the Hebrides.

Just a decade ago, the Harris Tweed industry was in decline.  Considered kind of a doddy, old-fashioned fabric worn by stodgy professors and the likes of Miss Marple, Harris Tweed's popularity was suffering and was failing to attract weavers from the younger generation.

A concerted effort was made six years ago, to re-position the tweed brand and revitalize the industry by marketing new, bold colors to the fashion trade and allowing young weavers/designers to design their own patterns.

The result has been phenomenal.  Harris Tweed is winning fashion awards, appearing in luxury boutiques and has been picked up by retailers such as J. Crew, Dr. Marten, Vans and Converse.



And the bright collections are being picked up by young techno-philes for everything from kindle covers to iphone cases.

There have even been Harris Tweed rides.  Not just in Edinburgh and Glasgow (we missed it by one week) but in New York City, London and Tokyo...

Credit: AFPRELAXNEWS
How do I know all this?  Well...when I asked Jack what he most wanted to accomplish when we visited Scotland, he said he wanted to see a circle of standing stones.

I came to discover that there are many standing stones in Scotland but one of the coolest was located on the Isle of Lewis.  And so, I began researching and planning how we might add this island to our trip and began reading all about the history, tradition and production of Harris Tweed.  I began reading the blogs of people who live and croft on the islands.  And I fell in love.

I fell in love with people who were so connected to the land, the animals in their care, and the work that they do.

Without giving too much away, our one day trip to the Isles of Harris and Lewis was, by far, our biggest highlight out of an entire trip of highlights.   It will take me a few posts to get through it all so I'll start here today with Harris Tweed.

We drove for almost two hours to reach the coastal town of Ullapool in Northwest Scotland...



From there we took a 2.5 hour ferry ride to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.



We arrived at 12:15pm and rented a car to take us to all the places we wanted to see in the seven hours before we had to get back on the ferry to go home.  I only wish we had had more time there.

I had planned about 20 minutes to zip into Harris Tweed Hebrides, the one place where I knew I could purchase some Harris Tweed.  After all, there was too much see and do to spend much time shopping.




Jim manned the camera while I hunted for cloth...


I've never seen anything quite like it.  


I had pre-shopped the selections online so I had a good idea what I wanted to purchase, a combination of traditional patterns...



As well as brights...


To explain a little why and how I fell in love, I encourage you to watch this video on the land, the weavers, and their cloth...

HARRIS TWEED HEBRIDES from caspar zafer on Vimeo.

What distinguishes Harris Tweed is the number of colors that are spun into each bobbin of yarn.  Wool is dyed before it is spun and then mixed in hundreds of combinations, using anywhere from two to eight colors.

What looks like a "brown" from far away...


Is a complex, rich composition of fibers that reflects the colors of the land from which it comes.


There's a great quote from a weaver at about 5:29 in the video.  He says:

Personally, I like the old school.  I like the darker more earthy colors that reflect...basically, reflect the land, the sea, the heather and just the rough Hebridean colors.  I think they're quite a good match for the Hebridean psyche.  From the beginning to end, the amount of time, effort...and loyalty as well...that's put into this...It's something you won't find in any manufactured cloth.
Amen.   In this culture of mass-produced, de-valued products, isn't it great to know that Harris Tweed endures?  It gives us hope for the world.

But before I go, just quickly click on this video and listen to the song sung by these women on the Isle of Lewis while they are waulking.

Waulking is the process of soaking and rhythmically thumping newly-woven tweed to shrink and soften it.  Recorded in 1970, it's worth watching a minute to two...


Waulking Song from The Wire Magazine on Vimeo.

For more information on the history of Harris Tweed, visit the Harris Tweed Authority's blog here.  To purchase Harris Tweed online, click here.  And to follow Harris Tweed on Facebook, click here.

Next time I'll share more about this land, this cloth and the most beautiful book I've ever seen.

17 comments:

Mary Ann said...

Thank you so much Susan:)

Starr White said...

Congratulations, Mary Ann! You're very lucky, and I'm very jealous :)))))

Serge said...

Harris tweed is beautiful! I would love to make clothes and accessories out of Harris tweed, but only if it were made out of pure cotton.

CJ STITCHING AND BLOOMS said...

Hello Susan,
I have truly enjoyed seeing the photos and your wonderful narrative about your most glorious trip to Scotland..
This may be a silly question but in the video when the 8 woman are singing and beating on wool can you tell me what is the purpose of this process???
Secondly, in the photo of you reaching on the second shelve to pick out the tweed you like, by any chance could you tell me the name of the tweed ( shades of pinks and purples) on the first shelve where your elbow would be. And to you know how I can contact them at this store so I can buy this kind of tweed??? Thanks so very much for your help.. Judy

Jillayne said...

I laughed when I read this post - your holiday and mine are so very similar! I found my tweed in Pitlochry, purchased with much discussion from a fine young man in a kilt. My one precious meter...

Marianne said...

Susan, thanks for sharing all the richness of your trip, your book and it's band-what an heirloom! What do you plan on making with the lovely Harris Tweed? I'm very curious.
Hugs, Marianne in NJ
Scrapnsew at aol.com

Mosaic Magpie said...

The video with the women working the wool to soften it...that may be one of the original rap songs, with it's strong background beat. I bet they have a strong grip and no flabby upper arms! I loved seeing all the colors that go into weaving the cloth and all those fantastic new colors too! What a special prefect souvenir for you!
Deb

Suztats said...

I so enjoyed this post and the videos. Thank you.

gracie said...

Congratulations to the winners and thank you for the travel pictures...I am enjoying the Scottish adventure.

Rachel said...

Tweed is a wonderful fabric, and like you, I love the old colourways which wrap you in the colours of the heather, the rocks and the sky...

Createology said...

Oh you look so happy acquiring your very own Harris Tweed fabrics. I always learn so much from your wonderful posts. Amazing trip you enjoyed dear...

Catherine said...

Oohhhh.....loved this post! How fortunate you are to have taken this trip!

Mary Tod said...

Loved the videos you posted and learned so much. Thank you!!

etbrodelepapillon said...

Thank you for this very very interesting post. Internet is a wonderful tool when it comes to organise a trip. When one is looking for some very special things that the tourism offices do not have any information about it, open the world with Internet.
These fabrics are so so beautiful. I'm thinking of buying some and try to do some crewel work on them.

Terri said...

Fascinating!! Thank you!

deb* said...

I am so enjoying this series----wonderful!

Judy S. said...

Another very interesting post, Susan. So what are you going to do with the fabric you brought home?

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