The Big Cloth.
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.
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...
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...
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.