Thursday, 5 January 2012

Harris Tweed - buying and making

I am on the Isle of Lewis just now visiting my mother and getting myself in gear for the new Anna Macneil venutre.

Very sadly, a weaver that I got a lot of our tweed from died very suddenly in the autumn.  Donald will be sadly missed, not only by his family, but by all those of us that he supplied with his lovely tweeds.
However, his wife kindly agreed to sell me his loom and the supply of yarn and I hope to spend this next year or so learning how to weave our own tweeds.  For tweed to be Harris Tweed, the entire production process, from cleaning the fleeces to finishing the cloth has to be carried out on the Outer Hebrides, and all the weaving has to be done using a people-powered loom - no electricity or any other power source is allowed - and the weaving also has to be done at the weaver's family home.  In my case - this will be my mother's garage.

The first task is to get the yarn brought across the island to our home at Upper Coll just a few miles north of Stornoway.
I spent the last few days sorting out the attic to make space for storing the yarn.  The loom itself will be transported across in a few weeks time and then we have the joy of trying to re-assemble it and make it work! With the attic cleared and shelved I collected some of the yarn yesterday and today I got it out of the car and up the ladder.   (I decided against doing it yesterday because of the bitingly cold horizontal rain.)
I installed a pulley wheel above the loft hatch and used a rope with a latch hook on the end to haul all the cones up.  They are now neatly stored according to colour - but this is only the first batch!  I have about 1000 cones to shift over the coming weeks.

However, it will be some time before I am at the stage of actually producing my own tweed - a lot to learn and not enough time to practice, so a trip to the mill to buy tweeds was called for.

Between them, Natalie and Kerry at Harris Tweed Textiles (Carloway) cut and folded the tweeds I wanted and tomorrow I will be taking them back across the Minch to our workshop near Inverness where Mary and I will be making them up into bags, purses, hats, scarves, etc.  It should keep us going for another few weeks.

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