Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Award winning product

I have had a stand at "Scotland's Trade Fair" over the last three days showing our Anna Macneil products to shop owners and retailers and taking orders.  Over the course of the next two or three months we will have hats and scarves, bags and purses, wraps and wallhangings, plus a few more things besides, winging their way all over the world to both old and new customers.

The show organisers hold a "Best Product" competition, and in the Clothing and Textiles category, our new Kindle pouch was judged "Highly Commended".

This new product has come about as a direct result of a request from a customer and has involved a lot of discussions and research.  The result is a fully lined, embroidered Harris Tweed pouch just large enough to slip in a Kindle, that closes with a velcro closure along the top edge.  There is a long detachable tweed strap so that you can either just slip the case into another bag, or have it slug over your shoulder or across your chest.  This is ideal if you have a long commute where you like to read on the bus or train and keeps your Kindle safe and secure.  Our Velcro closing purses and pouches are proof against pick-pocketing, in that it takes two hands to open them, and you can't do it without making a noise!  (Of Course I do have to stress that I am NOT offering a guarantee against theft!)

And if it's a different size of tablet type device that you have, don't despair!  We are happy to make these to order.  Just email us your tablet dimensions - or send us make and model and we will find out the dimensions.   As with most of our products, these can be made in any colour.  They feature a Celtic knotwork design on one side and on the reverse there is a small official Harris Tweed label surrounded by embroidered Celtic knotwork detail.

It will be a couple of weeks before the Kindle pouch is included in the on-line shop (that involves my husband doing some work for me - cobblers children etc.......!) but order by email if you can't wait that long!

Here you see the pouch in the dispaly cabinet at the show with me sporting a new tunic that I recently made.  It was made just because I wanted it myself, but it attracted many favourable comments, and an order from Canongate Jerseys and Crafts in Edinburgh, so it will have to be back the the sweatshop pretty smartish to cope with all the orders!

And of course, you are always very welcome to call into our studio 6 miles from Inverness on the A862 Inverness to Beauly road.  At the studio you will be able to choose your tweed, discuss sizes and have things custom made - or browse through our stock to buy off the peg.

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.