Thoughts on Shopping and Harris Tweed

One of the things I like best about blogging are the comments that readers leave.  It often amazes me that one of you will actually verbalize a thought that has been rambling around my head.  I suppose that blogging is a bit like those proverbial birds flocking together, that a blog attracts readers that tend to support one’s own world view.

Or you could just call us kindred spirits, all of us who love fashion history and vintage clothing and textiles and design.

Kindred Spirit Karen of Small Earth Vintage recently commented about Harris Tweed, and how after watching a documentary about it she has become obsessed with finding it while thrift shopping.  But it goes deeper, as she says she now not just shops, because she is constantly comparing the quality of tweeds she finds.  I can’t think of a better way to learn about the differences in textiles, and you can have the fun of shopping at the same time!

Meieli posted that reading this blog has increased her interest in buying only clothes from the US, Canada and the UK.  That is great, as the remaining companies who are producing in these countries often struggle to stay alive.  Again, Harris Tweed serves as an example.  This is a fabric that has come dangerously close to dying out completely, but a renewed interested in it is helping bring the production of it back from the brink.

The rule I try to follow while shopping is to buy clothing items that are produced in the areas where the industry is part of the heritage of the region.  That means I want denim woven in North Carolina, cashmere processed in Scotland, and woolens made in areas where it is cold!  Of course, this is not always possible, as in some cases, the industry just no longer exists.  After four centuries of shoe production, I’m pretty positive that shoes are no longer made in Lynn, Massachusetts.

I heard an interview with designer Norma Kamali today, and she said something that fits nicely in with this general area of thought:  Very few of us buy new clothing because we need it so we need to be buying those things that are special and that make us happy.  She’s right, of course.  I spent all summer weeding out my own closet, and some readers posted they were doing the same.  We have more than we need, so when we shop, we need to remember to buy what truly is special.  I have a feeling that is not going to be a $7 tee shirt made by child labor in Vietnam.

So why is Harris Tweed so special?  Watch this short – about seven minutes – video and find out.

Look carefully at these strands that I pulled from a piece of Harris Tweed I have in my fabric stash.  Not one of these four yarns is a single color.  It’s this blending of color that gives Harris Tweed its richness.


Filed under Shopping, Viewpoint

15 responses to “Thoughts on Shopping and Harris Tweed

  1. What a cool video. I have a Harris Tweed coat that’s a smidge too big for me but I have never been able to part with it. It would be so cool to create a pattern wouldn’t it?


  2. Brilliant! I love seeing the individual yarns for the Harris Tweed…that distills it down to the core of HTs greatness.

    I really appreciate your attitude towards clothes. I don’t know if you notice this, too, but I’m happier with more of my clothes the choosier I am about quality and craftsmanship. And, I have fewer and fewer pieces as the years pass. Instead of leaving me feeling like “I have nothing to wear,” I feel liberated by my limitations because they’re all essentially nice things.

    When you find the perfect t-shirt, let me know. I am seldom pleased with what’s out there.


    • I’ve yet to find the perfect tee shirt. The last one I bought, I like. It’s a Hanro, which is pricy, but I got a new in the box one off ebay. Made in Portugal, super fine cotton, but a tad bit stretchy, and the scoop neck opening is too large.

      I’m liking the smooth cotton ones from Fresh Produce, but this is a line you really need to shop for in a store, as they use several different types of knit. Their smooth knit is outstanding, and it is made in the USA.

      And yes, since the great closet clean-up of 2011, I’m finding it much easier to get dressed. Is it true that less is more? Possibly.


      • Less is more only when one isn’t wishing for more. (And, of course, when one actually *does* need more.)

        Thanks for the tips on tees, Lizzie. I’m having trouble locating things that don’t turn into stretched out globs in 30 minutes. And then there’s the length issue. And the neckline. And the armholes. It would behoove someone to make a nice fitted t-shirt that’s not tighter and shorter than a hooker’s tube top.


  3. Pingback: FASHION 1968: The Texture of Tweed « Catwalk Threads Vintage

  4. I got a little thrill before I even opened this post when I saw your close-up photo of that piece of Harris tweed! I love that photo, as well as the one of the strands of tweed. I haven’t watched the video here yet (I will later), but one of my favorite parts about the doc I watched is when the narrator talked about how the many colors in Harris tweed reflect the colors of the landscape of the Hebrides where they’re made. (I suppose they once did so literally, as at one time the tweed was colored using vegetable dyes made from lichen.) I was so excited when I found a Harris tweed jacket (not my size, but bought it anyway) and it had that subtle, gorgeous many-toned coloring.


  5. I can´t agree more. We always have enough of what we need but we still keep purchasing because of things that make us happy. Great video. 🙂


  6. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for Harris Tweed when I thrift!

    That Norma Kamali thought really resonates with me – especially since last night we had to go to a major chain discount store b/c Retro Roadhusband had to get some new sneakers. I was just overwhelmed with the quantity of clothing available, and such poor quality- looked like so much of it would be in the dust heap before the end of the season. And so trendy too, I’m sure it’s all designed to be “disposable”. Sigh.

    And yes, add me to the list of “whenever you find the perfect tee send up a flare!” – I got some at the J Crew outlet this summer, and while better than some, they’re too long.


  7. Pingback: Harris Tweed Overcoat « Catwalk Threads Vintage

  8. Royal Male is the Newport British clothing store on Spring St. Very Brit, yet in a very American city redolent with the history of the American Revolution.


  9. Pingback: Harris Tweed Fedora « Catwalk Threads Vintage

  10. Pingback: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day | Monica D. Murgia

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