Tag Archives: Harris Tweed

Vintage Sewing, Anne Adams 4926, Hat

After two projects that involved a lot of hand sewing, I was ready for something quick and easy.  I’d had the idea of hats on the back burner, and I had even bought a few patterns and made toiles.  But nothing really fit what I needed, which was a few winter hats to wear on winter walks.

I bought this pattern, Anne Adams 4926, back in the fall and while it was close to what I needed, it was not exact.  So I set about making the changes I wanted.  First, the crown was too high, so I shortened it and rounded the top a bit.  I also tapered the brim so that it was shorter in the back than in the front.

From the side you can see how I shortened the back brim a bit.  You can also see the brim seam, which should be in the back.  Since I was using more of the Harris Tweed that I used on my tweed/cashmere combination, I had to piece it, so both sides have seams.

This back view actually gives a better idea of the shape of the hat.  For some reason my front view makes it look like it sits flatter on the head.

I had the hat all cut out and ready to sew when I went to my fabric collection to find a lining fabric.  I wanted something soft and warm, and it occurred to me that this would be a good project for a lower quality cashmere sweater which had developed holes.  I didn’t have such a sweater, but I did find a cute cotton knit from the 1970s.

Okay, I know the Snoopy fabric is a bit unexpected, but I’d had this scrap forever, and was ready to use it.

The inside band is from a roll of  petersham I found a while back.

Overall it was a quick and easy project.  From start to finish, I guess I had two hours invested, and much of it was doing the stitching on the brim.

I’ve gotten two good projects from one ratty old jacket, and there is still enough to make something else.  So, should I make slippers?  How about mittens?



Filed under Sewing

Cashmere + Harris Tweed

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not always a fan of “re-purposing.”  I’ve seen too many projects gone wrong, and too many nice vintage pieces ruined to wholeheartedly embrace the movement.  Of course, there was a time, back in the 1970s, when I did my own share of damage to the vintage supply, so I try not to judge too harshly.

Still, I do encourage all re-crafters to take care to know what their materials are, and if they are better left alone.  Even a damaged dress from a very important designer may have historic value.

But I’m always on the lookout for great textiles in garments that are in unwearable condition.  For the project above I took a nice but stained and unlabeled cashmere sweater, and a gent’s Harris Tweed jacket that was holey and cheaply made and combined them for a pullover with a tweed front.

Back in October I saw such a sweater/tweed combination at J.  Crew.   I loved the idea, but hated the not very cozy wool, and the made in China tag.  But I kept thinking about it, and decided to just make my own, only that mine would be cashmere and Harris Tweed.

I had the sweater already.  It was one I’d bought just to layer for cold day walks because of some dark marks on the front.  But it was a very high quality cashmere, super soft and no pilling.  The style was, frankly, boring.

But it had all the hallmarks of a high quality product, including full fashioned (knit to fit instead of cut) sleeves.  There was no label in the sweater, but I’m just betting it came from Scotland.

I went in search of a tweed, and was happy to find a 1960s jacket.  Besides the Harris Tweed label, there was a Penney’s label.  A look at the interior construction shows how corners were cut to save money, but it is interesting that Penney’s was using such a high quality textile.

The jacket was so damaged with holes that I had to piece three sections to make the front of my new garment.  The texture and the plaid make the seams hard to see.

The only change I made to the sweater was to make vents at the sides through the bottom band.  I secured the edges with a blanket stitch.

I carefully centered the tweed on the front of the sweater.  I then began the process of attaching the two pieces to one another.  I used a backstitch, which due to the texture of the tweed cannot be seen on the front.

I made the pockets by facing a slit with a piece of silk.  I then turned it to the inside and secured it.

To finish, I continued attaching the tweed to the cashmere using back stitches along the edges.  I’ve really quite pleased with how it turned out, and it is getting a lot of wear.

My little brother liked it so much that he just had to give it a squeeze!

Looks like someone needs to clean their mirror!




Filed under Sewing

Tartan + Harris Tweed = Happiness

In my simple life, it really does not take much to make me happy, so you might imagine the little suppressed squeal of delight as I ran across a Harris Tweed jacket in the local Goodwill.  And not just any Harris Tweed, but a tartan one, and not just any tartan, but Black Watch.

One of the great things about Harris Tweed is that once you’ve seen and handled a few times, you can pick it out of a crowded rack just from the look and feel of it.  The label is just confirmation of your HT detection skills!

But then there is the bad news.  The jacket is a man’s, and is too big for me.  I’m not much for wearing that style jacket, even if it did fit.  And there are a few small holes one one sleeve, an easy reweave job.

So the plan is to restyle this into a coat for me.  Yes, I know I do preach against the willy-nilly restyling of vintage clothing, but that rule does not apply to a poorly styled but excellently crafted man’s coat from the 1980s.  It’s open season on such garments.  I’ll keep you posted as to the progress of the project, but don’t expect results until after Christmas.


Filed under Sewing, Shopping

Currently Reading: Harris Tweed, From Land to Street

I’m of the opinion that an obsession is not complete until one owns at least one book on the subject.   So given the recent curiosity about Harris Tweed, I was happy to run across this lovely book by photographer Lara Platman.

Beautifully crafted, the book begins with photographs of the land, and ends with closeup photos of the finished cloth.  Perfection, as Harris Tweed really is so much a part of the land and people of the Hebrides Islands.  We are shown the process of making Harris Tweed from beginning to end, with stories of the workers and of Harris Tweed itself.  Part travelogue, part history and part social profile, the book and photographs hold one’s attention to the very last page.

But I’m going to let the book speak for itself, with a small sampling of the contents:

One last note:  This is Savile Row tailor Patrick Grant, who uses the tweed and is a real champion of the people, the islands and their product.  I only posted this photo because I wanted you to see his tweed pants.  Really, that is the only reason.


Filed under Currently Reading

Ad Campaign – Harris Tweed, 1951

I bet you are not surprised to see that I have a bit more to say about Harris Tweed.  These two ads are from 1951, while Britain was still operating under the utility scheme and clothing rationing.  During that time most of the Harris Tweed, (and other British clothing items such as cashmere) was being produced mainly for export, as the trade was badly needed.

As you can see on the fabric scrap in the second ad, there is an actual stamp put on each piece of Harris Tweed, a guarantee that it is the real deal, produced entirely on the Isle of  Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.  The orb and cross trademark has been in use since 1911, making this the 100 year anniversary of the usage of the trademark.

Today, each length of finished cloth is still stamped by hand at regular intervals.  The Harris Tweed Authority registers every piece produced, and the label always has a number stamped on it for identification purposes.  The Harris Tweed Authority has books containing every number, and so they can tell when the piece was made, who the weaver was, and to whom the piece was sold.  It’s an amazing historical record, and unless they have put it on computer in the last few years, the books are still referred to whenever a question arises.

Three years ago, the BBC4 did a three part series on the troubled Harris Tweed industry, and though things have changed since then, it is still a very good look at the industry, and the crisis it was facing at that time.  For a while in 2008, all the spinning and finishing mills had closed, but today there are three in operation.  There have been several high profile collaborations – including one with Nike – this year, and awareness of the historic fabric is increasing.

Do yourself a favor and watch this series, if for no other reason than to see all the fabulous examples of the tweed.  There are over 8000 tweed patterns, and the variety is truly amazing.  There is also some great historical footage, and for those who like a little drama, there is even a villain!

Amazingly, there is a scene in the documentary where a visitor to the island goes in search of Harris Tweed garments.  The only place he found that sells them is the charity shop!  I’m always looking for the tweed in my own thrift stores, and I’ve found some really remarkable pieces.  Most of what you will find is in the form of men’s jackets and coats for men and women.  I look for garments with holes, and then I take the garment apart to use the tweed in projects.

You can also buy lengths of the tweed online, and there are several sites that sell finished products of Harris Tweed.  All are beautiful!


Filed under Advertisements, Viewpoint

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