Tag Archives: Scotland

McEwens of Perth, Scotland Wools, 1961

Today I wore a skirt I made from Pendleton Black Watch plaid, and that reminded me that I had not talked about a group of brochures I have that advertise Scottish plaids and woolen knits.  McEwens was actually a department store which operated for nearly 150 years before closing in 2016. McEwens had a feature that people today would consider to be a real luxury, but which was fairly common in nicer departments stores in 1961. That feature was a department that made clothing to order.

My brochures are advertising skirts made from wool. There were sixteen skirt styles from which to choose, and sixteen different tartans. A buyer would fill out the order form which asked for the correct measurements. She would then order either a waistband or a petersham waist. She could order pockets for an additional charge. The item was truly made to order.

All the style names start with “glen”. The prices quoted beneath each style was just for the sewing charge. The fabric had to be bought for an additional charge.

If you wanted a truly coordinated ensemble, you could buy your sweater from McEwens using this handy chart that told which sweaters would match. I really love the Black Watch skirt above with that deep green twin set. You probably gathered that because I have it pictured three times.

The custom department at McEwens also made other garments, like these coats and jackets. Note how much more it cost to make a jacket than a skirt.

For home sewers, McEwens sold the fabric by the yard.

This catalog showed some of the made-to-order items along with what might be considered the types of items tourists visiting Scotland were looking to buy. Things like kilt pins, tartan neckties, and tartan scarves.

A shopper could not only choose the style of handbag, but also the tartan used and the color of leather trim. I can’t imagine what this would cost today, but the best that I can figure, these cost approximately $120 in current dollars.

I find so many vintage tartan scarves that I think every visitor to Scotland must buy at least one. It has to be a rule, right?

I think I need a pair of New Caledonian dancing sandals.



Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, Proper Clothing

Balmoral Knitwear Ski Themed Vest

This great vintage vest can be filed under “great things found while looking for something else.”  I spotted an incredible vintage travel print on Pinterest and then realized that the photo links led to a dead end.  But there is that miracle called Google image search, and so I was able to locate the wonderful print on a website, and it was actually for sale, and not a photo from etsy from two years ago like so much of Pinterest consists of.

While contemplating the purchase, I decided to look at the other seller’s offerings and just fell in love with this wool embroidered vest.  All reason was lost at that point, and the vest and the travel print dress were soon safely tucked in my shopping cart.

The seller listed it as a 1940s sweater, and I’m pretty much inclined to agree.  I’d never heard of the Balmoral brand, but a quick search revealed that the company is still in business, making knitwear in  Galston, Ayrshire, Scotland.  They have been in business for over 100 years, and it looks as if today they mainly survive by selling to the private school and corporatewear trade.  And they still specialize in embroideries.

I found a few more, very similar Balmoral vests online, but all have been sold.  There is another ski themed one, but there is also a sailor themed one that I truly love.

Can you tell that the buttons are covered with the knit fabric?  The centers are covered with red fabric.  It’s a great little detail, the type of thing that makes vintage garments so special.


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing, Winter Sports

Great Scots’ Apron

Here’s a proper band of kilt-wearers, all moving to the tune of the bagpiper.  Above them is a field of completely random luggage tags for places as diverse as Mexico, Japan, Los Angeles, and thankfully, Scotland.

It’s nice to think that there could be an entire series of this luggage tag print, with different nationalities featured as the border.   I picture Hawaiian Hula, Spanish Flamenco,   Irish Jig, though I’m at a loss when it comes to Los Angeles.

When I spotted this great print I thought it might be a skirt, but sorry to say, it was instead an apron.  Still I bought it as I’d never seen this print before and I loved it so much.  Here’s hoping there are others out there.

I’d appreciate some feedback on the watermarks, if you have a thought.


Filed under Novelty Prints

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