On arrival in the Highlands I guess I was expecting to find more sewing/craft shops and outlets with local tweeds being readily available, but was rather astonished that it wasn’t available in that many places. There were, understandably given the expanse of landscape, lots of galleries, but very few little shops selling the tools for crafting and sewing (lots of ready-made craft souvenirs though!).
Whilst on Skye we visited a Tannery (http://www.skyeskyns.co.uk). The lovely people at Skye Skyns showed us around their tannery and outlined the various stages the fleeces go through. They use traditional methods and its extremely labour intensive (many of the stages take several days to complete). We had a little visit upstairs to their showroom and I fell in love with the rugs, and also the flying jackets… sadly I had to settle for some Eskimo boot slippers!
When you’re driving around Skye it’s almost like every house is a cottage industry and when you visit a business you’re pretty much stepping into someone’s front room. As a designer who works from home, I found this intimacy rather comforting, although I can imagine it a little intimidating for some. Nearly every business has a tearoom – which is a great introduction to any business as you can easily go in and browse over a cup of tea.
After the tannery we stopped for a coffee with Ian Williams (www.ianwilliams-syke.co.uk) who is a rather good artist, but also has a cafe within his studio/showroom. Ian was fascinated by my tweed jacket (when in the Highlands wear their fabrics!) and suggested I might want to talk to Joan at the Tartan Company (www.thetartancompany.co.uk) who might have some tartan for sale. A phone call later (everyone appears to know each other!) and we were on our way to see Joan. Unfortunately Joan doesn’t actually sell her tartan by the metre but sells tartan products – such as bags, cushions and throws – which are all made in the Highlands. Joan did however give me a great tip for Harris Tweed. So once more we hit the road…
… or should I say ferry. Our next stage was to take the ferry from Skye across to Harris. I don’t have sea-legs, so was very apprehensive about the journey across. But the rainbow at the end of the ferry journey (of which we saw many last week) was the prospect of a Harris Tweed shopping expedition.
And what a prospect… you could say I found paradise in the form of a Harris Tweed warehouse.
I’ve read over the past few years that the tradition of Harris Tweed is diminishing (I even heard that they’d stopped production a couple of years ago but there’s certainly no evidence of that on Harris/Lewis). But if this warehouse is anything to go by, I think now Harris Tweed is alive and kicking.
As we all disembarked the ferry, it was a steady stream of cars clambering to park outside, by the time I left, ours was the only car in the car park.
Into the warehouse we go and as you can see, it’s crammed with bolts of fabrics. Browns, greys, reds, blues, greens, the choice was endless… there I was like a child in a sweet shop, should I go with a bold brown or a vivid green? Did I want something traditional or something a little jazzier? Should I go masculine for an androgynous look? Too much choice, perhaps!