You may have noticed that I use a little bit of Harris Tweed. Just a teeny amount, but it's okay, I'm not addicted, I can give it up any time, whenever I want, I don't have a problem, really I don't. Oh, who am I kidding, I LOVE it, it's such a wonderful cloth and is so unique both in its heritage and its production.
For generations the inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland have handwoven their cloth for use in their homes, or to sell in local markets, and in the mid-1800's a local landowner on the Isle of Harris began to market it off the Islands and it soon grew in popularity.
Today Harris Tweed, or "Clo Mor" (The Big Cloth) is protected by the Harris Tweed Authority, and it is the only cloth in the world governed by it's own Act of Parliament. This is to ensure that only cloth dyed, spun, woven and finished in the Outer Hebrides can be called Harris Tweed, and the Harris Tweed Authority check every bolt of cloth produced and stamp it with the Orb Mark, certifying it's authenticity. All cloth sold also comes with certification labels, which can be sewn onto items to prove that the items have been crafted with genuine Harris Tweed, and I ensure all my Harris Tweed products have these labels.
I began using Harris Tweed by accident when I was asked to make a bag in particular colours and I found the perfect cloth in Harris Tweed. Over the past few years of using it and learning about the cloth I discovered (thanks to the joy of social media!) that as well as being able to purchase from the mills in the Outer Hebrides, I was also able to purchase direct from the weavers. These small scale weavers produce 75cm wide cloth on single width looms in their homes, and once woven the cloth is sent to the mills for finishing, and returned to the weaver for them to sell.
One of my favourite weavers is Shawbost Weavers, and I was pleased to get a chance to visit the Outer Hebrides last year, and to meet Catherine of Shawbost Weavers, and her husband Reg, who is Harris Tweed - Tartans, up on their croft in Shawbost, Isle of Lewis.
Here are a few photos from our visit, it's handy being a professional photographer sometimes! Click on each thumbnail for a larger image.