Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Harris Tweed

I adore wool in any way, shape or form, but there is something about hand woven textiles.  I wear wool whenever I can.  I love cool weather because I can wear my wool jackets, wool trousers and SWEATERS.  I don't remember when I discovered Harris Tweed.  I think I read about it somewhere then purchased a Harris Tweed jacket in a thrift store.  I was fascinated by the fact that Harris Tweed is handwoven in the Hebrides, the remote islands of the coast of Scotland.  When the yardage came off the loom women would sit in a row and knead the cloth with their hands, a process called "waulking," which would full the fibers.  I remember asking a Syracuse University textile professor if she has any Harris Tweed clothing and she didn't know what I was talking about.  No kidding.  She said I guess you found a chink in my armor.  I guess I did.  I love the way the British wear tweed jackets and wool trousers when they are working the farm.  I read there is a movement to return to this practice.  When I was at the farmer's market last Saturday I looked around at the vendors to see what they were wearing.  I did not see a lot of wool.  I was covered with it, including wool trousers, a wool sweater coat, wool socks, and, oh, a cashmere V-neck I found at a local thrift store a while back.  I was warm and comfy and felt very country-classic.  Recently I've been cruising Ebay for Harris Tweed overcoats with the intention of cutting them up to make knitting totes.  I don't have the time to travel to the good thrift markets in Syracuse, Cortland, Ithaca, etc., where the best chance of scoring Harris Tweed coats cheap would be.  There are some good buys on Ebay but you have to pay postage.  My first coat came today.  I picked it up in the village before voting in the little cinder block town hall.  The package was too light was my first impression.  I unpacked the coat which was squeezed into two grocery store plastic bags.  How ignominious a wrapping for such storied cloth.  I didn't allow myself to get too excited but then I saw the lovely tweed.  The coat is beautiful.  It's a very simple weave and the tailoring is exquisite.  I love the pockets and the slits which allow you to reach into your trousers.  The shoulders are big to allow your arms to easily slip in even when wearing a big sweater.  The length goes down to my knees so my legs will stay warm.  I like the boxy look too.  I put it on right away and wore it to vote.  I must have looked a bit odd among all the Carhartts and fleece jackets in the voting line but I enjoy that.  I don't think I'm going to be cutting up this coat.  I have two more coming which I bought for ridiculous prices on Ebay, and I'll see if I can bring myself to cut them up.  I have a plan in mind to incorporate the pockets into the tote bag with using the sleeves are handles and the back and front as the main part of the bag.  I thought I would sew the classy label on the front.  Lightning might strike if I touch a scissor to a Harris Tweed although I know many a rug hooker have done it before me....but, I hope, they did it in ignorance of the noble history of this magical woolen cloth.

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