The Isles of Harris, Lewis and Skye

ABOUT WOOL, FABRIC, WEAVERS, COLORS AND PEOPLE.  Okay, we took the ferry to the Isle of Lewis and Harris.  The land of Harris Tweed.   Beth Smith is a sheep expert, actually, she’s expert at everything she does, but her job is teaching about sheep, wool, dying, combing, spinning weaving and even sewing clothing with the fabric she has created.  You can find her here.  BethSmith   You will love her too, I promise.  Well, she follows some some Scottish weavers and directed us to go find them.  I have found that when I do what Beth says it is a good thing.  Harris Tweed weavers are trained in the Harris Tweed way and there are very strict requirements.  The weavers have their own independent weaving sheds and we were able to go to some of them.  “hi, i’m a friend of Beth Smith in The States and she told me to come see you, can we watch you weave?” Then we were on our way to a mill and saw a Harris Tweed van, we figured they were either making a delivery of yarn and pattern or picking up some finished yardage.  It was the later.    The fabric was upholstery, and beige.  The weaver called is boring but I still swooned over it. It was about 25 meters and was just roughly bundled and tossed in the back of the van (valued at about $1,400). It took him about 20 hour of pedal power.

We went went to a fabric shop in Stornoway, Harris Tweed Hebrides and Mary and Anna were just fun and intuitive.

The colors…. ahhh, the COLORS!!  They are the colors of Scotland.  Every swatch of fabric can be directly related to some part of the countryside of Scotland.  Here’s a few examples:  This beautiful yellow will be a skirt that I’ll commission Beth to do for me.  I don’t trust myself, but I do trust her.  It will be straight with maybe inverted pleats int he back.  It’s a soft cool wool, so perfect for spring.  We won’t do it until I have a closet to hang it in.  It will have a proper label in it and I’ll treasure it for sure.


The green will be a waistcoat (that’s British for Vest) for Jerome, a beautiful compliment to his sport’s jacket.  I love this photograph.  I just draped the fabric over the car window and it is the perfect reflection of the fabric/fiber/landscape.

After I was talking about the colors being found in the landscape of Scotland, I saw the rust window pane we purchased and wasn’t sure I’d seen that color around in our travels.  Maybe I was exaggerating my claim.  Then I found two.  I think this is Beth’s fabric.  We may negotiate, but it will probably work better in her closet.


The other one… we’re going to have to really negotiate that one.  Jerome and I walked into the shop at Carloway Mills and we both made a B-line for that fabric.  They only had 1 piece (two meters) of it and it was unlike anything else in the shop.  We have other fabrics, but these are the best examples of the colors of Scotland.

It’s emotional.  It is man made, not hand made, the looms are pedal power, but every fiber is touched by human hands.  Harris Tweed Authority has 50 colors that they use for the blend of yarns.  You can see specks of color in what looks like a solid color.  We started looking at fabric differently, more closely, each fiber, each thread, each color.  Then cam the shopping….. the yardage, the sports jacket, hats, ties, scarves, and more yardage.  Watch Beth over the coming weeks and months as her Harris Tweed wardrobe will start to take form.   You’ll get better updates if you follow her on Instagram  .  See, just looking at her picture makes you understand why I love her so much.  She’ll be making a waistcoat (that’s British for “vest”) for Jerome and a skirt for me too.

Harris Tweed can only be done on the Isle of Harris-Lewis.   Once the looms are taken off of the Isle of Harris/Lewis or fabric not done by Harris Tweed weavers, the products that come off of them are no longer Harris Tweeds.  An example is Skye Weavers.  Roger bought his loom from the Isle of Harris and moved it to the Isle of Skye where he lives.   He does not produce Harris tweed BUT, he makes beautiful fabrics, scarves, and a multitude of other items.

He was very welcoming and invited me to get on the stool and pedal and I was on the bench before he finished the invite.               Roger’s wife designs the fabrics and selects the colors.  I asked him who weaves for Skye weaver besides he and I.  He has a full-time gentleman and a 16-year-old fellow that works on Saturdays.

I wanted to weave/pedal at Gordon’s,        but He is A Harris Tweed Weaver and I imagine that the authenticity of the cloth depends on HarrisTweedWeaver , not this freckled faced red head from the United States.  He let me sit on the stool but I didn’t touch or move a fiber.

Everyone should have at least one piece of Harris Tweed in their life; be it upholstery on some furniture, shoes, a jacket, hat, handbag… something, anything.  If you ever see some at a thrift shop, snatch it up.

You’ll know it’s real when you see the label.     

When you buy the fabric, they give you the labels, but it is all based on the volume of fabric.  Beth will be sewing these labels into her goods.  I’ll do a few small items too, Bow ties, and maybe a few other little things.  But Beth has the big, sharp scissors for the meters of fabric she’s got.

I loved every fiber of Harris/Lewis and Skye for the fabrics and history and stories.

So that’s my favorite part of The Outer Hebrides.

Stay tuned to see where in the world you’ll find the Quennevilles next.

F.A.C.E.S.:  Arts:weavers, Exploring the Isles, Service: we left plenty of pounds there.


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