Why Wool is Wonderful: Harris Tweed


Me, in the early 90’s at a Lewis crofter’s Hattersley loom. It was a dream. Yes, that sweater is made from Harris yarn.

Wool is a natural fabric, and as such, is breathable, and a wonderful all-weather fiber. Wool is wonderful. Really. Aside from lace, it’s just about the most forgivable fabric around, in so many ways. Give me a nice worsted wool dress over a polyester dress on any hot summer day. Polyester is like a nice plastic bag. It’s hot. It sticks to you. Oh yes, I LOVE that look of having your skirt stuck to the back of your legs when you rise from your posh sidewalk seat at the local Starbucks. Oh yes—smokin’. So really, get going on those wools, and here’s why.

Wool breathes. It’s a natural fiber, so it’s soft, and comfy. It has just about as many variations available to us as there are sheep in Scotland. So, there is the perfect piece of wool out there for you.

One of my favorites is Harris Tweed, from Scotland. It all used to me made by crofters and weavers out in their sheds on Lewis on big metal Hattersley looms that produced a narrow fabric. Yes, I know it’s called Harris Tweed, but it was actually made on Lewis, which is really no big thing once you know that Harris and Lewis are actually one lumpy Island: Harris on one end, Lewis on the other. The fabric is magic to work with. It will give you a perfect sleeve head. It will form itself to your whim with the proper application of steam iron, clapper and ham. It’s soft and snuggly and a bit spongy, comes in wonderful colors inspired by the flora of the Outer Hebrides, and above all, it wears like iron.

But things as they are, Harris Tweed has not fossilized, even though it certainly could have, and easily maintained its market share. It’s now made on wider looms, in lighter and even softer weaves. It’s made all over the Outer Hebrides, and all carry the Harris Tweed Orb symbol, established in 1909 to protect the name . It’s still as luscious and dreamy to work with as it ever was. It’s just that now you have fewer design constraints. Go! Go get some Harris Tweed and get sewing for the fall!

For more info: Try your best to go to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. You will be changed forever. There are knitters, weavers, and artists gu leor, (that’s the Gaelic root for “galore”) all working with wool and fiber.

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