Outer Hebrides Tour Diary – Part 6: The Big Cloth

8th July 2014: Guardians of the Orb

Harris Tweed Authority Stamp

Harris Tweed Authority Stamp

My journey had reached Tarbert, Isle of Harris, and before we’d even landed on the shore we could see signs for Harris Tweed at Harris Tweed Isle of Harris Warehouse and shop. Piled high inside the warehouse were reams of beautiful Harris Tweed, all stamped with the Harris Tweed Orb.

Harris Tweed Isle of Harris Warehouse

Harris Tweed Isle of Harris Warehouse – Tarbert

Originally called Clo Mor (The Big Cloth), cloth woven in the Outer Hebrides is only considered to be Harris Tweed if it is as the Harris Tweed Act 1993 states:

Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.

Only tweed that passes inspection from the Harris Tweed Authority is stamped with the Harris Tweed Orb, ensuring the quality of the cloth as genuine Harris Tweed.

Clo Mor – Harris Tweed Exhibition

Just behind the Harris Tweed and Knitwear shop in Drinishader is the Harris Tweed Clo Mor exhibition. Modern and beautifully curated, the exhibition included cloth woven by Donald John Mackay — whom I was to meet the next day — and a video interview with Sheila Roderick, whom I was meeting later that day. The exhibition clearly showed the success of Harris Tweed in today’s fashion and textile industries: things like items from catwalk collections and links to local makers such as Rarebird. I was very excited to see a Hattersley loom for the first time since arriving in the Outer Hebrides and we were treated to a demonstration.

Hattersley Loom Demo

Hattersley Loom Demo

Couple of Cows

Couple of Cows

Sheila Roderick – Scalpay Linen

Scalpay Linen

Scalpay Linen

We had feared that we might get stuck behind the Commonwealth baton (it was winding its way around the islands at the same time I was) on our route to Scalpay but all we encountered was a couple of cows. Sheila Roderick welcomed me in to her loom shed and we had a lovely time; hours flew in as we chatted about weaving, spinning, yarns and not least her Hattersley loom.

Sheila has been involved in woolwork for thirty five years, first as a commercial hand-spinner and then later as a Hattersley Domestic Loom weaver. Sheila weaves with linen as the name Scalpay Linen suggests, but she also weaves Harris Tweed and is particularly interested in using local Hebridean fleece for her tweed. She has operated her own textile business since 1996 and during that time has taught both hand-spinning and Harris Tweed weaving. Later this year, Sheila plans on moving premises from her loomshed in her husband’s croft to the vacant Scalpay School campus.

Sheila's Hattersley Loom

Sheila’s Hattersley Loom

Aggie met Sheila’s dogs, who were a little perplexed having never seen a dog her shape before. By now I had realised sheep dogs were the number one choice of dog in the Outer Hebrides, and most were working dogs; some sheep dogs even have the honour of guarding loomsheds.

Loomshed and dog.

Guarding the loomshed.

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An they a’ need the wark o' the weavers.