Happy New Year one and all! My first finished make of the year is an Arielle skirt (Tilly and the Buttons) using some incredible Harris tweed that is so special as I know exactly where it was woven and the quality is incredible …
I bought the Harris tweed for this skirt on an Easter road trip to the Hebrides with my husband in 2014. I put on Instagram that it was 5 years ago – as it honestly feels like a lifetime ago pre-toddler! We went in our beloved T4 camper van (Hugo) who was sadly sold not long before Milly was born (sniff) and it was an amazing trip but required quite a bit of braving the elements whilst being in stunning surroundings.
The trip can kind of be summed up by one experience that involved spending one 5 hour boat trip out on deck trying not to be sick when a school of dolphins started to play alongside the ferry. Magical and torturous at the same time!
At that time, I’d only made one garment – a Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress (see comedy photo below for evidence):
However, I was still very much attracted to the beautiful tweeds and the promise of sewing makes to come. We tracked down a weaver called Donald John Mackay in his tiny workshop on the edge of the most beautiful beach of Luskentyre. This beach often crops up as one of the ‘Top 10 beaches in the world’ and is home to the Luskentyre ponies. Please forgive the digression to show some of my husband’s photos that are of said beach and ponies …
Donald John Mackay is something of a legend in the weaving world and whilst he only makes 27 metres a day on the loom in his workshop, he has had collaborations with both Nike and Clarks. You can read more in an article from the FT if you fancy!
Without a plan, I bought 2m of some blue tweed that I made into a cape with some Liberty Wiltshire tana lawn as lining this summer and there was just enough left over to make a matching one for my daughter.
Then I also bought this amazing tweed which is very rare with it’s vertical stripes that was apparently commissioned by a German interior designer. The photos are awful but it’s rare to have three different tweeds in stripes.
At first, I didn’t trust my sewing skills enough to do anything with the tweed. Then summer came and then pregnancy … and FINALLY this winter was time to hatch a plan. The older looms that traditional Harris tweed are made on are only 75cm wide, so in reality it was actually quite tricky to find a pattern for that width AND I didn’t fancy vertical stripes. So, I eventually decided on making the Tilly and the Buttons Arielle skirt with the two tweeds for horizontal stripes (opposite to the grain line! what a crime!) and the final tweed to make covered buttons. Here’s the end result:
I’m really pleased and the quality of the tweed makes this skirt a joy to wear. The pattern has been around for a few years and is a complete winner: great shape; amazingly clear instructions and I’m definitely making more. The only thing I had to do was sew the facings to the main body of the skirt at not only the side seams but also the darts as well. The darts are obvious but not overly bulky, I think. I made a toile first in a heavy coating wool and whilst still hopefully wearable, the corners don’t lie as flat as I’d like.
I think I paid about £18 a metre for this tweed and frankly that’s bargain compared to how much Harris tweed sells for online, although you’ll probably find it at double loom width of 150m which is of course much more practical and means you can sew with the grain. More than one person has now asked to stroke this tweed(!) – it’s just irresistibly beautifully made … and a special one for me as I went to the place and met the man who made it.