Taobh Tuath Tweeds
It has been an eventful year for independent weaver, Rebecca Hutton, of Taobh Tuath Tweeds. Alongside the difficulties of lockdown, when she was finally able to start processing her cloths again, she broke her thumb. What’s more, a particularly ill-timed gust of wind blew the roof off the new loom shed she was building at her home in Northon, Isle of Harris. Somehow, she still finds time to laugh – and to share a few yarns.
This week she sent us pictures of her many Harris Tweed® fabrics. If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we love to share stories behind the Cloth. Well, Rebecca loves to tell stories, so here are a handful.
There is her ‘Random Patchwork’ – where colours combine by chance rather than design. Made up of Plain Twill, Herringbone and Russian Twill sectioned by lines of red, she purposely doesn’t look at the pirns she plucks out of the basket, so she never knows which colour will appear next. ‘If I looked, I would start designing it. It is surprising how rarely the same colour appears twice.’ The result somehow hangs together beautifully.
There is the ‘Withnail & I’ tweed, designed for the cult film and worn by Richard E. Grant. The film and tweed’s costume designer regularly orders repeats of the tweed from Rebecca to make replica coats for customers across the world.
Then there is ‘BTC’ – affectionately known as ‘That Bloody Tweed’ because of the amount of work it takes to set up the loom in preparation for the weave. Originally a bespoke order for curtains, the design is so popular that Rebecca has been ‘forced’ to keep making versions of it.
Sometimes the stories behind the Cloth change with the eye of the beholder. The ‘Dunoon Burgh Hall Trust’ tweed is registered as an official tartan. Her design explored the connection between rural and urban areas of Dunoon. It travels from yellow road markings and grey tarmac through green fields, purple heather and blue skies before returning to the road again. But on the official site, they say the yellow refers to Dunoon’s daffodils! Does this bother her? ‘That’s not how I designed it, but they’ve seen something different: I like that.’
Rebecca learned her trade from Sheila Roderick in Scalpay, and then started weaving for Donald John Mackay in Luskentyre. ‘I was so lucky to have him as a mentor. I knew if my weaving was good enough for him, it was good enough for anybody.’ That was eight years ago and, as she says, ‘Sometimes that feels like a long time; sometimes, like I’m just getting started.’