Johnny Johnston – former Eyemouth Harbour Master, Local Civic Champion and all round good guy – came by TEDDA yesterday and was asking how RETWEED was doing. We got chatting about Men’s Sheds in Eyemouth and about the success of RETWEED’s first course.
In amongst the quality blether I asked him, as I’d asked many others, if he knew how Harris Tweed had got its name? He did, and he was the first! A learned man in social history to boot.
Back in the day, when Roxburgh was the textiles and industrial capital of Scotland, a buyer had come up from London to collect textiles which were being shipped down the Tweed from Roxburgh to Berwick and then out to our overseas Trade Partners of the day.
A shipment of plaid (for info not tartan! – Yes all tartans are plaid, but not all plaids are tartan) had arrived in Roxburgh from Harris. The Scots or Gaelic word for twill plaid fabric at the time was tweel. Upon reading the shipment note our English Buyer had assumed that the fabric was local and had derived its name from the river and signed off the export as “Harris Tweed”. So the Harris Tweel became Harris Tweed and the geographical, cultural and textiles marriage between far North West of Scotland and the South East was established.
How does this relate to the title of our news piece?
Before I had secured any funding, premises, students or staff, I met Johnny at a local get together (The Bacon Butty and Blether) – should be bacon roll since we’re talking Scots language; the only time we eat butties in Scotland is when they’ve got chips in them!
Anyway, Johnny had an idea for RETWEED’s manufacturing. He suggested that we incorporate the Barkit Jumper into our fashion line. A Barkit Jumper is a fisherman’s smock, made from the remnants of sail cloth. Historically “tanbarked” sails were those soaked in a broth of oak bark to strengthen the natural fibre and prevent it from mildewing. Fisherman of the day would also soak their nets and their clothes in this solution to ensure their durability, and to protect them against the harsh elements and salt water. While sharing this story, Johnny was himself sporting his own Barkit Jumper.
So in honour of Eyemouth’s Maritime and Coastal Heritage, we’ll be looking to manufacture a number of Barkit Jumpers during our next course, using up-cycled Sail Cloth and incorporating other up-cycled textiles for pockets and trim.
Who are these Jumpers targeted at…?
Johnny advises that anyone who works out of doors, gardeners, artists, artisans, makers and hobbyists would enjoy wearing the Eyemouth Barkit Jumper, and he wears his when he’s helping out at the Men’s Shed Project in Eyemouth. Men’s Sheds Projects are brilliant – based on the premise of the stereotypical ‘shed at the bottom of the garden’, where men (and women!) can go to tinker, make things, feel a sense of achievement and enjoy company – improving health, overcoming social isolation and playing a part in the community.
Many thanks to Colin McPherson for the photograph featured.
At RETWEED, we’re going to work to incorporate products and a manufacturing ethos that promotes and shares local heritage – if you have any thoughts or ideas on how we can do that we’d love to hear from you.
Meanwhile, look out for the Eyemouth Barkit Jumper on sale here on our website over the coming months or at local craft fairs. Order direct by contacting [email protected].
If you’d like to donate textiles or get involved, please call Hazel on 07732014893.
This blog post was written by Hazel Smith – ReTweed Founding Director