Shopping: Dyed in the wool elegance

You can carry it all off smartly with a touch of mail order tweed, writes Fiona MacAulay

Three Japanese men in dark suits standing in the middle of a field of cows is not a usual sight in the hilly farmland of Perthshire.

However, a local farmer was quick to recognise them as travellers in search of The Glenalmond Tweed Company whose shop at Culnacloich farm about 10 miles north of Crieff is well known in the region for attracting far-flung customers.

Andrew and Sally St John started The Glenalmond Tweed Company in 1992. They sell beautifully made bags in brightly coloured and chequered Harris tweed with bridle leather straps and bindings, and solid brass fittings. The large selection includes a rucksack, two sizes of holdall and four of tote bag.

The tweed is bonded with a rubberised solution on to cotton canvas to make it waterproof, though one of the qualities of Harris tweed is that it repels water, because of its density and the natural oils in the wool. There is also a clothes range - mainly waistcoats, jackets and coats.

The designs and colours of the materials alone are reason enough to want to swathe yourself in Glenalmond products, but the styling is also good. A long waistcoat with a Nehru collar and a reversible tweed and leather jerkin were my favourites. A finishing touch is the stag-horn buttons used on all the clothes.

Though the journey to the shop makes for a wonderful expedition through stunning countryside, Glenalmond does a mail-order catalogue for those who cannot make it to north Perthshire. It also has outlets at Liberty, Brora and The Scotch House. This year it introduces a small collection designed by the Japanese designer Michiko Koshino.

Combining such a traditional fabric as Harris tweed and the designs of a wacky Japanese designer (she produced the first own-label condoms and designs the wild, leather Motor King range) may not at first seem obvious but the St Johns wanted to show how well the beauty of Harris tweed complements modern design shapes. After all, British designers, in particular Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith, have already shown how successfully tweed and tartan can be married with contemporary design ideas.

Michiko's range comes in the more subtle shades of Harris tweed - black, cream, greys and browns - and her designs are simple and well-cut. They include a reefer jacket and a quilted duffel coat for men and a double breasted mid-length coat for women. She has designed her own oval-shaped buttons, embossed with a sheep's head taken from the Glenalmond logo. Her bags are made in checked Harris tweed from the new furnishing type fabric that the St Johns are introducing to their range. It looks less woolly than the original fabric and so will be particularly good for spring and summer. "Our bag maker was rather taken aback when he received a prototype from Michiko in bright yellow plastic to be made up in tweed. He just wasn't used to modern materials!"

The St Johns have been visiting Harris for 14 years and are obviously in love with the place. They look forward enormously to their twice-yearly buying trips. They first went there after being shipwrecked on a trip to St Kilda and began a long relationship with a group of the island's weavers. "They are incredibly supportive about our business but all they are really interested in is the well-being of our flock of sheep; that's the real bond between us!"

Although the wool is now spun, dyed and finished by machine it is still woven by weavers in their own homes and so its production is literally a cottage industry. It is immediately recognisable by its weight and thick texture and for its amazing blending of colours which reflect the Hebridean landscape.

In the Glenalmond shop the St Johns also stock a selection of tweed to be sold by the metre. These include cloth made by Joan Maclennan, one of the few weavers who still uses the old wooden loom instead of the more modern Hattersley loom. She is one of the small group of weavers who use vegetable dyes made from indigenous plants. Elderberries for purple, indigo for blue, ragwort flowers and heather tips for yellow - the natural palette is extensive, as one can see from a close look her fabrics.The tradition of Harris tweed-making is steeped in ritual and folklore. The final part of the process used to be the blessing of the tweed: "Mayest thou enjoy it, Mayest thou wear it, Mayest thou finish it, Until thou find it in shreds, in strips, in rags, in tatters!" The Glenalmond Tweed Company brings us this wonderful fabric in its many designs of handbags, luggage and clothes so that we can do just what the blessing bids.

The Glenalmond Tweed Company, Culnacloich, Glenalmond, Perth PH1 3SN. Telephone 01738 880322 for a catalogue or local stockist.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal

I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.

Mark Dampier: We always bring down Britain. But there's plenty in the tank

While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market

If you haven’t switched supplier or tariff in the last 12 months then you could almost certainly save money by doing so

There are easier ways to save hundreds on your energy bills

A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier

Worse hit are loyal customers with long-standing accounts – their loyalty is rewarded with lower interest rates than more recently-launched accounts

Savers are being let down by banks and building societies, says Financial Conduct Authority

Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate

What to do if you're facing repossession: However far you fall, you're not on your own

Helen Fisher had to become a 24-hour carer, and then she faced repossession. But going to the right places for help changed everything, writes Simon Read

Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt

In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.

Mark Dampier: So you've got pension freedom... will it end up as a cold shower?

In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.

The move marks the culmination of a long campaign by debt charities and insolvency firms and follows a call for evidence launched by the Minister last August

Bankruptcy rules to change, Business Minister announces

The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000

Three-quarters of parents say being unable to afford to heat their home adequately is hitting the health of their children

Family well-being and health hit by heating costs

A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children

Many people have no understanding of pensions

Are you ready for pensions reforms?

Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income

At a rate of 7.5 per cent, the wind is blowing behind ethical investors

A new initiative has financial and ethical virtues, says Simon Read
Ticket to cry: many passengers have been penalised with exorbitant and unnecessary rises

Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?

I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.

Your money: Let’s hope for a fairer, more honest 2015

Poor service from banks and energy companies has sadly been a theme this year

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

    £45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us