MermaidFifteen years ago I went to the Western Isles by bicycle. This year I returned. Fifteen years ago the tourist industry was limited to the provision of food and shelter, and occasional hand-printed notices, tacked to sheep, about local ruins of historical interest. Nonetheless I returned from that earlier journey with a mermaid and a length of Harris tweed. I bought the mermaid somewhere in North Uist because it was the most frivolous artefact I had seen anywhere in the islands, working north from Barra. Ever since then she has lived next to the enormous map of Orkney by Jane Hyslop, where she looks very much at home.

harristweedHowever, the Harris tweed has spent all that time packed away in a box, maturing, until events allowed me to attend to it. When I came back from the west this summer I remembered about it and dug it out. It is a skirt length, of a fiendish narrow width so that your skirt must be cut out with great cunning. It has a proper Harris Tweed label for you to sew in to the finished garment. It is the colour of a peat bog, more or less, though a peat bog on a sunny day, with some blue perhaps reflected from the sky overhead and, close up, an extraordinary range of colours; these represent the exotic Hebridean insect life of the bog. I brought it with me to Orkney and, under supervision, I have been constructing it into a skirt. This is it nearly finished.

tackingThe front pleat has been tacked like that
(a) for neatness while we get the waistband on
(b) because it gives the garment an edgy modern look that is very much this season.
(a) is the correct answer according to my supervisor, who tacked it, but I am veering towards (b) myself.

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