Thursday, April 11, 2013


doesn't it look like a fish skeleton?

What is tweed? I ask myself. First off, the word itself is a joy to utter.
Tweed. Tweed, tweedy tweed.

For me it conjours images of blended coloured wool, woven, knitted, just strands of nubbly yarn, dark brown with whitish flecks, or dark and light grey. I picture herringbone tweed, a twill weave with a diagonal pattern of warp and weft threads that look like the skeleton of a wee fish. I see a green tweed in my head that I have named or misnamed Donegal Tweed. This one is a plain weave, just a nice woven cloth made from green wool with flecks of other colours spun into the yarn. My mom sewed beautiful tailored suits for herself in the seventies and had a great love for tweed. Glen check, Harris tweed, houndstooth and herringbone. These are the fabrics she used to make skirts and trousers and jackets. Woolens with names full of personality.
(Now I've said the word tweed so many times it sounds weird, so I have to look it up).


  1. A rough-surfaced woolen cloth, typically of mixed flecked colors, originally produced in Scotland: "a tweed sports jacket".
  2. Clothes made of this material.
So, my personal image bank was not too far off. I like to think of the beautiful Noro yarns with their everchanging colours as a tweed, because here and there are flecks of other colours spun in. And look at the lovely tweediness of these yarns from Brooklyn Tweed.

If I were a better knitter, I would have a lot of tweedy yarn. As it is, I am a quiltmaker, so I have a lot of fabric. I've been using cotton fabric for my quilts for a loooong time, and I wanted to try the tweed-like natural linen. I understand (and will have to do more research on the subject) that linen (flax) grows with fewer pesticides and uses less water than does cotton. One of the things that bugs me about what I do is that I use conventionally grown cotton, which is pretty harmful to the environment in its consumption of chemicals and water. (I have made a pact with myself to use organic cotton whenever I can, even though it is more expensive. My beautiful world means a lot to me, so I will spend a little more on my art.)
two colours and two weights of linen

Anyhoo... back to linen and it's tweediness ... I had a chunk of linen, and my lovely neighbour and I were discussing its use, so I split it in half and we decided we would each make a tweed log cabin quilt. I have not made a traditionally pieced quilt with repeat blocks in a long time, and making the first couple of log cabin blocks was meditative and fun, then it got to be tedious doing the same block again and again, and then I got into a rhythm of making them and it became sort of meditative again. It was good to practice that repeat thing, one step at a time - moving ever forward.

Working with the linen was good too. Its a little harder to manage than the cotton fabrics made for quilting, as it is not quite as stable. It moves about some, and its a bit stiff. Each little thread of the weave shows up seperately, unlike cotton. With this I was led to thinking about the threads that are woven together to create the fabric, and that led me backwards to the field where the flax plant grew, was harvested, retted, spun into thread to be woven into cloth! We wear clothes made of textiles all day every day. Most of us probably don't have a thought about how the clothes were made and even more rarely think about where the cloth comes from, who grew the fibre, how it got made into fabric to be sewn into clothes. Wow, a lifetime of research has appeared here...


Here is my Big Tweed quilt top, ready to be layered and quilted. Its about 50" x 50" and meant as a quilt for a child.
enlarged herring bones!
I chose prints that I thought would appeal to a literary kid. Some alphabets, a Lonni Rossi text print with punctuation,  some drawings from the Architextures line, a tweed sock monkey or two, garden gnomes, plenty of dots and I included a favourite grey Denyse Schmidt print (from the original Flea Market Fancy line) and a naturally dyed and block printed cloth from Maiwa Handprints.
dots and drawings and sock monkeys
Now I have to think up a tweedy way to quilt it. Maybe I'll use a houndstooth or a glen check for the back!


  1. It's also a place in Ontario ... where my husband is from ... It's on Highway 7, halfway between Toronto and Ottawa. Highway 7 is now a back road to get between the two big cities, but it used to be the main route. In the past, like 20 years ago, when you mentioned, everybody knew where it was because they had gotten a ticket going through the town at highway speed!

    Love your quilt!!


  2. Ahh, Paula. Good to know not to speed in Tweed!

  3. I love your comparing tweed to a fish skeleton, and your latest log cabin to herring bones ... maybe I'll add some to my next fish series ....

    Lookin' good, Barb - you're definitely having fun.


    1. I could see you making a tweed fish, and beautifully too!

  4. Fabulous job! Working with linen is indeed different, it has a mind of its own. But so beautiful and cool and smooth. I have a half-done crazy log cabin linen top that you have inspired me to finish.