Finding Inspiration for Winter Woolens in Scotland

I came away from my vacation in Ireland and Scotland with a new appreciation for quality woolen fabric and garments. In the first place, it was a bit chilly – mid 50s at best and usually cloudy. Puts you in the mood for a mug of tea and a cozy sweater, right? In the second place, I was inspired by the two traditional two woolen mills I visited. And third, I enjoyed the pro-sewing atmosphere of both countries in their modern and historic cultural artifacts (post to come later).

I bought these fabrics to craft into my own garments:

Tartans woven in Scotland from Scottish wool

The one on the right is a houndstooth from the Islay Woollen Mill on Islay, an island off the West Coast of Scotland. Islay is famous for its peaty whiskey, my husband’s favorite. I was excited to check out the mill too and was delighted with the experience. They even gave me labels to sew into my project, because Islay wool is such a quality product.

The mill makes fabrics for Saville Row tailors in a variety of checks and colors.


The guy running the mill was quite a character. He quickly and rather incoherently explained how the mill worked and then got back to work. There was a lovely smell of wool, old wood and axle grease in the place.


The showroom was just bolts of fabrics on shelves and piled on the floor. I looked everything over and had a tough time deciding what to buy. Finally I chose the gray, black and blue houndstooth because it was so unusual and it goes well with other items in my wardrobe.


I am planning to make a jacket out of it. Because this fabric is so rare and expensive, I will definitely make a muslin first!

The Islay Woollen Mill also had a pretty shop on the first floor with all finished goods from the mill and other things. My husband bought a traditional cap:


I didn’t get any pictures of the Edinburgh Tartan Weaving Mill, but be sure to look it up online and in person if you’re there. The mill is rather hidden inside an enormous gift shop down the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle. The mill is in the sub-sub-basement, and the fabric shop is a floor above that.

The place specializes in traditional tartans. I chatted up the salesman and spent quite some time looking over the choices before going with this tartan, woven in the traditional “Blue Ramsay” design.


This fabric has a smoother texture and a crisper hand than the fabric from Islay, but the colorways are similar, so I know it will go with other garments in my wardrobe. I am planning to make an off-kilter kilt with it from New Look 6326. I ironed out the fit problems with the previous attempt. I like the idea of using a tartan on the bias for the overlay. I will need to figure out how to stabilize it so it doesn’t stretch out or warp.


Author: shoes15

I live in Connecticut, USA with my husband and my dog, in an old house outfitted with a sewing room, a garden, an orchard, and a big liquor cabinet.

2 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration for Winter Woolens in Scotland”

  1. What lovely fabric!

    I had a thought about the skirt overlay. Rather than trying to stabilise it, which sounds seriously tricky, I’d be inclined to embrace the distortion and just let it hang for a while before hemming. But I’m looking forward to seeing it whatever you do!


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