Updated: Mar 4, 2021
My father passed away on 15th April 2020 following a short illness. Two days later my mother’s first act following his death was to throw away is old Harris tweed jacket. I asked her to retrieve it from the bin thinking I could do something with it. The jacket lay crumbled in the corner of my craft room during the subsequent long months of grief and isolation (my father died three weeks into the first UK covid-19 lockdown). By August my mood was more optimistic, the lockdown had been temporarily eased and I was ready to do something in memory of dad and for my family. I rescued the jacket for a second time from its corner in the craft room and started work.
The initial first cut of the jacket was difficult; to break the unity of the cloth was saying goodbye to my father again. But once I started the seamstress in me took over. Cutting up the jacket was sewing in reverse as it revealed the intricate assemblage of tweed, hair canvas, fused interfacing and lining. My first project was to make a hat and bag for my sister. I had already designed a hat pattern for her; a baker’s boy style that I had made from discarded jean cut-offs. The bag pattern I adapted from one in the Charlie’s Aunt pattern collection designed by Emma Brennan. I quickly realised I could benefit from the jacket tailoring and use interlined pieces of tweed for more structural parts, such as the hat segments. My uneasiness about cutting up dad’s jacket quickly dissolved into the delight of appreciating its craftmanship.
Making the hat and bag was a joy. It was not melancholic but uplifting to breathe new life into a treasured and well-worn item. I combined the tweed with some old curtain material I had stuffed away in my fabric stash collection. The burnt orange of the curtain material brought out the subtle shading of the tweed. I finished off the hat and bag with handsewn Dorset buttons. I love spending time making these intricate pieces and relished having a purpose for them.
The hat and bag were finished for my sister’s birthday in September. We were still out of lockdown and could be together as a family. Dad was with us is different ways. My sister’s new hat and bag were not just admired; they captured where we needed to be almost five months after his death: remembering, reuniting and renewing our love for him.