Tell us a little about you and your brand.
My name is Miriam Hamilton, an independent weaver and designer living and working on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Together with my sister Martha Hamilton, we weave Two Sisters Tweeds - original patterns inspired by the colours of the land, sea, and sky of this stunning island. I use our tweeds and the iconic Harris Tweed to craft one-of-a-kind clothing, accessories, homeware, bags, and jewellery. My most popular ranges are my throws, shawls, cushions, and lampshades! We also weave luxury ranges in super soft yarns including alpaca, merino, and my own Gotland sheep fleeces. I love to paint the local wildlife and landscapes, producing original watercolours and painting on feathers, sea glass, and other beach finds.
How and when did you start your brand?
I have been creating for as long as I can remember and visiting the Outer Hebrides for even longer. On a visit when I was about 12, I first saw Harris Tweed being woven and became entranced by the tradition, heritage, colours, and skill. In autumn 2017, we made the move to the Isle of Lewis, along with my two sisters, brother, and mum. I put my dreams of becoming a Harris Tweed weaver aside as an unobtainable dream. However, in the summer of 2018, I was put in touch with a retired weaver who agreed to teach me to weave and sold me his 80-year-old Hattersley loom. Early in 2019, I finally took the leap to become self-employed and opened my studio shop/weaving shed! My wee business has gone from strength to strength, and while pregnant, I taught my sister to weave to keep up with the weaving. She now weaves full-time while I get on with the sewing, painting, jewellery making, admin, and looking after my wee one.
Image: The Weaving Shed product
What are your sources of inspiration?
I just need to look out of the window! The Isle of Lewis is a stunning, wild, atmospheric place with ever-changing weather and huge skies. My tweeds are inspired by the colours of the heather on the hills, the rolling blue/green seas, the snow lying over barren winter ground, the lush green flower-filled machair, the white sands of Luskentyre beach. Anything can be an inspiration; the challenge is choosing which one to do next! My sea tweeds are always the most popular, though, with a minimum of 9 colours in the warp (the threads that run the length of the loom) and a random ever-changing weft (the threads that run left to right). By constantly changing the weft colours in all of our tweeds, I am then able to create one-of-a-kind shawls, throws, scarves, etc., as we could never weave exactly the same pattern twice!
Image: The Weaving Shed founder
We would love to hear about your product creation process or journey.
To create a new tweed, I usually first see something that inspires me - my next challenge, for example, is to recreate the aurora! I start by looking at the colours in real life - deep navies and blacks, vivid greens, pinks, and lilacs. I then order the yarn and put the cones on the warping board, where I can play around with the percentage of each colour and the order they will go in. The next step is to make the warp by wrapping 24 threads around the warping frame to a length of 60 meters, and then repeating that wrap until we have 696 threads in total. The warp is then chained off and wound onto the loom in a process called beaming on. Each of those new threads is then tied by hand to the old warp still on the loom - 696 knots tied by hand! This means we don't have to rethread the loom every time we make a new tweed. The process to set the loom up takes at least a day, if not a day and a half, and we haven't started weaving yet! To weave the 60 meters takes around 5 days depending on the complexity of the design. Once woven, the fabric must then go to the mill for 'finishing,' where it is washed, stretched, dried, cropped, and pressed. Once we receive the finished cloth, I can finally start thinking about what I would like to make!