I, Tara Checketts, was recently introduced to the world of premium quality Tweed made from the wool of Romney Sheep, which has two aims; propel the Tweed industry into SE Kent but also assist people into learning and enhancing new skills.
In addition to holding workshops Romney Tweed CIC have gone into partnership with Royal St. George’s Golf Club and created a Romney Tweed Fashion Challenge for 11 to 13-year level students to enter. With their support, as well as that of the two Schools taking part in the learning and development of their students’ textile skill sets Sandwich Technical College and The Marsh Academy – the students work both in school and out in the natural environment where they start to capture the colours and textures for their tweed designs. In addition the children have all written fantastic essays about the textile industry and how the use of natural cloth (Tweed being one) assists businesses focusing on using biodegradable fabrics more than those which don’t, for example polyester and nylon which may take 20 to 200 years to fully biodegrade.
Step by Step what the Students did for the Romney Tweed Competition. Some natural local ingredients identified, P&V use because of their healing properties.
I, the founder of Pink and Vanilla Ltd, who has developed and produced natural wellbeing product options for skin and muscular issues, manufactured in the UK, has been lucky enough to be included in the judging of the students work and have been both inspired and extremely impressed with the student’s dedication and creations at a busy time of their lives with A levels approaching.
That quality long lasting tweed we proudly wear has so many stages prior to us showing it off to the world, with a strong sheep farming heritage.
Plan your Design: What is it you are wanting to make? Jacket, suit, furnishings and who for? with this in mind, you have already started to formulate your development plan.
Wool: Romney Sheep having received a well needed summer trim, their wool is washed and spun in a special way and ready for dyeing into the colours of your choice. Romney Marsh has a strong sheep farming heritage and once Romney Tweed mastered the art of ensuring the wool was durable enough for weaving, it was full steam ahead in building and promoting a Tweed industry as well as investing in people and the community as a whole.
The Design: The world is your oyster, where Romney Tweed has been inspirational is that the designers go to the local area of those who wish to own their unique tweed. Armed with a camera, sketch book, nature reference books as well as local specialists in the local habitat who can provide more depth to your learning. Take loads of photographs and sketch the local flora (some of which I use in my natural P&V Wellbeing Products because of their natural healing properties), and fauna to understand the colours which enhance the design and link it back to the owners of their fine tweed. Once you have decided on your colours, you can start to plan your design knowing what your background colour is and what coloured weave you wish to have running through.
Dyeing of the wool: This is a long process to make sure your colours are just how you want them. And again, remembering that once you start weaving, the colours may be too bold or pale so might have to adapt – Bottom line is worth getting it perfect!
The Weaving: Romney Tweed create their tweeds the traditional way which stems back to medieval times. Owners of traditional looms, they set about putting their designs into maths formats. I had no idea how many strands of wool, each with its own mathematical code which tells you how many times you need to include it at any given stage of the weaving. With a lot of hard work and focus you start to see the fruits of your labour and see how your tweed swatches look. Often you can do a number of different versions of the design, for example chosen colours in a herringbone or check to help further develop the look of your design.
The Cloth: The swatch is then sent off for manufacturing (in England) and treated before arriving in style to be made into your dream.
Investment: Tweed is a durable and long-lasting natural fabric and a fantastic investment to make. The funding from orders gets fed-back into the business, local community and supporting the development of people’s skill sets.
Those at the top of their trade occasionally step in to support those new to the industry and journey in textiles. The investment by people in Yorkshire – in particular Gordon Kaye, retired Managing Director of Taylor & Lodge, a prestigious worsted mill – has been inspirational, and all I can say is, the work and talent I have seen in the competitors is outstanding and even if not placed, you should be proud of what has been achieved and keep moving forward towards your dreams.
Recipe is success measured against your own desired achievements; Ingredients: Remember all skill sets are transferable in some form or other just work out the formulas and mix with vision, understand your area – research every aspect, a lot of hard work, dedication and drive and don’t ever give up. It will be worth it however long it takes.
Next year the competition will run again for secondary school students and classes will be given for junior schools as well.