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A range of beautifully designed Herdwick Tweed bags and accessories designed and made in The Lake District.

Stop Press Update !

If you saw the Back To The Land programme you will remember the last scene where Mandy shared with Kate that the weaving had failed! The issue was with the strength of the yarn. After several months of research, yarn testing and trials a new batch of yarn was commissioned in January 2017 using fleece clipped in 2016 from Townhead farm, Grasmere and Tilberthwaite in Coniston. The processing is lengthy as our yarn is worsted spun to create a smooth fine finish. In the meantime we had tried other batches but they too proved unsuccessful.

The new specification yarn was delivered in late April and an experienced home weaver in Penrith, Cumbria trialled the weaving over May Bank Holiday weekend. The results seemed positive and so the yarn was then set on the loom at Farfield Mill in Sedburgh. On Sunday May 14th Head Weaver David, with his many years of experience, started the weave and it has worked! We aim to produce three new tweeds which will be slightly different from the last fabrics because each batch of yarn is unique.

Once the fabric is woven there are two more processes to be completed before bag production can begin again and we have to fit in with specialist suppliers. Realistically we aim to have stock for early July but photography of the new fabrics will be available before then and if you wish to be added to a pre-order list please let me know

The Background Story

Mandy Marshall moved to the Lake District from south Manchester in 2009. Looking for a new direction and saw an advertisement to train as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide for Cumbria. With a background in retail and fashion the twelve month course studying what defines Cumbria was a challenge. From historic houses to far-flung fells, literary personalities to village traditions, lakeshore walks to fast flowing waterfalls…..there are so many elements….. Having always lived in suburbia this was a complete change of environment and she learnt how essential farming is in preserving this unique landscape.

In 2011 Mandy and her husband Bill moved to Castle Cottage in Near Sawrey, a hamlet on the western shore of Windermere. The village is well known for its connection with Beatrix Potter who owned Hill Top Farm from where she drew many of the scenes in her famous “little books”. In 1913 Beatrix married and moved from London to live in Castle Cottage with William Heelis. It was their home for 30 years until her death in 1943.

In her new life Beatrix focused on farming and was passionate about the Herdwick breed. She described them as “hardy and independent”, perhaps she identified with these characteristics!
Breeding prize-winning Herdwick sheep was an important part of preserving the breed and her trusted shepherd Tom Storey was crucial in this endeavour. He was her farmer at Hill Top and she was proud when the farm began to use a red H as the “smit mark” to identify their flock.

When furnishing their new home Mandy and Bill wanted to use local products. They fitted Herdwick carpet in what had been Beatrix’s sitting room and the National Trust were happy to return some of her original furniture. In searching for Herdwick tweed to cover window seats Mandy discovered a hidden store of top quality Herdwick Tweed  worsted  forgotten in the store room of a gentleman’s outfitters.

She was captivated by the quality of the material, the subtle Lake District colours and the provenance of the tweed. From this moment on she was inspired!

Her aim was to create a quality product that was contemporary in design but rooted in the heritage of Cumbria. Essential to this was that the bags should be made in the region and she sourced a top quality manufacturer based in Carlisle.  Mandy worked closely with the bag manufacturers to design the first range of bags which were ready in early 2013. Everybody who set foot in Castle Cottage was asked their opinion on style and details. Tweaks were made to the designs and bag production began.

Herdwick Tweed bags had their debut at Woolfest, Cockemouth in 2014 and had a great reception winning The Wool Clip award which is given to new wool-related businesses. This was a great confidence boost for the fledgling business and our first opportunity to gauge public response to the products.

Herdwick was a hit! Enthusiasm and encouragement for the bags, offers of help and advice from farmers and weavers for when we reached the stage of producing our own fabric in the future, camaraderie from the stallholders.There was no turning back but we needed to be able to reproduce the original high quality worsted Herdwick Tweed and so a learning process began.

The ethos behind Herdwick products is that, as far as possible, everything is from Cumbria.

From the outset Mandy wanted to definitively know the provenance of the wool. In order to do this she needed to buy fleece directly from the farmer and needed the flock to be divided at shearing time into colour groups. The fleeces could then be spun to produce yarn of differing undyed shades from which a natural coloured tweed could be woven. Just to add to the list of requirements she wanted the farms she bought from to be part of the Beatrix Potter legacy that was left in its entirety to the National Trust.