This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Spot the frippet: tweed.

When the world around me gets particularly over-excited, one excellent remedy is to meditate on tweed.

There's the lovely Scottish river:

River Tweed at Coldstream.jpg

and then, of course, there's the hairy stuff:

Tweed used to be dyed with lichen, which is why traditionally it comes muted, calming colours.

There's something deeply comforting about tweed. Even wikipedia loses its scientific terseness when considering it:

Tweeds are desirable for informal outerwear, it says, being moisture-resistant and durable.

The portliness of tone doesn't imply that tweed is uncool, though. Far from it.

Look at this:

Yes, that's a guitar amp. A Fender guitar amp. A Fender Tweed Guitar amp. It's covered with tweed. As used by Eric Clapton.


In fact tweed seems to be inherently musical stuff. Some Danemann pianos have a tweed backing, and bagpipes are also sometimes covered in tweed.

And there's the waulking songs. These are songs sung by women as they waulk the tweed - that is, bash it about a bit to rough up the thread and make the cloth waterproof.

I'd love to put in a video of a waulking song, here, but YouTube won't let me at the moment. There are several to be found, though. One of them is HERE.

Even if you can't spot any Scottish tweed anywhere then it should be easy enough to spot some Australian tweeds.

Because in Australia tweeds are simply trousers.

Spot the frippet: tweed. This word comes from tweel, the Scots for twill, the cloth being woven in a twilled pattern. The story goes that about 1830 a London merchant received some tweel cloth, but the letter which came with it was in such bad handwriting that he mis-read it as tweed, and the name stuck.


  1. Thank you for the video link.
    From that I found another one, and ended up on the following link which also explains it a bit.

    Another waulking link

    I have never heard of waulking before, and am completely enthralled with it, and the accompanying songs.
    Thank you!

    1. A pleasure, Jingles.

      I heard my first waulking song at a concert and didn't find out about the u in waulking for about five years.

      It makes tweed suddenly very precious, doesn't it.

  2. Who ever claimed that tweed is uncool? Tell me who they are. I will write them a strongly worded letter.