John Watson Gordon, James Hogg (1830). © National Galleries of Scotland.

I’ve been working on a piece for Yarn Forward about tweed. In the course of my research, I’ve been reading a lot about the Maud: the shepherd’s plaid traditionally worn in the Scottish Borders. This is John Watson Gordon’s portrait of James Hogg, best known as the author of the tremendous Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824). In the portrait, he carries a shepherd’s crook and his maud is displayed prominently over his gentleman’s attire. Hogg’s maud — the sign of his local attachment to the landscape and traditions of the Borders — is here much more than a visual conceit. He was a working man who had grown up tending cows and sheep in the Yarrow valley, and, after achieving a degree of literary fame, was always known as the Ettrick Shepherd. My friend Meiko, an expert on Hogg, told me a great anecdote about him wrapping his maud about his shoulders before running all the way to Edinburgh in pursuit of his literary fortunes. He was 40 at the time.

Hogg, and his friend Sir Walter Scott did much to popularise the textile traditions of the Scottish Borders — by writing about them, and by wearing them too. By the 1840s, the distinctive monochrome checked tweed, produced in Selkirk, Galashiels and Hawick had achieved immense popularity all over Britain, and was worn by both men and women.

It is still popular now!


Last weekend we had a great time in the Borders, tracking down some tweed, and checking out the celebrations at Scott’s Selkirk. There were many mauds in evidence. This one was clearly in need of refreshment:


And the construction of this one demonstrates the closed ends and original use of the maud — for carrying lambs.


Of course, after seeing all these mauds I wanted to try one for myself. I bought several waste lengths of borders tweed from Selkirk’s most exciting emporium (well, it is to me anyway)– the wonderful Hinnigan. You may remember that the lovely Helen first introduced me to Hinnigan a while ago, and then I made this cosy blanket out of their fabric. I love the textures and colours of their tweed, and really can’t speak highly enough of it, for both quality and contemporaneity. As well as selling by the metre, Hinnigan also design fabric for fashion at the catwalk end of the market. They also produce fabric for a couple of familiar high-end stores on the UK high street. I have admired Hinnigan’s tweed for years in the form of wonderful wool coats and skirt suits, without realising where it came from. . . .


I think many of you will be able to identify the shops in question.

Anyway, I got several thin lengths of waste Hinnigan tweed and whipped myself up a quick prototype. I chopped the length into four, and sewed the four pieces together to create a sort of T square shawl shape. I then cut out and attached a lining – and bingo.


I am quite excited by the possibilities of this garment. It is very warm, and very wearable. (Well, I think so anyway — and who cares if I go about looking like some sort of Victorian re-enactor? Certainly not me. . .) Perhaps, when (if?) I get some time, I will attempt a grey Borders maud, in honour of James Hogg’s.


Apologies for the quality of these photographs. My abilities with the self-timer in poor winter light are limited. More maud experiments anon (if I can fit them in amongst all the writing, other work, and frantic Christmas crafting…)