A Scottish Holiday Souvineer

This blog is the story of the making of a jacket from an upcycled remnant of Scottish tartan.

Creative seamstress Susan Brebner kindly shares the story of her time in Crieff in Perthshire and her reasons for making the jacket back home in New Zealand.

This blog is also about a moment in time. The one in which Scotland hosts COP26 and there is a feeling of optimism in the air. 

I am writing it because even small changes can have impact.

Read on for an artist/maker’s story. You’ll also get a taste of Perthshire (where this language school is) and a bit of cultural immersion.

Join me in celebrating traditional crafting,  upcycling and appreciating things made by hands of the past.

For English learners, there is a practice exercise at the end.

Little fabric remnants, a small Highland town, a short jacket, a wide world… and one huge chance to change EVERYTHING about our future.

Meet Susan and her Creation

This Insta post shows Susan wearing a smart-looking short jacket. She posted shortly after completing sewing it from the upcycled tartan fabric scraps she got while working as a volunteer crafter at Monzie Estate, Crieff, Scotland.

Read on for Susan’s story.

Susan wearing her handsewn jacket form upcycled fabric
Susan’s original Instagram post


“I have always been a keen, some might say fanatical, sewer – for me creating things is like breathing, it is good for my mental health and I find I never stop learning.”


Susan Brebner, 2021


making a bonnet from a vintage fabric
A baby’s bonnet Susan is currently making from a vintage doily for a dressing table,
photo credit Susan Brebner 
By Susan  Brebner

A Small Highland Town

“I am a creative from New Zealand, a small county at the bottom of the world where we have a reputation for making and fixing anything.

In 2015, my husband and I took a year off to explore the world at a leisurely pace, we travelled and worked seasonally and volunteered in various places.

One of our absolute favourite places was Scotland and in particular the work we did at Monzie Estate which is on the edges of Crieff, David and Alexandra Crichton have made Monzie Estate a viable place to live and earn an income from, they have restored into holiday lets and they provide a relevant and welcoming place for people to visit in Perthshire.

We worked with them twice, bringing our restoration and creative skills. I had the most incredible time making curtains, blankets, lampshades, cushions and in November of 2015, Alex and I ran a ‘Christmas in the Castle’ event teaching a variety of Christmas crafts and cooking.”

hand sewn cushions
Handmade furnishings for Monzie Estate rental properties,
photo credit Susan Brebner 
hand made Christmas trees from book pages
Christmas in the Castle decorations,
photo credit Susan Brebner 

Upcycled Scottish Tartan

“I have always been a keen, some might say fanatical, sewer – for me creating things is like breathing, it is good for my mental health and I find I never stop learning.

Being in Scotland renewed my love of sewing wooden fabric, I  visited a number of mills and just love the feel of woollen fabric – it sews well, is easy to mould and it just smells so good!

Crieff has this incredible place called Remake. I visited here a  number of times with Alex and bought leftovers and sample pieces of woollen fabric. One of my favourite buys was a number of pieces of black on black tartan.

I brought this home with me to New Zealand (in total I brought home 10kg of fabric from a number of countries!) and had a plan to make a jacket.”

black on black tartan screenshot
Black on black tartan fabric is made with different shades of ‘black’ forming the traditional tartan weave (screenshot).

Very Easy, Very Vogue

“Finding a pattern that would work with the size pieces I had was a challenge, it was important to me that the tartan matched, even if you can’t see it, I can! I tried a number of ideas and finally settled on Vogue 7703, this was a pattern I have used before and I knew it suited my body shape and it fitted the pieces of fabric. 

One thing that has become increasingly important to me is to work towards being more ethical and sustainable in my fabric use. Using these pieces from Remake fitted the bill.

More and more I enjoy the challenge of using what I have, it stretches my creative skills and it makes me think about the waste I create and how I can reduce this.

A significant industry in Scotland is woollen fabric and there are a number of major and artisan companies making fabric and clothes from local wool, it is very special to support these businesses and to have your own slice of the old but still relevant skills involved in creating woollen fabric.”

vogue fabric pattern jacket
Susan’s sewing pattern

The Cultural Difference of Curtains

“Monzie Estate is also working to be as sustainable as possible, they have their own hydroelectric power station, the buildings have been furnished with renovated furniture and much of the soft furnishings have been made from locally sourced fabrics.

Alex and I made re-made curtains from fabric sourced at Remake and other local suppliers.

For me, this was a new skill, while I am very familiar with curtain making the needs of a Scottish house are very different from a New Zealand house.

Our climate is milder and we worry more about the sun fading our fabrics than keeping out the cold.

The windows in my living room where I am sitting now are over 5 metres long, the windows I made curtains for at Monzie are only about 1 – 1.5 metres wide.

The curtains are interlined and to me, it was like making a duvet for the window.

Alex and I had a great time creating what are largely hand-sewn curtains for a number of windows”. 

making curtains
Susan making curtains at Monzie Estate


“More and more I enjoy the challenge of using what I have, it stretches my creative skills and it makes me think about the waste I create and how I can reduce this..”


Susan Brebner, 2021


The Wider World

“Working in a new country, working when snow is falling, working in the countryside made me creative in a new way, I wasn’t able to pop down to the local haberdashery store and I really enjoyed the experience and continue to use these skills and habits. 


We have returned to Crieff twice since 2015, Covid 19 makes travelling to the other side of the world a challenge but returning to Scotland, and Crieff in particular is still on our must-do list, this part of the world holds so many happy memories for us”.


COP26 logo

A Huge Opportunity for Scotland (and the World!)

I’m sharing Susan’s story with you today, as world leaders are currently in Glasgow for the first day of the two-week-long COP26 Summit.

Hopefully, all Scots are thinking about both our nation and our world a little differently today.

Elected representatives, activists, environmentalists and scientists are joining our nation’s people in debate (I am so proud of all the local communities supporting delegates with free accommodation).

Hope is in our hearts, but so also is the fear of failure.

By sharing Susan’s story at the beginning of the COP26 conference, I want to highlight the power of reducing, repairing, reusing, upcycling, making and crafting.

Also, the impact that our domestic activity can have around the world.

These are small lifestyle changes everyone is capable of making.


Celebrate Scottish Crafts and Traditions

Blue Noun language school celebrates Scotland’s traditional crafts and way of life. They were harmonious with nature’s cycles and ecosystems. Compare clothing production with the disengaged, and often brutal systems our society practices today -or pays others to practice on our behalf.

Our English immersion holidays share makers with you: people keeping traditional skills and practices alive.

We also bring you to visit local eco businesses. Discover alternative models offering solutions to global problems.

Travel With Care

You can enjoy an immersion English holiday which is language learning built around sharing information (some of which can help the planet).

Just look at how our local Menzie Estates has made a very successful business by collaborating with crafters who furnish their rental properties with their upcycling skills: exchanging time and skills for residential holidays.

Wow and well done!

Culture-Led English Immersion

We call our language school a ‘hub’ because it’s a melting pot of ideas and practices and genuine cultural exchanges.

Intelligent, curious travellers with skills to share can positively impact the places they visit.

Join us for a holiday and meet interesting, creative people while building up your English skills.

With us, it’s all about real cultural exchanges and good communication!


Meet the Makers | Susan Brebner 

Lastly, a huge thank you to Susan for taking the time to write for our English learners. We really appreciate it.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Further Information


Follow the latest news from COP26 here.

Find out about Monzie Estate here.

Visit the Remake website.

Learn more about the Strathearn Wool Studio here.


red text further reading

Language School Blog

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this story of a jacket.

We cover a broad range of topics in our language school blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture. There’s something for everyone.

Interested in the sound of a wintery Scotland? Find out about our local area with this snow-themed blog:

Learn English in Perthshire | Ways of Seeing | Snow & Menhir


red text further reading

Strathearn Wool Studio is a local working farm that demonstrates to visitors the craft of sheep rearing, sheep herding and wool making.

Our Meet the Makers tours take you to meet producers, artists and craftspeople working locally, practising your English in real-world and interesting contexts!

Coloured yarn form Strathearn fleece co

Trip Advisor description of a visit to Strathearn Wool Studio

Coloured yarn form Strathearn fleece co

Coloured Yarns from our local Strathearn Wool Studio (screenshot from Insta) 

 Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is:


“What does a Scottish wool studio look like?”


The Strathearn Wool Studio is an example of a local company making fabric and clothes from local wool.

What do you think you would see there? (There’s a Trip Advisor review to help inspire you).

Draw a sketch or map if you like,  and label it with vocabulary words.

English language hint:

When you give descriptions, remember it’s a place where, a machine which, a person who

Write as much as you like, and if you would like us to check &  correct your English, write CP  (correct please) at the end.

“What does a wool studio look like?”