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Harris Tweed Blue Herringbone Range
Harris Tweed Folio Sleeve
Hebridean Island Pendants
Black and White Herringbone Harris Tweed Gifts
Tweed Purse
I Love Harris Tweed
Scottish Landscapes
I Love Harris Tweed
By Rosie

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About Harris Tweed

  
 

Harris Tweed (Cl Mr or Cl na Hearadh in Gaelic) is a cloth that has been handwoven by the islanders on the Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, using local wool.

 

Tweed is a rough, unfinished woolen fabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture, resembling cheviot or homespun, but more closely woven. It is made in either plain or twill weave and may have a check or herringbone pattern. Subdued, interesting colour effects (heather mixtures) are obtained by twisting together differently coloured woolen strands into a two- or three-ply yarn.

Every length of cloth is stamped with the official Orb symbol, trademarked by the Harris Tweed Association in 1909, when Harris Tweed was defined as "hand-spun, hand-woven and dyed by the crofters and cottars in the Outer Hebrides."

 

 

Machine-spinning and vat-dyeing have since replaced hand methods, and only weaving is now done in the home under the governance of the Harris Tweed Authority established by an act of Parliament in 1993. Harris Tweed is now defined as "hand woven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the islands of Harris, Lewis, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra and their several purtenances (The Outer Hebrides) and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.

 

History


During the economic difficulties of the Highland potato famine of 1846-7, Catherine Murray, Countess of Dunmore was instrumental in the promotion and development of Harris Tweed as a sustainable and local industry. Recognising its sales potential, she had the Murray family tartan copied in tweed by the local weavers and suits were made for the Dunmore estate gamekeepers and gillies. Proving a success, Lady Dunmore sought to widen the market by removing the irregularities caused by dyeing, spinning and weaving (all done by hand) in order to bring it in line with machine-made cloth. She achieved this by organising and financing training in Alloa for the Harris weavers and by the late 1840s a London market was established which led to an increase in sales of tweed.

 

With the industrial revolution the Scottish mainland turned to mechanisation, but the Outer Hebrides retained their traditional processes of manufacturing cloth. Until the middle of the 19th century the cloth was only produced for personal use within the local market. It was not until between 1903 and 1906 that the tweed-making industry in Lewis significantly expanded. Production increased until the peak figure of 7.6 million yards was reached in 1966. However the Harris Tweed industry declined along with textile industries in the rest of Europe. Harris Tweed has survived because of its distinctive quality and the fact that it is protected by an act of Parliament limiting the use of the Sovereign's Orb trademark to tweeds made in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

 

Recent Times


In December 2006 a Yorkshire businessman, Brian Haggas, bought Kenneth Mackenzie Ltd (KM Group) in Stornoway which by then accounted for about 95 per cent of Harris Tweed production. Textiles entrepreneur Brian Haggas, 75, who owns textile firm the John Haggas Group, also bought Parkend, a small tweed mill on the outskirts of Stornoway and closed it down. Haggas then reduced all the 8000 Harris Tweed designs down to four, refused to sell to any one else and started producing exclusively for his own garment production. In May 2008, Haggas announced the redundancy of 36 millworkers in Stornoway.

 

In December 2007, Harris Tweed Hebrides acquired the closed mill at Shawbost on the Isle of Lewis. Harris Tweed Hebrides is chaired by former UK government minister Brian Wilson and the main investor is his friend Ian Taylor, president of oil trader Vitol.

 

The fictional character Robert Langdon, from the novels Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol, wears Harris Tweed,[8] as does the fictional detective Miss Marple, the second and eleventh portrayals of the fictional Doctor from the television series Doctor Who, and Glasgow University Rugby Football Club. Jasper Fforde also uses a fictional character named Harris Tweed in his Thursday Next series, most notably in Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots.

 

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is a fan of Harris Tweed - her brand logo is very similar to Harris Tweed's logo.  The Harris Tweed Authority pursued a long-running legal case to stop her using the Orb trade mark but Westwood won by being able to point to three minor differences between her logo and Harris Tweed's. While she has used Harris Tweed, the logo is often attached to products that are not made with Harris Tweed.

 

 

 

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