Harris Tweed is the only commercially produced handwoven tweed in the world, and is proudly the only fabric to be protected by its own Act of Parliament - The Harris Tweed Act 1993. This hard wearing pure wool cloth has a rich heritage and history and has been produced by the islanders of the Outer Hebrides for hundreds of years. Traditional methods are used and strict regulations govern the low impact, sustainable production of this beautiful fabric.
The Outer Hebrides is made up of a group of islands named Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra, which are situated off the north west coast of Scotland. The islands are home to every dyer, blender, carder, spinner, warper, weaver, finisher and inspector of Harris Tweed. No part of the process takes place elsewhere.
Long known for the excellence of their weaving, the islanders produce this luxury tweed entirely by hand, skilfully reflecting the colours of the landscape in the very fabric of the cloth. Harris Tweed is loved by designers and fashion houses across the globe and is synonomous with the highest quality.
The Harris Tweed story begins with pure virgin wools which are carefully blended to obtain the very best results. The wool is then dyed, unusually prior to being spun in to yarn, allowing intricate colours to be produced in a myriad of shades. Coloured and white wools are weighed in precise proportions and then thoroughly blended to exact recipes to obtain the perfect hue.
The wool is then carded between mechanical, toothed rollers which tease and mix the fibres thoroughly before it is separated into a fragile yarn. The soft yarn is then twisted to give it strength, and after spinning is wound onto bobbins.
All fabrics have a warp and a weft, the warp being the threads running vertically the length of the fabric, whilst the weft threads run from ‘weft’ to right. Thousands of warp threads are gathered in long hanks in a very specific order before the skilled weaver sets to work threading the warp onto the loom, hand-tying the new yarns to the tail-ends of the previous weave to make it easier.
Harris Tweed must be produced on a treadle loom at the home of each weaver without the use of automation or electricity. The cloth is steadily woven under the watchful eye of the weaver until the creation is complete.
The penultimate part of the process is finishing, when the tweed is returned to the mill to be washed and beaten in soda and soapy water to remove dirt, oil and other impurities, prior to it being steamed, pressed and cropped to a flawless finish.
The final step is examination by the Independent Harris Tweed Authority, before the famous Orb Trademark is ironed on the reverse of the fabric as the ultimate seal of approval.
Only then can this fine fabric be called