Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed ("Clò Mór" or "Clò na Hearadh" in Gaelic), is a luxury 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.

Traditional Harris Tweed was characterized by subtle flecks of color achieved through the use of vegetable dyes, including the lichen dyes called "crottle" ("Parmelia saxatilis" and "Parmelia omphalodes" which give deep red- or purple-brown and rusty orange respectively). [Fraser, Jean: "Traditional Scottish Dyes", Canongate, 1983] These lichens are the origin of the distinctive scent of older Harris Tweed. [J.C.T. Uphof, "Dictionary of Economic Plants", Hafner, New York, p. 210, cited at [http://www.lichen.com/usetaxon.html Bibliographical database of the human uses of lichens] retrieved 20 May 2007]


The original name of the cloth was "tweel", the Scots for twill, the cloth being woven in a twilled rather than a plain pattern. A traditional story has the current name coming about almost by chance. About 1830, a London merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm about some "tweels". The London merchant misinterpreted the handwriting understanding it to be a trade-name taken from the name of the river Tweed which flows through the Scottish Borders textile areas, subsequently the goods were advertised as Tweed, the name has remained so ever since. [Dunbar cites Scots philologist W. F. H. Nicolaisen's suggestion that this "too plausible" explanation may be folk etymology, noting a use of "twedlyne" in 1541, and suggesting "tweedling" in parallel to "twilling" as the origin of "tweed"; see John Telfer Dunbar, "The Costume of Scotland", p. 150.]

With the initiation of 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 the textile industries in the rest of Europe. The only major promotional success of Harris Tweed in recent years has been the Nike "Terminator".

Every length of cloth produced 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 conducted 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." [ [http://www.harristweed.org/fabric_hist.htm Harris Tweed Authority, "Fabric History"] , retrieved 21 May 2007.]

Contemporary expansion

In 2004 the American company Nike used the fabric to update a trainer called "The Terminator", a basketball shoe from the 1980s. They ordered 10,000 metres of cloth from mills on the Isle of Harris, using a design by Donald John Mackay, who lives and works in Luskentyre on the island [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3756896.stm BBC News - "Shoemaker Nike's fling with Harris Tweed" ] Tuesday, 19 October, 2004] . They have since used the fabric in other designs of shoe. Another company using Harris Tweed in their products is "The Healthy Back Bag Company" who launched a range of bags in August 2007 [http://www.thehealthybackbag.co.uk/epages/healthyback.storefront/4823328c00527596273fc0a8950f06a8/UserTemplate/HarrisTweed ] .

In Dec 2006 an English businessman bought control of Scotland's renowned Harris tweed industry. Yorkshire entrepreneur Brian Haggas bought KM Group which produces 95% of Harris Tweed and was on the market for four years. Mr Haggas, 75, who owns textile firm the John Haggas Group, also bought Parkend, a tweed mill on the outskirts of Stornoway on Lewis in the Western Isles. The industry employs around 100 mill workers and 150 home-based weavers and makes the world's only commercially produced hand-woven tweed. Business has been in decline for a number of years and the KM Group recently shut one of its two mills, with all work being transferred to Stornoway. With the Haggas mill in Stornoway producing exclusively for its own garment production, a new company - Harris Tweed Hebrides - was formed in December 2007 to acquire the closed mill at Shawbost on the Isle of Lewis. After extensive renovation and investment, it has now started to supply many of the customers who were cut off from Harris Tweed by the Haggas takeover. In May 2008, Haggas announced the redundancy of 36 millworkers in Stornoway. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/article3851077.ece The Times - Hopes for Harris Tweed revival fade with job cuts at Lewis mill ] ]

The fictional character Robert Langdon from the DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons wears Harris Tweed [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/feb/28/books.filmnews The Guardian - "In a packed high court, a new twist in The Da Vinci Code begins to unfold" ] Tuesday February 28 2006] , as does the fictional detective Miss Marple [http://www.nga.gov/westwood/Wilessay.cfm National Gallery of Australia ] - "Vivienne Westwood: 34 years in fashion" ] , and Glasgow University Rugby Football Club.

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is a fan of Harris Tweed - her brand logo is very similar to Harris Tweed's logo.

ee also

*Catherine Murray, Countess of Dunmore
*Lewis Loom Centre
*Traditional dyes of the Scottish Highlands
*Tweed (cloth)


External links

* [http://www.harristweed.org/ Harris Tweed Authority]


*Dunbar, John Telfer: "The Costume of Scotland", London: Batsford, 1984, ISBN 0-7134-2534-2 1984 (paperback 1989, ISBN 0-7134-2535-0)
*Fraser, Jean: "Traditional Scottish Dyes", Canongate, 1983, ISBN 0-8624-1108-4

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Harris Tweed — Harris Tweed, englisch Harris Tweed, ist eine Form des Tweeds, die nur auf den Äußeren Hebriden in Schottland hergestellt werden darf. Echtheitsetikett der Harris Tweed Authority …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Harris-Tweed — Harris Tweed, englisch Harris Tweed, ist eine Form des Tweeds, die nur auf den Äußeren Hebriden in Schottland hergestellt werden darf. Echtheitsetikett der Harris Tweed Authority …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Harris tweed™ — [Harris tweed] noun [U] a type of thick woollen cloth for making coats, jackets, etc. It is woven by hand on the islands of Harris and Lewis in the Outer ↑Hebrides. The ↑Gaelic name is ‘Clo Mhor’ which means ‘the big cloth’ • …   Useful english dictionary

  • Harris tweed — [after Harris (see LEWIS WITH HARRIS), in the Outer Hebrides, where the cloth is made] trademark for a soft, all wool tweed, hand woven on the islands of the Outer Hebrides …   English World dictionary

  • Harris-Tweed — Har|ris|tweed [ hærɪstwi:d], Har|ris Tweed, der; s [engl. Harris (tweed)ȇ, nach Harris, einem Teil der Hebrideninsel Lewis with Harris]: handgesponnener u. handgewebter Tweed: ein Mantel aus H …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Harris tweed{™} — n [U] a type of thick woollen cloth for making coats, jackets, etc. It is woven by hand on the islands of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. The Gaelic name is ‘Clo Mhor’ which means ‘the big cloth’: a Harris… …   Universalium

  • Harris Tweed® — Har|ris Tweed® 〈[hæ̣rıs twi:d] m.; od. s; unz.〉 (bes. für Herrensakkos verwendeter) hochwertiger Oberbekleidungsstoff aus handgesponnenen Garnen [nach dem Herstellungsort Harris, dem südlichen Teil der Hebrideninsel Lewis + Tweed] …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Harris tweed — /hærəs ˈtwid/ (say haruhs tweed) noun a loosely woven tweed made and finished by hand in the Outer Hebrides, especially in the islands of Lewis and Harris, off the W coast of Scotland. {trademark} …   Australian English dictionary

  • Harris tweed — noun trademark handwoven tweed made traditionally on the island of Lewis and Harris in Scotland …   English new terms dictionary

  • Harris Tweed — n. a kind of tweed woven by hand in Harris in the Outer Hebrides …   Useful english dictionary