Overview

HARRIS TWEED… LET’S GET WEAVING!!

SENSE

the sights, sounds, smell and feel of the iconic Harris Tweed®.

The first stop on the tour is my loom shed in the village of Vatisker. With the loom, I demonstrate the process of transforming simple woollen threads to the final woven Harris Tweed®.

During the demonstration, the adventurous amongst you will even get an opportunity to pedal the loom. Who knows where your bit of finished Harris Tweed® will end up!!

I’m sure several questions will be raised on the day and I’ll answer those as we go along so this makes for a highly interactive experience.

Here are the basics …

Wool

There are two elements, the Warp and the Weft, which are fed into the loom.

Warp has 1560 individual threads wound onto the beam. When starting a new tweed each thread needs to be tied into the loom. Yes … that’s 1560 knots!!

Weft consists of single thread wound onto bobbins

Loom

This is the double-width loom. As you can see the warp and weft have been fed in and we are ready to start weaving.

Weaving

The loom is a complex arrangement, so I’ll leave the exact detail of weaving for the live demonstration, but to put it simply, I pedal, and Harris Tweed® is made! …

Final Tweed

The tweed is continuously fed around the roller and once the final length has been woven it is cut away from the loom and pleated into a bundle ready for collection.

Your Free Souvenir

It’s good to capture the moment so I can take your photo sitting at the loom, which is then inserted in a personalised, free souvenir for you to take home.

Process

Starting from the raw sheep wool to a Harris Tweed® jacket, for example, a lot goes into the journey of the fabric.

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Shearing

Harris Tweed® cloth is made with pure virgin wools, which are blended together to gain the advantages of their unique characteristics. Although most of the wool comes from the Scottish mainland, in the early summer, the island communities join together to round up and shear the local sheep, which are dotted throughout the landscape.

Washing & Dying

Once sheared the wool is taken to the factories of the main tweed producers where it is washed and then dyed.

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Blending & Carding

The coloured and white wools are weighed in predetermined proportions and then thoroughly blended to exact recipes to obtain the perfect hue. It is then carded between mechanical, toothed rollers which tease and mix the fibres thoroughly before it is separated into a fragile, embryonic yarn.

Spinning

This soft yarn then has a twist imparted to it as it is spun to give it maximum strength for weaving. The spun yarn is wound onto bobbins to provide the ingredients of weft (left to right threads) and warp (vertical threads).

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Warping

This vitally important process sees thousands of warp threads gathered in long hanks in very specific order and wound onto large beams ready to be delivered, together with yarn for the weft, to the weavers.

Weaving (introducing the weft yarn to the warp yarn creating Harris Tweed®)

All Harris Tweed® is hand woven on a loom at each weavers’ home. The weaver will arrange hundreds of “heddles” to a specified pattern before the beam of warp yarn is “tied in” to the loom by hand. The weaver will then set up the weft threads, pulling bobbins of yarn through a series of guides to be woven into the warp threads by a flashing “rapier”. Once ready the weaver begins to weave, always observing, correcting, mending and amending their creation until complete.

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Finishing

The tweed returns to the mill in its ‘greasy state’ and here it passes through the nimble hands of experienced and sharp-eyed darners who correct even the smallest of flaws. Once ready the cloth is finished. Dirt, oil and other impurities are removed by washing and beating in soda and soapy water before it is dried, steamed, pressed and cropped to a perfect, flawless condition.

Stamping

The final process is the examination by the independent Harris Tweed® Authority, before application of the famous “Orb” trademark which is ironed on to the fabric as the ultimate seal of approval.

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Our History

From time immemorial, the inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland have woven a beautiful and intricate cloth the world knows simply as Harris Tweed®.

The islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra had long been recognised for the excellence of their weaving. However, up until the middle of the nineteenth century, their cloth was used only on their crofts or sold at local markets.

In 1846, Lady Dunmore, widow of the landowner of Harris, the Earl of Dunmore, had the clan tartan replicated by Harris weavers in tweed. The results proved so successful that she began to devote much time and effort to marketing the tweed to her wealthy friends further afield.

As a result, sales of the island cloth were soon established with merchants across the country.

The History behind Harris Tweed®

The original name of the cloth was tweel, Scots for twill, it being woven in a twilled rather than a plain pattern. A traditional story has the 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 river Tweed that flows through the Scottish Borders textile area. Subsequently, the goods were advertised as Tweed, and the name has remained ever since.

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