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Tartan Ferret
Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed

Copied from the Harris Tweed Authority website



Harris Tweed has been described as "the Champagne of fabrics" and is the only fabric in the world governed by  its own Act of Parliament that underpins the unique status of Harris Tweed and decrees that genuine Harris Tweed must be made from pure virgin wool which has been dyed and spun on the islands and handwoven at the home of the weaver in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.


The Cloth ~ Woven with love and care

The rare character and beauty of Harris Tweed is attributable to the fact that is the only fabric produced in commercial quantities by truly traditional methods anywhere in the world. Hundreds of distinctive patterns developed over the centuries, each unique but unmistakably Harris Tweed with its characteristic subtle designs in complex natural shades.

Unusually our wool is dyed before being spun, allowing us to blend a multitude of colours into our yarn. With each thread containing a myriad of different colours a cloth of great depth and complexity is produced. Just look closely to reveal the true nature of your Harris Tweed.

There are also an extensive catalogue of designs to delve into from an array of Plain Twills and traditional Herringbones to more complex Plaids and all combinations thereof. Harris Tweed is also adventurous enough to be woven into contemporary and unconventional patterns and we continue to explore possibilities with clients with each new season.

Soft, tactile, breathable, warm, colourful, sustainable, adaptable...the old image of coarse, scratchy, dour tweed simply does not exist these days. While still retaining its heritage of practicality and longevity, the Harris Tweed of today extols all the qualities and virtues of a truly luxury 21st century fabric.

The People

At the heart of the Harris Tweed industry lies the relationship between the weavers Weaver 250pxand the mills. Neither can survive without the other and their shared history truly tells the story of the cloth.

The Harris Tweed weaver is a true artisan, the master of his loom in the same way a musician relates to his instrument. Each loom will have its own sound, quirks and idiosyncrasies and only the weaver will know how to get the best from it. It may take a weaver hours to ready his loom for weaving a new cloth and once weaving may create four meters of crafted tweed an hour once underway, watching constantly for flaws as they go.

However the weaver is only part of the story, without the skill of the millworkers there would be no yarn to weave. Dozens of specialised jobs take place in the mill sheds, each learned only after years of training. There are professional wool dyers and blenders, yarn spinners and warpers, cloth finishers and stampers and many more roles in between.Blackhouses 300px

From croft to catwalk the men and women of the islands take great pride in their work, the results of which can be seen in every piece of Harris Tweed that leaves their shores.

From shearing to stamping

The Harris Tweed story begins with pure virgin wools which are blended together to gain the advantages of their unique qualities and characteristics. Although most of the wool is grown principally on 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.
Blending & Carding:

ColoursThe 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 fibers thoroughly before it is separated into a fragile, embryonic yarn.

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).

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.

All Harris Tweed is hand woven on a treadle loom at each weaver's 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.

The tweed returns to the mill in its 'greasy state' and here it passes through the Orb 200pxnimble 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.

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.



Why - as the Tartan Authority - are we so interested in Harris Tweed. Well . . .apart from it mirroring the very early days of tartan when villages could have hundreds of individual weavers working in their homes . . .  Harris Tweed tartan is simply BEAUTIFUL! Its texture and its visual subtleties, its mixtures of pure and marled colours take tartan into a new dimension.
AND . . . the very first Harris Tweed ever marketed (taken to London where it  sold like hot cakes, or as we would say in Scotland, 'Went like snow aff a dyke!') - was a TARTAN . . .  the Murray of Atholl.
So, Harris Tweed tartan has a long lineage before it was smothered by the world famous tweeds.

But, the age of enlightenment has pierced the clouds over the Isles and you'll see more and more Harris Tweed tartans coming onto the market and showing off their aesthetic splendour in the form of kilts.
To see one is to want one!
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 The Islands ~ Home of Harris Tweed

The long, barren archipelago on the far north west tip of Europe is home to every dyer, blender, carder, spinner, warper, weaver, finisher and inspector of Harris Tweed. No part of the process takes place elsewhere.

As such the land and people are woven into the very fabric of the cloth, reflecting as it does the colours of the landscapes, the beauty of our vistas and the values of our people.

To the north of the remote string of islands lies Lewis, a rugged and bleakly beautiful land of heather and moor, loch and stream and home to the three main mills and the main harbour town of Stornoway. Lewis is connected by a narrow isthmus of land to Harris in south. More mountainous than its northern brother, Harris has some of the world's finest beaches of golden fine shell sand, shallow azure blue seas and a myriad of hidden crofts and villages. South of this main body a string of smaller islands tails off to the south, the machair meadows and loch laden isles of the Uists and beautiful Barra at the furthest tip.


Mixing 200px


Finished yarn

Finished tweeds



Stornoway Harbour

© Scottish Tartans Authority
Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

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