Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed Isle of Harris shop inside

Harris Tweed

is probably the best known of all the products of Lewis and Harris. The hard wearing, and now fashionable again cloth, has been woven in the homes of the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra for hundreds of years.

Originally called Clo Mhor in Gaelic, meaning ‘the big cloth’, its potential was realised by Lady Dunmore in 1846, when she had local weavers copy the Murray tartan in Tweed.

After the huge success of this venture, she improved the process and marketed the product to her friends. Today, the high quality cloth can be viewed all over the world.

Harris Tweed trade mark

The official trademark

For clothing and textiles to be called Harris Tweed,  every weaver, dyer, blender, carder, spinner, warper, finisher and inspector of the cloth must be resident of the Outer Hebrides.

Not all parts of the production process take part on Harris though.  The three biggest mills for the Tweed are on the Isle of Lewis

The role to protect and promote the Harris Tweed ® brand across the world is held by the Harris Tweed Authority

A quote from their website  Harris Tweed is the only fabric in the world governed by its own Act of Parliament and the only fabric produced in commercial quantities by truly traditional methods'.

Traditional loom weaving

Traditional loom weaving.

The Weaver at the side of this article is of the late Marion Campbell.  Her family still weave and have a large shop in Tarbert, with large amount of both goods and cloth.  Below is a video taken some years ago of Marion.  More about Marion

Note the speed of the operation.  These crofters would often work most of the day at the loom and be very productive.

Other weavers have helped raise the profile of Harris Tweed.  A few years ago, a weaver in Luskintyre called Donald John MacKay was asked by the sports company Nike, to produce a few designs in Tweed for a new 'trainer'.  Nike fell in love with his designs and asked Donald John to produce 9,500 meters of fabric.

Now this weaver works in a shed in Luskintyre by himself but still managed to produce 100 meters of Tweed in a week.   Obviously he had to get help and one of the large Mills was brought into complete the order.  The trainer didn't really make a hit, but the promotion of this amazing cloth did.

For information about shops selling Harris Tweed products,   Click here