Harris Tweed is so special, so luxurious and so iconic that it’s actually protected by an Act of Parliament. The Harris Tweed Act of 1993 protects the brand from cheaper, lower quality imitations, and gives consumers the confidence to know they are buying only the finest material from registered, trusted specialists.
The fabric has been manufactured in the Outer Hebrides for many centuries, and was once used as a form of currency. To this day, many parts of the manufacturing process are carried out at the homes of skilled weavers, using traditional techniques that have changed little over the years. This is a unique material, and it offers truly unique characteristics.
Only pure virgin wools are used, mainly from sheep on the Scottish mainland, so each product can maintain the qualities that we have come to expect. Unlike many other forms of wool, Harris Tweed is dyed before being spun. While this process is still traditional, it’s reassuring to know that it’s performed to exacting, environmentally friendly standards.
The various shades of dyed and natural wool are blended to exact recipes in order to create the final fabric. It’s then teased and mixed via a process known as carding. This creates a fragile yarn which is then spun to give it strength, before being sent to the homes of skilled weavers.
Traditional techniques to ensure perfection
Harris Tweed is woven on traditional treadle looms, slowly and steadily in order to maintain quality. This is a highly skilled operation, requiring patience and experience, and a good eye for potential errors which affect the final look. Once the weavers are happy with their work, the tweed is sent back to the mills for finishing.
At this stage, the fabric is said to be ‘greasy’, so once it has been darned it’s then washed and beaten in order to remove impurities. Soda and soapy water are used before the wool is dried, steamed and pressed, a process that leaves it looking and feeling perfect. The journey from sheep to showroom is almost complete now, but there’s one more job to be done, and it’s perhaps the most important of all.
The final examination is carried out by the independent Harris Tweed Authority, whose job is to maintain the very highest of standards. Once they are satisfied, then and only then can the iconic Orb Trademark, symbol of Harris Tweed perfection, be added. If you have any items that don’t feature the Orb, it won’t be genuine Harris Tweed.