Tweed is a traditional, woven,
heavy woolen outerwear fabric first made in Scotland.
The name comes from tweel a Scottish word for twill
and not the river Tweed as often thought. It is the fabric
that was worn by many of the early Antarctic explorers and
also the mountaineers who first attempted to scale peaks
in the Alps and Himalayas.
it has now been replaced by modern high-tech materials for
extreme situations, it is still a beautiful and high performing,
comfortable material, much used and highly coveted.
Tweed that is made in the Scottish
Outer Hebridean islands of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra
and called Harris Tweed, is widely acknowledged as being
the finest available. In
its homeland, this revered material is known in the original
Mór, "The big cloth."
Harris Tweed is manufactured on the islands, still often
woven in the homes of the islanders on their own looms.
Harris Tweed Act, was passed by the British Parliament to
give international protection to this unique international
industry. The tweed is made in accordance with strictly
controlled processes that combine traditional skills with
rolls of cloth that pass the strict criteria are submitted
to the independent Harris Tweed examiner, who will certify
that it conforms to the legal definition. If all is well,
then the tweed will stamped with the Orb and Cross logo
of the Harris Tweed Authority and the famous and exclusive "ORB"
garment labels will be issued.
Certification Mark was originally granted in 1909, registered
in 1910 and stamping of the rolls of tweed began in 1911.
Originally the cloth was made from wool that came exclusively
from the islands where it was produced, but demand soon
outstripped the supply from this source and in June 1934
amended regulations were made:
tweed was manufactured totally from resources found
on the islands. Before synthetic dyes became commonly
available, the cloth was dyed using a wide range of
vegetable pigments. In particular from lichens such
as the grey lichen Stone Parmelia - known as Crotal
in Gaelic which gave a reddish-brown colour. This had
to be painstakingly scraped from stones around the islands.
The current status
of Harris Tweed is owed to Lady Dunmore, widow of the
late Earl of Dunmore who in 1846 had the weavers in
Harris copy the Murray tartan. She was so impressed
with the result that she dedicated much of her time
and activity to telling her friends about the cloth
and improving the production process.
Hundreds of years
ago, urine from red-haired boys however used to be kept
separate, this was used to quench sword blades as they
were made. It was thought to make the blade particularly
Dyes must be fixed in the fabric using
a mordant to stop them washing out. Before chemical mordants
became commonly commercially available, the usual substance
used was urine. A container was kept in the shed for the
whole family to collect and store it. - Don't worry,
these days, modern mordant agents are used!