The jury is still out on how this sought-after twill was first named and with such an extensive history, you may never know for sure. Some believe the fabric was named for its location, The Tweed Valley. Others believe a clerk misread an order for ‘tweel’ in 1826 and erroneously advertised ‘tweed’ for sale in his shop. Originally created to protect Scottish farmers from the cold wet climate, this breathable fabric was made in the home from wool spun on over-sized family looms. Native lichen and wildflowers were used to dye the yarns, creating rich earthy tones.
From Scottish Peasantry to Social Elite
This hardy fabric began to garner attention from the mainland during the second half of the 19th century when large quantities were sold to social elites. As its popularity spread, cheap machine woven tweed began to hit the market. People were quick to capitalize on the widespread appreciation of the original fabric. The Harris Tweed Association Ltd was soon formed to help protect the industry and the integrity of the cloth itself. Just a year later, in 1910 the Harris Tweed Orb and Maltese Cross trademark was registered.
This natural hand-woven fabric is made from the dense breathable fleece of the Border Cheviot sheep roaming the Scottish hillside. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an itchy old-man fabric. Authentic Harris Tweed is soft, warm, and durable. This fantastic textile is naturally biodegradable as well as water, stain, and flame repellent without any additional treatments. Over time, this renowned fabric has taken the world by storm and consumers have welcomed it with open arms.
Handmade Fabric for the Modern Masses
The Harris Tweed Act of 1993 replaced the Harris Tweed Association as a watchdog group to maintain authenticity and quality standards for genuine Harris Tweed fabric. This distinguished textile is still sought out by esteemed designers, celebrities, and royalty while the rest of the world has embraced its rise to prominence. It’s still homemade with virgin wool that is dyed and spun on the islands by hand in remote weaving sheds. Every 50 meters is inspected by someone from the Harris Tweed Authority and stamped with the official trademark by hand.