The History and Making of Harris Tweed

  • Added:
    Aug 19, 2014
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The History and Making of Harris Tweed Photo by Jack Jensen

In Outer Hebrides of Scotland, the islanders used to hand wove cloth which is called Harris Tweed. It is usually hand woven in their homes.  Pure virgin wool is used to make this cloth. An act, named as Harris Tweed act was passes in parliament to protect Harris Tweed.

In the nineteenth century, industry was set up in Scotland, which changed the process of making clothes. The industry started making it with machines, but the islanders continued their tradition process even after the installment of industry. Lewis and Harris were known by their weaving, but these clothes were meant for home and local market. Crofters started making this cloth, so that they can protect themselves from colder environment. The cloth gained so importance that it was used in a barter system. From this Harris Tweed chair has been created which popular a lot in the past as well as today. 

Production Process of Harris Tweed:

Shearing: Pure virgin wools were used for the creation of Harris Tweed. The fleeces of Scottish Blackface and local sheep’s were mixed together to make wool. The mixing created extraordinary characteristics of wool. 

Washing and Dying: After shearing of the wool, the wool is delivered to the main mill and it is stored in large bales. After delivering, it is dyed in different colors so that the product is made out of it.

Blending and Carding: Dying of wool is done and predetermined colors are added so that the exact color can be formed. Mechanical and toothed rollers are then used for carding. These machines mix these fibers with jaws of toothed rollers.

Spinning: After the mixing of fiber, it becomes soft and it is spanned so that it gains maximum strength. This is done so that it does not tear while weaving. On the left to right thread it is wounded onto bobbins and vertical threads are then wrapped before supplying to weavers.

Warping: These threads which numbers in the thousands are wrapped together in definite order so that they can be delivered. These threads are wrapped on the large hanks and then delivered to the weavers.

Weaving: These wrapped fibers are hand woven in homes. The clothes are made of different patterns as per the demand in the market. Different designs and styles are made on the clothes to make it attractive. Different clothes are made for different purposes. These clothes are made by using simple pedal machine.

Finishing: The cloth after weaving is then returned to the mills in greasy state and flaws are corrected by the hands of darners. Soda and soapy water are used to remove any type of stain on the cloth. It is then pressed and cropped according to the demand and made in different sizes.

Stamping: Mills are visited weekly by the Harris Tweed Authority and their trademark is ironed on the cloth. It is a seal of authenticity. Harris Tweed sofas, armchair and other more stuff are also made using this cloth.

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