16 November 2013

The need for tweed

Harris Tweed is the must-have item of the moment - and hurrah, a bit of clever marketing is reviving this little corner of the weaving industry.
Harris Tweed cases for just about everything - each with its label
Harris Tweed ("a cloth that rises above fad and fashion") has a rich history - in 1864 Lady Dunmore, the widow of the Earl of Dunmore, had the Murray tartan copied by Harris weavers in tweed. The resulting cloth proved so successful that sales spread from the local area to a number of the major towns in the UK. The process was improved and new looms developed - the Hattersley domestic loom, introduced in 1919, was soon found in 1000 Hebridean homes. By 1911 the Harris Tweed Orb stamp, a mark of certification, could be seen on genuine products.

In 1966, peak production was 7.6 million yards of cloth ... and then came a period of decline, despite the industry's attempts to transform and modernise. The recent revival is due to "a market return to quality workmanship and value placed in artisan products but mainly thanks to the faith, perseverance and sheer hard work of island business men and women who refused to allow their precious local industry to die out."
It's not genuine without the label
The crucial requirement is that it must be handwoven in the home of the weaver. The company that has been working to revitalise the industry since 2007 now has 130 home weavers - and the cloth is used not just for clothing but for "technology accessories", scarves, and footwear.

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