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Folklife Festival 2003 > Scotland > Textiles > Harris Tweed
 
harris tweed
   
HARRIS TWEED
 
By British law, Harris Tweed must be "hand-woven by islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist, and Barra in their homes, using pure virgin wool that has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides."

For centuries, residents of these islands off the west coast of Scotland have been famed for their fine weaving. In 1846, Lady Dunmore brought Western Isles weaving to the attention of the British gentry in hopes of providing additional income for local craftspeople. Her scheme worked, and "Harris Tweed" became fashionable throughout Britain. In 1906, to safeguard against competitors, it became one of the first industries to use a trademark.

Originally, tweed was woven on wooden hand looms. In the 1920s, Hebridean weavers switched to commercially manufactured Hattersley single-width domestic looms. Today, the Hattersley has been largely replaced by the newer Bonas-Griffith loom, which is capable of weaving double-width fabric.

Tweed is still woven in "weaving sheds" on crofts (small farms) throughout the islands. However, weavers now rely on several large mills on Lewis to spin and dye the thread and set up the cloth's warp on a beam. The prepared warps are then delivered to individual crofts to be woven. After being woven, the tweed is collected and returned to the factory, where it is finished and shipped to customers throughout the world.

Credits: The Smithsonian Institution thanks the Harris Tweed Authority and the Gaelic Arts Agency for their assistance with this presentation.

 
Coming to the Festival...
 
Donald Angus Martin (Isle of Lewis)

— A Harris Tweed weaver from the Outer Hebrides, Martin will demonstrate how he weaves the celebrated fabric at his croft and explain how the system of home weaving is organized in the Western Isles. In addition to weaving, Martin is also a fine Gaelic singer. The Harris Tweed Authority in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, is assisting the Smithsonian with this presentation. www.harristweed.org

 
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