|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
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