Harris Tweed

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The Harris Tweed Orb
Image:Harris tweed loom.jpg
Tweed loom, Harris, 2004

Harris Tweed (Clò Mór or Clò na Hearadh in Gaelic), is a luxury cloth that has been handwoven by the islanders on the Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, using local wool.

The original name was tweel, the Scots for 'twill', the cloth being woven in a twilled rather than a plain pattern. The current name came about almost by chance. About 1830, a London merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm about some tweels. The London merchant misinterpreted the handwriting understanding it to be a trade-name taken from the name of the river Tweed which flows through the Scottish Borders textile areas, subsequently the goods were advertised as Tweed, the name has remained so ever since.

Scotland was the second country to experience the Industrial Revolution, very shortly after England. The mainland turned to mechanisation but the Outer Hebrides retained their traditional processes of manufacturing cloth. Until the middle of the 19th century the cloth was only produced for personal use within the local market. It was not until between 1903 and 1906 that the tweed-making industry in Lewis significantly expanded. Production increased until the peak figure of 7.6 million yards was reached in 1966. However, the Harris Tweed industry declined along with the textile industries in the rest of Europe. The only major promotional success of Harris Tweed in recent years has been the Nike "Terminator".

Image:Nike harris tweed.jpg
The Nike Harris Tweed Shoe

Every length of cloth produced is stamped with the official Orb symbol, trademarked by the Harris Tweed Association in 1909 and now governed by the Harris Tweed Authority [1]. An Act of Parliament passed in 1993 ensured that only tweed with this logo was genuine.

[edit] Nike Terminator

The American company Nike recently used the fabric to update a trainer called The Terminator, a basketball shoe from the 1980s. They ordered 10 000 metres of cloth from mills on the Isle of Harris, using a design by Donald John Mackay, who lives and works in Luskentyre on the island.

The fictional character, Robert Langdon, from the DaVinci Code wears Harris Tweed, as does the fictional detective Miss Marple. Vivienne Westwood is a big fan of Harris Tweed - her brand logo is very similar to Harris Tweed's logo.

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[edit] See also

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