Harris Tweed celebrates its 100th Anniversary

In the first of a three part series on Harris Tweed, Make it British presents Lara Platman’s book that marks the 100th Anniversary of this special fabric.

Harris Tweed Colours
Yarn waiting to be spun into Harris Tweed. Photo: Lara Platman

It was a century ago that the Scottish textiles industry registered it’s trademark Orb stamp, and Harris Tweed has not changed much since. Still woven by hand in the Outer Hebrides, the wool cloth is so protected that each metre that leaves the islands has it’s own ‘passport’ registered with the Harris Tweed Authority so that it can be traced back to the person that brought it to life.

Spinning Harris Tweed
Carding machine producing Harris Tweed. Photo: Lara Platman

The truly British craft of making this precious fabric has just been documented in a beautiful book by Lara Platman, published to mark the 100th anniversary of Harris Tweed. Lara spent a year with the people of the Outer Hebrides, for whom making this fabric is a way of life. What she discovered in her time spent in this remote part of Scotland was a self sustained community that has been in existence since the Ice Age. As Lara puts it, “The Islanders are so complete in what they produce  that it is only the demands of a modern lifestyle that make it necessary to import anything at all.”

Weaving Harris tweed
Spinning the yarn. Photo: Lara Platman

With a growing demand by consumers to know about the provenance of the products that they buy, Harris Tweed is now in much demand, and as a result the industry has more work for weavers than it has had for many years.

Harris Tweed
Terence Bloomfield, Harris Tweed weaver. Photo: Lara Platman

Because it is hand woven, no two lengths of Harris Tweed are the same, and each bears the hallmark of the weaver that has made it. However, what each length of cloth has in common is its relation to the colours of the landscape and the hues of the sky of this part of the British Isles. There may be up to 20 colours in one design, and this is what makes Harris Tweed so special.

Harris Tweed Orb. Photo: Lara Platman
Harris Tweed Orb. Photo: Lara Platman

In our next post we will be looking at British clothing brands that are using Harris Tweed today. If you would like to suggest a brand to be featured then please leave a comment below.

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street, by Lara Platman (Available from Frances Lincoln)

6 thoughts on “Harris Tweed celebrates its 100th Anniversary”

  1. Pingback: Make It British -Harris Tweed 3rd October 2011 « Photofeature

  2. Great post about Harris Tweed! <3 I took a photo similar to that first one when I visited the island a few years (wow, is it really years?) ago. I love the endless possibilities of colours and weaves, I don't know how people can still think of it as a "man's cloth".

    Anyway, I'm wittering away here 😉 I'm a designer almost ready to launch my first collection (I found your blog as you have started following my Twitter – http://twitter.com/bysophiejayne) which will be designed entirely in Harris Tweed and *hopefully* entirely made in the UK.

    Feel free to get in touch if you'd like any more information or any images etc

    Sophie 🙂

  3. Pingback: Does Tweed Run = midlife crisis? « cyclostyle

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