Fall is coming, I assure you. And with it comes tweed in all of its wonderful forms. The most famous of all of the tweed variants is Harris Tweed, which is made on special hand-powered looms in the islands of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. I do my part to wear tweed as much as possible during the colder months, and dream about it the rest of the year. It is a beautiful and versatile fabric, and one steeped in history.
The method and location of manufacture is important to the fabric being officially sanctioned as tweed. All authentic tweed production is made on looms that must be run only under human power. This makes the production an interesting sight (see video below) and creates a wonderful click-clack soundtrack. It almost appears as if the operators are riding a bicycle of sorts. I can only imagine coming in from the wind and cold of the Scottish hills to see someone making tweed. That must be an amazing sight.
In the past few years there has been a bit of a kerfuffle in the world of tweed when Brian Haggas bought KM Group, the company that makes the bulk of the Harris Tweed. Haggas decided that he was going to stop selling Harris Tweed as a fabric and get into the jacket business. The idea must have seemed good on paper, to make one style of jacket in several different tweed colors and sell them all over the world. But the venture proved less successful in real life. And by “less successful” I mean it was a total disaster. Apparently there are thousands of the jackets collecting dust in a warehouse. If it ain’t broke… You can read more about that here.
Haggas was successful in producing this very expensive and beautiful short film on the history of Harris Tweed – though at the cost of some worker’s jobs I hear.
Thankfully Harris Tweed is still readily available and is on offer everywhere from J.Crew to J. Press. As it should be, tweed is ACL’s official fabric for fall.
There are quite a few good tweed videos online, but I couldn’t find the BBC4 tweed doc (Troubled Looms) anywhere. Maybe one of the ACL faithful know where it can be found on the internets.
Comments on “BEHOLD THE POWER OF TWEED”
I have to cast a vote for it being the fabric of fall and winter!
It’s a fantastic fabric with an incredible quality to it. I’ve just bought a Nigel Cabourn Mallory in blue Harris and it’s a thing of utter beauty. Autumn can’t come quick enough now.
Great post. If it wasn’t upper 70’s right now, I would be rocking my Harris Tweed coat!
I only found part 1 of Trouble Looms. Vic is awesome.
(“Harassed Tweed” and “Hanging on by a Thread” are parts 2 and 3, if anyone has those please post up)
You know, I can’t find Harris TWeed on the J.Crew site.
Perhaps they don’t carry it anymore?
Where is the J. Crew harris tweed sportscoat? I see the ludlow tweed coat with Abraham Moon mill tweed.
Here’s an interesting article about the Harris Tweed dying process that I blogged about a couple months ago, just in case ya’ll can’t get enough.
I absolutely adore HT. I’m watching the mercury closely, and when the time comes I’ve got a hat and a couple jackets that will be worn like crazy.
I think I have both episodes of said documentaries as video files I can email them to you , they are on the hefty side in terms of file size. I’m from Scotland and studied Textiles in the Scottish borders so as you can imagine it was of great interest to me..
Anyway long live Scottish textiles and Knitwear though it’s still looking dreach (bleak) for both what i hear from friends and colleagues from back home.
Great post (and great fabric). Hopefully your readers will put their money where their blog is and buy some Harris Tweed. The mills need the business. The MacKenzie mill, by far the largest producer, had a number of layoffs a couple of years ago and there was even talk of closing it down, which thank goodness hasn’t happened. So go buy some tweed, dammit.
If you’re ever in London you must check out the Windsor Castle pub, that is featured in Vic’s program. Amazing place. Tweed is hardcore, it can take a right old battering as it’s designed for hunting etc.
Is there a tweed club in NYC? It seems like there should be at least a tweed gathering at some local establishment mid Fall.
I enjoyed this article very much..well why wouldn’t I since half the pictures are mine and I adore Harris Tweed..
I did enjoy seeing the making very much.I use it in my work, combined with another of my favourite fabrics, velvet. I welcome visitors to my blog to find out more.
More tweed related posts here http://dogdaisychains.blogspot.com/2008/12/bullseye.html and here http://dogdaisychains.blogspot.com/2008/11/heavenly-harris-tweed.html
On the topic of Harris Tweed and J. Crew, Michael Williams is correct.
J. Crew does have a Harris Tweed blazer available right now ( http://www.jcrew.com/womens_feature/catalogjcrewcomexclusives/jacketsouterwear/PRDOVR~29016/99102072501/ENE~1+2+3+22+4294967294+20~~~0~15~all~mode+matchallany~~~~~harris%20tweed/29016.jsp ) , but it is a “menswear-inspired” women’s blazer, Item # 29016.
It’s also possible that the Crew will be stocking more Harris Tweed pieces as Christmas approaches.
I exchanged some email with a mill on Harris earlier this year, in the hopes I could buy some yardages, but the cost of shipping was more than the cost of the fabric, and I couldn’t make it work for my budget. But I may try again some day.
Finding my prized Harris weed flat cap, was one of the highlights of my trip to London last year.
I have a question for everyone or anyone …. I’m really getting into blazers now and looking forward to a tweed one … but my question is I don’t want many blazers (I like to keep things simple) so how often can i get away with wearing the same blazer to the office. It’s a casual, artsy place …. I wear jeans and a button down with some wingtips or boots …. but i’m really looking to add the blazer .. any suggestions on how often I can get away with wearing the same one?
i’d love to get my hands on some of that yardage and make some stuff !!!!
We are sitting on an absolute pile of old tweeds in a Yorkshire warehouse of various weights. Most off the material seems to be from the 1960’s. We are heading over next month to sort through it and see what can be repurposed. Well probably do some blazers and bags, perhaps a car coat.
When I opened the box of sample material the smell was exquisite. Everything from wool,smoke,wet Labrador,grandad, and time hitting you all at once. I’ll forward pics once there.
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