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.