Harris Tweed

Five Reasons Why

By Jane H Macmillan, Content Creation and Education Officer, Harris Tweed Authority.

What is it about Harris Tweed that leaves the heart racing? What is it that makes people want more? Why do people long to be a part of the Harris Tweed story? Here are five reasons.

1. People fall for the Outer Hebrides

It may be called the ‘Clo Mor’ (‘Big Cloth’ in Gaelic), but it comes from the heart of a pretty small place; the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The best things really do come in small packages after all. These spirit-grabbing islands lay out the most befitting setting for such a material; the wistful beauty of the moorland, the golden stretches of untouched sand, the grandeur of the Harris mountains, the everchanging surrounding sea. It is little wonder people fall in love with the place. It is an unspoiled vision of natural beauty and an inevitable source of colour and pattern inspiration for our island weavers and pattern designers. Harris Tweed will never forget its roots or where it comes from.  You never forget a place like the Outer Hebrides.

2. People know it is well looked after

It is the only fabric in the world to have its own Act of Parliament. The Harris Tweed Act of Parliament 1993 means that, by law, the only material that can be called Harris Tweed is a tweed which meets the below definition:

  • a tweed made from 100% pure new wool which is dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides
  • a tweed handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides
  • a tweed finished in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

With that, you need a body to protect a material with such a specific and important definition. That body is the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA). The HTA is responsible for promoting and maintaining the authenticity, standard and reputation of Harris Tweed. They also inspect every metre of the woven fabric and when they confirmed that it was been made in accordance with the Act 1993’s legal definition, they will iron the Orb certification mark onto the cloth. It is the ultimate and final seal of approval. The HTA is always ready to answer questions about Harris Tweed and always happy point people in the right direction. No, they do not sell Harris Tweed and no, they do not repair any moth holes found on Harris Tweed jackets. Yes, they put brand policies in place and yes, they watch out for any infringements. Ultimately, they are there to guard the Orb and they do so for the right reasons; for their love of, and maternal bond with, the Harris Tweed brand.

3. People Know it will Last Forever

Harris Tweed has been around for over a century and has proven to be a product that Outer Hebridean islanders should feel very proud of.  Indeed, it is a luxury fabric with a wonderful story but over and above that, it is a fabric with a legendary reputation for quality. Without which, none of the other elements - provenance, protection or history - would mean very much at all.

It is still woven in the worthiest way; by the hands, and from the hearts of Outer Hebrideans. It is not a throwaway fabric. It is a material you keep forever, one you hand down to your grandchildren. It is something you grow very attached to, it is something you fall in love with forever.     

4. People Love the way it Looks

Have you ever really looked at a piece of Harris Tweed? Studied it in depth and noticed colours that you hadn’t realised were there before? People love to discover those unseen colours; the speckles of red in a plain blue herringbone, the splashes of unexpected yellow through a strand of grey yarn. There is so much more to Harris Tweed than what is met at the surface. Look closely and see what colours lie within, and you will fall in love all over again.

5. The People

The weavers, the darners, the spinners, the warpers. The protectors, the designers, the makers, the storytellers. There is an entire family in this Harris Tweed story. A close one, a convivial one, a content one.  They say that when you meet the islanders who live here, you finally understand what the ‘spirit of the Hebrides’ really is.

Photos by Janet Miles (1st and 4th photo), HTA (2nd and 3rd photo) and Carol Ann Peacock (5th photo)

With thanks to Jane H Macmillan and everyone at Harris Tweed Authority.

www.harristweed.org  #WHYHARRISTWEED

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