Tweed is one of those rare textiles that simply never goes out of fashion. What began as a rough woollen cloth woven by crofters has become an iconic fabric with a global reach.
Used for everything from traditional men’s suits, to haute couture catwalks. And there’s even National Tweed Day, which is held every year on 3rd April to celebrate this wonderful cloth.
Some people might still associate tweed with Victorian aristocrate, country living, hunting and fishing..... But this is so wrong. Tweed defies convention. Why else would David Bowie be sporting a pair of tweed Oxford bags on the cover of his 1971 Hunky Dory album? And the actor Matt Smith put the spotlight on tweed in 2010 when he chose to wear it in his role as Doctor Who.
Fashion designers are always rediscovering tweed and way of adapting it to their collections – falling in love with its heritage, beauty and ability to produce clothing with a modern twist. From Vivienne Westwood’s autumn/winter 1988/89 Time Machine Collection to Chanel’s autumn/winter 2022 Collection which was entirely devoted to tweed. Tweed simply never goes out of fashion
WHAT IS TWEED?
Essentially, tweed is a woollen fabric woven to produce a plain twill or various other common patterns such as herringbone and checks. Different colour effects are produced by mixing dyed wool before it is spun.
It is thought that the word tweed originates from the Scottish word ‘tweel’ which describes tweed’s characteristic twill weave.
Tweed is an extremely warm, naturally moisture-resistant and hard-wearing fabric that drapes well. It was first used for practical outer wear but is also perfect for tailored clothing like jackets, suits, skirts, coats and even kilts. It can also be made into accessories such as hats, gloves and bags.
Because tweed is made from wool it is both sustainable and will last for many years.
In Scotland, the most famous is Harris Tweed, still hand woven on the Isle of Harris and Lewis. Other amazing types of tweed are made in England and Ireland – particularly in County Donegal.
Although tweed is traditionally made with pure spun wool, modern variations often blend wool with other fibres to create new finishes. Such fibres can include: silk, linen, alpaca, cashmere, and viscose.
TYPES OF TWEED PATTERNS
Plain twill: A plain twill weave with a typical diagonal pattern. It can be just one colour or mottled.
Barleycorn: A flecked pattern that resembles barley kernels.
Herringbone: A distinctive broken twill pattern of zigzags resembling fish bones.
Houndstooth: A contrasting broken check pattern, said to resemble a dog’s back teeth. Smaller patterns are also called dogtooth or pied-de-poule.
Checked: A pattern of vertical and horizontal lines in two colours creating small squares. Can also include a larger overcheck in a third colour. Tweeds with a contrasting check/overcheck design.
Striped: A striking pattern created by vertical line of different sizes and colours. It can also include a contrasting overcheck.
Tartan: A characteristic pattern, or sett, woven in classic Scottish clan, Irish, Estate or other tartans.
HARRIS TWEED - 'THE BIG CLOTH'
Known in Scottish Gaelic as ‘Clo Mor’ (big cloth), Harris Tweed has a global reputation for its quality, distinctive character and beauty. It is named after the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides where it has been made for hundreds of years. And it is still made in commercial quantities by hand on the island today.
It is also distinguished from other tweeds by being the only fabric to be protected by law. The Harris Tweed Act of 1993 defines Harris Tweed as: Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.
The Act brought into being the Harris Tweed Authority which oversees the production and inspection of the cloth and is responsible for granting the use of the famous Harris Tweed registered trademark logo.
The careful protection of the Harris Tweed industry means that customers can be sure that they are buying an authentic item made with tweed cloth unlike any other. This is what makes Harris Tweed so special.
The wool used for Harris tweed cloth is dyed before it is spun which means that different colours can be combined to produce tweed cloth with a wide range of subtle shades and textures.
This video made by the Harris Tweed Authority shows how traditional skills and modern designs come together:
The Big Cloth from Harris Tweed Authority on Vimeo
OTHER TYPES OF TWEED
Donegal tweed: A handwoven tweed with a long tradition of manufacture in County Donegal in Ireland. There are two main designs - ‘salt and pepper’, with flecks of colour throughout; and herringbone.
Silk tweed: A fabric made of raw silk with flecks of colour.
Saxony tweed: A soft tweed made from merino wool from the Saxony region in eastern German. Sometimes mixed with worsted wool fibres for use in suits.
Cheviot tweed: A thick and densely woven tweed named for the Cheviot sheep first kept in Northumberland.
HIGHLAND STORE TWEED PARTNERS
We decided to partner with Irish weavers John Hanly because they offer amazing quality tweeds. It is a company with a heritage that goes back four generations and it now combines traditional skills and knowledge with a distinctive creative flair.
Another key partner is Abraham Moon & Sons. The company was founded in 1837 in Yorkshire and is now one of the last vertical woollen mills in Great Britain. We love the quality of the tweeds produced by Moons and the fact that they use Shetland wool. Their tweeds are generally lighter in weight compared to the likes of a hand woven Harris Tweed and therefore are a very suitable choice for fitted jackets and coats.
HIGHLAND STORE TWEED COLLECTION
The Highland Store Tweed Collection comprises high quality accessories & ready-to-wear pieces from John Hanly, Moon and of course Harris Tweed. The range includes jackets and coats for men and fashion capes and coats for women to a range of high quality accessories including caps, berets, gloves and bags.