THE HARRIS TWEED COLLECTION
why its so special
Exceeding Your Expectations
Harris Tweed is a tweed cloth that is handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides. This definition, quality standards and protection of the Harris Tweed name are enshrined in the Harris Tweed Act 1993.
For centuries, the islanders of Lewis and Harris, the Uists, Benbecula and Barra wove cloth known as clò-mòr - literally, "big cloth" in Scottish Gaelic - by hand. Originally woven by crofters, this cloth was woven for personal and practical uses and was ideal protection against the often cold climate of northern Scotland. The cloth was also used for trade or barter, eventually becoming a form of currency amongst islanders; it was not unusual for rents to be paid in blankets or lengths of clò-mòr.
By the end of the 18th century, the spinning of wool yarn from local raw materials had become a staple industry for crofters. Finished handmade cloth was exported to the Scottish mainland and traded, along with other commodities produced by the Islanders, such as goat and deer skins.
When Alexander Murray, 6th Earl of Dunmore, inherited the North Harris Estate from his father in 1836, production of tweed in Outer Hebrides was still entirely manual. Wool was washed in soft, peaty water before being dyed using dyestuffs derived from local plants and lichens. It was then processed and spun, before being hand woven by the crofters in their cottages.
Traditional island tweed was characterised by the flecks of colour achieved through the use of natural dyes, including the lichen known as "crottle" (Parmelia saxatilis and Parmelia omphalodes), which gave the fabric deep red or purple-brown and rusty orange colours respectively. The use of these lichens also resulted in a distinctive scent that made older Harris Tweed fabrics easily identifiable.
Upon the death of the 6th Earl of Dunmore in 1843, responsibility for his estate on the Isle of Harris passed to his wife, Lady Catherine Herbert. Lady Catherine noticed the marketing potential and high quality of the tweed cloth produced locally by two sisters from the village of Strond. Known as the Paisley Sisters after the town where they had trained, the fabric woven by them was of a remarkably higher quality than that produced by untrained crofters. In 1846, the Countess commissioned the sisters to weave lengths of tweed with the Murray family tartan. She sent the finished fabric to be made up into jackets for the gamekeepers and ghillies on her estate. Being hardwearing and water resistant, the new clothing was highly suited to life on the Dunmores' estate. Her ideas were complemented by the work of "Fanny" Beckett. She organised the weavers and created training an quality control and promoted Harris Tweed as a sustainable and local industry.
The Countess began to promote the local textile as a fashionable cloth for hunting and sporting wear. It soon became the fabric of choice for the landed gentry and aristocracy of the time, including members of Queen Victoria’s inner circle. With demand established for this high quality "Harris Tweed", Lady Catherine sent more girls to the Scottish mainland for training. She improved the yarn production process to create a more consistent, workable cloth and by the late 1840s, merchants from Edinburgh to London were supplying the privileged classes with hand-woven Harris Tweed.
"Fanny" Beckett moved to London in 1888 and the "Scottish Home Industries" which managed the new product, became a limited company in 1896.
From this point on, the Harris Tweed industry grew, reaching a peak production figure of 7.6 million yards in 1966.
OUR HARRIS TWEED COMES STRAIGHT FROM THE WEAVERS IN THE ISLES OF HARRIS AND LEWIS, AND OUR CUSHIONS, CLOCKS AND CANDLES ARE ALL MADE FROM OUR HOME IN SOUTH UIST, OUTER HEBRIDES