For well over a century Harris Tweed has been woven with skill and care by CROFTERS in their own homes just as it is today. From the gentry of early 20th century high living to the catwalks and couturiers of today, Harris Tweed has long been the choice of the discerning.
The regions of Lewis and
Harris had long been known for the excellence of the weaving done there,
but up to the middle of the nineteenth century, the cloth was produced
mainly for home use or for local market.
Originally this handmade fabric was woven by crofters
for familial use, ideal for protection against the colder climate of
the North of Scotland. Surplus cloth was often traded or used as barter,
eventually becoming a form of currency amongst the islanders. For
example, it was not unusual for rents to be paid in blankets or lengths
By the end of the 18th Century, the spinning
of wool yarn from local raw materials was 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 dry hides, goat and deer skins.
The original name of the cloth was tweel, Scots for twill,
it being woven in a twilled rather than a plain pattern. A traditional
story has the name coming about almost by chance. Around 1830, a London
merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm about some tweels. The London merchant misinterpreted the handwriting, understanding it to be a trade-name taken from the river Tweed that flows through the Scottish Borders. Subsequently the goods were advertised as Tweed, and the name has remained ever since.