Friday, March 19, 2010

Fiber Arts Harris Tweed article

My wife ran across a great article in Fiber Arts Magazine about Harris Tweed and thought I would find it interesting.

I did, and now I am sharing it with you, dear reader.

There's a lot of very specific information in there about the actual process of creating the textile (and how it has evolved over time) itself...

At that time, the method for producing Harris Tweed was a simpler version of today's process. The raw material of wool was all produced locally, at one time solely by blackface sheep. Part of it was used in the natural, uncolored state; the rest was dyed, using plant materials until the introduction of chemical dyes in the late 1800s. Then the wool was mixed or blended (the shade being regulated by the amount of colored wool added), oiled to replace any lost natural oils, and teased - that is, pulled apart by the bristly flower head of the teasel plant to open out the fibers and remove any stray material. Next came carding, in which the fibers of the wool were drawn out and evenly arranged. The wool now went to the spinning wheel, which gave the yarn its twist and thereby its strength. After spinning, the yarn was ready for the loom.

There's also plenty of history as well...

In 1840, the Earl of Dunmore, a proprietor of Harris, asked local weavers to copy in tweed his wife's family tartan pattern (Murray tartan) for outfitting the workers on their estate. Lady Dunmore was so enthralled with the quality and presentation of the fabric that she began marketing the local cloth throughout the United Kingdom. Because of its camouflage-like colorings, substantial weight, and hard-wearing qualities, Harris Tweed rose from a regional poor man's cloth to British aristocracy's favorite fabric for outdoor sporting garb. By 1881, some 620 families were employed in the tweed and knit industry, and by 1900, a carding mill was erected in Harris to speed yarn production.

It's from 2001, but it's still well worth 15 minutes of your time.

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