For centuries, the inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland have woven a beautiful and intricate cloth known as Harris Tweed entirely by hand. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, this cloth was used on their crofts or sold at local markets, but in 1846 Lady Dunmore chose to have her clan tartan replicated by Harris weavers. The results proved so successful that Lady Dunmore devoted much time marketing the tweed to her wealthy friends and soon it became highly sought after in the highest social circles. Between 1903 and 1906 the tweed making industry was in full swing and in Lewis to the north, new carding and spinning mills were built to meet the increasing orders.
To protect the good name of Harris Tweed from imitations, a special meeting was held in Stornoway in 1906. The Harris Tweed Association Limited was set up to ensure the grant of a new trademark. The Certification Mark was granted in 1909, registered in 1910 and stamping began in 1911. This gave confidence to the trade and public.
1934 saw the use of mill spun yarn in addition to hand spun, enabling a huge leap in production. In its rise to prominence, Harris Tweed scaled Everest and graced the Silver Screen, sailed the Seven Seas and showed off on red carpets and catwalks. By the middle of the 20th century, Harris Tweed had secured its status as a true and timeless classic textile.
In the early 1990s, the industry transformed and modernised itself by producing a new double width loom, re-trained weavers, introduced new, tougher quality standards and marketed a new wider, softer, lighter tweed. The Harris Tweed Authority took over from the Harris Tweed Association in 1993 by Act of Parliament. The Act promotes and maintains the authenticity, standard and reputation of this world-famous cloth and gives legal powers to address imitation and counterfeiting of the cloth worldwide.
The mark of the Orb, pressed onto every length of cloth and seen on the traditional label affixed to finished items, guarantees the highest quality tweed – pure virgin wool, dyed, spun and handwoven by islanders of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in their homes.
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