The Orb Trademark, pressed onto every length of cloth and seen on the traditional woven label affixed to finished items, guarantees the highest quality, 100% pure new wool Harris Tweed, dyed, spun and handwoven by islanders of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland at their homes, to the laws outlined in the 1993 Harris Tweed Act of Parliament. Follow the wonderful story……
The Harris Tweed story begins with pure virgin wools, which are blended together to gain the advantages of their unique qualities and characteristics. Although most of the wool is grown principally on the Scottish mainland, in the early summer, the island communities join together to round up and shear the local sheep, which are dotted throughout the landscape.
Harris Tweed is truly dyed in the wool, i.e. the wool is dyed prior to being spun as opposed to dying spun yarn. This means we can blend different coloured wools to create a myriad of intricate shades and hues. No longer can the natural dyes be used, as the vegetation is all protected. However, Harris Tweed is a truly ecologically sound textile, with low-impact VOC (volatile organic compound) absorbent production process, non-allergenic and biodegradable.
The coloured and white wools are weighed in predetermined proportions and then thoroughly blended to exact recipes to obtain the perfect hue. It is then carded between mechanical, toothed rollers which tease and mix the fibres thoroughly before it is separated into a fragile, embryonic yarn.
This soft yarn then has a twist imparted to it as it is spun to give it maximum strength for weaving. The spun yarn is wound onto bobbins to provide the ingredients of weft (left to right threads) and warp (vertical threads).
This vitally important and very skilled process sees thousands of warp threads gathered in long hanks in very specific order and wound onto large beams ready to be delivered, together with yarn for the weft, to the weavers at their homes.
All Harris Tweed is woven on a treadle loom at each weaver's home, not at a mill. The warp and yarns for the weft arrive from the mill, and then the weaver sets to work hand-tying the new yarns to the tail-ends of the previous weave, to make it easier to thread onto the loom. It is then a matter of steadily weaving the cloth, always observing and therefore being able to correct and mend their creation until it is complete.
The tweed returns to the mill in its 'greasy state' and here it passes through the nimble hands of experienced and sharp-eyed darners who correct even the smallest of flaws. Once ready, the cloth is finished. Dirt, oil and other impurities are removed by washing and beating in soda and soapy water, before it is dried, steamed, pressed and cropped to a perfect, flawless condition.
The final process is the examination by the independent Harris Tweed Authority, before application of the famous "Orb Trademark" which is ironed on to the reverse of the fabric as the ultimate seal of approval. Only then can it be called Harris Tweed.