The definition of Harris Tweed is enshrined in law, with clear legal criteria laid down in the Harris Tweed Act of 1993.
To meet the legally-prescribed definition of Harris Tweed, tweed has to adhere to a strict specification. This sets out that to be considered Harris Tweed, a tweed must have been “hand-woven by the islanders at their home in the Outer Hebrides and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides”.
Tweed that does not comply with these conditions is not Harris Tweed and cannot be marketed as such. The Orb Mark, Britain’s oldest surviving Certification Mark, is managed and protected by the Harris Tweed Authority, a statutory body.
There are a number of steps involved in producing Harris Tweed from the fleece off the sheep’s back to the finished tweed ready for sale.
Briefly, the process commences at the Harris Tweed mill with 100 per cent new pure wool, mainly from Blackface, cross bred and Cheviot sheep. The untreated wool is washed and scoured in a solution of soap and washing soda. The wool is then hydro-extracted, dyed as necessary and then dried.
Before the yarn reaches the weaver, however, the wool of varying shades has first to be teased and blended. The wool undergoes carding to break the fibres down ready for spinning into yarn. The yarn is then sent to the weaver who sets it up on the loom as per the specified pattern to commence weaving.