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Harris Tweed woven in a herringbone twill pattern, mid-20th century

Tweed is a rough, coarse, itchy, unfinished woollen fabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture resembling cheviot or homespun, but more closely woven. It is made in either plain or twill weave and may have a check or herringbone pattern. Subdued, interesting colour effects (heather mixtures) are obtained by twisting together differently coloured woolen strands into a two- or three-ply yarn.

Tweeds are desirable for informal outerwear, being moisture-resistant and durable. Once worn in, tweeds are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. "Lovat" is the name given to the green used in traditional Scottish tweed. In Ireland, tweed manufacturing is most associated with Magee of Donegal, a world-famous company based in County Donegal in the Province of Ulster. Tweed has recently come back into fashion with many high street shops and designers adopting the material.

Tweed is also commonly found covering vintage or retro guitar amplifiers, such as the Fender Tweed.

Contents

Etymology

The original name was tweele, the Scots or Scottish for 'twill', the cloth being woven in a twilled rather than a plain pattern. The current name came about almost by chance, according to a tale recounted in Windsor Revisited, written by HRH The Duke of Windsor. About 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 name of the River Tweed which flows through the Scottish Borders textile areas. Subsequently the goods were advertised as Tweed, and the name has remained so ever since.[1]

Tweed, also according to the Duke, was a favourite material of both his grandfather King Edward VII and his father, King George V.

Types of tweed

Harris Tweed 
A luxury cloth handwoven by the islanders on the Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, using local wool. Formerly, Harris Tweed was also handspun and hand dyed with local natural dyes, especially lichens of the genus Parmelia.
Donegal tweed 
A handwoven tweed manufactured in County Donegal, Ireland. Like the Outer Hebrides, Donegal has for centuries been producing tweed from local materials. Sheep thrive in the hills and bogs of Donegal, and indigenous plants such as blackberries, fuchsia, gorse (whins), and moss provide dyes. Magee of Donegal, located in Donegal Town in Ulster, is the most famous tweed manufacturer in Ireland.
Silk tweed 
A fabric made of raw silk with flecks of colour typical of woollen tweeds.

Notes

  1. ^ Dunbar cites Scots philologist W. F. H. Nicolaisen's suggestion that this "too plausible" explanation may be folk etymology, noting a use of "twedlyne" in 1541, and suggesting "tweedling" in parallel to "twilling" as the origin of "tweed"; see John Telfer Dunbar, The Costume of Scotland, p. 150.

References

  • Dunbar, John Telfer: The Costume of Scotland, London: Batsford, 1984, ISBN 0-7134-2534-2 1984 (paperback 1989, ISBN 0-7134-2535-0)
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