Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Discovering Harris Tweed - part 2.

I promised to guide you through the Harris Tweed production process.
How do you get this Harris Tweed ...

 out of pure sheared wool?
1. Washing and dyeing
The wool for the tweed comes mainly from Cheviot and Scottish Blackface sheep.

Before the wool can be used for commercial purposes, it must be scoured, a process of cleaning out the dirt, dead skin, sweat residue, pesticides and lanolin.
The wool is then delivered in large bales to the mills of the tweed producers where it is then dyed in a wide variety of colours for blending.
Most of the dyes used are organic natural dyes .

This picture comes from the book: Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

available here
2. Carding and spinning
Carding is the process by which the wool fibers are individually straightened and sorted into separate fibers. This process converts a continuous matted web of fibres into individual ribbons of fine loosely organized threads.

This thread has just enough strength to be wound ready for spinning.
For the yarn to have the strength required for weaving, it needs to be spun into a strong thread by twisting it around 6-8 times.
The spun yarn is wound onto bobbins for the weft (left to right threads) and warp (vertical threads) supplied to the weavers.

3.Warping and weaving
The warp and yarns for the weft arrive from the mill and then the weaver sets to work. A major part of the task is the setting up of the loom itself, changing the draft to the correct pattern.
The threads are arranged in groups and colour on the warping frame in the right layout, so that each thread comes off it in the right position for its own unique position in the pattern.


4. Finishing and stamping
The woven cloth is returned to the mill where the first task will be to check it for any imperfections.
Any broken or stray threads are darned and mended.

Dirt, oil and other impurities are removed by washing and beating. It also makes the material softer and thicker.

The cloth is dried and shrunk to the required width , cropped on a machine which basically acts like a mower, removing a certain amount of surface fibre. 
It is then blow-steamed under pressure to give a similar effect to ironing.
Finally it has to be certified by the official Harris Tweed Authority inspector, before it can carry the Harris Tweed Orb trademark label.

Voilà, from wool to tweed in just a few steps; interesting isn't it?
Sources: I found a lot of information on the Harris Tweed Authority blog and here
Enjoy reading

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