Inside the history of tweed in Harris

There’s a special Harris Tweed exhibition in the village of Drinishader in Harris; where once the village school played host to hundreds of pupils, it now has a display detailing the life and tweeds of the legendary Marion Campbell.

Born in 1909, Marion is remembered as an icon of Harris Tweed weaving.  She first sat at a loom aged 14.  Before turning 21, she had won a Harris Tweed Association design competition, beating off older, more experienced weavers to pick up first prize and a handsome reward of 20 guineas.

What made Marion’s tweeds so special was the fact that she oversaw and conducted the entire process herself, from raising the sheep that provided the wool, spinning and dyeing the yarn for her loom, right through to the finished tweed length.  The one thing that was outwith her personal control was the stamping of her tweeds with the world-famous Orb Mark.  This was done by the Harris Tweed Association inspector.

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European links boom for Harris Tweed firm

We have friends all over Europe…that could be the motto for the Harris Tweed industry and for the largest producer, Harris Tweed Hebrides in Shawbost in particular. 

In April this year the company featured in a glittering showcase of British and Italian fashion, held in Florence under royal patronage.   

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall toured the event, which was organised by the British Embassy in Rome and the Campaign for Wool.  Prince Charles is patron of the campaign and all the garments featured were, like Harris Tweed, made from pure wool.   

An elite selection of leading British and Italian brands were invited to exhibit at the event, which was held in the Sala Bianca of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, described as 'the birthplace of Italian fashion', catwalk shows held there in the 1950s having set the tone for classic Italian brands to flourish. 

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Honours for publishers as books win approval

By Eilidh Whiteford

A collection of wonderful, charming, at times poignant and often very funny tales from one of Stornoway’s ‘old guard’, Mr Pat MacFarlane, is proving to be a hit for Lewis based Gaelic publishers Acair Ltd.

Launched on Pat’s 95th birthday in 2015, ‘A Stornoway Life – From Scotland Street to South Africa’, sees the author reflect on his early life growing up in Stornoway, in the same Scotland Street house built by his great-grandfather in 1920 where Pat still lives. Then there are his war years in South Africa and tales of the many acquaintances he met through his iconic town centre bookshop, Loch Erisort.

From stories recalling childhood games, japes and ploys that went with growing up in that era, to tales of his service during the war years – Pat trained pilots how to land planes using early simulators – and musings on the plethora of individuals and characters that have made their way into his life, the book is charming, laughout- loud funny and full of personality; just like Pat himself.

‘A Stornoway Life’ is just one of the recent publications from the Lewis-based publishing house to have hit the mark with audiences.

And within the industry itself, the work of Acair has been honoured, with ‘Dol Fodha na Greine’ (The Going Down of the Sun) being awarded the Overall Literature Prize at the Royal National Mod last year.

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New base in town for tweed products exporter

By EilidhWhiteford

Filling a large corner of alisted art deco building in James Street, Stornoway,which was itself many years ago a working Harris Tweed mill, fashion and accessories company Rarebird continues to put its individual stamp on the world-famous fabric. 

Established by designer Paulette Brough in 2007, and based in Carloway since 2010, last year saw Rarebird open its second workshop and studio outlet at 1 Bells Road, Stornoway. 

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The orb shines brighter over world for Harris Tweed

By Eilidh Whiteford

The origin of Harris Tweed – the cloth made from virgin wool dyed, spun and hand-woven by islanders in the Outer Hebrides – is famous around the world. And the tradition cannot be escaped at the Harris Tweed Isle of Harris store in Tarbert, owned and operated by the third generation of the Campbell family of weavers.

Open 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday, the shop is something of an Aladdin’s cave of Harris Tweed and Hebridean wool items with a plethora of tweed items from a variety of coat and jacket styles, to Harris Tweed boots and shoes, bags, accessories and gifts.

Read more: The orb shines brighter over world for Harris Tweed