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.
Across from the shop there’s another hidden gem as the Harris Tweed Isle of Harris Tweed store is stocked with a large choice of tweed both traditional and modern, presenting a rainbow of colours, in checks, plain, tartan, herringbone, overchecks and houndstooth patterns, with a Hattersley loom in the background.
The Tarbert store opened in 2008, when present day owner Catherine Campbell occupied the old Tarbert Co-op store and located the Tweed business there.
Catherine was also instrumental in establishing Clò Mòr – a dedicated exhibition of Harris Tweed housed in a specially built centre at Drinishader in Harris, together with Marion Campbell’s exhibition, local artefacts and Harris Tweed and Knitwear shop next door in the Old Drinishader Primary School.
The Campbell’s connection with the island cloth began with Marion Campbell, BEM (1910-1996) – remembered as an icon of Harris Tweed.
Marion first sat at a loom aged fourteen and before she turned 21 years of age, the young weaver had beat off older, more experienced weavers to win a Harris Tweed Association design competition.
With a natural gift for colour and design, Marion rose to prominence as an exemplar of the Harris Tweed craft; and she continued to weave in the traditional manner well into her late 80s.
Marion’s nephew – Alasdair ‘Mor’ Campbell (1924-1995) – shared his auntie’s eye for design and, along with his wife Katie, enjoyed running the original Harris Tweed and Knitwear shop, often holding weaving displays for visitors and bus tours.
Alasdair’s wife Katie Campbell (1935-2011) not only continued to run the family business, along with daughter Catherine, but her talent for design brought Harris Tweed into the modern era with Katie’s designs still a favourite with designers and crafts people around the globe.
Catherine said: “Everybody’s ancestors from all over the Islands, from the days of the dye pot to waulking of the tweeds, worked long and hard and would be very proud to see that Harris Tweed is excelled around the world and has really become a major fashionable material.
“It’s everywhere and receives a lot of recognition, which it so rightly deserves.” The history of Harris Tweed can be explored further at the Clò Mòr exhibition centre in Drinishader. The story of Harris Tweed throughout the ages – and the Campbell’s connection to the cloth – is told through a unique display of old and new photographs and artefacts; including a display of designer tweed outfits which have graced catwalks across the globe.
Next door to the centre, in the Old Drinishader Primary School, visitors can also explore a smaller exhibition dedicated to Marion Campbell, with her tweed and weaving items on display and other local donated memorabilia.
And for all things Harris Tweed, the Harris Tweed Isle of Harris shop in Tarbert is certainly one stop-off not to be missed.
To find out more, please visit www.harristweedisleofharris.co.uk