On the magical Isle of Hebrides, under cozy thatched roofs of traditional “blackhouses”, crofters have been hand-weaving Harris Tweed for centuries. See how our designers found inspiration in age-old techniques.
Of all the tweeds in the world, Harris Tweed is the most highly coveted. Produced exclusively on the Isle of Harris, located in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland’s western-most islands, this iconic, coarsely woven fabric is so revered that it has its very own legal trademark standards to protect its authenticity. Pretty impressive, right? We thought so too. So, it goes without saying that we had to see this intricate process for ourselves.
What we found was beyond our wildest dreams. The islands themselves are magical – you will find few places in the world that are so isolated, windswept, and beautiful. The Isles of Lewis and Harris have amazing coastal scenery with abundant wildlife and lochs, ancient stone monuments, traditional thatched roof “blackhouses” and crofter’s cottages—an incredible setting for artistic inspiration.
Much like Fair Isle knits, woven tweeds were traditionally created to represent the area in which they were made. From the rocks, lochs, peat and moss, to the heather fields – you can really see the islands’ influence in the colors of the yarns and twists that make up each Harris Tweed pattern.
What sets Harris Tweed apart from any other textile is the use of 100% pure virgin wool from Scotland. But not just anywhere in Scotland – the wool has to be dyed, spun, and hand-woven in the Outer Hebrides by local islanders, using Hattersley pedal-looms. The islanders weave the fabric in their homes or weaving sheds before delivering it to finishing houses where it receives an inspection and a stamp of authenticity from the Harris Tweed Authorities.
Our fabulous Tea design team was lucky enough to meet some of the Harris Tweed industry’s most renowned craftsmen. Below, Catherine Campbell, granddaughter to the late iconic weaver, Marion Campbell, sits at her Hattersley loom. An equally accomplished weaver, Marion carries on her family’s legacy out of her Harris Tweed and Knitwear shop, one of the tweed industry’s largest producers.
We also had the pleasure of meeting with master weaver, Donald John MacKay. While he may not look familiar, you’d recognize his designs in a heartbeat. MacKay is legendary for putting Harris Tweed back on the map, and helped renew the fashion industries’ interest in Harris Tweed. His clients include Nike, Chanel, Céline, Converse, and many more.
Back at the Tea studio, it was time to translate all of our discoveries and inspirations into Harris Tweed patterns of our own. The first step was to create mood boards, using genuine tweed swatches, authentic dyed wool, and other elements we collected along the way. Then, it was time to go to the drawing board to develop uniquely-Tea, hand-drawn tweed designs. As pictured below, we began the process with black and white, pen and ink drawings to create the foundation for the patterns. Once the designs were ready, we scanned them into the computer for editing.
After many weeks and months of designing, prototyping and reviewing samples, our tweed inspired collection was born. See below for Tea’s take on this traditional technique!