TWEED IN FASHION | ABOUT FABRIC
Tweed is a rough, closely woven woolen textile with a soft open and flexible texture. Tweed is usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Color variations may be obtained by blending dyed wool before spinning.
“Twill” – a fabric so woven as to have a surface of diagonal parallel ridges, just like your blue jeans.
“Plain weave” – a basic weaving style in which the weft alternates over and under the warp.
Even though the most of tweed cloths are made of wool, silk tweed is also produced. It is similar to the woolen variety not only in the weaving structure but also in the roughness of the yarn and the color combinations. Silk tweed is much lighter than woolen one and can be used for warm weather jackets and sweaters. It is more often used in women’s fashion than in menswear. Nowadays an increasing number of tweeds consist of blends of wool, cotton, cashmere, alpaca, linen, viscose, rayon, and other synthetic fibers, each of which carries a special property.
Tweed is usually made by plain weave or a variation of the twill weave, such as herringbones, chevrons, diamonds, cross twills, and checks. There is an even more extensive variety of stripe, marl, fleck, and mingled heather effects in various colors and depths.
Wool has to go through a number of different steps to turn into tweed. First, it is put in a big bath of dye. Next, it is dried first by spinning, and then by heat. This process removes any moisture, so it is ready for the next step. Different colors are then chosen according to manufacturer’s formulas to make an overall shade or pattern.
Once these colors are picked, the yarn is straightened, then spun and after that woven into a finished cloth. The numbers of the yarns and the twist and hues used vary greatly. Most tweeds are color woven from dyed yarns, but some are piece-dyed.
NAME & ORIGIN
Scholars believe that tweed originated in Scotland and Ireland as a material for farmer’s clothing. Its insulating properties together with wind-resistance matched perfectly damp and chilly climate of the British Isles.
Legend says that the name “tweed” was, in fact, a result of a simple mistake on an invoice to a London cloth merchant. The original name of the cloth was “tweel”, Scottish for “twill”. The merchant then came to the conclusion that tweed was a trademark name derived from the River Tweed – one of Scotland’s rivers. That’s how tweed became “tweed”.
By the end of 18th-century tweed, production became an established industry for the Islanders and they started exporting the cloth to the mainland Scotland. In the 1830s the development of what is recognized as tweed today took off.
“The products of Scottish woolen looms after 1830 were identifiable by three design characteristics – skillful use of color, employment of pure virgin wools, and uniqueness of texture. These factors, combined in a carded cloth, gave tweed its quality and distinctive appearance.” (Clifford, p. 75)
Tweed fabric and fashion often evoke Victorian hunting style of British royalty in the 19th century. In 1848 Prince Albert bought the estate of Balmoral from the Farguharsons of Inverey. At that time English nobles wanted to follow the trends set by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They desired to obtain or at least rent a country sporting estate for hunting, fly-fishing, golfing, and so on.
In the beginning fo 19th century, money-strapped Highland landlords in Scotland were selling their properties to English aristocrats. The later had to create corresponding attire for their retainers in order to follow Highland traditions. However, that was problematic since heads of Scottish clans did not allow English nobles to wear clan tartans. Scottish tartans sport traditional patterns that belonged to a particular ancestral clan from back in the days when Scotland was governed by a system of warrior clans. So, in their eagerness to echo local culture, British royalty established their estate tweeds on a similar tradition.
Miss Balfour of the Highland Estate of Glen Feshie designed the first style of Estate Tweed in the 1830s. She added a red overcheck to differentiate her attendants from the shepherds whose check was black and white. Majority of early estate tweeds were variants of classic Shepherd check which with slight alterations gave the dogtooth (houndstooth) pattern.
In 1846 the Coigach estate added two darker colors to the white transforming the Shephard check to what nowadays is known as Gun Club. The tweed received its famous name later in 1874 when one of the U.S. gun clubs adopted the pattern.Another famous tweed pattern is Glenurquhart check. The more elaborate pattern of a black and white mix. In the 20th-century, Prince Edward of Wales brought it outside the British territory, adding brown to its pallets. Nowadays this pattern is known more as Glen check or Prince of Wales.
The marled green Lovat tweed was created in 1845 as a mix of blue and yellow yarns. It still perfectly blends with the bluebells, heather, and birches of the Lovat estate.So, a clan tartan indicates family kinship, when an estate tweed indicates an association based on land ownership and nobility. The abundance of patterns and color combinations of tweed seen, today, owe much to the creativity of those Victorian estate owners. Even though these tweeds were once restricted to specific family members and their staff – nowadays anybody can wear them.
TWEED IN MODERN TIME
Later in 20th-century tweed was reintroduced by Coco Chanel with her Linton suits during the 50s and 60s. Long after the Chanel jacket was introduced to the world, it remains one of the most iconic and desired fashion items for women around the globe. And, from its first days, tweed has stayed a cornerstone part of the house’s aesthetic.
At the House of Lesage, the seamstresses that work for Chanel reinvent tweed each season. Their tweed samples are carefully woven on handlooms at the House of Lesage’s ateliers in Pantin outside Paris. This is an exclusive look at how the Lesage tweed samples are made. Apart from elaborate yarn often added to weave (which itself has an interesting look), fabric producers use ribbons, sequins, and tassels to create exclusive textile designs.
Harris Tweed production reached an astonishing seven million meters of fabric in the 1960s. The 60s were the time when tweed was a hallmark of the mods (particularly in houndstooth). Today you can celebrate the culture of wearing tweed in annual Glasgow tweed ride.
There are various types of tweed
- Cheviot tweed – named after the Cheviot sheep’s breed. A soft, stiff and very durable type of tweed. Its firmness and durability make it perfect for outerwear. Has a soft luster.
- Shetland tweed was originally woven from the wools of sheep raised on islands of identical name. The wools from Shetland sheep are extremely fine with a soft, delicate and a bit shaggy finish. It is the epitome of a casual tweed.
- Donegal tweed‘s name refers to the style of tweed originated in the Irish county of Donegal. The fabric is loose in texture which produces a rustic look. Donegal tweed is a rough tweed featuring mixed flecked colors. (Read more about Donegal tweed in “Famous Tweeds” 👇🏽)
- Saxony tweed – produced in the United Kingdom from high-quality merino wool. A very soft fabric with a fine short pile on the surface. It is used to make comfortably wearing sports jackets and suits.
- Gamekeeper tweed – a heavier type of tweed for greater protection and insulation in cold days. It can be found in a variety of hues, patterns, and weaves.
- Thornproof tweed is woven with high twist fibers to make the cloth strong and resistant to tears and punctures. An interesting characteristic of this cloth is that it is a self-repairing tweed. If you were to push a sharp thin object through the fabric to make a hole, all you need to do is rub the fabric between your thumbs and the hole will vanish.
Plain unpatterned tweeds range from explicitly single-color to highly dappled with a mix of colors. Overcheck twill tweed is a classic tweed pattern with a large checked design overlaid in a contrasting hue.
Herringbone is so named because of the fancied resemblance to the bones of a herring fish. The pattern consists of columns of sloped parallel lines. The herringbone pattern comes from the Roman Empire (Opus spicatum), where it was used in road paving systems. It was also a popular motif in the textiles and jewelry of ancient Egyptian elite.
Overcheck herringbone tweeds are also called Estate tweeds (check “History of tweed” 👆🏽), as many estate tweeds were different versions of this pattern.
Barleycorn tweeds have a typical textured weave that produces the effect of barley kernels when viewed close-up. Its complex color combinations merge from a distance. Striped tweeds have stripes of various colors and sizes.
Houndstooth is a type of big broken checked pattern that is made using pointed shapes instead of squares. While ‘Houndstooth’ describes the larger pattern, ‘Dogtooth’ describes the smaller one. Checked tweed has a pattern of horizontal and vertical lines that produce small squares.
What is the difference between plaid and tartan?
Plaids are patterns made of stripes that meet at 90 degrees angle. With tartans, the horizontal and vertical patterns match and together create a perfect grid. This blending of design and overlap of color can create plenty of potential patterns. The rough texture of Harris Tweed in particular wonderfully evokes authentic old tartans.
Learn how to draw tartan with FSketcher’s tartan drawing tutorial.
All tartans are plaid, but, not all plaids are tartan.
– Scot Meacham Wood, interior designer
- Many tweeds are tightly woven.
- Biodegradable and hypoallergenic cloth.
- Durable fabric.
- Its insulating properties make tweed warm.
- Often has a rough surface which can hide the stitching.
- Can be permanently impaired by improper ironing.
- Velvet attracts any sorts of hair. Be careful when combining with fluffy materials.
- Naturally resistant to wrinkles.
- Tweed tends to stretch with time.
- Tweed with more than 50% wool requires dry cleaning*.
- For refreshing steaming can be used. It kills most germs and bacteria, helps eliminate odors.
- Use a gentle touch and a towel to carefully blot at fresh spills. Don’t rub!
- Spot-cleaning with a mild detergent is the best option for most stains on tweed.
- Put tweed fabric and clothing in a cedar chest or other cool dry place, where moths cannot eat them.
- You can also buy moth deterrents at home improvement stores.
- If it’s machine washable, first place it in a mesh bag to protect it.
- Lay it flat to dry, otherwise, it will stretch.
- Hang tweed jackets on thick or padded hangars.
- Store tweed items in an environment where the relative humidity is between 40-50%.
* Read the manufacturer’s label for recommended care!
- Sewing machine needles sizes:70/10-90/14 – depending on the weight and thickness of fabric.
- Hand sewing needles sizes: 5-7.
- Thread should be all-purpose cotton, polyester, cotton/polyester blend; for basting – silk or soft cotton thread, for topstitching – silk thread.
- To finish your seams off use zig-zag or overlock stitch.
- Bind your seams with pre-folded bias binding if you are not lining your garment.
- choose your needle according to the weight of the tweed you’re using.
- Hang the garment for at least 24 hours to prevent sagging hems since woolens tend to stretch.
- Sewing machine settings: a stitch length of 2-3mm.
- Sewing machine feet recommended: the roller, zigzag and straight stitch foot.
- The layout should be a nap, double layer, right sides together; for heavier tweeds: single layer, right side up.
- Seams recommended are plain, topstitched, welt, and double-welt.
- Hems recommended are plain, hand catchstitch, hand blindstitch, machine blindstitch, and machine double-stitch.
- Seam and hem finishes recommended are single-ply pinked, stitched and serged, and so on.
- Linings are usually used for outerwear.
- Interfacings recommended are sew0ins or fusible.
Wool tweed isn’t cheap. If you make a thorough research, you can find 100% wool tweed for as low as $30 a yard. A top-quality suitable-for-bespoke tweed could cost you as much as $200 a yard. And that’s where the blends come in. So if you find a seller offering it at a price lower than $80 per yard that’s too cheap to be true, it’s not the real thing. The lower price options can cost as little as $10 yard, but they’ll contain very little wool or none at all. Cheap tweeds are usually weaker, they fray a lot and they don’t feel pleasant next to the skin.
Harris Tweed (Clò Mór or Clò na Hearadh in Gaelic) is the most famous tweed that is produced by hand in homes of islanders living in what is known as the Outer Hebrides of Scotland – on the Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist, and Barr. They use 100% virgin wool and predominantly organic plant-based dyes.
Harris Tweed is the only fabric to have an act of parliament protecting the industry. To regulate the industry and protect the fabric against imitations, the Harris Tweed Orb Certification Mark was created in 1909 – the oldest British mark of its kind – with the statement, “only tweeds woven in the Outer Hebrides would be eligible”.
Harris Tweed is not a separate company or a brand. Rather, the Harris Tweed Authority acts, through an act of Parliament, as legal guardian of the fabric.
Harris Tweed shares insight into each step in their fabric production process through these beautiful photographs 👉🏽 click here.
Normal tweed, unlike e.g. cashmere, is scratchy to the skin. Today Harris Tweed produces lighter cloth that is more suitable for curvier tailoring. The fabric is actively used by designers such as Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, and Vivienne Westwood.
British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is a big fan of Harris Tweed – her brand logo strongly resembles Harris Tweed’s logo. The Harris Tweed Authority pursued a long-running legal case to stop Westwood using the Orb trademark. Nevertheless, the designer won by pointing to 3 minor differences between her logo and Harris Tweed’s. Even though she often uses Harris Tweed in her collections, the logo is attached often to products that are not made with Harris Tweed.