The Origin of Tweed

Submitted by norma on Thu, 08/11/2011 - 12:44

Originally submitted by norma on Wed, 05/18/2011 - 21:31

By Iris Hughes-Sparrow

The term ‘tweed’ originated in 1826, when a misprint was made by a clerk who wrote ‘tweed’ instead of ‘tweel’.

Harris tweed was first known in 1870, when a naval captain’s wife opened a small shop in Edinburgh. Harris tweed is any tweed woven in the Inner or Outer Hebrides, plus Sutherland and Argyll of Invernesshire. Until the First World War, it was always made from the wool of black faced and Cheviot sheep.

A ‘waulking’ party was a great social event. At one end of a long table, the tweed would be soaking in the waulking liquid. It was taken yard by yard and passed along the table, being pounded and squeezed rhythmically as it was pushed along by the strong hands of the workers. To this rhythm, the leading woman would sing a waulking song, and all join in the chorus. The leader would insert deft rhymes about local events, and as the tweed was rolled up, good wishes to the future wearer would be sung as it was rolled and patted into shape.

The reason it wears so well, is the home spun wool which still contains grease, so the natural resilience is still there.

For dyeing, certain plants could only be gathered at the rising of the moon, some before sunrise, others must have dew on their leaves. All must be boiled to the accompaniment of an old charm.


I was interested to read this because only last year at Woolfest we had Norman Kennedy singing waulking songs.