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What is Tweed Material?

by 顺之 聂 10 Oct 2023

Sherlock Holmes' hat, Hercule Poirot's jacket, and the famous Chanel suit – what do they have in common? They are all made from a classic Scottish fabric called 'tweed'. This dense, warm, and soft material became popular more than two centuries ago and still has a high status in the fashion world. But many of you might wondering what is tweed material? This fabric is a matter of British (or rather Scottish) national pride in the same list as whisky and famous kilts.

Tweed has been in fashion for two centuries and epitomizes English classics and impeccability. It is considered to be the most conservative and at the same time the best quality wool material. However, the relatively strict image of tweed does not prevent modern designers from actively using it in the creation of new collections. As someone interested in fashion, you have probably heard about woolen wool more than once and perhaps you would like to know what kind of fabric it is.

Tweed is a warm, coarse wool fabric made from dyed wool yarns and characterized by a distinctive texture and pile. It is a dense twill woolen fabric, warm and textured, perfectly suited to the capricious weather of Foggy Albion (where it actually originated).

Tweed in the classic sense is 100% wool yarn, but modern designs allow the inclusion of synthetic fibers, making the fabric more practical and durable. It is never really monochrome; it can be plaid, slightly mottled, decorated with a herringbone pattern, or other traditional ornaments. This material is only suitable in cold and cool weather and is considered informal, although tweed clothing sometimes looks strict and very solid.

Where did Tweed Get its Name?

The name of this fabric, tweed, comes only from chance. There are two different versions of the name's origin. Originally, the fabric was called tweel (English and Scottish tweele), which is how twill, a twill woven fabric, was called in Scotland.

The first version
According to the story told by the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII) in his autobiographical book Windsor Revisited, the fabric got its current name almost by accident. Around 1830, a London merchant received a letter from the Scottish town of Hoyick about tweels. Reading the manuscript, the merchant misunderstood the word and thought it was a brand name for the river Tweed, which flows across the Scottish Borders through a region with a developed textile industry. The fabric was touted as "Tweed" and the name was permanently attached to it. According to the Duke, this special fabric was the favorite material of both his grandfather Edward VII and his father George V.

The second version
According to another version, the fabric was actually named after Tweed River. This was because the production of woolen fabrics, including tweed itself, was historically concentrated in this area.

Presumably, the woolen fabric was designated by the place of production and gradually the toponym became a nominal name for everyone's favorite tweed. The river is also associated with a common English saying: "Annan, Tweed, and Clyde rise out of the sea hillside." This simply means that the three rivers have their source in the same locality.

The town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, more commonly referred to simply as Berwick, still exists in the same area. This town in Northumberland County is currently the northernmost town in England. To this day, much of Berwick's population is involved in the production of woolen fabric and knitwear.

It is a curious fact that, in a sense, the fabric itself gives birth to tweed fashion. One of its most devoted fans was the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And despite the fact that he mentioned the famous cap of his cult character Sherlock Holmes only two or three times, all illustrators of his works see the genius detective dressed exclusively in tweed.
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How is Tweed Fabric Made?

Let's learn a little about tweed and why it is so popular not only in its homeland but around the world.

First of all, it is the fabric for sewing women's suits, skirts, dresses, jackets and coats. Men, too, often prefer quality jackets and pants made of tweed. In addition, riding clothes are often made of the same soft woolen material, as it is soft to the figure and is not blown by the wind. In addition to clothing made of this material, bags, hats (hats, caps), and even shoes (mainly sports sneakers or slips).

Tweed is a supple woolen fabric with a small pile, usually woven plain or diagonal. This material is soft, lightweight, and pleasant to touch. Originating in Harris, the southern part of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, it is made from sheep's wool that is spun into thick threads. Traditionally, these threads have dyed the color of peat, bog, or moss and woven into what is known as a houndstooth pattern. Tweed clothing provides excellent protection against cold, strong winds, and even rain.

It takes a lot of effort to produce tweed. The first step is to shear the sheep, after which the wool undergoes several stages of processing, from cleaning to dyeing.

Harris Tweed's creation begins with the purest wool, the fibers of which are blended together to produce the unique qualities and characteristics of the material being made. Most of the wool is harvested primarily from the Scottish mainland, but in early summer the islanders also shear local sheep. After shearing the sheep, the wool is taken to mills where it is washed and dyed.

Colored and white (undyed) fibers are weighed in certain proportions, and then, according to the developed technology, they are thoroughly mixed until the whole mass reaches the desired shade. The mixture is then processed with mechanical gears to blend the fibers even better. The threads are spun in a special way to give the fabric extra strength. A very important process involves winding yarn onto spools in a strictly defined order. These spools are then sent to the weavers.

Harris Tweed weavers work in their own homes on their own foot-powered looms. Before starting the process, the weaver sets up the machine in a special way, because the machine setting affects the texture of the finished material.

The tweed is sent to the factory, where it is inspected by a sewing machine whose job is to remove even the smallest imperfections. Dust, oil, and other impurities are then removed by washing the fabric in soapy water with baking soda. Finally, it is dried, steamed, and ironed to perfection.

In order for the manufactured fabric to regain its softness, it was soaked in a soapy solution and then beaten vigorously. Clothing made from Harris tweed was impervious to moisture and cold.

The classic type of material is 100% made of sheep's wool. Today, manufacturers are introducing new technologies and changing the composition of the fabric. To increase service life, natural and artificial threads are added to the material in varying amounts.

The main properties of tweed fabric are:
High wear resistance;
The material does not wrinkle during wear;
It has a long service life;
High thermal conductivity;
It has high hygroscopic characteristics.
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Attributes of Tweed

Like any material, tweed has its positive and negative sides. The main attributes of this amazing fabric are:

The material does not lose color saturation under prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light (this is possible due to the dyeing of fibers with natural dyes);
The fabric is very comfortable and practical to use;
Tweed makes excellent outerwear;
Clothes made of this fabric can retain their presentable appearance for more than 10 years;
Quality materials have a very high price;
The material is fastidious about care;
Natural tweed can be attacked by moths.
The fabric has a narrow circle of admirers. It is chosen by people who like restraint and elegance. The material is more often chosen by older customers.

What are the Types of Tweed?

Tweed is a unique material that can be used to sew a wide variety of things. There are a huge number of different types of fabric in the industry. Below is a list of some famous types.

Harris tweed is named after the island where it is produced. The material is made only from local raw materials. It has excellent characteristics, great for saving in inclement weather. It makes perfect jackets and jackets. This type of woolen fabric is perfectly combined with denim and corduroy materials. A law to certify real Harris tweed was signed in the early 20th century. Soon, a special organization was set up to protect the fabric market from counterfeit fabric. This company exists at the present time.

Donegal Tweed is suitable for sports jackets of medium density. Wool, silk ties, or Irish poplin, a blend of wool and silk can be worn with this material. Due to the large proportion of white, Donegal tweed looks good with a Tatsolov plaid shirt on a white background, a combination often found in the UK.

Herringbone tweed is produced in Scotland. It is characterized by a specific pattern that resembles coniferous species of trees. It is an excellent pattern for sewing office jackets. The pattern of the material maintains the strictness and elegance of office wear.

The material called "Houndstooth" is produced in England. Its distinctive feature is in the pattern – the stripes on the cloth form a cell. This kind of tweed is distinguished by a variety of patterns and colors but is not very popular with the general public. From this material, coats and various jackets are made.

Cheviot is a very dense and coarse fabric made of wool from Cheviot sheep. It is the typical material for British tracksuits. Tailors often jokingly refer to this heavy material as "bulletproof", but don't put it to that test.

Cover cloth with a little fleck is another typical material that the British wear in the countryside. It is mainly used for tailoring coats as well as riding jackets. Cover coat fabrics come in greenish and brownish colors. Designers have rediscovered this classic tweed fabric not too long ago. The material called Shepherd's Plaid is very popular throughout Europe. This plaid material has a very coarse texture and is therefore ideal for menswear.

Bedford cord
Bedford cord (Bedford rope) is a very warm, heavy wool, and in England, it goes into jackets and suits designed for hunting.
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Tweed in Fashion

Who do you think introduced tweed women's suits as they are now in fashion? At the beginning of the 20th century, only one woman could do it – Coco Chanel!

The tweed jacket was invented in the 1920s by the legendary Coco Chanel. At first, it had a fitted cut, but in the 1950s, it acquired a straight silhouette. It is considered a timeless base for a woman's wardrobe, as it appears in the collections of brands every year.

Twelve years after Coco's death, in 1971, her place in the fashion house was taken by Karl Lagerfeld. Yes, he breathed new life into the brand, but he did not forget Chanel's traditions for a second and each season released models in legendary tweed suits and iconic little black dresses. True, with the imprint of new fashion trends.

Over the past 50 years, the tweed suit has changed. Skirts and jackets have become longer and shorter. Fittings were added or, on the contrary, disappeared, colors and prints changed, and even the very essence of skirts was replaced by dresses, pants, and shorts.

Today, the tweed suit has not lost its relevance. It remains a symbol of style, elegance, femininity and, of course, synonymous with the Chanel brand. Of course, the fashion market is also not left aside - I suggest you look at classic sets with straight or semi-fitted skirts and the same jackets. These are classics that will never go out of fashion.
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