Did you know there are many different types of tweed?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary Tweed is defined as “a type of thick, rough cloth made of wool that has small spots of different coloured thread in it’’. This is a good starting point but doesn’t truly reflect the huge range of textures, styles, thicknesses and origins of tweed.
We generally consider tweed to refer to wool-based woven fabrics, and this is true for the most part, but just as there are hundreds of different wools and yarns, there are thousands of different tweeds. There are even tweeds made not from wool but from other less common materials such as silk.
Each different tweed has its own uses and benefits which help us as designers to choose which tweed is best suited for different items of clothing. Today I wanted to give you a summary of six common varieties of tweed with a bonus unusual type. I hope this will be interesting and will give you a better insight into the feel of a tweed when buying online.
Harris Tweed is one of my absolute favourite tweeds, I love the colours and the craftsmanship that goes into making it. Harris Tweed is handwoven by the islanders in the Outer Hebrides. To this day it is still produced the same way it has always been made by hand and with love.
Fun fact: Harris Tweed is the only cloth to have its own act of Parliament.
It is made from pure virgin wool and spun in the Outer Hebrides on the islands where is produced and woven. Harris Tweed is thicker and more durable, with a slightly looser weave and a rougher finish. It is perfect for outdoor wear, walking, shooting, etc. This is the choice of tweed I would recommend to my more traditional customers. Although we use this tweed in a range of items, our feature produce for this season is the Jude Gilet
Donegal Tweed harks from Ireland and is named for the county of Ireland where it was manufactured, Donegal. It is the only tweed I regularly use from Ireland and it has a very distinctive pattern to the material when woven. The fabric is woven with a plain-weave cloth of differently-coloured warp and weft, with small pieces of yarn in various colours woven in at irregular intervals to produce a heathered effect. These rainbow flecks of colour give it the distinctive speckled effect, which makes it such an interesting tweed to work with.
Donegal tweed has a slightly heavier more durable weave which makes it great for coats and jackets. Our feature product for Donegal tweed is our Biker jacket which has to be one of my favourite creations. Blurring the lines between modern and traditional.
Estate Tweed is the name given to all the wide range of striped, plaid and patterned tweeds you find today.
Originally, these patterns would have related to specific family names and estates. They were introduced in the 1800's as there was a surge in the romanticisation of Scottish tradition and culture. They serve both a practical and cultural purpose, unifying an estate and giving it a collective identity as well as providing a high-performance cloth for outdoor pursuits.
Many of the tweeds were initially designed to be useful camouflage for hunting and shooting parties on the country estates across the country. This is why the colours are often routed in the colours of the landscape. Some were also used to highlight the pride of an estate using the colours like a visual and simplified coat of arms for staff uniforms and household decoration.
Nowadays many modern and alternative colours have been introduced ranging from blue to red and everything in between. Our feature product for this type of tweed is the Farlow waistcoat in siskin. You can clearly see the stripes of colour through the green tweed cloth.
Saxony Tweed originates from, you guessed it, Saxony in Germany. This tweed is made from merino sheep wool, a breed of sheep famed for their super soft and luxurious wool. Because Saxony Tweed is made using merino wool it is extremely soft and smooth in texture. This tweed is lighter in weight and perfect for wearing in the spring or early summer.
I love using this tweed for our spring/summer collections, we use it in waistcoats, skirts and ponchos. You will find this tweed throughout my summer collection, but one of my favourite examples of this tweed in the current collection is the India waistcoat. This is a beautiful waistcoat produced in a stunning pewter lambswool tweed. It sports a high Nehru collar and a flirty peplum with integral pockets. Lined in Panama satin for that added touch of luxury.
Shetland Tweed comes, unsurprisingly, from the Shetland Isles, it is traditionally made from Shetland sheep wool.
Shetlands are a breed of sheep that has specifically evolved to cope with the extreme conditions on the Shetland isles. Shetland sheep produce wool which is lighter and more delicate than most breeds. The wool has a soft fine quality to it which is likely due to the salty and windy conditions that the Shetland Sheep have evolved to withstand. Traditionally the finest of the Shetland wool would have been used to make lace wool shawls which were so delicate and fine, it was said that they could be pulled through a wedding ring.
The traits of this fine wool are passed on to the tweed they produce. Making this the ideal tweed for casual wear and more modern summer pieces such as waistcoats and skirts. A perfect example of this is our Country Brown Nehru waistcoat. The Nehru is a stylish, contemporary tweed waistcoat, beautifully tailored to flatter and shape the body. The distinctive notched collar is set off with a Shropshire-made, handcrafted pewter acorn pin.
Cheviot Tweed is named after the sheep breed used to make it - Cheviot Sheep - this breed originates from the Scottish borders. Cheviot sheep are a common sight on small hill farms and crofts across the north of England and the Scottish borders. Cheviot Sheep have evolved to thrive in the harsh rough conditions of the fells, dales and hill land of this area.
To survive in a tough Lake District winter, they have thick dense wool with a distinctive crimp to it which helps to create durable yarn. This means the tweed they produce is also thicker and more durable. Cheviot Tweed is a heavier type of tweed which is traditionally used for shooting attire and winter wear.
We use this tweed for coats and winter waistcoats. The Nehru waistcoats in siskin are a great example of this. The Nehru is a stylish, contemporary tweed waistcoat beautifully tailored to flatter and shape the body. This style is currently in our sale as we move into the lighter tweeds for our summer range. So, pick up a bargain today ready to pull out next time we have an unexpected cold snap.
Finally, a less traditional tweed, today tweed isn’t only made from wool other materials have been trailed using the same basic weaving principles. Silk Tweed is a perfect example of this, as you may have guessed it is a tweed cloth made from raw silk.
Silk tweed came to prominence when it became a favoured material for Coco Chanel in their stunning silk tweed suits. The material produces a cloth that is very loose and supple which is rather different from the traditional woollen tweeds in use and texture.