Photograph by Bert Hardy, Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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In this 1955 photo, a weaver in the Outer Hebrides is shown producing Harris Tweed on a foot-pedal loom. The centuries-old textile tradition carries on in these remote islands off the west coast of Scotland.

How tweed became a symbol of Scottish culture

In Scotland’s hills and islands, textile traditions touch on sustainability and local pride while making a mark in high fashion.

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Bending over her 80-year-old, cast iron loom, 27-year-old weaver Miriam Hamilton begins the clickety-clackety process of turning wool yarn into tweed. She’s carrying on a centuries-long tradition in her loch-side workshop on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, a chain of islands off the west coast of Scotland. Still, the ombre, nubby-textured fabric Hamilton makes will be turned into brightly colored men’s vests or used to cover chic lampshades, not old-school hunting jackets or Sherlock Holmes caps.

“I want my tweed to mimic the patterns in nature,” says Hamilton, who works out of The Weaving Shed in the town of Crossbost. She learned to weave from a 90-year-old crofter (tenant farmer and craftsman) in 2018, but she infuses her fabrics with her own energy and palettes. “It could be the colors of the loch or the graduation from deep plum to mulberry to lilac in a thistle’s flower,” she says. “It’s a reflection of the drama in this environment.”

Like many traditional practices born in the countryside of Scotland, tweed draws inspiration from the surrounding landscape and materials...

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