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Issue 51 - Breanish Tweed - a status symbol

Scotland Magazine Issue 51
June 2010


This article is 8 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Breanish Tweed - a status symbol

Melissa Volpi visits the Outer Hebrides, on the west coast of Scotland, to witness the legacy of Lady Dunmore's fashion breakthrough in 1846.

1-3 This herd of Blackface and Cheviot rams reside in the 3 acre paddock to the rear of Breanish HQ. They belong to Iain’s next door neighbour.

4 This old caravan acts as a store for over a hundred yarns of wool.

5 At the moment the wool that Breanish source comes from the Scottish mainland. There the sheep are sheared and the wool is dyed and spun. The yarns are then shipped to Breanish HQ where Donald, Karin and Murdo set to work.

6 Karin Slater, 26, is the youngest weaver on Lewis. Karin learnt the craft in six weeks under the tutelage of Iain’s father, Donald John MacLeod, when she first started weaving three years ago.

Here Karin is pictured outside the workshop.

7 The Breanish HQ sits in an elevated position overlooking the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

8-9 Here Karin can be seen setting out the cloth pattern on the warping frame.

The different coloured threads are wound round the wooden arms, creating the pattern of each bespoke cloth.

Karin walks the equivalent of three miles every time a 70 metre pattern is wound round this frame.

10 This is Iain’s father, Donald John MacLeod.

Donald started weaving when he was an 11 year old schoolboy and now works part-time for the company.

11 Here Donald can be seen tying individual strands of thread together on the loom.

Breanish tweed cloth is made from over 800 threads and each one has to be individually slotted through the metal eyes of the loom before te weaving can begin.

12 Here Donald begins weaving on his 90 year old Hattersley loom.

13 Here Donald can be seen adjusting the metal links that set out the cloths pattern.

14-16 It normally takes about 3 full days to weave a 70 meter fabric and during that time the weavers go through 25 reels of thread per hour. Which means they have to stop every two minutes to change the thread.

17 Here Karin can be seen weaving on her 40 year old Hattersley loom called Bertha.

Karin is halfway through weaving a 4 x 4 herringbone pattern for a Japanese company called United Arrows – which is hailed as the Harrods of Tokyo. The black and white tweed is for a new range of clothes to be showcased in their store this autumn.

18 Karin can be seen pedaling at speed on her 40 year old Hattersley loom called Bertha.

19 Karin rests her hands on this wooden bar as she pedals the loom.

20 Here Karin can be seen weaving. Karin’s Hattersley loom is called Bertha and is 40 years old. It is pedal powered.

21 Karin can be seen changing thread. The thread is slotted into a wooden shuttle, which then get’s propelled lengthways across the loom to help create the cloths pattern.

Newspaper cuttings adorn the wall of Karin’s workshop. In her spare time Karin also writes poetry and won the New Writing Scotland Award in 2009.

22 10oz Shetland wool is what Breanish Tweed are famous for. It is light and incredibly soft to touch.

If you would like to discuss requirements for a bespoke garment then please contact Iain through a Tailor.

23 This new line of handmade shooting socks and tweed flat caps were designed by Iain’s mum, Chrissie MacLeod.

24 Manolo Blahnik created a limited edition collection of stilletos in Breanish Tweed last year.

They are still for sale in the London HQ.

25 The Breanish HQ in Port of Ness is a typical Hebridean house. It acts as office, shop and home, and sits in an elevated position overlooking the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

26 Here London tailor, Joshua Byrne of Byrne & Burge, can be seen cutting Breanish cloth. Joshua is making a jacket for Iain out of this cloth. It’s in a new fabric and will be displayed in the Breanish HQ on Lewis during the summer months. This cloth is made from a double weave version of the Breanish 10oz Shetland tweed. It is coarser and stronger, ideal for shooting jackets and breeks.