Production of Harris Tweed – woven in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland – is booming, according to industry specialists.
The cloth has enjoyed an enhanced profile with enthusiasts staging European bicycle rides while garbed in Harris Tweed in Glasgow, Stockholm and Moscow.
The Harris Tweed Industry Forum said 2012 has been the “best year” for production in almost 15 years, according to the BBC.
The cloth is hand-woven by residents of the Isles of Lewis and Harris, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides using local wool. It is then exported to a variety of countries, including Japan and Germany.
Traditional Harris Tweed is characterized by subtle flecks of color achieved through the use of vegetable dyes, including lichen dyes called “crottle,” according to Wikipedia.
Total production is expected to hit more than 1 million yards of cloth by the end of the year, the BBC reported.
That’s more than double the production of just three years ago, when several years of uncertainty about the industry and concerns about a declining and aging workforce caught up with production.
In the 1960s, by comparison, production topped more than 7.5 million yards of cloth.
“We are confident that we currently have the right balance in terms of number of weavers, weaver capacity and market demand,” said Ian Angus Mackenzie, chief executive of Harris Tweed Hebrides.
“We are looking to continue to grow the value and diversity of the international market for the cloth, and this incremental growth will be supported by existing weavers and new entrants due to natural turnover within the workforce,” he added.
Bruce Armitage of Carloway Mill Harris Tweed said a stable workforce had been key to success.
Lorna Macaulay, chief executive of the Harris Tweed Authority, said nearly 40 new weavers have entered the workforce over the past four years and are now making a significant contribution to production capacity.