Tweed is a rough, woolenfabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture, resembling cheviot or homespun, but more closely woven. It is usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Colour effects in the yarn may be obtained by mixing dyed wool before it is spun.
Tweeds are an icon of traditional Scottish and Irish clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear, due to the material being moisture-resistant and durable. Tweeds are made to withstand harsh climates and are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and Scotland. In Ireland, tweed manufacturing is now most associated with County Donegal but originally covered the whole country . In Scotland, tweed manufacturing is most associated with the Isle of Harris in the Hebrides.
The original name of the cloth was tweel, Scots for twill, the material being woven in a twilled rather than a plain pattern. A traditional story has the name coming about almost by chance. Around 1831, a London merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm, Wm. Watson & Sons, Dangerfield Mills about some "tweels". The merchant misinterpreted the handwriting, understanding it to be a trade-name taken from the River Tweed that flows through the Scottish Borders textile area. The goods were subsequently advertised as Tweed and the name has remained since.
During the 2000s and 2010s, it was not uncommon for members of long-established British and American land-owning families to wear high quality heirloom tweed inherited from their grandparents, some of which pre-dated the Second World War.
In modern times, cyclists may wear tweed when they ride vintage bicycles on a Tweed Run. This practice has its roots in the British young fogey and hipster subcultures of the late 2000s and early 2010s, whose adherents appreciate both vintage tweed, and bicycles.
Harris Tweed: A handwoven tweed, defined in the Harris Tweed Act 1993 as cloth that is "Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides".
Donegal tweed: A handwoven tweed manufactured in County Donegal, Ireland. Donegal has been producing tweed from local materials for centuries. Sheep thrive in the hills and bogs of Donegal, and indigenous plants such as blackberries, gorse (whins), and moss provide dyes. Donegal Tweed has been manufactured in County Donegal Ireland for several centuries, this ancient craft is still kept alive today but a number of handweavers in the Donegal countryside, the town of Ardara is known as the 'Home of Donegal Tweed'. A building known locally as 'The Mart' built around 1900 once housed 60 handweavers from the local area, one of those weavers was Joseph Mulhern who was a weaver in the early part of that century, his sons Peter and Dennis also became handweavers and worked in The Mart from an early age, Dennis later acquired the building and launched his own Donegal Tweed business called Triona Design that continues to make garments using Tweed.
Silk tweed: A fabric made of raw silk with flecks of colour typical of woollen tweed.