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Meet Heather: Harris Tweed Weaver

In our regular feature, we join a local for a tea break, and find out how they spend their

time - and their time off. This week we welcome a Heather MacLeod, a Harris Tweed weaver.

Tell us about yourself and your job?

I am an independent Harris Tweed Weaver. My business is called Handmade by Heather – Isle of Harris. I mainly weave Harris Tweed but also sew/make other gifts and items. Here are some facts about Harris Tweed which you may not already know; “Harris Tweed® is a tweed which must, by law, be produced from yarn which is made from 100% pure new wool which has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and woven by hand at homes of local islanders. It is the only fabric in the world to have its own Act of Parliament.”

Harris Tweed can actually be woven in any of the islands in the Outer Hebrides but today all of the Harris

Tweed sold worldwide is hand-woven either in Harris or Lewis.

How did you get started?

I had always loved Harris Tweed and enjoyed anything creative. When the opportunity to join a weaving course came up in 2012 I was actually working at the Harris Tweed shop in Tarbert. My boss at the time, Catherine, kindly let me complete the course and a few years later I decided to go self-employed full time. My late grand-father, Domhnall Iain an Uisge, was also a weaver many years ago so maybe it’s in the blood!

What training does a weaver need?

You can either be taught by a fellow weaver or complete an organised course. I completed my course in just under three months, but I don’t think you ever stop learning. Once you have hand-woven some test pieces, had them finished, inspected and hopefully stamped with the Orb certification mark, you will be granted a unique weaver’s number and can officially weave Harris Tweed, either inde-pendently or for one of the mills.

What do you love about your job?

The best thing about being an independent weaver is that I get to design and create all of my own tweeds. I can choose my own colours and patterns and work with customers on their own custom orders.

The most challenging part is the mechanics! A Hattersley loom has hundreds of moving parts and I think I’ve worked on all of them!

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of every single length that comes off of my loom. The feeling of taking the tweed off of the loom, folding it up and thinking “I wove all of that” never gets old!

What is the future for Harris Tweed?

I think the future is very bright!

Harris Tweed has stood the test of time and I don’t think it will ever go out of style. In an age where we are returning to eco-friendly and sustainable products, what is more sustainable than Harris Tweed?

Where can we see your work?

In August 2022 my sister, Oban Bay Bakes, and I, set up an honesty shop at our croft road end called “The Wee Croft Shop”. You can purchase my items there through the summer and all year round via social media.

It’s ‘tea break’ time. What will you be doing?

I don’t think you ever get proper time off if you are self employed as there’s always something that needs to be done. However, if I can sneak off to the beach for a dip in the sea then I’m happy!

What about a drink and snack?

A cup of tea is always the answer, along with a piece of something from Oban Bay Bakes, of course.


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