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Published: 29 May 2021

By Andy Ross

Shetland Tweed Research - a conclusion

The research undertaken into Shetland Tweed concluded in the blog last week with the introduction of The Shetland Tweed Company, a new business making tweed in the islands. In this final part of the research a possible future for the fabric is discussed. 

Shetland Tweed, it seems, does have a future. The interest in the fabric is increasing and, as we all become more aware of the environmental costs of producing the fabrics we use every day, so people are looking at bringing production nearer to home and producing in more environmentally-friendly ways. A homegrown fabric that makes use of a plentiful supply of wool from the isles seems to make good business sense as well as having a social impact by providing employment and opportunity in the islands. 

Such a fabric would have to be rooted in the history of weaving in the islands, just as Shetland Tweeds of the past followed a lineage from the antique cloths millennia-old through claith and plaiding to the traditional patterns and colours of the last century. Having such an unbroken history offers an opportunity to reinterpret endlessly, providing different focuses for experimentation on the effect of colour on pattern and structure, and vice versa. 

It is also tempting to make a strong link between the scenic beauty of the islands and the colours of island tweed. Tweed, in general, has made use of this in its colouration. Tweedy yarn is one with a mixture of colours reflecting the landscape of Scotland. Shetland yarns come in a variety of mixtures as well as solid hues but they do not come in as great a variety as, say, knitting yarns. Perhaps there is a way to begin to produce yarns that truly reflect Shetland in a wider range of colours? That research is still to be done. 

The Shetland Tweed Company was established to produce Limited Edition cloths in the isles and this production will continue in Yell. There are now steps to explore options for production of harder-wearing Shetland Tweed for use in the tailoring industry, and for furnishing. I am positive that there is a good future to bring back Shetland Tweed as a thriving industry in the isles. Long live Shetland Tweed!