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Published: 23 November 2019

By Andy Ross

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When did tweed start being made in Shetland?

This week the tweed research took a really rather splendid turn!

In the reading I have done about Shetland tweed over the past year since beginning the Master of Research project one piece of the puzzle has been quite elusive; when did the name "Shetland" become associated with "tweed"? The earliest I had found was somewhere between 1880 and 1890. This is quite late in terms of tweed. The name was coined somewhere around 1831 which meant that there was a gap of more than fifty years: an improbable length of time. 

The staff at the Archives are very helpful and have been turning up all sorts of information about tweed for the research. (It helps that some people still remember their families being in the industry!) So it was very helpful for Angus (thank you, Angus) to look at some of the old newspapers online (you can see that archive here). There, in black and white in an edition of the Newcastle Courant, ... Shetland Tweed! The date of the paper is October 1849. With one fell swoop the history of Shetland tweed has gone back thirty or forty years and this brings the island tweed's history right up to date with the introduction of the word "tweed" for woollen woven fabrics from Scotland! 

Maybe some more sleuthing will bring the date even closer. For the moment I am very happy that some significant progress is being made for the cause.