Suiting Fabrics and Cloth: Weaves and Designs: Tweed and Harris Tweed

Tweed is the generic name for a very wide variety of stubbly coarse woollen cloths. Typically of multi coloured carded yarns and twill construction. Tweed clothing is a popular form of leisure wear, it can be tailored into suits or coats used for hunting, coarsing or other equestrian and outdoor activities. In a lighter weight, tweed is also used for dresses. Tweeds are an icon of traditional Irish and British country clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear, due to the material being moisture-resistant and durable,are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. Tweeds are made to withstand harsh climate which explains again the reason why the suiting fabric is so popular for outdoor activities.


History

The weaving of Tweed began quietly, passed down amongst families on the Scottish Isles of Lewis, Harris, Uist, and Barra for generations. During the harsh winters on the isles, Harris Tweed was one of the few fabrics thick enough to protect someone from freezing to death and so it wasn't long before those families realized they might have be able to make a little money out of their craft. Pretty soonTweed was being traded at markets throughout Scotland, so much in demand that at one point it was actually used as flat out currency. A famous tale even attributes the fabric's very name to a British trader who, in 1830, became intrigued by this mysterious new material from the Scottish isles. In a letter he accidentally misspelled tweel (the Scottish name of twill) as tweed, a happy accident that had a nice ring to it and stuck. Others say that Tweed and its name originated along the similar named river Tweed; the river that separates England from Scotland.

Tweed was beginning to take the attention of the London gentry, who discovered it on their shooting and fishing trips up north. Tweed clothing eventually became tweeds, an important element of leisure wear. While the fabric's reputation was slowly building, it was Lady Dunmore, the widow of the landowner of Harris, who really pushed it into the spotlight in 1864. Lady Dunmore decided to have Harris weavers redo her clan's tartan in the region's trademark tweed, an act that prove so successful it propelled Harris Tweed into a full-blown industry. Over the next few decades Harris Tweed's popularity grew, so much so that by the turn of the twentieth century, knock-off artists began popping up across Europe. Harris Tweed has a very specific production process which includes dyeing of yarns in vegetable oils before the fabric is woven, giving the tweed it's unique color-schemes. To ensure this specific practice remained protected, the Isle's weavers joined together in 1906 to create The Harris Tweed Association, a group designed to authenticate genuine Harris Tweed and stamp it with the trademarked orb and cross logo. With this in place the allure of and desire for Harris Tweed only grew, becoming a crucial part of any winter wardrobe in Europe and the states alike.

While at first the fabric was used for hunting jackets and shooting bags — as it the dense weave was both warm and practically waterproof — it eventually moved from the forests to the cities, becoming a favorite of businessmen and moody creatives alike. The flecked tones of Harris Tweed have now become a cornerstone of the cold, with muted tones that blend together into bold patterns that fit right into the swirling colors of fall. Truth be told, it's impossible to find a more seasonally appropriate fabric.


TWEED TODAY

The proliferation of Harris Tweed has continued through to today as everyone from J. Crew to Paul Stuart to Savile Row tailors, and even Nike, have used the fabric in their collections. The flecked tones of Harris Tweed have now become a cornerstone of the cold, with muted tones that blend together into bold patterns that fit right into the swirling colors of fall. Truth be told, it's impossible to find a more seasonally appropriate fabric for autumn and winter. It is also true that the fabric has more than a whiff of old-school style, but, worn wisely, tweed hits that sartorial sweet spot between classic and contemporary. In a nutshell, it’s one of menswear’s certified all-rounders, it works just as well in the form of a blazer worn with a button-down and jeans, as in the shape of a three-piece suit.

Technique

The fibre of Tweed is often wool, but it can also contain cotton, rayon, silk, linen and synthetics. Tweed can be compared with Cheviot and Shetland. They are the same in texture, yarn, weight, feel and use. Originally only made from different coloured stock-dyed fibres, producing various colour effects. Tweeds come in a wide range of rough surfaced, sturdy fabrics. Still there are also some closely woven smoother, sturdy fabrics and many monotone tweeds. Tweed comes in different variations like plaid, checked, striped, herringbone or other patterns.  

Irish Tweeds tend to be more colourful with large patterns, whereas Scottish Tweed patterns tend towards the very small. The most famous Tweed is Harris Tweed, usually Tweed from the Isle of Harris. This can be checked if it has the famous Orb Mark of the Harris Tweed Association. Harris Tweed can be very bulky, because it is used for hard country wear. Shetland is much softer and finer: with a loose texture, it creates sports clothing of character, though less endurance.

The Gabardine Suit

For the ultimate in light-colored suit fare, nothing beats the colonial gabardine. Since its introduction in the thirties, the classic gab has consistently ranked right up there on the list of idealized dress suits. Costly to weave, expensive to tailor, sometimes problematic to press. The top-quality gabardine is delicate, luxurious and has limited wearability.

Not a colonial coloured Gabardine, but a very modern shawl collar navy blue Gabardine suit.

Not a colonial coloured Gabardine, but a very modern shawl collar navy blue Gabardine suit.

While not as sumptuous as its wool confrere, the cotton gabardine two-piece offers a soothing alternative to the typically dine suit will wrinkle, but its satiny freshness and cool suppleness offer the humidified epidermis a princely measure of comfort.

1-button contemporary navy blue suit jacket with shawl collar slanted pockets jetted & double breasted waistcoat


What is Gabardine?

Gabardine (or Gaberdine) is a smooth cloth in fine to medium worsted yarns that is so tightly woven it is soil-resistant and almost water-resistant. The twill rib is pronounced due to a weave with more warp threads than weft. It is usually in solid colours. This cloth is a popular suiting for all uses, including formal dress. Gabardine is also used for tailoring coats, raincoats, uniforms and men's shirts.

Racing green Gabardine suit with peak lapels and slanted pockets.

When it comes to worsted wool gabardine, the advantages are that it wears very well. It feels comfortable and it holds shape well. Wrinkles will go away when you hang it. The disadvantages however are that it is a 'dry clean only' suiting. It shows press marks very easy. Cleaners can over press too. You should request careful pressing.


History of Gabardine

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The word Gabardine or Gaberdine has been used to refer to a "dress, covering" since the 1590s. It was originally a long, loose cloak or gown worn in the Middle Ages, but later it would signify a rain cloak or protective smock-frock. It has been used to mean "closely woven cloth" since 1904. 

Gabardine was invented in 1879 by Thomas Burberry, founder of the Burberry fashion house in Basingstoke, and patented in 1888. The original fabric was waterproofed, before weaving and was worsted wool or worsted wool and cotton, tightly woven and water-repellant but more comfortable than rubberized fabrics. 

Burberry clothing of gabardine was worn by polar explorers, including Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, in 1911, and Ernest Shackleton, who led a 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica. A jacket made of this material was worn by George Mallory on his ill-fated attempt on Mount Everest in 1924. 


GABARDINE: A GREAT SUITING FABRIC FOR TROUSERS

At De Oost we have tailored several suits with Gabardine suiting fabric. Gabardine is also popular for making a separate pair of trousers. Because the fabric is tightly woven, it is firm, durable and rather lustrous, which makes it a good tough fabric for a sturdy pair of trousers.

Taupe solid Gabardine trousers.

The Effect of a Gabardine Suit

Roger Moore as James Bond in Octopussy (1983).

Roger Moore as James Bond in Octopussy (1983).

The website www.thesuitsofjamesbond.com discusses several suits worn in the different James Bond movies. It is notable that light brown Gabardine suits were worn in two James Bond movies. On the picture on the left we see Roger Moore as James Bond visiting India in Octopussy in a tan wool Gabardine suit. On the picture underneath we see him wear a light brown Gabardine Suit in For Your Eyes Only. A light-weight gabardine wool suit in light brown is a great suit for spring when it’s fairly warm but too early to take out the summer suits. In For Your Eyes Only, James Bond wears the light brown suit in Corfu to church for his confession to Q. 

Roger Moore as James Bond in For Your Eyes Only (1981).

Roger Moore as James Bond in For Your Eyes Only (1981).

Suiting Fabrics and Cloth: The Weaves and Designs: Pinhead

Pinhead, also known as pin-dot or nailhead is similar to the birdseye pattern, but smaller. It is a worsted wool suiting with a twill weave covered with small dots, that look like they have been hammered in with nails or pins. It has the appearance of tiny white or light coloured dots appearing in rows both vertically and horizontally. The fabric can hold a sharp crease, which makes it exeptionally well wearable, but also a good fabric to work with for the tailoring process. It is inclined to shine with wear. 

The Technique

Pinhead is a worsted wool fabric, but also made in cotton and rayon. It is a twill woven with a pattern of vertical and horizontal white dots. Genuine pinhead weave foresees that the warp and the weft alternate two light and two dark yarns which cross each other to form a grid filled with little dots.

The Effect of a Pinhead Suit

Somewhere between solids and stripes in formality is pinhead, which examined closely has the appearance of tiny dots of a lighter color on a darker background. A pinhead suit, generally appears as a solid somewhere in between the two colors, similar to the effect of an Oxford cloth shirt. Pinhead is appropriate in any occasion where stripes would be, and can be substituted for solids on all but the most formal of occasions.