Types of Tweed

Tweed is a rough woven fabric usually made from wool. The fibers can be woven using a plain weave or twill weaves. Tweed is an extremely warm, hard-wearing fabric that is thick and stiff. Wool tweed is often woven using different colored threads to achieve dynamic patterns and colors, frequently with small squares and vertical lines. Tweed is very popular for suiting and jackets, which were originally made from the material for hunting activities.

There are many ways to make tweed fabric, and different types of tweed are named for the sheep they’re made from, where the tweed is made, or after the type of weaving technique or pattern. Here are some of the most popular types of tweed:

Harris Tweed - a legally protected type of tweed made in the Outer Hebrides, off the northern coast of Scotland. According to the Harris Tweed Act of 1993, Harris tweed is strictly defined as: “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.” Harris tweeds also tend to have a lot of colours woven through them - often up to 12 coloured yarns.

Donegal tweed - named for the Irish county of Donegal, where it originated. This is one of the most popular types of tweed in the world, and it is distinguished by its rainbow-colored specks of yarn throughout the knobby surface. It is the additional random flecks of colour, often quite bright and striking, that give Donegal its special place.

Saxony tweed. Saxony tweed from merino sheep, originally made in Saxony, Germany. The tweed is very soft and smooth, due to the nature of merino wool. A fine, soft tweed usually using merino wool. Sometimes Saxony uses a mix of woollen and worsted fibres, which can make it appropriate for suits.

Herringbone tweed. Herringbone is a broken twill weave that produces a pattern of V’s on the surface of the fabric. Some say the herringbone pattern looks like fish bones, hence the name.

Shetland tweed. Shetland tweed is named for the sheep from the Shetland Islands, a group of islands far off the northeastern coast of Scotland. The wool is lighter and more delicate, creating a lighter weight, casual tweed. One of the softer tweeds to come from Britain, but not particularly fine. Often spongy and good for jackets.

Barleycorn tweed. The weave of a barleycorn tweed gives the effect and look of barleycorn kernels on the surface of the fabric. It’s a very dynamic pattern and has a slightly bumpy feel.

Cheviot tweed. Cheviot tweed is named for the type of sheep used to make the wool, from the Cheviot Hills in the Scottish borders’ region. It is generally rougher and heavier than other types of tweed making it useful for heavy suits.

Overcheck twill. Overcheck twill is a plain twill fabric with a large checked design in a contrasting color completing the tweed pattern.