The story of a bespoke tweed design

1 Apr 2020

We love tweed. An incredibly versatile material, it has developed from humble origins to become a fabric that is prized by fashion designers, tailors, and even royalty. Combining sketch book and computer, natural colours and specialised machinery, here at Araminta Campbell we aim to stay true to those rural origins whilst developing a contemporary approach to bespoke tweed design and weaving.

Bespoke tweed design with Araminta Campbell

Araminta is our in house designer and has built up years of experience creating unique tweeds for a wide range of clients. She loves this part of the business as it introduces her to new parts of the country and wonderful family histories and traditions. Recent projects have included designing the custom tweed and tartan for the Fife Arms Hotel, a house tweed for Saville Row tailor Featherstone London and a new personal tweed to celebrate a client’s 60th birthday.

Contact us to make an enquiry about comissioning your own tweed, or read on to find out how a tweed comes to life!

The colours of the Scottish landscape inspire Araminta Campbell's tweed designs.

Tweed inspired by the landscape

One of the essential aspects of a Tweed is its place of birth. The land that it springs from, the colours of the hills, patterns and textures of the heather and bracken. Originally these natural colours would have dyed the fibres of the material itself, resulting in a fabric that seamlessly blended with its surroundings. Perfect if you are hunkered down watching a deer, or striding over the moors in search of dinner.

Prince of Wales checked tweed handwoven with naturally dyed yarns

When Araminta first began her weaving journey, she started creating handwoven pieces with yarns she had dyed naturally – using different plant roots, leaves, berries and bark to create an amazing range of colours. It was these handwoven pieces that led her on to start designing tweeds. Although she can’t use these hand dyed yarns for her mill woven tweeds, she still believes her designs must reflect these naturally occurring colours and maintain their connection to the land.

Selecting tweed yarns

In the first part of the design process Araminta will often research a client’s landscape of origin – sometimes making a personal visit to gain a better understanding of its character. She then searches far and wide for her yarns, carefully matching them to the natural colours she has observed. 

Selecting the right yarns is a vital stage in designing a tweed

One of the distinctive qualities of a tweed yarn is its marl; up to 8 different colours of fibre twisted together in the spinning. This adds to its organic appearance as nothing in nature is one single tone, rather a combination of different hues and colours! Irish or Donegal tweed yarn takes this one step further and includes whole flecks or ‘nepps’ of contrasting colours scattered throughout the yarn.

Crafting a unique tweed design

A mill woven tweed design mostly uses 4 shafts on a loom resulting in the well-known diagonal weave structure called a Twill – although there are others such as the beautifully named Barleycorn. The tweed then comes to life with the colour pattern; from checks to stripes, herringbone to houndstooth. These elements are brought together in different combinations resulting in endless possibilities.

Researching heritage Scottish tweeds helps to inspire new designs

The tweed patterns Araminta creates come from both the client’s ideas and her wide ranging knowledge of weave structure and design. She loves creating something new and different, drawing from the huge legacy of designs passed down the centuries rather than sticking to the most commonly used patterns.

Araminta creates computer illustrations of bespoke tweed designs for clients to give feedback

Araminta’s first meeting with a client helps to establish the design parameters of colour, check and pattern. She can show customers a wide range of tweed designs to help them identify what they like, and bring together elements from a number of different patterns to create something unique and special. Several preliminary CAD designs will then be created provided with samples of the yarn colours, which are then narrowed down and continue to be revised based on the client’s feedback until a final tweed design is reached. 

Weaving a bespoke piece of tweed

Aside from the pattern and colour, the weight and quality of a tweed varies greatly depending on the purpose it is to be used for. For instance; a heavyweight Cheviot tweed provides a hard wearing semi-waterproof material for shooting and game keeping in the Highlands of Scotland. A lightweight cashmere tweed would be best suited for dress making and city wear, offering a beautiful drape and luxurious finish. Because we work with a variety of independent mills and spinners throughout Scotland, we can cover all these options. 

Tweed being woven in one of our partner Scottish mills

Scotland has a rich heritage of weaving mills however sadly in recent times many of them have struggled to compete with large numbers of imports from overseas, despite their expertise and reputation for quality. We are passionate about supporting the Scottish textiles industry, and are proud to be able to work with a number of smaller companies rather than just the larger more well known firms. Many of the mills we work with have been weaving for hundreds of years, and contain skills and knowledge that has been handed down through the generations.

A custom tweed holdall made to order from tweed and leather

From bolt of cloth to the finished article

Once the finished length of cloth has been woven and finished, there are a number of ways it can go on to be used. Our carefully selected suppliers and craftspeople are able to produce everything from luggage, gun slips and handbags to flat caps and ties. We can advise on quality upholsterers and tailors who are experienced in working with tweed and we are always open to developing new custom items for our clients.

Designing new tweeds for different clients remains one of Araminta's favourite parts of the business as it allows her to continue creating new designs and finding ways of reinvigorating traditional techniques. She loves the rich history tweed has and looks forward to seeing what can be done with this most versatile of materials in the future.
If you would like to enquire about a bespoke tweed commission please contact us.