How a Wearside weaving machine firm is helping revive Harris Tweed

Coun Harry Trueman of Sunderland City Council. (left) and Dave Watson, MD of Griffith Textiles
Coun Harry Trueman of Sunderland City Council. (left) and Dave Watson, MD of Griffith Textiles
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A WEARSIDE engineering firm is weaving a good name for itself Stateside.

Washington-based Griffith Textile Machines has played an instrumental role in the revival of the famous Harris Tweed brand.

Griffith designed a bespoke loom to weave the iconic Harris Tweed in larger sizes for a greater variety of uses, and its popularity has led to increased demand for new and replacement looms from other manufacturers.

Managing director Dave Watson said: “Harris Tweed is a uniquely protected product. It must be hand-woven, without power, in the weaver’s own home, on the Outer Hebrides from Scots wool.

“We developed a rapier loom, which doubled the width of the cloth, opening up new markets.”

Mr Watson led the management buy-out from the firm’s Belgian owners three years ago.

“Our intention was to capitalise on the market-leading weaving equipment supplied worldwide, by weaving the end product in Washington.

“We produce carpets primarily for export to America, mainly for casinos and hotels in places like Las Vegas. Initially, projects came from the local market in golf clubs and hotels, but we now operate sales teams in New York, Los Angeles, Vegas and Miami.

“The major growth is from America, although we are still engaged in many UK projects.”

The firm is launching the new Griffith Weaving Company as turnover from textile production is set to overtake that from machine manufacture.

Sunderland City Council offered strategic and practical advice and support to the company when it was taking the decision to produce the automated loom for the work, and Griffith has now applied for funding to build a second machine to keep pace with demand. If successful, it plans to create a further 12 jobs.