WORLDWIDE demand has made it almost impossible to get hold of the looms needed to make Harris Tweed.

The popularity of the fabric is relected by a dearth of looms - 50 new weavers have entered the Harris Tweed-making workforce in the past six years.

Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust is taking the unprecedented step of buying three looms to lend to aspiring weavers who are unable to meet the cost of the vital machinary.

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The looms will be rented to three weavers living within the trust area, which covers Pairc and Kinloch in Lewis and North Harris. The project will be managed by the Harris Tweed Weavers Association, which itself will receive a management fee.

William Macleod, the association's development officer, said: "The leasing scheme will significantly reduce the start-up costs for new weavers at a time when the cost of a loom is high. We are confident the project will bring much needed jobs to the local community."

By law, every piece of Harris Tweed must be woven at the home of a weaver and manufactured exclusively in the Western Isles.