Designs in Harris Tweed have been shown on cat walks in New York
The beleaguered Harris Tweed industry has been thrown a £300,000 lifeline by Western Isles council to protect jobs during seasonal slumps.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have set up the pilot project to finance production of a fixed volume of the most popular tweed patterns in quieter periods.
It is hoped the fund will allow mills to work on a year-round basis.
It comes after one of Scotland's largest mills suspended production during the summer of 2008.
Council leader Angus Campbell said he hoped the new fund would make the industry a more attractive career option.
He said: "I am pleased that we have managed to get this initiative up and running and confident that this will provide a boost to the tweed industry and the wider economy of the Outer Hebrides.
"We have decided to proceed with the scheme for the opening months of 2009 as a pilot and we are hopeful that the Scottish Government and HIE will support the Comhairle in this scheme and come on board as it expands further."
Harris Tweed is cloth that has been hand woven by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra using pure virgin wool that has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.
Weavers hoping to take advantage of the fund have been asked to apply directly to the council, specifying the types of tweed made, including pattern, colour and volume.
Lorna Macaulay, chief executive of the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA), welcomed the plan.
She said: "The fund is certainly an interesting and innovative approach to addressing an issue which has challenged the seasonal nature of the Harris Tweed industry for many years.
"It is particularly pleasing to have seen the Harris Tweed industry - the HTA, weavers and the mills - working closely with public sector partners to shape what we hope is a practical measure to support weavers through this difficult period."
Former minister Brian Wilson, chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: "I warmly congratulate Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for taking this initiative and seeing it through.
"It is an imaginative scheme which can develop through time as a very practical form of support for the industry and the weavers in particular.
"The biggest challenge at present is to retain weavers within the industry.
"There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the future of Harris Tweed but timing is crucial and the success of the industry can only be based on retaining and replenishing a sufficient number of highly-skilled home weavers.
"This initiative is extremely valuable in that context".
In June 2008 Brian Haggas, the owner of the former Kenneth Mackenzie mill on Lewis, said the firm would make no more tweed until the end of the year, depending on demand.
Weavers at the mill said the situation had never been so bleak and many of them feared they would have to leave the industry.