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The Process of Weaving Tweed on a Hattersley Loom

Our tweed

is made on a Hattersley Domestic loom, made by G Hattersley & Sons, Keighley, perhaps in the middle of the last century.  It's hard to date these machines as they are built to last forever, but probably no older than 1924.  These were the looms that made Harris Tweed and are still used today by independent weavers on the Outer Hebrides, whilst the weavers who work for the mills mostly use the double width Griffith loom.

We had been interested in weaving for some time before we acquired the Hattersley, experimenting with a Rigid Heddle and a floor loom.  A visit to Harris and Lewis in 2015 piqued our curiosity further, and the next year we bought our first Hattersley loom. 

The loom was unassembled and it took a while to assemble a viable machine, we also had to devise methods to warp and beam, and ultimately found that the loom was much more successful when the warping and beaming were well done.

We have had some fantastic help from weavers on Harris and Lewis particularly Donald John Mackay at Luskentyre, Dominic Tooley and Alexander McClean.

In 2018 we bought a second loom which is still being restored.

The process of making tweed.

(1)  To create the warp we gather 12 cones of 2 ply wool which are fed into our home made warping mill.  The drum measures 1.6 metres in circumference so we count the number of turns to get the length required.  The 12 ends are kept in an ordered sequence and after turning, the ends have a cross introduced to separate them which eases the tying in process.  Then the position of the next round of warp ends is moved on by about 1cm.  This is done 58 times, resulting in 58 x 12 = 696 ends - at 18 ends per inch the resultant cloth will be 38.6" or 98cm wide.  

(2) The finished warp is then transferred to the warp beam on the loom.  This is called 'Beaming'.  The 696 ends are unwound slowly from the mill and onto the beam.  Lots of tension is required to keep the ends from interfering with each other; the twisted character of the Harris Tweed wool always makes this a challenge! 

(3) The ends are next tied, one by one, to the existing warp still on the loom, so that there is continuation in pattern from the old warp to the new.  If a pattern change is required, for instance from herringbone to twill, then a lot of rethreading of heddles is done.

(4) The new warp is pulled through the heddles and gripped by the pimply take up beam.  After some new weaving is done the beginnings of the cloth is wound around the cloth beam.

(5) Now the pirn winder comes into play.  This is another Hattersley made machine which spins the pirns that go into the shuttle.  Three can be done at the same time, each pirn lasts about 70 throws.

(6) The cloth is woven.  The loom is pedal powered.  The motion created throws the shuttle, lifts and drops the shafts, beats the fell and takes up the cloth all in a perfectly timed sequence.  The operator has to pay attention as the pirn will run out after a minute or so, and a new one will need to be put in the shuttle.

(7) After weaving the new cloth is cut off the loom and washed and steam pressed.

(8) It is made into lovely objects.